Tag Archives: ageing

My spine + a surprising amount of pee

This blog is mostly for myself so this is, in a sense, the opposite of clickbait… You have been warned. Flee now.

My advice to you is… Never get hit by an articulated truck…

I am writing it on Monday morning.

So exactly two weeks after the bottom of my spine went (as I understand it) out of alignment and shooting pains started.

It happens occasionally, ever since I got hit by an articulated truck in 1991.

My left shoulder blade was pulverised in two places; the back of my head hit the edge of a low brick wall; and, although it wasn’t obvious at the time, my spine was damaged a bit.

When I phoned up my osteopath two weeks ago, it turned out he had died two years ago.

So I went to another osteopath in London two Saturdays and he mostly cured the problem.

Last Monday, I also went to an osteopath near Brighton – I made the appointment not knowing if I could see the osteopath in London. He helped too.

But, on Thursday, a coughing fit buggered-up my semi-recovering spine again. And phone calls on Friday and Saturday failed to get hold of my new London osteopath.

Let us hope that he, too, has not died on me.

I have been sleeping on the floor for the last fortnight. It’s awkward to get up off the floor in the morning but, once I’m up, I am fairly OK if I move carefully and don’t cough. Unfortunately, in parallel with the spine problem, I currently have nose sniffles and a hacking cough caught from an 8-year-old which won’t go away. The cold, not the 8-year-old.

Anyway, I have been waking up repeatedly every night for a fortnight but can never remember details, so I thought – largely for myself – I would take audio notes on my iPhone each time I woke up. 

And, last night…


03.21
I dreamt I was directing a documentary about the 2012 London Olympic Games. It was being shot in my living room at night. This was progressing quite well but was complicated and my dream was intercut with parts of the Rambo: Last Blood movie trailer which I saw last night. This is ironic. I am certainly currently no Rambo. I got up on my knees and urinated into the red pee-receptacle which my eternally-un-named friend bought me years ago in case I ever got caught short in the middle of nowhere in my then car.

03.44
I woke up with a coughing fit. I had been dreaming about my forehead with its wrinkled skin which I had vaguely mentioned in a blog over a month ago. I got up on my knees and urinated into the red pee-receptacle. Again.

05.20
Woke up with shooting pains along my left shoulder. Managed to wee into the red pee-receptacle.

05.31
Shooting pains along my right shoulder. I half got up to try to wee in my pee-receptacle – again – and there were horrendous, searing shooting pains at the base of my spine. When I tried to lie down again, uncontrollable coughing fits gave me severe shooting pains at the base of my spine. There was a lot of out-loud “Argh! Ahh! Ow! Argh!”s as there was no-one else around to hear.

07.20
Very very painful at the base of my spine as I slowly tried to get up off the floor into a kneeling position to wee into the red pee-receptacle. Managed to raise myself by holding on to the corners of two sofas. I sleep angled between the corners of the two sofas so I can, indeed, do this. Again, a lot of “Oopph! Ooh! Argh! Ahhh! Ahhh! Aghhh!” going on.


My sleeping companion when I have trouble getting upstairs

Well that’s it. 

Another attempt to get hold of the London osteopath today and, if not, then I will contact the next on my list of recommended osteos.

I did warn you.

That blog was mostly for myself.

There seemed to be an awful lot of pee involved.

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Comic Lynn Ruth Miller is “Ridiculously Old and Getting Better” in a monastery

Here, in the latest of her travelogues, 85-year-old globetrotting American comedienne and burlesque performer Lynn Ruth Miller, based in London, tells us about her latest jaunt…


Lynn Ruth’s passport photo is even worse…

I went to Farfa in Italy.

When we landed in Rome, I apologised to the officer because my passport photo was so bad but he said he could recognise me. I said I had to wait ten years before I got a new one and that one would be even worse than the one I had.

He agreed.

Maddie from Wales was waiting for me. She and Nader Shabahangi – my dearest of friends from San Francisco – are running an Eldership Academy in Farfa and I was an honoured guest.

Nadar’s mother Elizabeth is convinced that I am a burden to her son, taking disgusting advantage of him. I have tired him out; I have incurred huge expenses, what with his having to rent a car and forcing her darling baby to stay awake hours past his bedtime. Nader is 62 years old.

Throughout the ride home she reminded me that, if my plane had not landed so late, Nader could have gotten his much-needed rest. She also pointed out that, because of me, he had to drive at night and it was very difficult for him because the road was dark. She told me repeatedly that they had to leave Farfa early because of my late arrival and now had to drive back on an unfamiliar road, which was a hardship for all of them. She explained several times that both she and Nader desperately needed their rest and I had thoughtlessly and deliberately deprived them both of that requirement.

