All posts by Russ

A letter from Brentford.

And a very big kiss for Postie, the one and only Andy the Postman, who was my postman on and off for 25 years. I reckon he put in requests every time I moved, so that he could still deliver my letters!

It all started when I saw him reading people’s postcards when he delivered them to Wilton Avenue, where I used to live. Having decided he was a nosy bugger I then would add notes addressed to him at the bottom of postcards to neighbours in my street. Things like ‘ oi Postie, you shouldn’t be reading this, you nosy f******r !’

Gradually I got to the point where the whole postcard would be written to him, but addressed to my neighbour Nick in the street, because I knew that Postie would definitely read it, and I could be rude to him whilst lying on a beach far away..

I saw him whilst out the other night with Toby and Cress, who didn’t this time bring a date for me ….😳🤦‍♂️ and he told me how affected he’d been by my injury, and how he’s always read this diary.

So hello mate.. and any chance you could deliver to Brentford? You know it’s your destiny! 😂

🤦‍♂️

This is the kind of thing that happens to people in wheelchairs.
Today I attached my Triride to the front of my chair. It took ages because something has moved a bit and no longer does it slide on as it ought. Anyway that bit is fixable ( hopefully later when I get home )

I had a bag of popcorn between my legs ( like you do ). Whilst trying to get the tri on, one of the clamps I have to do up fell onto the floor. Because I can’t bend down to pick it up, I had to reverse ( with the thing only half clamped on ) until I could reach my grabber, so that I could pick up the clamp. As I reversed tho the clamp got caught in the footrest so came back with me, rather than staying where I could get it. In the process of trying to reach it, the bag of popcorn slipped from between my legs ( well it’s not like I can use my legs to grip the bag, and can’t even feel the bag ) and not knowing that it was on the floor.. I then ran over it and it exploded …

Good grief.

It really could be worse.

This is what I mean when I say that I don’t think this current period is that awful for kids.
Perhaps what’s wrong is that they just don’t know ( because it hasn’t been explained to them ) that we live in privileged times. It really wasn’t that long ago that child labour was normal, as it still is in many countries, and that children would die at work. Life expectancy a hundred years ago in Liverpool was about 30, so grim was it.

Maybe you’ve got to be a bit older to even appreciate the point I’m making? My own Dad’s brother died in childhood. Abersychan ( as above ) was where he was born, and where all my family lived, grandparents, uncles, aunties, cousins, everyone. Back then it wasn’t uncommon to lose a child to one of the many illnesses that could strike quickly.
Overall maybe this will prove to have been the Golden Era for mankind… these last 70 years .. if you think what’s ahead, with the loss of most of the natural world, huge climate change/ pollution/ civil wars and unrest through population migrations, then I really believe that mankind’s future is bleak, and we are fortunate to have had the lives we have had.

PS My Dad sent me this about him and his Grandfather ( who he called Maccy )


‘When I was a boy Maccy and I walked the woods and mountains every Sunday morning. One of our regular walks was to the old Llanerch pit head which had been filled in after the explosion. As a result I heard the story of the disaster many times along with the devastating effect it had on the Eastern Valley communities. Love, Dad’

And from Jeff Thomas that I was in school with.
‘Up around there Russ…my old man took us around some of the old colliery sites and then over to Six Bells Colliery to see The Guardian..s statue of a miner over looking the valley…Llanerch very humbling as you can see the fenced in and filled shafts..worth a visit Russ.
If your heading over that way Russ….also visit Aberfan…Garden of Remembrance and the cemetery…I’ve been there a few times…each time I read up on Aberfan and there are a few really good documentaries…( On 21 October 1966 a colliery spoil tip collapsed into homes and a school, killing 116 children and 28 adults.) I actually watched one the other night on the survivors and the PTSD and survivors guilt that they carry even to this day over 50 years past…also if you get a chance have a look at the photography of Chuck Rapoport…he was the photographer that captured that famous photo of one the school clocks which stopped at 9.13am..the time the disaster hit the school…some of his photos tug at the heart..Aberfan is still considered one of the Queens darkest days as she didn’t visit I think for a number of days after the disaster…one of the reasons why Aberfan is continually supported by The Royal Family…it’s amazing when I visited the garden of remembrance that there isn’t one piece of graffiti….as my father says…they wouldn’t dare…very humbling indeed

