Tag Archives: operation

Flying toilets, taking new drugs and having a penis enlargement operation

Comedy critic Kate Copstick and I record a weekly Grouchy Club Podcast. It covers more than gossip about the comedy industry as do the monthly, live Grouchy Club meetings. Inevitably, after this week’s was finished, the conversation carried on. Three main anecdotes cropped up…


Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya (Photo by Schreibkraft)

Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya (Photograph by Schreibkraft)

FLYING TOILETS

The podcast is recorded in Copstick’s Mama Biashara charity shop in Shepherds Bush, London.

The charity works in Kenya, helping small business start-ups.

When over in Nairobi, Copstick lives in slum areas and had this description of the ‘flying toilets’ in Kibera, Nairobi, said to be the largest urban slum in Africa. 

* * * * *

The houses are incredibly close together – you can’t really extend your arms in the little rat runs between the houses. It is much better now but originally there was allegedly 2,000 people to every one long-drop toilet.

Now the government have put in some standpipes and there are public toilets but you are still sharing a toilet with a helluva lot more people than you would like to. If you go out into the darkness of the night – and you really can’t see in front of your face – you have no idea what you are stepping on, you creak open the door of the long-drop toilet and have no idea what state it’s in. It’s a bit Russian Rouletty. You may also get killed or attacked on your way there or back.

So, if you wake up in the middle of the dark night and think: “God! I desperately need a shit!” – which people do a lot because there is a lot of diarrhea around – what you do is go outside and take a shit into a plastic carrier bag, then tie the top of the carrier bag and take the little butterfly bit at the top and whirl it round your head like a Scotsman flinging the hammer. When it gets to peak velocity, you let go and it flies away into the night as far as it can.

Obviously, in an ideal world, you aim high and generally what will happen is that somebody a couple of streets or houses away will hear a SPLATT! on their corrugated iron roof and they will think: Oh fuck! Somebody’s flying toilet! I must remember to go up and scrape it off in the morning!

The shit is in a plastic bag but, when the plastic bag lands, it generally splits open. Also, if you are in a big family – my mate Sylverster has a one-bedroom house for seven of them – as the children get older, when it’s not raining, the girls sleep inside the house but the boys sleep on the roof. So that can get messy.


Kate Copstick prepares for a Grouchy Club

Kate Copstick prepares for a Grouchy Club

WHITE BLOOD CELLS

For many years, Copstick has suffered from the painful and debilitating disease lupus. It is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue in many parts of the body.

Until 2½ months ago she was in agony most of the time…

* * * * *

Since the lupus struck, I have always had a low white blood cell count – neutropenia. The white cells are the fighter cells and scavenger cells. When you get a bruise, the neutrophils go in and clear away all the damaged blood.

Last June, they put me on this new medication – methotrexate – which I injected into the flub on my stomach. It is a kick-ass drug. It’s used in chemotherapy – for leukaemia and other cancers. Then they found out it really worked for rheumatoid arthritis and, through that, they found it worked for other auto-immune diseases like lupus.

I got put on methotrexate last June/July. Then in August in Edinburgh I got bacterial pneumonia and they thought it might be the methotrexate and I kept taking it and they said: “Oh, your white blood cell count keeps going down.”

Then suddenly, 2½ months ago, I felt great; I felt fantastic. Nothing had been changed in the drugs but I suddenly felt physically great. And the best I’ve felt psychologically for years. I was actually happy. I felt happy. Just wonderful. No pain; no headaches; no tinnitus; no cold sweats; and the white blood cell count had gone down even more.

Then, two weeks ago, the doctors said the white blood cell count had become very dangerously low.

I said: “I’m feeling fine!”

They said: “No no no no no. You’re very dangerously low.”

They kept asking me if I had temperatures and beadaches.

I said: “No! I feel wonderful!”

