Life can be chronic: most of the time!

Having just read a blog on living with constant pain, I’ve decided to briefly write about my own experience.

I can only talk from my own perspective, but I’ll try and quickly explain how I feel, at present. As you know, I have chronic pain. The levels vary, but it’s always there, to some degree and rarely simmering on a low burner.

After many trials with various painkillers and following a quick rise through to the Premier League table of pain, I currently take Oromorph and Pregablin, amongst other things, and am on the ceiling amount of the latter. I cope, but some days I’m in absolute agony. I don’t exactly feel hunky dory about my situation, which in itself, is separate from the pain.

My situation stops me from doing many, or most, of the “normal” things I used to do and can’t work, but I’m working on that! I try to immerse myself in films, writing, or something mundane, almost as a mantra to combat the pain and it saves me from the evils of daytime telly! The worst thing is that I find myself struggling to do the stuff I really enjoy and am often zonked out, to a point where my comatose state stops me from doing anything. My sleep pattern, or lack of one, doesn’t help, either. I’ve played guitar, for years, now and made a living out of it, at a few points, but I now struggle, due to the numbness in my hands and pain in my fingers. When I’m able to recline comfortably enough to hold the guitar, I try to have a go. I find, now, that I can’t press the strings down properly and my fingers curl into a fist now. I don’t know why, but my new specialist thinks that I may have discs out further up my spine, in my neck, which radiate down to my hands and fingers. The twats! However, despite this, I’ve recently risen to the challenge of a good friend, Mike, who lives over the pond. I’ve videoed myself playing, badly and singing even more badly, but he’s taught me to enjoy that moment of playing and not worrying too much about the buzzing and slow chord changes, stuff that could really depress me, if I thought about it too much. Sometimes, I can’t do it and I’m struggling to play some songs I used to play without thinking! Ho hum!

I don’t feel clinically depressed about the whole thing, though. Don’t get me wrong, when the pain kicks in and my defenses are down, it attacks and I feel like I can’t live like this, anymore. I do have bad mood swings; get frustrated, sometimes about the smallest things; feel down about the fact that I don’t see any friends anymore; worry about my future and if this can be cured, or if I may get worse (I try not to think about that); hate that I’ve become, almost, totally dependent on my girlfriend and my boys, need a carer, when they’re not around and struggle to even get out of bed; think that someone’s having a laugh at my expense, because I’ve even struggled to use my wheelchair, over the last seven/eight months, or so, due to an impinged shoulder; become despondent, stupidly so, that I’m grossly overweight, now and am currently taking Orlistat, to help (they’re the tablets that stop your body from absorbing fat and expel it in such a way, you’d think you’ve been eating curry for breakfast, dinner and tea, leaving an orange, oily film around the bowl, for good measure! I, thankfully, haven’t been caught short, yet, but the fact that I keep forgetting to take the tablets may have something to do with that!); feel sad and frustrated that I have, absolutely, no libido, at the moment and can’t seem to remember where I left it; chastise myself for being an awful whinger; and, also, become annoyed about the state of the country and why this government are screwing people into the ground (that’s a whole different story!).

I can’t plan too much, because I never know how bad I’m going to be. The only places I go, when I’m well enough to sit in my wheelchair, apart from docs and that, are to St. James’ Park, to watch the match, and The Stand Comedy Club, in Newcastle. The staff are superb there and, if I can’t go to a particular show, they keep my money in a personal account to allow me to use it for the next time. It’s little things, like that, that make all the difference.

Despite all of this and much more, besides, I reckon that the panic attacks, anxiety and depression that I feel for unrelated issues, that have nothing to do with my physical state, or conditions, are far worse and much harder to deal with. I came very close to be sectioned, but as I lay on the kitchen floor, in the fetal position, expelling some form of primal scream, after having completely lost control of my senses, through sheer frustration, I took the phone call and told the person on the cold, white end of the line that I wasn’t going to consent to being locked away and said, that, as I had reached one of my lowest points, I was determined that the only way to go, was up and that I’d try to rise back up myself.

