THE NEW NORMAL #52 – STUCK IN THE MIDDLE

Hey, how you doing? It’s been a few weeks. I keep thinking I won’t bother writing another post because compared to the first eight months of 2020, the last couple have been a breeze on the health front. Then I remembered two things; firstly, I need to practice what I lazily preach and appreciate, nay, celebrate the normalness of my health situation right now and, secondly, the eye of the storm is often the quietest and most dangerous place to be. Quick, to the Lap(top) Cave! (I’m sticking with this because I like the imagery, but I originally referred to the Lap Cave but decided it sounded like a really, really dingy lap dancing club. In Yeovil).

The first signs that I might be stuck in the middle of something came when my wife asked me make a list of a few things I might want for Christmas (she likes to buy me presents when I stay alive for another year, it’s a little thing we do). After half an hour of furiously searching the internet and realising that I didn’t actually want or need all that much, I stood back to survey my work:

  • A hedge trimmer.
  • A Laptop tray.
  • A tiny vacuum cleaner.
  • A light up globe.
  • A uni-slipper (that’s a slipper for both feet at once that you can pop a hot water bottle in).
  • VIPoo Spray.

On careful reflection, I decided that this list was so squarely middle aged that I needed to youth it up a little, so I added a couple of posh flavours for the Soda Stream. This was, however, just papering over the cracks and it seems that during 2020 I have been accelerated firmly into the middle of middle age with a friendly shove in the back from our old unfriendly neighbourhood pillock, cancer. I haven’t tasted booze since late July (more on that later), a cup of tea is too much for me to cope with, I can’t eat until I feel like a beached whale at an all you can eat beach barbecue and even just seeing mates makes me feel like a more well looked after Julian Assange. All that is left, it seems, is to start tinkering with my car (that I never drive anywhere) on a Sunday, taking up golf or getting one of those De Agostini magazine subscriptions that will allow me to make a scale replica of the bus from Spice Girls the Movie in just 17 short months.

Once I had accepted my inevitable fate, I almost leant too hard into the experience. I decided middle age was no place for a mobile DJ (anymore) so I donated my PA to the local school and I’ve started wearing jogging bottoms with chunky knitwear without having shaved for….well, it’s been a while. I even found myself Googling barge holidays this morning and we can’t even go on holiday – I was just looking at barge porn and I hadn’t even got out of bed at this point. Who starts their day with barge porn?

The saddest part of all this now is that whenever I talk to anyone new (i.e. anyone outside my immediate family or the postman), my post greeting small talk immediately turns to matters of health and that is a common situation for cancer patients and those who’ve been through a big operation. You find yourself feeling as though you are defined by what you’ve been through, what you’ve lost and what you can’t do anymore when actually you need to be focusing on what’s great about now and what you might have to look forward to. To return to the hurricane analogy, you’ve survived the first half, there’s only one cow on the roof and, as boring as it might be, you get to ride out the second half in the relative comfort of a bomb shelter with the Haynes manual for a 1982 mini cooper as your only entertainment.

In the spirit of things, here’s what I’ve been finding joy in recently;

  • My little lad has aced the first half term of the school year including a socially distant 6th birthday and is generally pretty ace.
  • My wife has taken her cooking obsession to a new level and thanks to my new tiny stomach I can eat as much as my body lets me and not a forkful more so my trim figure is hanging around (I’m in a waist size I haven’t seen in my own wardrobe since I started university).
  • A recent video consultation with my Endocrinologist suggests that I’m managing my new body well and there only needs to be a few minor tweaks to my medication (this was after the visible revelation that I had had so many organs removed in the summer – this memo had not reached him before the appointment two months after surgery….).
  • Christmas is very much looking like a possibility and, as I’ve previously mentioned, I bloody love Christmas so that’s a big one for me.
  • Binge watching old episodes of Task Master, discovering Ghosts and watching the cats on Cat Nip has made me laugh harder than I have all year and laughing is categorically very good for you.
  • Japanese rice crackers as they neither make me want to vomit or rush to the toilet like Paula Radcliffe mid-race plus they taste lovely. I am addicted and running low. Please send more.
  • The book version of this here blog is pretty much finished, I’m planning new episodes of my funereal podcast and I’ve been asked to put a couple of radio shows together so there are projects in the offing and I loves me a good project (before anyone well meaning people write in on a postcard, I know that ‘getting better’ is a project but it’s a pretty one dimensional project).

So, life isn’t all about watching World War II documentaries and groaning when you change positions just yet. It is partly about those things, but I do have some excellent things to live for – not least my wife’s halloumi curry which is a thing of genuine beauty.

One middle I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into again is work. Being ‘in the middle of something’ is so often seen as a place of stress and for good reason but I do crave of being part of something bigger, something which can have a positive impact on the world and something that involves other adults to talk to (albeit via Zoom). I mean, I love my wife dearly and if I had to choose one person to spend quarantine it would definitely be her, but our conversation has resorted to ‘where in time would you most like to go on a holiday?’, ‘what’s your favourite vegetable?’, inventing the game Fantasy Parliament (Greg Davies is to be PM), and some pretty distressing games of Snog, Marry, Avoid . It has all gone a bit weird. On 3rd November 2020 I will return to gainful employment with the University of Plymouth with actually leaving the house and it all feels a bit unreal. Seven months ago I was told that I wouldn’t make the end of the year and here I am wondering how we’re going to manage Secret Santa and the office Christmas party over a dodgy Wi-Fi connection. Is it a Christmas miracle? Very nearly.

Before I get back to work, however, there’s the small matter of Halloween to contend with and when you’re classed as highly vulnerable during a global pandemic that presents its own issues. The main issue being telling a very excited six year old that trick or treating maybe have to be confined to going door-to-door within our own house but he took his minimalist birthday like a champ so fingers crossed. Then there will be fireworks, picking out a Christmas tree, putting up the decorations and everything else that goes with this time of year which I will be gorging myself on gleefully this year. I may not be able to eat and drink in the way I used to, but I can damn sure still be merry and make the end of 2020 much, much better than the middle of the year.

As I mentioned earlier, me and a team of family and friends have been abstaining from the evils of alcohol for the entirety of October to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. Personally, I’ve been on the wagon since July for one reason or another so it’s not been that much of a stretch but in this year of years and particularly at this time of year I know a drink at the end of a long, cold, wet week is very welcome. So, if you feel so inclined, please check the link at the bottom of this post and donate anything you can spare for a fantastic cause. It will be very much appreciated.  

Donate Here: https://www.gosober.org.uk/teams/bay-view-crew

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