Uni finishes in a fit of Corona-tinged ignominy…

This is what I wrote a couple of days ago, before the proverbial s*** hit the fan…

And that, senhores e senhoras, is pretty much that. 

Every single one of the 6 years here at the University of Bristol; done just like that, vanished in a fit of Corona-tinged ignominy.  

Admittedly these years have been dragged out a fair amount – by virtue of my seeming refusal to leave the cocoon of student life; I have been here for a couple more years than I should have been…(“make that uni dream live on in perpetuity, I dare you!”) but the fact remains that this is a shockingly abject end to what is a large part of one’s formative years growing up. It is a downright meek and ignominious ending to the ‘uni’ chapter; to what would in normal times be cause for all the celebration, jubilation (and if we’re lucky, fornication!) in the world. 

But for reasons known only unto ‘the Corona lords’ (oh if only there was somebody we could blame for this sh**show) suddenly much of the inhabited world either have Coronavirus, are ‘self-quarantining’ to try and avoid getting Coronavirus, or are living apprehensively in what is most likely the run up to getting Coronavirus. 

“We’ve been Corona-ed”, I think you could put it, and not that anybody saw this coming, but the University of Bristol has become yet another case of collateral damage for the spread of this strange new beast that has suddenly gripped vast swathes of the world. What began in a single pet shop in a single town in China is suddenly affecting 70% of the world; and if anything else, this shows you the downsides to the world being so interconnected. “The slings and arrows of a truly globalized world” could be the title for the thesis of a geography degree, but that doesn’t make it any less true or relevant. As we have said before this is tragically veracious right now; in this the era of 2020’s Black Death; with new cases increasing worldwide almost by the hour.

On a side (and perhaps slightly less ominous) note; can we all just please spare a thought for the marketing department of the much-loved beer Corona, who will be living an absolute and utterly unprecedented nightmare right now. Still one of the most vastly popular beers on the world market, (and the most popular imported beer in the US by about a Route-66-length country mile) the marketing department at Corona must be wondering what on earth the chances are that the new scourge of the world would be called precisely the same thing as their beloved beer.

“Hijo de puta de Coronavirus!”

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Above is what I wrote whilst all of this was still a fairly distant and far-fetched worry…

Oh don’t we wish it still was; at the very moment that more and more dominoes fall and more and more citizens worldwide become infected with Covid-19.

This current situation becomes more worrying at breakneck speed, with almost hourly news updates of the worsening situation with which the world does battle.

In UK terms, we had the youngest reported death nationwide yesterday – a man in his 40s contracted the virus and died.

It is due to cases like this that the government is considering imposing a city-wide quarantine on the city of London this weekend.

WATCH THIS SPACE FOR LIVE UPDATES (and needless to say stay clean and safe!)

Tom 2.0

The slings and arrows of acute brain injuries eh guys…

Now please excuse the potentially over-dramatic title blurb; but what are you if you can’t make light of adversity eh?!

I thought I would write a piece charting the difficulties that I have encountered since my little skydiving escapade at the end of 2017; if anything else just to provide a slight support framework and structure for anyone that needs it – in case GOD FORBID anything like this were ever to happen to anyone I know again..

Sleep
Now one of my loudest and most pained gripes since ‘o tombo’ (Portuguese for ‘the tumble’) has been my sleep. Having never been a particularly fervent, dedicated or successful sleeper for the 22 years before my swan dive; I now sleep even less, and am probably clocking on average about 5 or 6 hours a night, all things considered.

(Having said all of these things, one of the results of my insomnia and my skeleton-thin sleep timetable is that the wee hours of the morning is the time that I love to write – so it’s not all doom and gloom!)

Indecision
One of the larger frustrations of this new incarnation of my person has been my new-found inability to make decisions; about even the smallest, most insignificant and inconsequential things….
Now I know this afflicts far more people than you would guess – my ‘blood brother’ himself, Mr Benedict Field has been a long-standing sufferer of ‘indecisionitis’ – but this doesn’t make it any less irritating; the fact that suddenly I cannot make my mind up about ANYthing!

