Friday, 21 February 2014

The 'valuation site'

It was a horrible shock that I did not react well to.  The last thing I have been thinking about recently is Mummy's personal belongings.  It has been a case of feeling our way through a hazy miasma we have had no choice but to navigate, requiring all hands to be very much on deck.  There has been little time for anything else. 
So, to discover that someone had, in a moment of madness, decided to put a variety of small items on eBay without first running it either my sister or I, hit me hard. 
Very hard. 
My rational mind was confounded.  I could not comprehend how such a mistake could have been made.  Whilst we try and manage every last detail of my mother's ongoing care, this really was the straw that broken the proverbial camel's back.  And this particular breed of camel is pretty tough. 
My reaction might not have made much sense to the man on the Clapham omnibus but, even now looking back at recent events, I do not feel they were disproportionate.  It's not about the value of the items, or what they might have fetched had they been marketed appropriately.  It's about the items themselves, and what they represent.
See, these tangible reminders of the past have never before been so intrinsically valuable.  Things that connect me to easier, lighter, happier times, are suddenly extremely precious.  I have found myself scouring photo albums, and glancing through the pages of old appointment diaries, to recollect the relationship I am afraid I am losing. 
My mother is contemplating leaving her home, and moving into residential nursing care.  We are keen she is safe and comfortable, and can no longer be certain that the place we have thought of as home will be the best place for her looking forward.  The list of medications she is prescribed is ever growing.  There are only so many more adaptations we can make to the house that was not designed with mobility needs in mind.  The woman I have consistently respected if not always admired is the shadow of her former self, and is coming to terms with the gravity of her illness that has left so little of her.  It has annihilated her physically, and is now gnawing away at her psychologically such that she has become dependent on those who care for her. 
To describe the experience of witnessing the person to whom you owe everything withering away as heart breaking is a woeful understatement. 
My heart has been shattered in recent months. 
Shattered, yet somehow still whole.   

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Charlotte's comrade

The 4 carriage 2227 to Salisbury was packed this evening (for no good reason). Her headscarf caught my eye on the platform. "She has been fighting the alien", thought I.
She valiantly fought for a seat but, on this occasion, lost the battle against her unworthy (and thoughtless/drunk commuter-type) opponents.
I felt vicarious victory as she gracefully removed their (ugly) bags and other miscellany, and sat on the luggage rack. She's adept at managing discomfort and fighting a longer game, I thought.
I hope she defeats the alien...


Monday, 10 February 2014

Back Care

It all happened very quickly. 
One moment I was alright. 
I had been to a spin class (something of a regular occurrence at the moment, as I try to maintain the part of my identity that desperately wants to call herself a cyclist, but accepts that I am distinctly fair weather and, given the recent conditions...)
The next, I was not.
I was in agony. 

Tears welled up.  I thought I might collapse.  It was a short, sharp shock.
I hobbled to meet the friend I had been looking forward to seeing all day.  We shared delicious Moroccan food and an exquisite infusion of mint tea.  Whilst we sat I managed to forget what had happened. 
And then, having paid our bill, and discussed our onward travel plans, I tried to get up.  Only to be reminded.

For 24 hours I could do nothing except surrender.  Every movement was affected.  Every movement required mindful adjustment.  I was, quite literally, and physically, brought to my knees.  I was reminded of my limitations.  My back, like every other part of me, requires and deserves TLC.  I have not been sufficiently kind to it. 

There are very few people I would trust to touch my back when it's inflamed.  Bruno is one such individual.  His talents are innumerable, and his skills immense.  He has been helping me look after myself for a little while now and I trust him completely.  Sometimes, the best thing we can do is place ourselves in the hands of something greater than ourselves.  And, given my symptoms, this time that person was Bruno. 