October 2020

I used to get spasms- lots of them – that jerked my legs, and with it my body. They’d keep me awake most nights… for years My sleep was broken, to say the least ( and of course the sleep of anyone in the same bed – not exactly a plus for her ) Now I get far fewer jerks.. but instead now, and as a consequence of having been ‘ fixed rigid ‘ by my ( it’ll be proven negligent surgeon ) my legs are just rigid all the time. The ‘ tone’ in my leg muscles is extreme. Any attempt by me to move a leg with my arm(s) and the leg(s) just resist It means transferring or doing pretty much anything I learned to do post injury that involves me moving from a chair is now impossible without a significant amount of help from another person ( or persons ). Trying to get me onto a sofa, or into bed, is far from easy… because my leg rigidity prevents it. They anchor and grip me into whatever position I’m in, so that changing from it ( by myself ) isn’t possible.
I went back on Baclofen for a bit to try to loosen them, but immediately my memory ( especially long term ) became extremely fuzzy in an alarming way. I had a telephone conversation with my Stoke Mandeville consultant about it, and he’s going to see me and advise on a plan to help me.

Spinal Cord injury is really bad news. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. My mobility is at an all time low. My legs look, to others, reasonably normal, and the tone keeps the muscles in fair shape, and also my skin isn’t that fragile, meaning I don’t sustain pressure sore type injuries. So there is an upside, you could say.
So you either get legs that you can manoeuvre and increase your mobility but they waste away and you get pressure sores, or you get legs that look ok but you can’t bloody move, and you always have to trade a bit of one for the other.
Depressing sounding, isn’t it? Well yes it is, very much so. No win situations seem to surround me at the moment, obviously exacerbated by the pandemic and it’s restrictions that have further hampered my already severely restricted choices.

With Lizzy’s ( significant ) help I had a flat clear out. For a long time I just found it too painful to throw objects from my old life. Kit and equipment I just kept, for years, out of nostalgia for a life lost. It would be fair to say that I had a lot of kit… but the act of just getting rid of it was definitely a positive. Probably 40 bin bags’ worth of stuff went to the dump. Lots of it could have been useful for someone I imagine, but I always think that when I visit the dump. We all throw away so much that really there’s nothing wrong with, and I’m by nature just not wired that way.
My flat however has far more space now than it did a week ago!

🤦‍♂️

To escape the sensation of captivity that I’ve felt, and also because I’ve a ‘ never say die’ attitude ( translated as ‘ nothing seems to kill me, even when it should have done ) I’ve been venturing further afield by Triride motor attachment.
I got as far as Sevenoaks in Kent, to see Lizzy ( 40 odd miles ) and also to Wokingham to see Leigh and Bev ( 25 miles each way ). Yes I should really have made these trips in the summer, with heat and light on my side… but I didn’t. I waited til the weather got far worse and then tried it.
Aside from all the trips being on the cusp of reckless… I survived, with a sense of independence and adventure enhanced. If I have a mechanical then I’m in Trouble, but I haven’t – at least not far from home.
I say that because only last week on Brentford high street my front wheel actually CAME OFF. Yes.. not worked loose and looked like coming off – it actually came off. I then skidded along the tarmac on the front forks only. Unbelievably I was only doing 3 mph at the time. 5 minutes earlier I’d been doing 35mph in the London traffic Had it come off then… yes I’d be dead. So yer again I cheat death.
Im now on Number 10 Life. That’s more than even the fabled allowance of a cat.

I could catch trains, except the bloody staff have a tendency to not turn up with ramps, leaving me stranded on the trains – not good for my psyche, that one. I feel far more helpless stuck on a stationary train than I do at speed on an A road with trucks thundering past.

Last week I pulled into a lay-by on a major A road to change my Tri battery. There were probably 50 trucks and truckers parked up there … and one fella in a wheelchair changing his little battery pack before throwing himself back into the traffic stream heading south east from London.


Increasingly I’m being filmed by people in passing cars who presumably think it’s a case of bizarre hilarious crazy. You take your pick.

10/10/20

I’ve gone to a barbers. Not had a haircut for a long time, or not properly anyway.

There are 11 of us in a room that is 20 by 10 feet.
Two young women, one doing the makeup of another ( they are doing that here too ) Neither have masks.
Two young male hairdressers – both in masks but one wearing it low so it’s not covering his nose.
Two kids – not wearing masks.
One 40 year old fat bloke having his hair cut – no mask
A mum and dad of the 2 kids – both in masks.
Me, in a mask.

If one of us was carrying the virus than it’s a fairly good chance that 4/5 of us would pick it up as we aren’t distanced much.
Either woman would definitely infect the other. They are a foot apart all of the time and talking a lot.

I think it’s fair to say that no one really cares much about transmission of it, or catching it.