Nader’s car had a navigating device that spoke to him in Italian. Maddie helped him interpret the route and we only got lost three times. We arrived at the monastery in Farfa at midnight.  

Yes. 

A monastery.

Many people from around the world go to this monastery because it is a well-known B&B.

My beautiful room was on the third floor of the immaculate monastery with a lovely view of the hills. I had a private bathroom, plenty of hot water and a desk for my computer. But NOT a WiFi connection.

“Ridiculously Old and Getting Better” – soon

Nader, who does not share his mother’s opinion of my value (whew),  brought me some yogurt and a galley copy of my brand new book Ridiculously Old and Getting Better, which is my take on living a good, productive and satisfying life. At that point, though, I thought the title should have been: Why the Fuck Am I Still Around Making Everyone Suffer?

I managed to read half the book and then drifted off to sleep in that very quiet peaceful place where the air smells sweet and you can actually hear birds singing without a hearing aid.

I awoke the next morning feeling a bit more like the title of my book and met the first of three of the most charming nuns ever. The first was Citadel (really) originally from the Philippines who fixed the plug on my computer and explained that I could get WiFi in the sitting rooms, but the entire monastery loses its wi-fi when the wind blows. Ordinarily, I would think this is a tragedy but somehow it felt like a blessed relief.  

Gabriella came to clean my room, extolled over the book and Justine made me a special breakfast. They are all three happy, smiling people. The interesting thing is that ALL the nuns there are happy, smiling people. It makes me wonder if a celibate life is the secret to happiness.  

Statistics say that single women without children are the most content and, if the nuns are any indication, the answer to the world‘s malaise is to confine all men in a separate camp where women who want to ruin their lives can get it on and have a baby. The rest of us can just go about our business growing flowers and dancing in the sunlight, as women do. 

Elizabeth came to get me because she is a devout Christian woman who believes in being kind to the vermin of this world. She scampered down four flights of stairs to remind me that she is in better shape than I am. She hugged Justine several times and gave me a triumphant look to remind me that I am scum and she is blessed.

Maddie told me a bit about herself.  She is a potter from Wales. Her husband died three years ago but had vascular dementia for about 20 years. She has two sons both very intelligent and creative and an artistic daughter. She and Nader along with Julia from Australia have been running the workshop at the monastery for three years.  

In the garden, I met two others on the course: Iris whose real name is Ruth and her husband Spider who is really interesting and very well-travelled because his father was in the military. He lived his early years in Paris but cannot speak a word of French. The two met in a cooking school some forty years ago, have one child and are both fun to be with. They are from Sonoma in California. They work with the elderly there and are interested now in coming to terms with their own advancing years.

Another person I met in the garden was from Cape Town, South Africa. His name is Rayne. He has a small company that provides services to care homes in Cape Town and is without doubt the most well-read human being on the planet.  

I am quite a reader but there is not one book I mentioned that he has not only read but can discuss the plot of far more intelligently than I. (I AM American) He is a delight.

Farfa. Lovely but with dodgy WiFi (Photo by Renio Linossi)

We all met in the garden because it was the only place where you could get on the Internet (sometimes). 

The rest of the group had arrived by dinner time: all truly wonderful, innovative, creative people from all over the world.

Joyce and Ed were from Denver, Colorado; Anna from near Brighton, England; and Bernie, a doctor, from Redding, California.  

They were all there (some had returned from previous years) to explore who they are and where they are going in their lives as older people. Of course, they all looked like children to me, but I am guessing most are in their sixties with the exception of Bernie who is 52.  

Ageing is a frightening thing to contemplate in this plastic world that worships muscular, fit bodies, healthy diets, endless plastic surgery and non-surgical techniques to make us all look like teenagers without the angst.

I do not fit into this picture.

That first night, I took a late-night walk with Spider. He said it was his losses that made him strong. His closest friend, the man who married him to Iris whose real name is Ruth, died of multiple sclerosis at 62 and he has never yet come to terms with his own loss. He is making up for the gap in his life with the elderly people he is helping now in Sonoma.

Joyce is 72 and into mysticism and The Kabala. She brought up her daughter alone and managed to travel the world and experiment in a variety of life styles, always supporting herself and her daughter. Ed just retired from a counselling type thing in Berkeley and he has been her best friend for at least forty years.  

Everyone in the group connected with one another. The discussions were hugely interesting and very spirited.

One of the more interesting topics was how we listen to one another. Ed showed us there are three levels of listening. One is about the hearer, one is about the listener and the third when it is about what the speaker is feeling. We listen not just with our ears, but with our eyes and with our body.  

This is why Facebook and Instagram are robbing us of the ability to hear what our friends mean when they type in a remark online.