Forgive me for being greedy but I for one would love to know the science behind it. I sometimes wonder who the evil genius behind all of this is; he (or she; 2020 guys come on!) almost professionally pulling the strings and watching us all squirm in ignominy?

Hopefully one day, as our understanding of the human brain becomes more and more superior, I will know the answer to my question, but for now I just guess I’ll have to sit and wait… (to bandy around the words of our favourite acoustic guitarist Jack Johnson.)

Not picking up on hints/mood swings
I would say that I was marginally harder of understanding these days than I used to be which is, well, kind of annoying yeh! These days I just don’t pick up on hints as easily/seamlessly as I used to, however subtle or glaringly obvious they may be.

This is the thing Tom, no one saw this coming, but it’s happened now, so quit moaning and make do with it to the best of your capability!

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It’s not all doom and gloom however, and there are a few things that make me the slightest bit glad that I took a tumble all those months ago.

Spice
Ask any of my friends, pre-tumble I was roundly PATHETIC with spice. I mean seriously, I would get hot under the collar from eating a packet of Chilli Heatwave Doritos, which was both annoying and the slightest bit pathetic if you ask me.

I now, and I’ll be damned if I know the science behind it, absolutely LOVE spice – and can challenge even the most hardened ‘spice merchants’ in a head to head…

Maybe you should have gone base jumping earlier sonny Jim!

‘A nicer guy’ now I would say; more considerate for others 

Now I don’t know if this is a result of my growing up and finally shrugging off the shackles of adolescence – and hopefully would have happened anyway – or is some strange effect of la chute, but I do feel, in my everyday life, a more conscientious, thoughtful, and generally ‘nicer’ guy.
What’s not to love eh my brothers and sisters?

 

I just want to round things off with a wee bugbear – a slight niggle in the day to day life of a young Tomzinho Biggart. Having not taken a train for about a year there or thereabouts, for obvious reasons, I am now chained to First Great Western like an unhappy marriage. (Annoyingly too, it’s a loveless betrothal too as it’s one without even the rage sex… “so what’s in it for you I hear you say ?!”
Regret and a healthy dose of Piles is about the totality!)

With this newly-enforced reliance on trains – I had to “temporarily surrender” my driving license just afterwards (don’t ask I’d rather not talk about it!) – I have realised, to my great expense, that trains are almost insurmountably expensive these days…
If I am unlucky enough to have to travel during peak time (I know, he who travels at peak time is nothing but a fool !) then it would cost me somewhere in the region of 80 big ones to get from Banbury to London and back, a journey of a grand total of 55 minutes…It’s daylight robbery and I reckon we’re all in the wrong game guys; we really need to be fleecing Joe Bloggs for everyday travel expenses!

Searching for Simon

I am writing this in the hope that somehow, in some unforeseen way, by some stroke of luck – perhaps even through some unexpected source –  I might find the man to whom I owe my life.

Now this is not the height of melodrama from me (although, as you know, I am partial to a slice of drama from time to time!) – for this man, this superman that simply goes by the name ‘Simon’ – actually saved my proverbial bacon.

Above is what I wrote a couple of days before I met the mythical Simon, and on Friday, a whopping two years (almost to the day) down the line , I took Simon for lunch… And boy was it momentous!

The appeal that I had lodged on a couple of Bristol-based news platforms clearly did the trick, because in the aftermath of the television interview, I was receiver of an ominously entitled email from one ‘J Jenkins’ with the simple subject line ‘Fell off roof’. Straight to the point that this may have been; why waste time with flowery language eh? A time and a place guys! I called Simon almost immediately on receiving the email, and we pencilled in lunch for a few days later.

For lunch I went for one of my favourite eateries in Bristol – Pinkmans deli on Park Street – and I don’t think I am have the words to adequately quantify quite how momentous it was finally meeting Simon, all of two years down the line. Depending on where you stand on the whole fate/’there’s no such thing as fate’ debate, the simple fact is that had Simon not been there at 5 am on that December 5th morning, I may not have made it through.

Actually meeting ‘He to whom I owe my life’ after all this time was, needless to say, an emotional whirlwind. It was a momentous moment, last Friday,  a lovely couple of hours was spent putting the world to rights with Simon and my brother Ed.