A really old and frail chap has just come in, using a walker. He doesn’t look too well, and there’s a strong smell of smoke coming off him that’s obvious even though I have a mask over my nose. He’s pretty evidently in the vulnerable group, but not bothered enough to care.
Where am I ? Well I don’t think it would kill me either. This is the first time I’ve ‘ risked catching it ‘ so blatantly I’d say. Unsure how I feel about that.

5/10/20

My daughter went to uni yesterday for the first time.

I generally don’t think ( as in I make myself not think ) about things I can’t do. Well I’d be thinking of nothing else all day, wouldn’t I .. which is how it used to be, for several years.

But sometimes I can’t help myself. It’s a dad’s job to drive his child to Uni, and carry her stuff in for her. Isn’t it? All dads do that. It’s just how it is. Except I can’t.

Also of course throw into the mix that since separation in 2017, my ex wife’s tactic has been one of ‘ your father doesn’t exist, and you don’t need him ‘ which puts me on the sidelines of anything and everything to do with my kids, which obviously (added to being paralysed ) is something that’s unnecessary.

I’m dating a lovely lady at the moment. Her husband died suddenly and unexpectedly at 40, in his prime. The 2 small children were left without their dad, and will forever have a ‘ dad shaped hole ‘ in their lives. That’s because he’s dead. She’d do ANYTHING, anything at all, to fill that hole, one that’s only fillable with the same dad, not a replacement fella. In the funeral, the church packed to the rafters, his coffin was taken down the aisle, in COMPLETE silence.. except that is for the sounds of a small boy uncontrollably weeping for his father, shouting again and again and again ‘ Daddy, Daddy, Daddy’ as a whole church-full of adult eyes streamed in response.

She can’t understand how, given I’m not dead, a mother can wilfully ‘ deprive’ her children of their dad’s existence. I don’t understand it either, and for sure it’s certainly impacts/ is going to always impact the mental health of my own children, now and as they get older, and particularly if something happens to me that means I’m actually gone. Well let’s face it, I’m not exactly lucky and I’ve used up 8 of my 9 chances now.
I don’t think I’d pack a church, but there’d be one/ two young females for whom it would almost certainly be a cataclysmic occurrence, from which they wouldn’t ever completely recover, not inside their minds. And of course the inevitable resentment of their mother would prove devastating for her too, longer term…something that doesn’t seem to occur to her. That’s what happens when in your head you can do no wrong… it gets disproved in a very big way at some point.

Paralysis means you can’t just ‘ do things anyway’ inserting yourself into situations that you ought be present at anyway.

Separately… and because of Corona and the winter coming… the mental health of the nation is certainly about to take a further dip. A lot of people don’t have the resilience to cope with what is to come, just ( partial ) deprivation of what they normally have..
For me, and peeps like me, deprivation of choices is how it always is and will be. We have to ‘ cope’ 24/7, and we have no choice. The loss of normalcy will hit lots of normal people very hard, now that the weather will halt outside activities and gatherings, further reducing options. Not everyone will compensate by spending ( even ) more time in a kayak on a cold river ( which is how I’d have played it, for sure ).
The Rules will be broken more and more, and more people will get ill. Lots will have ‘ long corona ‘ and lots of elderly/ unhealthy already, will die. Of that I’m sure. As it’s very much ‘ in vogue almost’ and described by Malcolm Gladwell as an epidemic, for young men to commit suicide, that’s bound to increase in the coming months.
Odd isn’t it, that as society ( here in Britain at least ) has probably never been ‘ better off’ health wise, that depression has never been felt by so many? I mean there have been far far darker times than now, for example the two World Wars. For young men however, that gave them a strong sense of purpose, going out to fight for something, having a raison d’être. Without purpose, and being able to ‘prove manliness’, seemingly often by the option of violence ( in the act of War, for example) males evidently do question themselves. Deprived of physical endeavour and purpose, they get the urge to inflict the violence upon themselves instead. A friend of a friend had only last week a massive ( and fatal ) heart attack, having lost her 21 year old son to unexpected and sudden suicide.

Count your blessings then, and appreciate how much worse it COULD be. You could be paralysed, or have a crippling illness/ have lost your kid(s)/ your partner to sudden death/ your mum or dad as a child/ any number of cataclysmic events, none of which are actually that rare. Tragedy is sadly an everyday event, happening to many people every moment of every day.
We all have to find, and concentrate on, what’s good in our lives, and sometimes just stare at it until we feel better.
🙏

Positive news

Having listened to Dumb and Dumber doing their first Presidential Debate…. I think it would be best all round if COVID got em both
Trump is a fool for thinking he can’t catch it.. and with a bit of luck ( for the world ) will, well…. die.
i didn’t realise that he’s such a big fella. He’s 17 and a half stone. He’s 74. Doesn’t exercise. Gulp.