So, last week, they told me to stop taking the methotrexate because they thought that was lowering the white blood cells. I stopped taking it and I feel like shit this week. As soon as I stopped the injections, I got the pain back – tiredness, pain, headache, dizziness – all the lupus shit.

I mean, everything you take, every normal mainstream medication that you take does something bad to you. I think it should be about what makes you feel good. I’m fucking fed up feeling like shit. I’ve felt like shit for a lot of years, a lot.

Nothing bad seemed to be happening with the low white blood cells and I was feeling great and I reckon for me that’s better than being like this and taking handfuls of tramadol and dihydrocodeine and anything else I can lay my hands on just so I can be functional.


Devils on Horseback

“A bit like Devils on Horseback” which is dates stuffed with almonds and wrapped in bacon

PENIS ENLARGEMENT

In her TV production hat, a few years ago, Copstick developed, wrote and produced a series for the Bravo TV channel called World of Pain.

* * * * *

It was about things like pain for pleasure, sporting pain, all different things. And one episode was called Suffer To Be Beautiful which was about people having plastic surgery and all the crazy shit they do.

So I went to New York to film a penis enlargement operation. It was around the year 2000 and there was nobody in Britain who would allow me to film them. Those who go for penis enlargement tend to want people to imagine that’s how they always have been naturally.

I filmed the entire operation. It was absolutely fascinating. I was the cameraperson. When we sent it to the compliance lawyers, most of it ended up on the cutting room floor not because it was erotic but because there was just so much blood. Somebody was having the shaft of his penis split open with a scalpel and the skin peeled…

What I did not realise was that every man is born with as much penis length as anyone can give you. It just depends if you are a show-er or a grow-er.

If you are a show-er, even when you are flaccid, it is all hanging out there.

If you are a grow-er, there is more to come from inside.

So what they do, when somebody wants more length, is make two cuts in the inguinal area – just above the pubic bone – one on either side – and in there are the ligaments that hold the penis in place and they snip those.

Then – this is true – one doctor or a very strong nurse holds the patient on the operating table while the other doctor grabs the penis and pulls. And I am talking PULLS. We are talking like tug-of-war. And they yank out as much of the penis as they can.

Then they stitch up the little incisions and you are now a show-er.

What surprised me is that men who want more length want it for the locker room. They want it for that moment when the Calvin Kleins hit the carpet and another person – male or female – gets their first look at what you are packing.

This guy I was filming wanted more length. So they did that. But he also wanted more girth.

Enhancement can help a bit on girth with what they call ‘harvested tissue’. Have you ever larded a joint of meat? Where you take strips of fat…

Anyway, what they do is get the penis and slit open the skin down the length of it and then… Have you ever buttered the breast of a chicken before you roasted it?

What you do is you ease your hands in between the flesh and the skin of the chicken and you open it up so the skin separates from the flesh.

So, with penis enhancement, they get little rectangles of harvested tissue, lift the skin of the penis away from the shaft and wrap these bits of tissue around the shaft. Then they sew that bit up and do another bit until… It’s a bit like Devils on Horseback or a beef olive.

Then they stitch the skin back into place and wrap it all in very tight elastic bandage. Then the person goes away with lots of painkillers and hopes that they only think clean thoughts.

Because the single biggest problem with the process is guys who go away from the hospital, take their painkillers and, after a day or so, wake up with a bit of morning glory and burst all their stitches.

As for pee-ing, initially you are catheterised but the answer after that is to pee very very carefully.

How do you get harvested tissue? With a scalpel and a dead body.

So be careful when you sign your organ donor card. You may think you will be giving sight to the blind, but you could end up giving girth to the under-endowed and find yourself wrapped around some tiny-dicked guy’s enlarged penis.

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American comedian explains the US healthcare system at Edinburgh Fringe

Andrew J Lederer alive and reasonably well in Edinburgh

“I mentioned to the audience that I was hot and that I wanted to take my sweatshirt off, but that I didn’t have a shirt underneath it – I was just wearing the sweatshirt – and they yelled Take it off!” American comedian and storyteller Andrew J. Lederer told me this week.