The finale of my stay was my talk on Optimistic Ageing, which I have already done in the UK for the Brighton Women’s Institute, the retired NHS workers of South Croydon and the Mental Health Unit in Birmingham. 

Seeing the back of  her forthcoming book…

This time though, I was preaching to the choir because every one of the people in this group takes risks and makes waves in an effort to live the fullest, most meaningful life possible. It was an exhilarating experience to be part of their search for meaning and direction.

I am now home in London, practising bowing and saying “Ah! So!” to prepare for my trip to Japan where I am planning to tell jokes and rip off my clothes.

Maybe then they will forgive me for Hiroshima.

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Filed under Age, Humor, Humour, Psychology

Why I don’t trust people who have no wrinkles on their faces…

Are lines on a face necessarily a good thing? (Photo: Pierrick Van-Troost via UnSplash)

Continuing on from yesterday’s blog about how you can seldom learn much from watching perfection but you can learn a lot from other people’s mistakes (and your own)…

I don’t trust people over a certain age who have totally wrinkle-free foreheads and no spidery skin wrinkles at the side of their eyes. This tends to go against the prevailing orthodoxy that everyone should look young and wrinkle-free.

But, if you don’t have any wrinkles, you haven’t experienced bad times. In fact, you haven’t experienced much at all. So you are likely (I am not saying certainly) to be less than averagely sympathetic to or understanding of other people’s problems.

A wrinkle isn’t just a one-off frown or a one-off laugh with the eyes.

It is the result of repeated somethings.

Of course, if you have had a shit time, you may have gone to the other extreme and have turned into a soul-less bastard with no empathy, sympathy or any other form of pathy except possibly psychopathy.

Mass murderers and evil incarnates tend, I think, to have quite lined faces too.

So a wrinkly face ain’t always a guarantee of anything. 

But at least it doesn’t mean the person is a shallow, inexperienced, inward-looking shell of a half-human who sees the world only by looking outward and not by trying to see the world from other people’s viewpoints.

Poet WH Auden – a man famous for his memorable lines…

I think this obsession with wrinkles came about when an English teacher at my school went on-and-on in awe-struck admiration at the look of poet WH Auden’s face, telling us something like: “Just look at all the experience in that face!”

I remember sitting in a tube train after that looking at my reflection in the window opposite and raising my eyebrows to create wrinkles in my forehead… then being disappointed when, lowering my eyebrows, the skin on my forehead returned to its virgin, furrow-free blandness.

Now the top half of my face, given the wrong type of side-lighting, can look like a cross between a furrowed field and the number of lines in Tolstoy’s War & Peace and it will only get worse.

On the other hand – or face – there is only a very thin dividing line between being experienced in a good way that may show admirable humanity and being a wrinkly old fucker, possibly psychopathic, sat in the corner mumbling into his own beard, beer or spittle.

I think I may go and have a lie-down now.

This is what an ageing app thinks I will look like when I am older, though it is pretty-much me now…

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Lynn Ruth Miller meets her idealistic, optimistic, innocent 21 yo self in Beijing

In her last missive from China, comedienne Lynn Ruth Miller was in Shanghai. Then she progressed to Beijing…


There are definite pluses to being small and old in China. I have survived because of the kindness of strangers just like Blanche did in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, but I did not have to sell what she did. Actually, mine is not worth selling these days, not even on eBay. Don’t tell ME it is never too late.

It is too late.

You would be amazed how confusing things are when you cannot ask directions or read the signs.

The road from Beijing airport into the city was lined with trees and it felt almost as if we were going through a forest to get to my hotel. The driver walked me into the lobby and left me there. No-one spoke English and I was thinking I might just have to unpack there and set up shop when, to my utter delight, a little angel appeared in a fuchsia hat that proclaimed: “Here to BREAK your heart”.  

A carbon copy of idealistic 21 y.o. Lynn Ruth

But she didn’t. Instead, she helped me find my room and figured out the lights and the internet. Her name was Diane and she was a carbon copy of the idealistic, optimistic innocent I was at 21, eager to learn more, do more and see more but afraid of all the unknowns in the universe. I discovered she also had challenges with relationships and food.

I had thought the only nervous, insecure wrecks were Jewish girls like me from Toledo, Ohio.

That evening, I sat and talked to this lovely human being who cares so much about life and thinks she can do so little. We talked about writing and the arts. We talked about philosophy and we talked about the ways society tries to limit us.

Then we walked to see my venue, The Bookworm.

I was struck with the way the main street looked like any street in Central London, filled with recognizable shops. I was told this was a very up market part of town and, indeed, it felt very Fifth Avenue but with a difference. Motor bikes go up on the sidewalks and weave through pedestrians and cars block the entrance to shops. I am absolutely certain there are no traffic laws whatsoever in Beijing.