I’m nowhere near back up to the surface, yet, but just hanging on by my good, strong arm and am on some form of medication to help keep me there. I can’t even remember what I’m on! My short term memory has been shot to shit. I don’t know if they’re working. I think they must be, but wonder if I’m managing to cope now?! I don’t know. My doc doesn’t want me coming off the meds. I know he’s right. I even wonder if being in constant, chronic pain helps me with this condition that’s been thrown at me, because I have something else to worry about! Perhaps! I’ve developed coping mechanisms, since I was seven. Not always successfully, but I didn’t know black from white until recently, so I’ve basically wandered about, aimlessly, for most of my life. If I get a bad episode, or a major relapse, I don’t know how I’ll cope, on top of everything else. I suppose I’ll just have to. I keep thinking about my kids and know that I never want to hurt, or leave them and there’s my girlfriend, as well! I wouldn’t ever want to hurt her, either and not just because she does so much for me. Shouldn’t I be thinking about being positive and doing it for myself, though? Probably. I kind of am, now.

I’ve come to the ramparts and stand alongside my meds. I’ve moved on from most of what’s happened and I’m able to talk about it, in a personal, but, almost, detached way, now and am preparing to write about everything, geet big warts and all. I worry that no one will read it, or, indeed, if anyone will bother to read this, but I suppose I’m writing to myself. I need to be in the right frame of mind and I don’t want my memories tainted by my current position, but, as Sean Kelly, the World Number One cyclist once said to me: “I will see how it will go!”

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A little treat!

SHOCK BREAKING NEWS: Davy Craig has an (almost) incident free holiday in Barcelona! 😮 x

Dumped gear in hotel and had a quick, cold shower then headed to Clot metro station around the corner. The metro system there is superb. Most stations have lifts from street level that take you where you need to go and the trains come every 5 minutes. It’s just so simple and they employ enough staff and drivers to make it work! Much better than anything over here! The sad thing is that there were no incidents to report, apart from running over a lass’s foot when she didn’t move to let me off. Headphones and phones close off the whole world around and can lead to serious damage, especially to your sandalled toes! 😮

Anyway, we headed from Passeig de Gracia (i before e doesn’t work here, either!), through Placa de Catalunya and down Las Ramblas, to meet me fatha, who was over from Sydney, Australia for a couple of weeks. I didn’t see him in Tyneside, not being very well, but it was pure coincidence that he’s booked to go to Barcelona to stay, with a friend, for a week, at the same time as Evan and I. He said to meet at the Christopher Columbus statue for 6pm. We got there at 5:45, looked around and waited at the shaded part, out of the sun, texting him to make him aware of our arrival. 6:15pm – no sign. Then a text asking where we were! Apparently we should have known that he was in a bar off Las Ramblas instead of where we’d agreed to meet! Anyway, we had a nice evening and said good bye until next time!

We slept in the next day and headed back to Placa de Catalunya to catch the tourist bus. On the way down the wide boulevard Passeig de Gracia, which was slightly downhill, three people, two lads and a lass, walked straight in front of me and forced me to stop, burning my hands on the hot rims of my wheels. I shouted “Whoooaahhh!” as they ambled, not looking into my path. The third of the three, a squat body builder in vest and cap, showing his muscles off, turned round and in a pathetic cockney accent, slyly remarked “Ahhh faahhck orf!” I hadn’t been going fast, Evan was walking, spritely, next to me and these three had wandered into my path, despite me being in the middle of a wide boulevard and this prick had decided to have a go at me, so in my roughest, natural, instinctive Geordie accent I proceeded to show him how to say “fuck off” properly and gave him a piece of my mind. He got a bit of a shock, when I barked at him. He wasn’t much bigger than me, sat in my w/c (that’s wheelchair – I don’t go around in a portable netty), so I was ready for the twat. He walked off, a bit shocked and called me a “mouthy cant” and tried to still look tough, in front of his shocked friends. I remembered that Evan was next to me, so didn’t take it any further and we headed off to the Nou Camp for a cracking day.

After a quick trip to the hotel to leave our spoils of the day and a quick cold shower, it was sweltering, we headed back out to the Gothic quarter. We rambled along the back streets and then stumbled onto a lovely restaurant I’d been to before. We weren’t really dressed for such an elegant place, but the staff of El Gran Cafe were superb. I didn’t meet the gran, but the five course meal we had was brilliant, with three entrees, two starters, fish on buckwheat, Creme Catalan and coffees with biscuits and a bottle of wine. Evan had his first wine, I just chose a merlot Rose and his first coffee! He thought the wine was nice, but very bitter and loved the coffee! A great day and night topped off by a wander up Las Ramblas again.

