July 2006: Yes, indeed, it does sound bullshit when someone says they´re writing a bokk. Book. But recently, for the first time, it sounded like bollocks to me. I´ll pull my finger out, as soon as my computer´s back from the vet and I can finish this bloody website. I don't know why this is in bold, it's not meant to be.
September 2004, at home in Hackney
OK, time (and a half) for an update. Unusually, I suppose, quite a few things
have happened since last time, the main event being that I left hospital at
the beginning of August. I've already written that it was doing my head in;
I stayed an extra couple of weeks for an arm-specific physio course and then
GTFOO Dodge. Not long after I got home Tig went over to Cincinnati and bought
the PowerBook on wot I'm now typing, which is why the words look so much fatter
and more juicy. Dave's pre-war PC did Stirling work while I was banged up and
I still have loads of files to transfer from it (somehow) but you can't halt
progress. The "Sticky Keys" function (APPLE / SYSTEM PREFERENCES /
SPAZ / WHAT'S YOUR FUCKING PROBLEM ?) is very useful and has probably raised
my typing rate to an incredible five words per minute, invisible to the naked
In July I got older. Thanks to everyone for coming and the mountain of cards and presents, some of which got mixed up. Here's a scenario: I'm watching Starsky and Hutch on DVD, particularly enjoying the disco showdown with Har Mar Superstar. I'm wearing a verr nice grey T-shirt that says "Conform" and scoffing a slab of Thornton's white chocolate. On the windowsill there's a curly-wurly green bamboo thing and on the shelf a copy of The Curious Incident...that dead dog book. Who gave me all these things ?
The main thing I've been doing is writing. Ben and Matt both asked me how THE BOOK was going; I told Matt that I had a folder on my desktop called "Actual Work" and it was very small; I told Ben that I'd, er, designed the cover. I have, too, and Thea banged it out on Illustrator. It's fucking boss, as is the title, which I'm in the process of protecting, so no info just yet.
Now, I sort of whispered this before but now I'll shout it: I'M WRITING A FUCKING BOOK (so fuck off). As I put it in e-mails to Zembla and Adbusters magazines, the words have been stampeding around inside my head for so long that they're now lean and fit and gagging for release. The only restriction is my physical ability to type; only about four hundred words in one hit.
The bullshit's flowing, and thus far I'm very pleased with it. In June I also wrote a short story and entered a bunch of competitions. However I'm not overconfident; a while ago I said to Thea, "If I'm going to write I'll have to start chainsmoking..."
"And drinking whisky," she finished for me, which was what I was about to say; if I'm going to write I'll have to be less predictable.
As so many people have asked how much I've written I'll give a properly quantified answer. Hang on, this may take a while...
5,429 words on this computer and 10,638 on Dave's. So, 16,067 words; by the standards of my rather densely printed edition of The Catcher in the Rye that's only about forty pages, but it's about twice that in The Summer Book. So there you go.
Your knees hurt. You've slept with them bent. Stretch your legs, although you know what will happen. With a pair of clicks, your knees are relieved, but as your legs straighten, every muscle in them, as well as your stomach, chest, arms and hands goes into seizure. Your hands rise a few inches above your chest, something you can't do voluntarily, and shake. What little control you have over your body is completely removed; during the few seconds it takes for your muscles to relax, you can't breathe. At least your neck wasn't affected this time. For some reason only one side ever spasms, pulling your head violently towards your shoulder as if your neck is trying to break itself.
Try to relax, with your legs straight. Don't move.
You're still in bed. You need a piss. Any movement will trigger another spasm. You have to go.
After that dies down, it takes a lot of work to free yourself, with weak pedalling motions, from the duvet.
Shuffle your legs over the edge of the bed, to your right. Hook your heels under the frame and use your legs and left arm to sit up. Try not to pitch over past the balance point. Sit on the edge of the bed and prepare to stand. Place your feet apart.
It takes three or four attempts to get the right amount of forward and upward thrust, during which time your knees come together like Bambi's (or Flavor Flav's). Make sure you're balanced correctly as you come up, because when you straighten you're going to have another seizure. Don't fall forwards into the wall.
Well done, you've got out of bed and stood up. That's enough of that, I'm not even going to start describing the difficulty and fear of getting to the bathroom. I have the strength and co-ordination of a small child. If I fall, it's from the height and with the weight of an adult.
Everything I do - every single thing except breathing - is done at the absolute limit of my abilities. I haven't done one thing since July 2003 without giving it 100% concentration and effort. I'm literally unable to walk and chew gum.
Anyone who called me lazy before, yes, I was sometimes, quite determinedly. Anyone who's called me lazy since, sincerely, fuck you.
Having finally made some attempt to convey just how filled with constant hate, fear and frustration my life is, I'll tell you the worst thing: No matter how strong, flexible, mobile or articulate I may feel by the end of the day, everything resets overnight. Tomorrow will begin the same way today did.
Oh, that business about having the strength and co-ordination of a small child; that's in my left side. The right's not as good. As Renton puts it in Trainspotting (the film, anyway, I can't remember if he says this in the book), it's a shite state of affairs.
As always, I'll have to wait and see what happens. I'm getting visits at home from a speech therapist, a physio and, would you believe, a yoga Doris. "No hippie shit," I told her, "no incense." I didn't have to worry, she's a no-nonsense Aussie. Now I know that in the past I've had a few things to say about Aussies in London, having met three in a row who were really letting the side down, but this one rocks.
A few shouts going out because I've had some problems with the world-wide information super-interweb...highway...
Amanda & Wale - did you, like, get married ?
Kieran O'Brien - wherefore art thou ? I'm going to need an agent. Wanna be my Jerry McGuire ? SHOW ME THE etc.
Jon & Helen - you think you've been crap ? I'll see your crap and raise you a useless and a slack; first I miss your wedding, then I say I'll send you a decent e-mail and don't. Proper Letter to follow. Honest.
Saskia & Jeroen, likewise; can't believe I missed you, although if anyone should have faith in unfortunate coincidences, it's me...
An odd thought occurred: Normally, activities like showering, eating, travelling - down time, if you like - are things you do more or less automatically and are good opportunities to think about what you're going to do that day. It's a cliche (and therefore probably true to an extent) that people have their best ideas on the toilet. Which explains why Tig is so inventive. So having a shower, drying off and dressing provide, say, twenty minutes of think-time; not for me. Those three things take me about an hour and a half during which I can't think about anything other than what I'm trying to do. Weird concept. So really, the only time I get to plan any writing is when I'm lying awake or simply sitting on my arse doing nish. Hm. Thus far it seems to have worked pretty well; I'm beginning to structure THE BOOK, putting things in order and identifying gaps that need filling.
I've been using some obvious pseudonyms, with the excuse that they're valuable aides memoires or some other piece of furniture. But the most fun has been putting some of the patients' speech into writing, like the bloke who sayseverythingalljoined...up, but with odd, pauses, and the one who always SHOUT but only uses the FIRST SYLL OF EACH WORD. Nice bloke, though. Polite.
That green bamboo thing's sprouting like billyo.
Having gone through the whole nobby copyrighting process I've sent Tig an extract from the forthcoming novel Get Well Soon. Wahey!