Crossing the street is a challenge. Even when you have the green light, cars and motorbikes turn into the street and swerve around pedestrians. As I crossed on a green light, several cars turned into the intersection and just steered around me avoiding the ten bicycles coming the other way and motorbikes weaving through the entire mess trying to avoid severing toes and bruising hips. There is no such thing as right of way.

I did not get the sense that people feel repressed or unhappy even though we are told that they have a very repressive and controlling government that limits people’s freedom. Instead I got the same feeling I get walking the streets in London or New York of busy people living productive, secure lives.

Not all traffic – in the Soho area of Beijing

I was struck by how fashionable the women were and how beautifully they dressed. I was also taken by couples with children and the way they hover over their little ones.

Until just lately, China only permitted couples to have one child and that child was hopefully a son. From what I hear, girl babies were often aborted or drowned.

Now the law has changed and you can have two children. Furthermore, amniocentesis is banned. You cannot try to find out the sex of your unborn child.

These parents are totally devoted to their babies and the children are all dressed adorably with cute tee shirts and adorable little jackets and shoes. The place felt like a fashion show. Perhaps that’s why I saw so few dogs. You only have so much love you can give.

When we got there, I loved The Bookworm. It is one of those all-in-one places where you can go to an event, eat food, drink wine and have good conversations. Very reminiscent of Shakespeare and Company in Paris.

In the hutong area, I saw a very different side of Beijing: very Chinese, very traditional, with narrow streets, shops jammed next to one another and people crowding each other on the street. Chinese people push and shove their way to where they want to go. There is no sense of courtesy to strangers as there is in Britain and yet, face-to-face, they are unfailingly kind. I had numerous people guide me across streets and one guy hugged me afterwards as if I were his best friend. Yet, if you are in their way, watch out.

My friend Jesse Appel runs a venue in Beijing: the US-China Comedy Center. He comes from the richest community in the United States, Newton, Massachusetts, and went to Brandeis University, an exclusive Jewish university that, despite its origins, is very diverse. Only half the student body is Jewish.  

Jesse explained to me that standup comedy as an art form is very new in China, but growing. He was part of a small team that initiated Chinese standup with Des Bishop, an Irish comedian from Flushing, New York, who is famous for doing comedy in the Chinese language.

That night, I performed at The Bookworm. It was an add-on show following the Chinese Comedy that Jesse was in.

I listened to the Chinese show and was astounded and encouraged at how eager the audience was to laugh. However, after the group of 125 chuckling Asians at that show dispersed, I was left with about 30 people, most of them from Beijing with English as their second language. There were about 5 people who were from the US and UK – one from Leeds, one from Newcastle and one man from Michigan where I went to University. He was the only one who got all the jokes.  

Lynn Ruth performed in English at The Bookworm in Beijing

The rest of my audience were polite; they listened; they chuckled. But they were not like Jakarta or Manila. The host was a man from Orlando named Mac who was very good. The opener was his brother who informed us that he was very famous in Orlando, Florida. He was supposed to do 10 minutes but he rambled on for 30.  

The show began on Chinese time (always late) and, by the time I got on stage 45 minutes later, the audience was half asleep. But the guy from Michigan laughed; the man from Leeds chuckled and drank gin and tonics; and the rest of the audience smiled, nodded and tried to figure out what “a suppository” and “a cellar door” was.

You cannot win them all.

That said, I got a tremendous amount of praise for the show from the very audience members I thought I had confused. So maybe they did get some of it after all.

When it was time for me to go home (about 1.00am) Justin from Leeds offered to walk me to the hotel.

As we walked, chatting about life and love and the high cost of sex in China, we missed the sign for my hotel. We ended up in another hotel about half a mile from where I was staying, where no-one could speak English to help us.  Justin has been here for 6 years. He understands a bit of Chinese but, unlike Jesse who has mastered the language to the point where he has no accent, Justin communicates only in English.  

We wandered around asking people who had no idea what we were asking until one wonderful human caught on. He WALKED us to our destination. By this time, I had a raging headache from having only eaten those soggy noodles and nothing else all day. Justin, being an English Gentleman, was determined to find me something to eat. That is why I love British men. They do what their mothers taught them and their mothers got it right.

We went into a bar adjacent to the hotel but, by this time, it was almost 2.00am and no food was being served. A man from Los Angeles named Eddie saw our plight, argued with the manager about the necessity of bending rules and regulations to no avail, then disappeared to go to a convenience store to get me a bit of bread. Eddie informed me that I had very young eyes but my hearing aid didn’t quite get what he said, so I responded: “Yes, it never turned grey.”