The next day was a tourist bus affair again, with a trip up to Montjuic, Mountain of the Jews, because of the mass of graves on the south side of the mountain. We stopped off and had most of the day at Poble Espanyol, which was built for the 1929 Exhibition and has numerous little streets and squares, with each building representing a time and place in Spain. It’s beautiful and quiet. Evan loved it. I got in free, as they said it wasn’t accessible for wheelchairs. It wasn’t, but I managed to get up the steep banks and didn’t need to use any steps. Good exercise!

We got the bus further up the mountain and I’d psyched myself up to go on the cable car that takes you up to the top of Montjuic, then off into the void above the city and down to the port. I was trying to suppress a panic, but felt ok. I was two feet from the cable car, when I found out that you have to swap cable cars at the top and you look out over the precipice, before being hurled into the sky at the mercy of the gods of the air. I panicked and the thought of doing that was just too much. I get dizzy going up to the top deck of a bus! I bottled and we got back on the bus. Evan was fine about it.

We headed to Port Olympic and wandered back along the coast to the Columbus monument, jumped back on the bus to El Barri Gotic and had another amble around, after managing to get up the very steep Carrer del Bisbe, with a threat that I was going to freewheel back down from the top and see how many tourists I could dodge. I didn’t!

Not really knowing where we were heading we eventually stumbled across a beautiful senorita on Carrer de Josep Anselm Clavé, adjacent to the coast road, not far from Las Ramblas, asking if we’d like to come into the restaurant. She ran across the road to show us the menu and I saw that it was a Basque restaurant, called Txikiteo, so we agreed to enter. It was the best decision of the whole holiday. Everything about this place was just perfect and we both agreed, by the end of the night, that we’d had fabulous service and some of the best food we’d ever tasted. It was amazingly good.

After another slow stroll up Las Ramblas, we headed back to our hotel, slept in after a long day, had some food and our transfer was waiting to take us to the airport. At the airport a lady came up to me and asked if I was going to Newcastle. She was worried that she’d get on the wrong flight. I told her to keep an eye out for me and she’d be ok. Later on I saw the same lass come towards Evan and I and she pointed at Gate 6. I said that it was the right place, but she then proceeded to joing the queue for the London flight. “Oh dear, damsel about to be in distress”, I thought, so I booled up and explained where she needed to be. We decided to start the queue and stood at the gate together and had a chat. Lynda, as she’s called, was visiting her 19 year old son, who lives in Barcelona and is a model. He was spotted on Oxford Street when he was 16 and it started from there. She told me that it’s hard to do and a very ruthless business, run by a bunch of uncaring twats. No surprise there! Nothing of any consequence happened, apart from when we got onto the plane. We nearly didn’t. A disabled fella came out of the right door, onto the portable lift, but the flight attendants didn’t see me and shut the door. We waited a while, then saw all of the passengers get onto the flight and still nothing. We waved at the pilot and the Spanish attendant decided to bang on the door, which he did a number of times. The pilot noticed us as he turned around and waved back. Almost immediately the door was opened and Evan and I were welcomed onto the flight. Phew! Serious comedy moment just avoided! We finally sat down, delaying the flight and, who should be sat directly in front of me: Lynda! I joked that she’d specifically asked to sit in front of us, but then left her alone as I didn’t want to add another to my list of victims, who’ve been subjected to my life story, when all they want to do is sleep on the plane! Guns and nooses are available!

All in all it was a fantastic short break. I’d saved up for ages to bestow this treat on Evan, as a reward for his hard work throughout his time at school and, especially, for his GCSE’s. He deserves to do well. We bonded brilliantly, had such a good laugh and enjoyed relaxing together without phones, computers or TV. He was a joy to be with. He’s starting his “A” Levels in September and is doing History, Sport, Biology and Physics and is hoping to get into Loughborough to do sports science, or something similar. He’s also got his music behind him and I’m sure he’ll do well, whatever he chooses to do. The bottom line is that he’s happy and that’s the most important thing for me. Always will be! 🙂 x

AN ODE TO LIFE

An Ode To Life

There came a day when the worst thing that’s ever happened to me
Happened.
Talk about a wake up call
I began to be able to use the advice I’d been offering to others,
For myself.

I tried to utilise perspective and put things into context
I was able to realise that I had to move on from the past
It’s gone.
I can’t change it
I had to decide between making the best of what I’d been dealt,
Or oblivion.
I realised that some would be hurt and they would think even less of me.

I struggled to turn negatives into positives
I have to make the best of each moment,
Every day
And fight for everything.