We were at the Edinburgh Fringe.

“I can’t resist a dare,” Andrew told me, “so I took off the sweatshirt and then went Oops! I just gave the show away! Obviously, they had seen the photo, but they didn’t know if it was real. They even asked: Is it real?

“Well, I told them, there are many ways of answering that question. No matter what it is, it’s real. A real WHAT – that’s the question.”

“What was the problem?” I asked him.

“I needed heart re-adjustment,” Andrew told me. “I don’t want you to give away too many details in your blog, because the fun of the show – the rollercoaster joy of the show – is coming along with me as these things revealed themselves – always surprisingly and always unsettlingly.”

“But you had a heart operation?” I asked.

“Oh yeah,” he told me. “It was thirteen weeks ago this week.”

“And why does your Edinburgh Fringe show have the title Cold?” I asked.

Andrew’s 2 shows at the Edinburgh Fringe

“Well, I’m doing two shows on the PBH Free Fringe,” he explained. “Cold is just an overall umbrella name for the two shows because last year’s was called Cold Chicken and this year’s is called Cold Comfort and I’m performing them both at this year’s Fringe.

Cold Chicken was about when I was having my London breakdown and about me trying to figure out what was wrong with me: was it physical or emotional? And that sent me back to America – which resulted in Cold Comfort. I may be the only guy ever to go from England to America to get medical treatment!

“I set out to find out was I really having a physical problem or an emotional problem or both. And I found out that I needed open heart surgery. And then the day before I was scheduled to go into the hospital and have myself buzz-sawed in two, the phone rings and I get the answer to the question about what had been happening to me. Only I didn’t care any more because it was cold comfort. Great! I got the answer to the question but, by then, it had become a trivial question.”

“So the two shows are connected,” I said.

“No,” said Andrew. “They’re entirely separate. One is about me in London, falling apart. And the other is about me in New York trying to find my own pieces and put them together – or find someone who can do that for me.”

“And you had a serious operation just 13 weeks ago?” I asked.

“It’s a massively serious operation,” said Andrew. “They take you offline. You’re living on a heart-lung machine. It’s as serious as it gets. I had to be emotionally prepared to die.

“I had to say to myself: This could be the last day I’m alive. They’re going to sap away my consciousness and that may be my last moment of consciousness. I posted something on Facebook that night called Last Will and Testicles.”

“You’d never been that close to possible death before?” I asked.

“Well, I’d walked into the street and there are cars in streets,” Andrew said.

“Maybe this is the year of heart problems at the Fringe,” I said. “Rick Shapiro was in the hospital for three months and got out in late June, then arrived at the Fringe at the start of August. There’s Richard Tyrone Jones and his heart failure. And Carey Marx didn’t come because of his heart attack. Then your own operation was only 13 weeks ago.”

“In New York,” said Andrew, “I go to the gym three times a week.”

“You do?” I said.

“It’s cardiac rehab,” said Andrew, “and it’s just like the gym except it’s paid for by insurance. It’s at the hospital and you wear electrodes and they watch your heart while you do it. Because of budget cutbacks or whatever, you have to put your own electrodes on.”

“You’ve moved back in New York now?” I asked. “You’ve left London?”

“Yeah.”

“You’re going to stay in New York?”

“That’s a question I’m never capable of answering. I seem to go where the money isn’t.”

“Did you go back to the US because you had health insurance there?”

“Well, I only went back because of a wonderful thing that happened while I was in London.”

“Which was?”

“I went broke. Completely. So, when I went back to America, I was poor enough to get poor people’s health insurance. In America, you’re only allowed to get health insurance if you’re rich and can afford to pay for it. Or if you’re very poor. Because they want the middle class to go away. They get in the way. The rich people want poor people to stay alive so they can exploit them. So we have a healthcare system that is, in fact, the greatest healthcare system in the world if you have it, but you’re only allowed to have it if you either have a lot of money or no money.”