I staggered upstairs at 2.30am, still worrying about audience reaction to my show. I wrote Eamonn in Jakarta and said that it was not like the show I did for him and, being the modest, non-assuming Brit that he is, he said: “Nothing is.”

Beijing – “Everyone has the same fears, the same wants…”

And he is right.  Each place is different and that is what is so exciting about doing an international tour.

Everyone has the same fears, the same wants and the same needs but they express them in totally different ways.

And that explains why Chinese people love that horrid tea that tastes like soaked dirt and the English love fish encased in so much batter you cannot find the cod.

There is no accounting for taste.

The next evening, I went to The Bookworm to hear Ian McEwan discuss his new book Machines Like Me. It examines what makes us human. Our outward deeds or our inner lives? He pointed out that the novel is the one place where you can get inside another person. 

When I returned to my hotel, I received two follow-up e-mails from people who had seen me at the book talk and heard that I had published books of my own.

I think it is safe to generalize that Chinese people are very anxious to enlarge their scope and increase their understanding. There is a tremendous amount of intellectual curiosity that I find very refreshing.  

Once you decide you know it all, you know nothing.

… CONTINUED HERE

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Nathan Cassidy goes forward to the past with Back to the Future & sucked a bong

Nathan Cassidy - Back to the Future in a jacket

Nathan Cassidy – Back to Birmingham

“If you really wanted to live dangerously,” I told Malcolm Hardee Award nominated comedian Nathan Cassidy, “you should have booked your Edinburgh Fringe show into the Cowgatehead venue.”

“There’s only one thing you can’t make jokes about,” said Nathan, “and that’s Cowgatehead. Those comedians have got thousands of pounds and, in their minds, maybe their whole careers riding on it.”

As well as being a comedian, Nathan runs a company which offers tourist trips round the ‘real’ London and ‘real’ New York. But, he complains, everything  is getting too safe and gentrified in London.

“Are you a Londoner?” I asked.

“I was born in Birmingham. Even Birmingham’s nicer now. There’s no rough places  for me any more.”

“Certainly not Brownhills,” I said, attempting a North Birmingham accent.

“That,” said Nathan, “is exactly the Brummie accent I am going to use in Back To the Future III.”

Back To The Future shows I, II and III

Back To The Future stage shows I, II & III

Nathan is performing three comedy shows this year – Back to the Future I, II and III.

“I’m doing all three on the same day at the Camden Fringe and on Back to the Future Day, which is Wednesday 21st October. That’s the day in Back to the Future II – 21st October 2015 – they go forward to and that’s when you see the flying cars.”

“Why did you do the first Back to the Future?” I asked.

“I guess I’m at that part in my life where I’m looking back 30 years and looking forward 30 years. I went to see Back to the Future at Secret Cinema at Westfield in East London and that’s what triggered my thought. Secret Cinema fuses theatre and film. They had bought a great plot of land but they had to cancel the first week of shows. 3,000 people were turning up every day and they cancelled the first day only about half an hour before the start time.

“They didn’t allow you to take your mobile phones because they didn’t want the location revealed. So everyone, including me, had left their house dressed in 1950s gear – some people had travelled from the Isle of Wight – 3,000 people all getting to the door and these ten security guards having to turn everyone away and getting abuse.

Secret Cinema’s Back To The Future set at the Olympic Park (Photograph by Nathan Cassidy)

Secret Cinema’s Back To The Future set at the Olympic Park (Photograph by Nathan Cassidy)

“There was a guy dressed as Doc Brown shouting at this security guard saying that he had ruined everything and it was unforgivable. Then he turned to me and says: Do you want to come for dinner? I had no excuse not to, because he knew I was supposed to be there for the next six or seven hours and I didn’t have my phone on me. And he turns out to be the grumpiest cunt I’ve ever met and it got me thinking: I’m in the middle of my life and I’m turning into this grumpy guy. I feel my life is falling away.

“I was told by my step-dad when I was about 15: As soon as you hit 30, your life will start to accelerate. And he was absolutely right. I’ve got two kids now – 5 and 7. My 7-year-old is doing stuff I did about 30 years ago and I’m thinking about my own death in maybe 30 years time.

“So Back to the Future II is about living again. I’m not religious, but I’ve recently got into the idea of reincarnation. Maybe it’s because I’m hoping for something that may not exist.”

“And now you’re up to show three,” I said.

“Yes, Back to the Future III is about some regrets I’ve had from the past. My whole school was not very nice to this one particular person.”

“Not you?” I asked.

Nathan showed me his very real BTTF jacket

Nathan showed me his very real BTTF jacket

“No, not me. I was not a bully as such, but you’ve always got these kids at school who are bullied and your excuse to yourself is you weren’t old enough to stop it because you were 12.

“Then you think: Maybe I WAS old enough. So it’s about wanting to go back in time to stop that happening.