Simon, if you are reading this, all I’ll say is ‘get excited for this Christmas hamper’ my friend!

Feliz natal gente x

Simon Jenkins

 

 

 

 

‘Vice’ film review

We went to the cinema this weekend and we are all still talking about the film that we saw – the new film, Vice. Vice is the new biopic of Dick Cheney – you know, the ‘second president’ behind George W Bush; the guy who was quietly running the country whilst Bush worried about the “Ayrabs” in the Middle East – and it’s a real piece of cinematic brilliance.

The point, amongst others, that the film makes is that this guy, this very un-stupid and un-imbecilic guy was the sane and sharp mind behind G.W Bush when Bush was in office. Never has the phrase ‘brains of the operation’ held more truth than here, and although I was aware of some of Cheney’s influence over proceedings in the Bush White House, I never realised the full extent until now, having seen the film.

Bale is at his sumptuous, ever-convincing best as Cheney, and I have a sneaky suspicion that the Oscar bells may just be ringing for him come February time. Bale’s performance speaks for itself, and anyone who knows anything about Christian Bale will know that he doesn’t take on roles lightly. The fact that he put on nearly 40 pounds for this role is very much in fitting with his personal take on ‘method acting’.

Bale’s swashbuckling performance, combined with the fact that Adam McKay (the guy behind Anchorman, Step Brothers, the Big Short: to name but a few) was at the helm, means that surely some sort of official recognition is forthcoming for Vice. One would have thought, no?

I’ll tell you what? You watch it and then come back to me on that one…

 

As well as a swansong from Bale, there are also great performances from Amy Adams who is sensational as Cheney’s ‘better half’. Even Steve Carrel gets in on the action too, but Sam Rockwell’s portrayal of George W. Bush is almost faultless. Just tell me – how on earth was that man president? It seems hard to believe, I know.

But then there was Trump…

A surgical saga, part 6

Let me just to set the scene: it is Thursday 3rd of May, and I have just finished the week in the OCE. Where I had started living there full-time, next I spent only the week times there, with weekends at home, and then for about my last month and a half the centre was home to me for only 4 nights a week, Sunday to Wednesday. This meant that after my Sessions on a Thursday I was a free agent.

Do I hear 4-day weekend over there ?!

So I’ve gone home, as was customary, on Thursday afternoon/evening, but this particular weekend happened to be a particularly hefty fixture in the calendar. The Friday, the 4th May, happens to be my birthday. Yes Star Wars fans, “May the Fourth be with you” is my actual birthday, and yes I do share my birthday with the world-recognised fixture ‘International Star Wars Day’. (It’s a pretty funny birthday to have and come to think of it, I really should be more of a Star Wars fan!)

In keeping with the birthday spirit, that evening the six of us went out for supper and had a lovely dîner at the Bell in Laughton (if you don’t know get to know) The food was, as expected, scrumptious, and I can see why its become relatively famous around us.

Not quite on a par with the supper was the journey home afterwards… What had begun with a pair of cars at our disposal and high spirits all-round as we reminisced about the supper ended up in a complete kerfuffle with a pothole. The result of said kerfuffle was the six of us squeezing into and driving home in one Volkswagen Polo. “There were six in a Polo and the little one said ‘this isn’t really working is it?’ “

I don’t want to name names but mumsy (a.k.a Shushan) might have hit a pothole (I mean, she very much did) and rendered one of the cars out of action. So home it was, home for all six of us in one reasonably priced (and very small) car. Somehow we all made it back in one piece; one fairly squashed piece, and if anything it added a touch of spice to my birthday…

(On the subject of spice, one thing that has definitely changed after my accident is that I now love spice! Ask any of my mates; I was pathetic with spice before the accident. And I mean PATHETIC with spice… I used to shy away from (and very much start sweating from) eating a pack of chilli heatwave Doritos. But now – and I’d love to know the science behind it – I absolutely love spice! Is that not quite spooky?

It’s spooky but it’s working for me guys haha!

Anyway moving on from the ‘Spice Files’; the weekend definitely carried on in a momentous vein. It was momentous because that Sunday about thirty (it may have been more) of mine and my brother’s best mates took on the Tough Mudder challenge.