🤷

😂

As my Help hasn’t exactly ‘ mastered’ the art of cleaning, and there’s an awful lot of that that I can’t actually do.. I employed a cleaner. Today was her first visit.
She came in for a recce.. and I excused myself when I saw Alexa glowing green/yellow – which means she wants to tell you something.

So I say ( out loud, in front of the lady cleaner ) ‘ Alexa, what’s my notification?’

Alexa says ‘ a shipment, including French knickers, has arrived’

Given I’m a single male in a wheelchair… I’m a little surprised the lady, who would have no idea about my present buying habits ( and who did look a little startled ) actually took the cleaning job!

🤦‍♂️

Gratitude.

And another Unfortunates night last night.. at my flat. Paul the Blind man makes his way across town on the bus with Bolt the dog. Given he can’t really see much ( he has still a clear very central area – dead small ) he is reliant on his 4 legged pal to lead him, literally.
Now given Bolt had only been to my flat once before, maybe 6/7 weeks ago… isn’t it quite extraordinary that when their bus stopped in Brentford and they got off.. Bolt immediately led Paul to my flat. I mean it’s not like Paul told him where they were going ( because a dog can’t talk or speak English ) .. yet Bolt just seemed to know, and also remembered the way. I mean there are plenty of humans that would have struggled with route recollection, so how can a labrador be that smart?!

Anyway they got to me, Paul then had to do a almost blind Zoom call to the cub scouts on the subject of Blind Dogs, and then eventually the able bodied Chris arrived.
Between us we made dinner, Paul chopping up salad stuff and not realising a fair bit wasn’t ending up where he hoped it would ( fairly funny really ) , me cooking a chicken ( well that’s literally a first ) and Chris generally doing his bit, including opening wine etc.

The chicken went down well… and I discovered the delights of feeding a very enthusiastic Bolt the scraps. All but the chicken bones there really was zero left at the end. All the plates had even been licked .. and why not! He deserved it. ✅

The conversation varied from the perils/ delights/ pitfalls/ hilarity of online dating ( both Chris and I ) to impending and inevitable total blindness and the gratitude for having just a little sight that works at the moment ( as opposed to feeling sorry for himself for being almost in darkness ) Disability certainly gives Paul and I much common ground – the different but similar challenges we both face, and the anything but certain futures ahead. Happiness isn’t guaranteed, that’s for sure, but for now both of us are laughing quite a lot of the time.

Chris in the meantime has a mixed bag of being probably less in demand work wise ( blimey, that’s gonna be a common thing shortly due to the pandemic ) than he’d like, but being far more in demand date wise than he’d like. Keeping lots of balls in the air at the same time ( and yes, I do relate .. 🤦‍♂️ ) is difficult and complicated. He’s discovered that a mixture of Tantric Sex and baking cakes ( what a combination that is.. am I the first person in the world to write those 2 together…? ) are 2 ingredients that make a killer cocktail for the well heeled ladies of London. Myself, I have come to learn of the voracious sexual demands of women over 40. …
Yes, not common in marriage that one.. but outside that blessed union… blimey it’s an eye opener. Chris realised quickly that it’s better to ‘ choose’ … and he has. It makes life simpler that’s for sure. Even when you are a combination of Sting and Paul Hollywood.

Im not convinced there is much proper social distancing in the online dating world… at all! I think a lot of women out there could be called Super Spreaders… for one reason or another 😳

Anyway, we had a laugh. Still hoping that Deaf Mike is gonna make his first appearance to increase our Club membership by a third.

My talented daughter starts in Oxford University this weekend too. I don’t see enough of her to miss her ( well you’d have to see a lot of someone to qualify for ‘ missing’ ) but of course I’ll try to talk to her as often as I can, and possibly make the odd visit, if that’s allowed. Personally I think kids should go to Uni and forget about home pretty much for 3 years. That’s how you change from child state to adult state. I can’t say I went home a lot when I was in Uni. I even stayed away for most holidays and got various jobs, rather than not have much to do in a quiet village in South Wales. ‘ Helicopter parents’ – that’s what the colleges call the parents that persistently and insistently hover around their children whilst they are supposed to be learning independence… are not a positive ( however good their intentions )

Personally I think that the current students that are in lockdown with strangers/ new friends will look back upon this time with lots of affection. Cmon.. at 19 what would you choose, locked up with 200 other teens like you, or be at home with your parents and irritating younger siblings?
I think i know what MOST would opt for. It’s not gonna be that bad, that’s for sure.

But of course I look to the positives. Cos that’s what I always have to do. Me and Blind Paul both.