“I’ve written a few novels too and one of my books is about this – about bullying at school and wondering what happens to those kids you haven’t seen for 30 years.

“I think your life is pretty much set in stone in those years and there’s nothing you can do about it unless there’s massive serious intervention.”

At this point, Nathan had a coughing fit. When he recovered, he told me:

“I did this show last night with Trevor Lock and I’ve never taken drugs in my whole life and I did this bit on stage about not taking drugs and then somebody from the audience handed me something and said: It’s bong.”

“Bong?” I asked.

“Bong. I have no idea. I don’t do drugs, don’t hang around with anyone who does drugs even as a comedian. But this person handed me this thing and I took a suck and then thought: What am I doing?

“You sucked a bong?” I asked.

“It was like a fake cigarette thing and lit up at the end. It didn’t look like a cigarette: it looked like a…”

“Bong?” I suggested.

“A big bong, yes. And I’ve got this thing at the back of my throat now and I’m thinking: Why have I resisted drugs for 40 years?

“You are going to turn on to drugs?” I asked.

“If I’m going to live again – as I do – why don’t I just get fucked-up now?"

“If I’m going to live again – as I do – why don’t I just get fucked-up now?”

“That’s partly what Back to the Future II is about,” explained Nathan. “If I believe I am going to live again – as I do – why don’t I just get fucked-up now? Why don’t I start living like Chris Dangerfield? None of my favourite musicians or comedians have never done drugs. So, if I’m going to become who I want to be, I’ve gotta start…”

“But who do you want to be?” I asked.

“I don’t feel like I’ve truly seen the dark side of life.”

“I never took drugs,” I explained, “because I worried it might push me over an edge I thought I might be too close to already.”

“Exactly,” said Nathan. “But, if it pushes you over the edge, then you’re going to find something that… I’m not saying just drugs…”

“You must have done something in your life?” I asked.

“I’ve done loads. I’ve travelled the world – New Zealand, Australia, all across Asia, Siberia, Russia. I’ve had kids.”

“And,” I pointed out, “you’re running an international business that takes people to ‘real’ places. What on earth IS the real New York? Probably horrible.”

“That’s it,” said Nathan. “To see the dirty side of it. The guy I started the business with has been on heroin, come off heroin, is covered in tattoos, has done crime, come out of that and he ends up this beautiful man. He’s done all that and now he can talk from a perspective of having done that. I’m not advocating this bad way of living, but Back to the Future II is about What do I do in the next 20 years? Do I take things a new way in my life?”

“You can’t,” I suggested. “You’ve got two small children and a wife.”

“What do you mean Can’t?” Nathan asked.

“You don’t,” I suggested, “want to support the Colombian drug cartels or the Mexican gangs. There were 43 people killed in some shoot-out in Mexico this morning. If you take heroin…”

Nathan reckons he is just too clean-living

Nathan reckons he has just been too clean-living

“I’m not going to take heroin,” Nathan interrupted. “I’m not talking about just drugs. I’m talking about the dark side of life.”

“Define the dark side of life.”

“I dunno. But I have been too clean-living.”

“What are these other things that life has to offer?” I asked.

“Everything.”

“Paedophilia?” I asked.

“Of course not,” said Nathan. “But my interesting stories are about what my kids are doing or my mum warning me of the danger of parked cars. All my comedian friends have more interesting stories.”

“Maybe your Unique Selling Proposition is that you’re Mr Clean.”

“I want to be scum.”

“You can’t wear a leather jacket and be clean,” I said.

“I’m wearing a Back to the Future jacket just for you. I’ll do anything to publicise the show.”

“I still,” I said, “want to know what all these dark things are that aren’t paedophilia or heroin.”

“Trevor Lock was telling me a story about severed heads on crosses in South America. Being alone with that and being scared. Life over-and-above the mundane. You can get a sense from older comedians that they’ve seen everything.  If you’re a 20-year-old comic, it’s all about wanking, living with your parents and thinking you might be gay.

“I was on the circuit when I was 23 or 24 and I had nothing to talk about and that’s why I gave up for nine years. I came back in about 2009.”

“If you want the ultimate dark side,” I suggested, “the ultimate thing is to go along and join ISIS.”

Nathan Cassidy: “I came back in about 2009"

Nathan Cassidy: “I came back in about 2009″

“I think that’s maybe a step too far.”

“But you keep implying there are no steps too far. You could be a thrill killer like Leopold & Loeb in America or Mary Bell in this country.”

“Maybe I won’t go that far.”

”Why?”

“My own two children, maybe.”

“Good choice,” I said.

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Age. So it goes.

An extract from my e-diary in April 2000:

At my parents’ home, in the afternoon, the clock chimed once for 4.30pm.