For anyone unfamiliar with the Tough Mudder, it is basically a long, adventurous, arduous assault course near Henley-on-Thames. There are a few around the country but the one that my mates did was in Henley, and the point about this particular assault course is that it’s set up to be as unpleasant as possible. We’re talking ice baths – the aptly-named the ‘Artic Enema’ – we’re talking pits of liquid mud, were talking electric shocks – you can wee why it’s gone down such a storm in America can’t you?

But somehow, other than a couple of bumps and a couple of bruises for a couple of unlucky soldiers, they all made it through unscathed. As I’m sure you can imagine, it was a pretty phenomenal day for me personally. I hope they – everyone who did it – all know how much I appreciate the love and support, and I look forward to taking on the Tough Mudder myself at some point (that’s if anyone can be bothered to come and do it again with me!)

That was the Sunday, and we had a bank holiday the next day, so I came back in on Tuesday. I came back in slightly mentally through and done with the phase of the rehab centre, only to be ushered into a room, under the guise of God knows what. All I heard was “mr Biggart can we have a word with you please” at which point myself and my mum who I was with, were wondering “oh God whats he done now? What can this possibly be about?”

We got to my room to be pleasantly surprised when the head consultant said “uh we’ve had a chat, and we think you can leave…From today…!”

Cue jubilation, celebration and much rejoicing of rejoicing from me! A month early ! And boy did it feel good. That was at about 11.30, and although I could

have walked out there and then I did have one piece of unfinished business still left to attend to at the OCE…

My chess board, which I had almost finished making other than the finishing touches. Obviously that had to be addressed, and I finished it off and I now have a chess board at home, adorning the sitting room, and acting as a nice souvenir of my time in the OCE….

I just want to close on this note, and I will try my hardest that the amazing people at the OCE get to read this. I just want to say how much I appreciate everything that they did for me and my family during my time there. They are without a doubt some of the most special people that one would ever have the honour of meeting. Their unwavering dedication, even in the most testing of scenarios, is something that one cannot praise highly enough. God knows where I would be without their expertise and support.

LONG LIVE THE OCE!

Ciao ciao xx

A surgical saga, part 5

(I stumbled across some notes that I had made on my phone from my time “in the joint” and they paint a pretty good picture of what life in there is like:

“A new guy who I’ve never met before came and sat on the same table as me. Having never seen him before, I asked him how he was doing, and he preceded to laugh at me for a good 3 minutes. Obviously not a talker is he !

Having said that I did get a gesture of humanity when he almost thanked me for moving my newspaper so he could read his freely.

Already seems like a nicer guy…”

 

It’s slightly surreal to read back notes and quotes that you wrote down whilst in the centre; but I’m glad that I did as they provide a pretty good depiction of what life in this particular Neuro rehab centre…)

When you’re in the place like this it is hard not to slip into a routine of monotony.

The day starts with breakfast, which comes between about 8 and 9 am. One thing that never happened is that I never overslept and missed breakfast. I have never been a big sleeper and one thing that the accident has done is to heighten these tendencies even further, so that I find it almost impossible lie in.

Then at about 9 or 10 your ‘sessions’ would commence. These entailed a range of different activities, but with one commonality – they were all designed to improve your cognitive function. These were varied in how enjoyable they were, as these things always are. They included, on the basis of a daily, two-daily or weekly rotation, Psychology classes (did I need a shrink?!), Occupational Therapy classes (your everyday activities), Speech and Language Therapy classes (basically mini-English lessons) and last, but the most insignificant ‘least’ possible, were the workshop sessions. These were my favourite sessions for a number of reasons, the first of which was the fact that they were run by a lovely, chipper Scouse bloke called J***. Being a Liverpool fan myself, we would spend hours discussing the Liverpool team and our chances in the Champions League. (This was the period in the year of the run up to the Champions League final, which was going pretty well for months until it that fateful night in Kiev, when Sergio Ramos deliberately fouled – and injured – Mo Salah… SCUMBAG!)