Friday, 7 February 2014

Addiction: the real life screenplay

When Sky News called me on Monday afternoon, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  I was the wrong side of London without a hope in hell of scooting across to the studio to share my opinion on the tragic death of Philip Seymour Hoffman.  Tragic because it could have been avoided.  And on that at least I am in total agreement with Russell Brand whose comment in the Guardian was, I thought, spot on. 
Addiction is never far from my mind.  My recovery depends on its proximity.  Having been living and breathing addiction and its consequences for as long as I can recall, the power of its grip never ceases to amaze me.  It attacks mercilessly, destroying lives without compunction and eroding relationships wherever it turns up. 
It is an epidemic of almighty proportions, and in spite of awareness and education, shows no signs of abating.  Thankfully, it is no longer hiding in the shadows.  It has been thrown into the limelight which can, I hope, only bode well.  And it has hit the big screen in a huge way.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) could be summarised as an epitaph to a compulsive gambler.  The greed is obscene.  As is the language.  And the quantities of white powder.  It was a full-throttle performance by DiCaprio playing the outta control hedonist and his intoxicated harem (ably supported by the hilarious Jonah Hill and show stealer Matthew McConaughey).  179 minutes of non stop depravity makes for exhausting if entertaining viewing. 
The truth behind Belfort's descent is one known to all hardened addicts - he simply didn't know how to stop. 
Dallas Buyers Club (2013) and August: Osage County (2013) had little in common, except drugs.  Together, these brilliant screenplays highlight how little regard addiction has for background, status or education.  It swallows families whole.
Before spitting them out.  It's hideous.  Just like the cringe inspiring post funeral lunch scene in August: Osage County.  The film is a dark, almost gothic portrayal of a family (headed by a pill-popping matriarch) riddled with the illness, and torn to shreds by its effects. 
There is a sickening tension throughout and...  just as you think it couldn't possibly get any worse...
It does.  Revealing just how deeply it penetrates family life, and how it contaminates each and every relationship it comes into contact with.  The film highlights how it sweeps through families, taking everyone down with it.
Julia Roberts, who plays the true protagonist Barb, executes the performance of her career though I could not help thinking that, even in the middle of the Great Plains, the hand of some twelve step fellowship must have been outstretched to this family so bedevilled by the addiction monster that someone, somewhere, would have known that support was available.
The film invites you on a deeply moving journey towards an inevitable doom that awaits.  The Weston family seem powerless to avoid repeating its mistakes, re enacting the drama and trauma, growing the sadness and the pain.  Demonstrated catastrophically clearly is that hurt people hurt those they claim to love most:  the real victim is not their dead father, himself a melancholic who appreciated a tipple and killed himself, but rather all those left behind so riddled with the dysfunction that they can hardly grieve whose futures hang in the balance waiting for a miracle that, like Denver, seems a very long way off. 
This is a bitter and harrowing tale of a family beset with toxic resentment.  They have been torn apart and lack the tools to acknowledge, let alone heal the longstanding damage.  I would love to have seen Tracy Letts' Pulitzer prize-winning play on stage at the National.  One day, perhaps I will.  But for now, I feel the need to recover from the affecting saga and epic performances.   
Dallas Buyers Club made for easier viewing, despite an obviously heavy theme.  McConaughey and Leto both deliver Oscar-worthy performances:  theirs is indeed an unlikely union, born out of a lethal diagnosis in the mid 80s characterised by the fear and mystique that shrouded HIV/Aids hopelessly promulgated by total ignorance. 
It depicts the sadly ironic plight of a bigoted homophobe who is himself sentenced to die at the hands of the 'gay virus'.  The medics give the rodeo redneck a month, and he's knocking about many years later, having had a new lease of life, courtesy of complementary medicine.  And a serious attitude adjustment.  Brought about by Rayon, the transgender activist he meets when he most needs a friend.
We watch him journey through self-destruct and beyond - eventually landing up in altruism, and the desire to make a difference.  His creative genius is fuelled by the humility he is forced to learn along the way (having never previously done so, even riding bulls).  This is a touching memoir of an odd yet convincing couple based on their shared experience of social exclusion and shame.
Castigated as outcasts by their families and social networks they are forced to hit bottom, from where the only way really is up.  By pooling their talents and getting creative we follow this unlikely duo as they challenge assumptions and expectations in every direction and take on the FDA in the process.
Addiction is everywhere.  There is no ignoring it any more.  Philip Seymour Hoffman dying alone, in his West Village apartment in Manhattan surrounded by bags of heroin is surely a tragedy that yells for change.  Publicly admitting to have fallen off the wagon having been clean 'n' sober for half a lifetime was not enough to save him.  Addiction has no respect for honesty.  But recovery does.   
RIP Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967-2014):  A Master of Stage and Screen
Career Highlights
1991 Makes film debut in 1991 as “Phil Hoffman” in the indie production Triple Bogey on a Five Par Hole.
1992 Gets his break in a first major cinematic release playing George Willis Jnr in Scent of a Woman.
1997 Breakthrough role as Scotty Jnr, the film boom operator in Boogie Nights.
1998 Plays Brandt, the worshipful assistant to the other Lebowski in The Big Lebowksi.
1999 Performs alongside Tom Cruise as the nurse Phil Parma in Magnolia and in the same year Freddie Miles in The Talented Mr Ripley.
2000 Wins Tony Award for the role of Austin in the 'True West' play on Broadway.
2003 Wins Tony Award for James Tyrone Jnr in 'Long Day’s Journey into the Night' on Broadway.
2005 Wins Oscar for Best Actor for the part of Truman Capote in the biographical film Capote.
2007 Academy Award nomination for best supporting role after playing CIA operative Gust Avrakotos in Charlie Wilson’s War.
2008 Academy Award  nomination for best supporting role as Father Brendan Flynn in Doubt.
2008 He plays the lead role of Caden Cotard in the drama Synecdoche, New York.
2010 Makes feature film directorial debut with Jack Goes Boating.
2011 Plays manager of Oakland Athletics, Art Howe, in Money Ball.
2012 Another Academy Award nomination for best supporting role as Lancaster Dodd in The Master.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Befuddling Technology

Time seems to have been escaping me recently.  It's not that I haven't had ideas over the last couple of weeks, but the conversion rate from ideas into blog posts seems has been somewhat compromised. 

I have been frustrated and latterly confounded by issues of technology.  My laptop, after five and a half years of solid and unstinting service, died a sudden death which took me by surprise, and left me bereft, and all at sea.  I guess it's true:  sometimes you don't realise what you've got until you have it no longer.  Never again will I take for granted the relationship I have with my PC. 

Thankfully, Jon was on hand.  Jon is my local geek.  He collected the Toshiba, and placed it in a rucksack specially designed to accommodate such beasts, and whisked it away to recover the data from my hard drive. 

Which is exactly what he did.  50GB to be precise.  I have been reunited with all the skeletons from my closet - two Masters degrees and several other postgrad bits and pieces have been reinstated, and I am complete once more.  Now all I must do, is get familiar with Windows 8.  After all, this thing called life is about the journey, rather than the destination - right?