There’s one evergreen Christmas custom in the Scott-Brennan household that gets rolled out every year – thumbing through the Radio Times for festive televisual treats. Liam likes nothing more than ringing his must-sees with a red felt-tip pen. It’s a quaintly old-fashioned ritual in today’s online, on-demand era. The magazine, first published in 1923, has a loyal but ageing following. I wonder how long it will be before both go the way of the dodo. The advertisers know this too, judging by the loose leaflets that drop from the magazine pages – funeral plans, will writing services, equity release schemes and special furniture for special needs. It’s enough to make me think I’ve already got one foot in the grave. On the other hand, those rise and recline chairs do look comfy.
Liam suffers from acid reflux – indigestion from Hell – which he controls with early dinners and prescription drugs. In rare cases, the condition can lead to oesophageal cancer, something most sufferers don’t know they’ve got until it’s way too late. Early diagnosis improves the odds massively. If only there was an effective screening programme for those most at risk.
Enter stage left, the boffins from the University of Cambridge. They’re trialling a low-cost diagnostic tool which, if successful, could be the answer. Enter stage right, Liam the lab rat. He swallowed a large pill attached to a length of twine. Going down was the easy bit (isn’t it always?). The pill dissolved to reveal what Liam described as a Brillo pad which was tugged up through his gullet, scraping the sides as it travelled. It was quite a performance by all accounts.
To get over the shock of the drama, Liam took himself off to Cinema City to watch Stephen Sondheim’s Follies broadcast live from the National Theatre to 2,500 venues globally. Liam is a huge Sondheim fan. I’m not, so I didn’t crash the party. The last time we watched a live performance beamed to cinemas was Billy Elliot. Now that’s my kind of musical. It’s a great way for the fiscally-challenged to watch a top-notch West End show at a knock-down price.
I joined Liam later for a bottle. He was delirious after Sondheim – almost losing his mind with the pleasure – and needed a large red to bring him down to planet Earth. Throat well lubricated, we raised a glass to the miracle of medical science. It’s keeping us alive, after all. And now we’ve both done our civic duty for the greater good, we’re feeling rather smug.
I was wandering through our local library last week and came across this intriguing exhibit:
The display was made up of 18,000 forget-me-nots, one for each individual living with dementia in Norfolk. It was Dementia Awareness Week and the library was running a host of creative events for dementia sufferers and their carers.
All sickness is cruel but dementia has got to be one of the cruellest of them all, robbing the victims of their very essence while their loved-ones look on helplessly. We know dementia. Liam’s mother was a victim and died from the inevitable complications of the disease. It’s ironic that as science and wealth has let our bodies survive beyond our allotted three score and ten, our minds often can’t keep pace. But there is hope. Just as cancer is no longer the death sentence it once was, there is every chance that science will one day halt and maybe cure the disease. A healthy older age is something we all want. And while we wait for that time to come, there are some amazing people doing some amazing things to make living with dementia just a little bit easier.
I hate beards. Well, I hate the idea of having one. So it makes no sense whatsoever that I should grow a beard – other than as a perverse way of raising a few pennies for a cause close to my heart.
Mencap is an amazing charity. Since the 1940’s they’ve pushed through huge changes in social care and legislation for people with a learning disability. What’s more, they give brilliant support in the community, running life-changing housing and employment schemes for people who otherwise would lose out.
With social care provision in a right state at the moment, it’s more important than ever to bang the drum for anyone who’s vulnerable. And I have a personal reason for supporting Mencap. My amazing younger brother had some wonderful support throughout his life, right up to when we lost him in 2013. Without it, Mark’s life would have been so very different.
I’ll leave the last word to Northel, a young man with a learning disability who recently wrote to me.
The charity helps people like me with a learning disability to find jobs, and they support us and our families. Your gift will help more people like me with a learning disability and for that I am truly grateful.
If you can spare a few pennies to sponsor me through a month of itching hell, I’d be ever so grateful. I’ll post a picture of the hairy mess on my Just Giving page and on Facebook once it reaches its full, disgusting glory. Anything I raise will go to Mencap. Click the JustGiving link below.
P.S. Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving – they’ll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to the charity. So it’s the most efficient way to donate – saving time and cutting costs for the charity.
I don’t mean Olay Total Effects or any of the other magic potions promising to hold back the ravages of time. No, I mean the seven signs as they apply to a middle-aged ex-pretty boy who knows he’s got fewer years ahead than behind. I was reminded of my impending decrepitude when trying to grab a rogue sock evading capture at the back of the washing machine. The sock nearly won. So there it was, my first sign of ageing – stiff in all the wrong places.
But what of the others? Well, in no order of priority…
The only time I get to wear a suit these days is at funerals. This in itself is no bad thing. If only I didn’t have to replace it every year to keep up with my expanding midriff.
I used to sleep like a Brothers Grimm princess. I even slept through an earthquake in Bodrum once. These days I get caught short mid-slumber. And I’d rather sit to pee than stand.
My memory of yesteryear used to be as sharp as a drag queen’s stiletto. Nowadays, I never forget a face but names often defeat me. And sometimes I go into a room and can’t remember why.
As I grow older, my farts get louder (and more frequent). Thankfully, following through is still as rare as a gay bar in Tehran.
I reached puberty sooner than most and my hirsute legs were a source of great adolescent pride. Now I constantly moult. Sweeping up short and curlies from the bathroom floor has become a daily chore. What’s left is rapidly turning silver.
Liberal tolerance was my mantra for decades and accepting (though not always respecting) differing opinions was the price I paid. Now I shout at the box when some ill-informed twat spouts rubbish. I have become a grumpy old man and I rather enjoy it.
Despite stiffness, middle-age spread, nocturnal bladder weakness, fading memory, noisy flatulence, grey pubes and a serious bout of the grumps, I’m content with my lot. Unlike Olay’s fanciful brew, happiness is something you can’t bottle and sell at Boots. But then I’m yet to suffer from the eighth sign of ageing – erectile dysfunction. Now that would burst my bubble.
Once more round the sun and it’s that time again to look back at the top of the pansy crop. For some reason, matters medical and mortality caught the imagination this year. On a happier note, stepping back in time to renew old acquaintances and bear witness to vows ’til death they do part also proved popular. So ladies and gents, I give you…
A Manifesto for Life | Back to Bodrum | Perking the Pansies | It’s All Double Dutch to Me | Victoria Wood, RIP | Scarred for Life | Postcards from Gran Canaria | See the Tree, How Big It’s Grown | A Pain in the Arse | David Bowie, Starman
And then there were the year’s three most popular images. Really, have you no shame?
When Liam and I first pitched our yurt in Anatolia, we bought an olive sapling in John’s memory and put it in a patio pot. It did remarkably well and bore fruit in the first year – a lean harvest but a harvest nonetheless. After we decided to wade back to Blighty, I asked Annie of Back to Bodrum fame if she would take care of John’s little twig in her Bodrum garden. Annie went one better and offered a sunny spot in the olive grove of her fabulous country pile.
Four years on and the wedding of the year presented the perfect opportunity to check on John’s tree. Little more than a twig when it was transplanted to Annie’s field, it now stands tall as a strapping sapling, framed in chicken wire to protect it from nibbling cattle.
The first snap is courtesy of Elaine Akalin.
Thank you, Teo, for planting it. You did all the sweaty work while all I did was pat it down like the Queen at an opening. And thank you, Annie, for taking such good care of it. I’m not religious at all but a part of me hopes Teo and John popped a cork and shared a bottle on the big day.