One reason that I loved these sessions is because of what I was making in said workshop, which was a chess board. The funny thing about it is that I don’t really remember the process behind making it, nor could I replicate it if asked to do it all over again! But that doesn’t really matter because I now have the aforementioned chess board, fashioned from oak and teak, sitting resplendently in the drawing room at home. I also bought some fairly suave wooden chess pieces that I found on eBay; so a chess fever is sweeping our house!

Once again, thank the Lord for my parents who, from about March onwards, used to come to Headington every Thursday for what we referred to as ‘movie night’. This basically entailed them coming in to the centre to pick me up, us hightailing it out of there and heading for the bright lights of Oxford. Upon arrival in the proverbial Holy land, we would go for a quick bite to eat in the cinema’s vicinity before settling into a film. Luckily we live close enough to Oxford to make this possible, so it wasn’t too much of a headache for my parents to come in from home. In truth, it also usually happened on a Thursday night so that my Father, (“Simão”), could meet us in Oxford on his way back from work, which he does in Surrey on Mondays and Thursdays.

As a result of our nifty scheme, between the dates of me being an inpatient in the OCE we saw a pretty damn impressive amount of films, with the highlight probably being diving into Guillermo del Toro’s dystopian universe in The Shape of Water.

Never before have I been so up date on my cinema films…I guess there have been silver linings to my surgical saga!

Next week I will round things off with a description of 35 of mine and brother’s closest mates taking on the Tough Mudder challenge in Henley-on-Thames. Stay tuned for hilarity !

A Surgical saga, Part 4

At this point a year ago I was still deep in a coma, so there isn’t much action to report there, and I remained so until I “woke up” in what must have been mid-January. Unfortunately, and I hate to disappoint those that are interested, but the aforementioned “waking up” was not nearly as emphatic or decisive a coup as I wish it had been. There was no eureka moment whereby I suddenly gasped myself awake and was fully lucid. Rather, it was a long, slow (somewhat disappointingly so) process whereby I incrementally regained full consciousness over the course of days and weeks. Not long after ‘waking up’, I was relocated to the Oxford Centre for Enablement – the OCE – in Headington, Oxford. 

Now the OCE – how would I describe this place? 

Whilst being, upon first glance, fairly morbid and not for the faint of heart, this place was awesome and I am so grateful to them for everything they did for me and for how much my condition improved whilst I was in there. Put it this way – upon admittance I was unable to speak and I was still confined to a wheelchair. To all intents and purposes I was still asleep; very much still doing my world-winning impression of a human sphinx. I was even being lifted in and out of bed by a mechanical hoist attached to the ceiling too apparently, but luckily I can’t really remember the early days…probably for the best!

The OCE was awesome, and getting a place there was another huge stroke of luck.  This place is almost the equivalent of the Ritz, but for matters of neurology, and once I was in there my improvements came thick and fast. I was a completely different person when I left. I went in there in mid-January, unable to walk or speak, very much confined to a wheelchair, and I came out of there in May, walking, talking and a pretty good resemblance of what had been like before (I hope!) 

It’s a real shock to the system spending a prolonged amount of time in a place where there is such a smorgasbord of mental and physical conditions on show. Being in a place like this, first thing it makes you feel is a deep sense of gratitude that your ‘condition’ isn’t quite at the level of most of your fellow patients there. Anybody who came to visit me in the OCE will attest to the hell that E******, a poor Polish lady who was also living there when I was, must have been going through. She had had a stroke (oh please not another – I have met enough stroke victims in the last year for a lifetime!) which meant that, amongst affecting most of her everyday cognitive function, it had landed her with the unfortunate side effect of being able to communicate only in wails and shrieks. A prolonged, pained (it was fairly harrowing to hear) wailing was her only recourse, her only way of communicating; and this became the soundtrack of my time in the OCE. Poor, poor lady!

Being in a place like the OCE, and seeing the kinds of things you see whilst in there has one surefire effect – it makes you so grateful for the sanctity of human life and it makes you appreciate (healthy) life that bit more! It also gives you boundless respect for the medical profession as a whole. They are truly amazing people, those that work in service of the mental and physical wellbeing of others, and you never quite realise it until the shoe is on your foot…

I will delve into more detail about the rehab centre next time I post, as it has been busy busy this end for the festive period. Até logo!