“But,” I asked, “if you’re an expat and have been living in London for a few years, how can they totally know what you have? You may have money salted away.”

“You wanna know the beauty of it?” said Andrew. “They just ask you how much money you make. You need no documents of any kind.

“By the end of my London experience, I had twitching eye muscles, my neck felt like it was pulling itself apart. I didn’t know if I was having a nervous breakdown or something was wrong with me. I went to Whitechapel Hospital and they said Huh. You’re alright! It went on for months. They didn’t care. It was not an emergency as far as they were concerned.

“So I went back to the States and started searching out the answers and, over a period of more than a year, it led me to more horrible questions.”

“You were able to search out the answers for free on healthcare as well?” I asked.

“You know what it was like when I got back to the States and had access to healthcare? It was like winning one of those competitions where you get to run through a supermarket with a giant cart and put as much as you can into it as you possibly can. I’ll take a foot doctor! And here’s a cardiac specialist! And you end up with a cart that’s just full of all these guys in white coats with various specialties, brandishing their diplomas.

“I looked up all my doctors online before I chose them. There are these great websites in the States where people go online and they comment on the doctors. They give the doctor stars like he was an Edinburgh Fringe show and they write their reviews.”

“So how did you choose which doctor to go with? You went on the number of stars?”

“Yes! It’s exactly the same as in Edinburgh!”

“I want to become an American citizen,” I laughed. “Do you get financial support once you’re out of hospital?”

“No. I was out of the hospital four days after they buzz-sawed me in two.”

“So, basically,” I said, “they do it all for free but then don’t help you support yourself when you’re recovering?”

“Well, you know what?” said Andrew. “The surgeon told me – and this is one of the top one percent of cardiothoracic surgeons in the United States – he told me, You know, when you get out, you’re going to do various things and some of them might hurt and, if it hurts… don’t do it. He didn’t realise he was saying the oldest, purest medical joke in the world!”

“Have you been performing comedy in America?”

“I haven’t been doing anything! I’m a patient! I’m a professional patient!”

“Have you got a fallback place to stay in New York?”

“In the 1950s, my grandfather, a very forward-thinking man, bought a large number of cemetary plots for the family. It was a steal, he told us. You know how much it costs to buy a  piece of cemetary land?

“So there have been difficult periods of my life where my domestic circumstances would have been better if I were dead rather than alive. I should have been able to live on my cemetary plot. It’s my land! Why can’t I live on my land? I’ve lived in smaller spaces in New York.”

“This is how big?” I asked. “A bit of ground maybe seven feet by four?”

“I own whatever the amount of space is that they need to allow you to be dead. I should pitch a tent there! Who would I be hurting? Who am I going to disturb? It’s beautiful greenery and I know the people there; close relatives everywhere I turn. And yet I’m told I can’t stay there unless I’m dead and what good does it do me then? It’s in New Jersey. It’s suburban. I would be a squire. What kind of free market laissez faire capitalist country is it where a man can own a plot of land and can’t place his weary bones there unless his bones are past the point of all weariness?”

“Well, you should do it,” I told Andrew. “I think you should go and pitch a tent there for the next nine months and that could be the subject of your Fringe show next year.”

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The News of the World, the Profumo Affair and the planned military coup

(This blog was later published in The Huffington Post)

I studied journalism at college – well, radio, TV and journalism.

The man in charge of the journalism part of the course was the Production Editor of the News of the World. So we got lots of good lecturers – people like Cecil King, who had created Mirror Group Newspapers and the then-all-powerful IPC.

As a result, we got a very good insight into the real workings of the press and occasionally some great anecdotes.

One was about Rupert Murdoch’s take-over of the News of the World in 1969.