My mother asked my father: “Why did that clock stop last night?”

“Half past twelve,” he replied, mis-hearing her.

“It’s only Tuesday,” my mother continued, not really hearing him.

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Ten years ago this month in my life

Some backward-looking Pepys into life ten years ago

I am feeling both lazy and in a bit of a rush this morning.

So, instead of transcribing one of several chats I have had with people which would make for a more relevant blog today, I looked at pre-written stuff – what was happening ten years ago.

I kept a diary on my computer.

These are brief extracts from 2002.

My mother died in Clacton in 2007. Comedian Malcolm Hardee drowned in Rotherhithe in 2005.

Sunday 1st September – Borehamwood

I have a rather snotty, flu-y thing which, together with exhaustion, made me even dozier for most of last week after getting back from the Edinburgh Fringe.

My mother had her plaster off on Friday but is in agony when she puts any weight on the foot. She is seeing the doctor again in a fortnight. She has a sort-of bandage-stocking thing she has to put on and remove daily, doubled, which is a bit of a problem if you only have one hand, as she has.

Monday 2nd September – Clacton

My mother’s 82nd birthday. Although together, it felt when we sat together that we were both cold and solitary.

Tuesday 3rd September – Kensington

At 4.20pm, on the platform at High Street Kensington tube, the tips of the middle and third finger on my left hand started vibrating – tingling – from within.

Thursday 5th September – Fleckney/Higham Ferrers

I went to see comedian Charlie Chuck in Leicestershire; he seemed internally sad. And mad inventor John Ward in Northamptonshire; he seemed internally frustrated.

Friday 6th September – Borehamwood

Very depressed. I slept through until 1430.

Saturday 7th September – Clacton

My mother’s cousin Sheena has got glaucoma.

Sunday 8th September – North London

The woman who runs criminal AAAA BBBB’s website e-mailed me:
I am off to the hospital now, my ma is having a brain scan tomorrow to see if she is brain stem dead. If she is I guess it’s not good.

I went round to comedian CCCC DDDD ‘s home. He told me he believes in God, is a Christian and prays every day. He has a 3ft high brass Buddha in his fireplace.

Monday 9th September – Soho

I had a chat with someone who told me about EEEE FFFF, whom I used to work with at a TV station. She says that, after I left, he was bullied by his boss. As a result, he took a drugs overdose and was found by police just about to jump into a canal. The police talked to him and found out why he was going to jump – they can investigate and press charges without a complaint being made. It was assumed they were going to prosecute. The boss resigned from the company before being sacked. There were also tales of him allegedly drugging teenage boys for homosexual acts, but she did not know the details.

The woman who runs criminal AAAA BBBB’s website e-mailed me:
Been at the hospital. I have popped home to get changed. Ma had the brain scan and we do have brain activity, although the seizures could be confusing the issue. She is having a seizure about every 45 mins. They are going to lighten her sedation and try to remove the breathing tube to see what happens, which is what they did last week and we had to have her resuscitated which scared the shit out of me and my dad.

Tuesday 10th September – Ealing

Had tea with comedian GGGG HHHH at a health club in Ealing. His eyes were emotionless. Malcolm Hardee had told me GGGG HHHH’s marriage was rocky because GGGG HHHH had been sleeping with other women on an epic scale, although you could not call him handsome. He has always seemed – and still does – a quiet, rather shy and insecure man.

Wednesday 11th September – Clacton

I am heavily depressed at the moment and have been for two or three years – especially since watching (and listening to) my father die last year and looking at his eyes at the instant of death. Now, when I come to see my mother, I have more depressive layers poured on top of the existing ones.

Thursday 12th September – Southwark/Pimlico

I went to the Old Kent Road to talk to comedian IIII JJJJ about the Sit-Down Comedy book. As soon as I came out of the station at Elephant & Castle, there were posters about guns in Southwark. Turn the gunmen in. Guns are no way to live.

IIII JJJJ is 50, clearly not wanting to live long. He says the guns are used by the Nigerians who run the local drug trade.

Then I went to meet Malcolm Hardee and the editor at Random House for a meeting about the book. There were various marketing/PR people there. Difficult to know what they made of Malcolm, fairly quiet and ramshackle.

Friday 13th September – Clacton

I took my mother to Clacton Hospital for a check-up. There were lots of people sitting on chairs in corridors throughout the hospital, just waiting to be seen.

Saturday 14th September – Enfield/Rotherhithe

Malcolm wanted to buy a second duck as a mate for the one he already has (as a surprise for his partner Andree). Charlie Chuck and I went and bought the second duck for him at an animal ‘hyper’ shop in Enfield. While waiting, there was much alarmed quacking when a cockerel decided to mate with a startled mallard duck. The cockerel gave up eventually, which was a relief both to us and to the mallard. Back in Rotherhithe, Malcolm’s female Indian Runner duck was even more startled to see a male Indian Runner emerge from our cardboard box.

