Friday, 30 October 2015

health, 2.0


It's been ten months since I threw my musical toys out of the pram and went off to do other things, and whilst normally we get to October and ask each other where the year's gone as if we don't know, it's my duty to report that 2015 at Marwood Towers (two bedrooms, rented) has felt about four years long. To boot, looking back at the blog posts in a year which has felt not unlike being stuck in motorway traffic, it seems I've treated you to the following delights:

  • An announcement that I was curating some shows in Reading last March
  • A post asking everyone to vote in May's UK elections
  • A link to an Ask XMR article where I gave dodgy life advice
  • A rant about the government

I think it's fair to say that those things are probably not why people come to read this blog - it's certainly not why I set it up, anyway - and so it's probably about time we had a real update on the last ten months' happenings beyond the social media sprinklings that I've been dishing out willy-nilly.

That said, you should probably also know that I started drafting this update in July (yes, July) and so in order to get this finished and posted I am restricting myself to just five succinct points. After all, this is still the intro; a full-length unedited update would probably take up all remaining space on the internet.

So here goes.

1. I'm alive
If you had to study my life's works so far, one of the things they'd all have in common is that I've been alive for all of them, and I'm delighted to say that will continue. This might seem like a completely redundant point, but when I put everything on hold last year I was being tested for all manner of Terminal Bastards to try and get to the bottom of things in a setting where such things as The End are discussed particularly frankly and at least one person definitely didn't rate my chances. By the end of January I'd seen a stream of specialists and the one thing they all agreed on is that while no-one has any idea what is actually wrong, it isn't serious. You could argue that being that certain about something you can't identify defies logic, but LA LA LA LA I can't hear you.

If the hiatus post seemed overly emo, I will readily admit that I was resigned to my impending death, and it was a source of great embarrassment between me and everyone I confided in when I didn't die after all. Only joking about that last bit. Mostly.

2. Mental health is important
In the end, we arrived at a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome which, whether correct or not, drastically reduced the amount of time I had to spend being prodded by the medical world which was absolutely fine by me. What became clear pretty quickly was the total lack of solution to the CFS problem as it is, in essence, not so much a precise diagnosis but more of a checklist of criteria the patient's condition satisfies. As a result, two people diagnosed with the same illness can have two entirely different sets of symptoms that have progressed in different ways, from a slow decline to a sudden plummet into Illhood, meaning that what helps me might be useless for the next person.

What people do seem to agree on is that the mental outlook of the patient does have a part to play: I'm not saying that thinking you're going to get better means you'll get better, but resigning yourself to a lifetime of illness and despair at the hands of this beast will probably help you get there. Being serious about mental health, admitting defeat when you need to and keeping a positive attitude has been key to recovery and to that end..

3. Everyone is great
.. it was largely possible thanks to a network of friends who remain a brilliant mixture of the optimistics, the straight-talkers, the relentlessly-attentives and some plain lunatics. I had cards, messages, emails and on one occasion a fucking binder full of well-wishes and it was all deeply touching once I repressed the feeling that I had become some kind of strange charity case. Incidentally, you shouldn't repress your feelings. I hear it will make you ill.

There are too many people here to thank, so let's not do that here. You probably already know who you are, but if you think you're borderline, flip a coin.

4. Playing/hearing/watching music is getting easier
At first I was afraid. I was petrified. Also I felt very sick whenever I tried to play guitar, the combination of trying to stay balanced coupled with co-ordinating my fingers being just too much, and don't get me started on trying to project vocals under those circumstances.

Unhilariously, the problem also extended to going to gigs, where standing up whilst listening to loud music in the darkness presented me with a problem for some reason (normally Where Does The Floor Keep Going?). A list of quirky symptoms still remain, some of which are truly hilarious, keeping me away from doing shows, although I'm sure it won't be long. I can string five or six songs together in a row, and I no longer go jelly-legged whilst walking down staircases, so before too long I guess I'll be able to play short shows even if the stage is at the bottom of a giant flight of stairs.

That said, cutting out the music stuff did do wonders for reducing my stress levels, but..

5. I have begun work on album three
.. as much fun as laying around not doing any music was (and for a while, it really was), by the end of the Spring I was in the process of upgrading my studio for the first time since I bought it in 2002. Out has gone the trusty Tascam 788 8-track which I used to record most of This Is Not What You Had PlannedOutside There's A Curse and, on reflection, not enough of Back Down, and in has come a Tascam DP-24, with such mind-boggling features as SDHC capability and a USB connection. I'm living in the future/not so far in the past.

There's not much exciting information I can give you at present, other than recording started a few weeks ago, rhythm section rehearsals to pull the loud parts together are due to start in the last days of November and none of the songs are about Trevor McDonald.

There are your five points. See you in ten months!*

*mostly joking