At the time, obviously, there was a lot of publicity about the re-launch of the ‘new’ Murdoch version of the paper and the News of the World’s TV ads promised one big thing – the REAL story of the 1963 Profumo Affair which had brought down Harold Macmillan’s government.

The News of the World had been a major player in the 1963 scandal and had interviewed almost everyone involved in the affair on tape at the time and had sworn affidavits from all and sundry.

But, when Rupert Murdoch took over the News of the World in 1969, he realised that, sitting in the basement in boxes of tapes and papers, there was much that had gone unpublished in 1963 – in particular about the sexual proclivities of Profumo’s wife, actress Valerie Hobson… and about exactly what type of sexual services Christine Keeler provided to Profumo (the UK’s Secretary of State for War) and to Yevgeny Ivanov, the senior naval attaché at the Soviet embassy in London.

However, when the News of the World published their ‘new’ stories about the Profumo Affair, they were just the re-heated previously-published stories. There was nothing new or earth-shattering.

Apparently this was because there had been such unrelenting legal, political and financial pressure on the News of the World that they had backed off. There were even stories of the police listening to tape recordings in one room while, next door, News of the World staffers were busily erasing parts of tapes.

I am a great fan of Doctor Who and, boy, do I wish I had a fully-functioning TARDIS so that I could come back in 100 years or 150 years and find out what had really been happening during my lifetime.

Cecil King, our occasional lecturer at college, was an interesting man because, with some good reason, he had an ego that engulfed any room he entered. Years later, it was claimed or revealed (two words that expose a gulf of possibilities) that he had, in 1968, talked to Lord Mountbatten (who was later assassinated) about the possible overthrow of Harold Wilson’s government with Mountbatten replacing the Prime Minister.

It seems to have been a relatively low-key bit of idle ego-boosting by Cecil, as opposed to the more seriously-thought-through plans for a military coup to overthrow the Wilson government in 1974-1975.

This plan for a military coup in the UK was briefly mentioned in some editions of Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Times in 1987 but, I think, removed from later editions. The article does not seem to exist online at the Sunday Times, but I have the original newspaper cutting.

I did once ask the MP Dale Campbell-Savours about the ‘Cunard Affair’ – part of the plans for a military coup in the UK – as he had brought the subject up in the House of Commons. He asked me to phone him at home at the weekend, not at the House of Commons. I did. And he then told me he could not remember any details. “We were looking into a lot of things at the time,” he told me. “I can’t remember.” I always thought this was a little strange. However many murky affairs you were looking into, a planned military coup to overthrow the UK government (with a dry run during which tanks were taken to Heathrow Airport), might stick in the memory.

Only journalists or time travellers know the truth about history while it is actually happening.

The general consensus seems to be that the perceived necessity for a military coup in 1974/1975 lessened and became unnecessary when Margaret Thatcher became leader of the Conservative Party in February 1975 and subsequently won the 1979 General Election. The so-called Operation Clockwork Orange in which Margaret Thatcher’s close adviser Airey Neave (who was later assassinated) may have been involved may also have had some effect.

Clockwork Orange and the linked Colin Wallace affair, in which he was framed and imprisoned for manslaughter after he claimed the security services had tried to rig the 1974 UK General Election, surely has the makings of a feature film. A pity the title has already been used.

Conspiracies and conspiracy theories are always gripping entertainment, especially if they are real and who knows what is real?

Earlier in this blog, I specifically wrote that both Lord Mountbatten and Airey Neave were peripherally involved in political machinations and were both later assassinated.

Paranoid conspiracy theorists could have a field day with that. But, of course, they were both assassinated by Irish terrorists for reasons totally, utterly unconnected with the alleged plots: they were assassinated because they were high-profile targets.

As for other matters, I always think it is healthy to maintain a certain level of paranoia. There was a saying circulating in the 1960s: No matter how paranoid you are, they are always doing more than you think they are.

I wish I could get a time machine and go forward 100 years to see what was really happening in the world during my life.

If only.

If only.

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