Sunday 15th September – Borehamwood

Immensely depressed and despairing. Maybe men aged over a certain age don’t care about anything any more because they know nothing matters – they have a clear sight of mortality. All that really matters in life is pleasure, relationships and the money that allows both to function freely. I realised this too late.

Monday 16th September – Borehamwood

This evening, Malcolm’s female duck jumped over the side of his ship in what he said was an assumed suicide bid – possibly alarmed at the new male’s attentions – and Malcolm spent about 45 minutes trying to retrieve her with a fishing net.

Thursday 19th September – Rotherhithe

I went to Malcolm’s Wibbley Wobbley pub. His two ducks Crispy (the original) and Charlie (named after Charlie Chuck) had been let out and he successfully tried to catch them again – running along a wooden pontoon, a single long-poled fishing net in his hand. Andree has not been able to eat duck since the first arrival.

Comedian KKKK LLLL arrived, looking relaxed and confident but I know he is in big money trouble.

Friday 20th September – Borehamwood

Back to the depression.

Saturday 21st September – Borehamwood

The tips of the middle and third finger on my left hand were vibrating – tingling – from within.

Sunday 22nd September – Borehamwood

I went to bed at 0200 and got up at 1510. I didn’t want to get up even then, just to stay in bed. Late at night, there was a 4.8 Richter Scale earthquake in Dudley (on the outskirts of Birmingham)… I felt it in Borehamwood (in Hertfordshire).

Monday 23rd September – Clacton

On ITV,  Anglia News reported that a woman from Peterborough had phoned in to say that, during last night’s earthquake, her pet bird was thrown off its perch.

I got an e-mail from someone I went to school with; he is now in Israel:

Are you now, or have you ever been…… the John Fleming who joined Ilford County High School for Boys in 1961, and left considerably earlier than the rest of us, in what I have always viewed as a blaze of glory? I have found myself, at odd moments over the intervening 35 years, wondering, not a little enviously, whether the John Fleming I knew continued to live by his high principles of artistic freedom. As for your splendid website, that is how I found you, and I must say that what I read there did not disappoint. It sounds as though you are doing what you want to do,

In fact, I took an overdose of paracetamol, aspirin and codeine and, slightly later, ran away from home. All over a girl. Hardly a blaze of glory. Hardly anything to do with artistic freedom. How strange how others view our lives.

My mother’s stomach was more painful than normal today She took 2 paracetamol at teatime and was holding her stomach while sitting in her chair during the evening.

Tuesday 24th September – Borehamwood

My friend Sandy in Italy e-mailed me:
Earthquakes of course were a monthly occurrence in Japan. I survived a 6.9 one… Oh, the tales I shall tell…

I replied:
Earthquakes are not such a threat to the Japanese as they are very small and thus don’t have so far to fall if they get knocked over.

I felt a circa 5.8 one in Manchester in the early 1980s (its epicentre was in North Wales); at first I had thought it was a couple having sex in the next room… And there was a distinct shaking in a hotel in Las Vegas when I was there in 1979. We at first thought this was an earthquake then realised it might be an underground atomic bomb going off in the Nevada test area.

Wednesday 25th September – Borehamwood

Extract from an e-mail from my friend Lys (who lives in Oxfordshire):
I forgot to say but, yes, the earthquake woke me up too.

I had a meal with comedian MMMM NNNN and a long-time male friend of hers at the Groucho Club. She says she feels more secure there because people don’t look at her.

Thursday 26th September – Borehamwood

I slept from 6.10pm-8.50pm and I don’t know what or how to describe it, But something seemed to snap when I was asleep. My ability to cope with reality. My ability to cope with anything. When I woke up and got up, I felt even more adrift and separated from Life.

The woman who runs criminal AAAA BBBB’s website e-mailed me:
My mother has had a total of about 18-20 strokes and she is due to come home into community care Friday as there is nothing else a hospital can do. They might try and find her a private rehab centre but places are few and far between so I am thinking it over. Private rehab is £1,800 per week which is a very expensive. We will see.

Saturday 28th September – Clacton

My mother and I sit mostly in silence. My mother’s wrist is very thin, very boney.

Sunday 29th September – Borehamwood

My friend Lynn (who is also the executrix of my will) told me that, last night, she dreamt about my death. It was not my body lying on the floor yet she knew it was me.

I met my friend OOOO PPPP in London. She was puffy-faced, yet with no lines on her forehead. Maybe the anti-cancer drugs have puffed her face up.

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