You have to stay strong,
Stay angry,
Stay happy,
Keep smiling,
Keep crying,
Keep screaming and keep laughing!
Never lose your emotions,
Use them for your own benefit
You have them for a reason: To cope!
You can
Just try to find you
Be you and be the best that you can be!
Decide that you want to be happy and, then,
Just be happy!
It’s not a pretence.
It’s real!

Honour everyone’s memory,
But make a great life for yourself,
So that others will honour yours!
That’s the secret
For me x

Davy Craig – June 2015

TOP TWENTY ALBUMS YOU’VE HEARD THAT “CHANGED YOUR LIFE”!

I was asked to: Name the 20 albums that have had the biggest effect on you in no particular order…
1  U2   –   Under A Blood Red Sky
2  The Pixies   –   Surfer Rosa
3  Echo & The Bunnymen   –   Heaven Up Here
4  The Smiths   –   The Smiths
5  The Beatles   –   Revolver
6  The Velvet Underground   –   The Velvet Underground & Nico
7  The Doors   –   The Doors
8  The Cure  –  Staring At The Sea
9  ABBA  –   Gold
10  Kathryn Williams   –  Crown Electric
11  Jack White   –  Blunderbuss
12  The Band   –   The Band
13  Blur   –   Modern Life Is Rubbish
14  Radiohead   –  The Bends
15  Cocteau Twins   –  Treasure
16  Morrissey  –  You Are The Quarry
17  The Smashing Pumpkins  –  Siamese Dream
18  The Wedding Present  –  George Best
19  Adam & The Ants  –   Kings Of The Wild Frontier
20  The Stone Roses  –  The Stone Roses

but I then thought, “WHY?”

Here’s why:

1  When I saw U2, on The Tube, live at Red Rocks, I was totally spellbound. My mate had recorded it and we didn’t have a video recorder until July 1985, so I used to go round to his house to watch it. When the mini album “Live – Under A Blood Red Sky” came out I went straight out to by it. I had already bought a cheap bass guitar after hearing New Year’s Day on the telly and radio, but I’d soon sold that and used the money to get a cheap white Telecaster copy and very dodgy amp for £25 from a lass in Hebburn. “The Electric Co.” was the song that got me to play guitar and I strove for ages to learn it. This album influenced me think about a heck of a lot of things: war, religion, politics, love and life. Things I still wonder and worry about now. Love it!

2  After my first year at university I headed to Scotland by myself for a week’s holiday in the summer of ’89. I only lasted one night, that’s a whole different story, but I called into Stirling before heading anywhere else, having remembered the place from a number of visits when I was young and, while there, I bought a tape of Surfer Rosa, by The Pixies. I was totally blown away by everything. The vocals, the lyrics, the raw production, the massive guitars and the way the songs could be quiet and soulful one second then suddenly explode the next. I got massively into The Pixies and mentioning the band’s name, a year later, got me an audition and a place in my first band, Drill.

3  I borrowed Heaven Up Here, by Echo and the Bunnymen and it took me a whole week to listen to it. I had to borrow a load of albums off my mate, Kevin, because with my dad being on strike, I couldn’t afford to buy them. I’d give them to my auntie to record them onto tape for me, until I had my own Saturday job and the money to buy them myself, or would get them with vouchers, or cash, I’d received for Christmas, or as birthday presents. With this album, I listened to the first song, “Show Of Strength” and kept lifting the stylus off the record and put it back to the start, to listen again. On the second night I managed to play the first three songs and so on. I was mesmerized by it. It was beautifully gloomy, dark and uplifting, all at the same time. I think this album opened the doors for me to look at more diverse music and it inspired me to keep going with the guitar, at a time when I was struggling to play, as a total novice, with no teacher. It also got me looking at myself, my own existence, who I was and why I was here. That would hugely shape my whole life and still does.
4  I can write almost exactly the same about The Smiths’ eponymous album as I did about Heaven Up Here. Same thing happened with “Reel Around The Fountain” and the stylus. I was transfixed by the first drum beats on that song, the reverb added to give a claustrophobic feel to them and Morrissey’s voice exacerbated that feeling of escape into another world. The bass lines were beautiful and crisply dull, but the highlight of the whole album for me, despite gaping at the lyrics, as well, was Johnny Marr’s amazing guitar. He was unbelievably good and it sounded heavenly, thereby adding a real juxtaposition to Morrissey’s emotionally profound voice and words, whilst the chiming sound of the guitars lifted them above the closed in feel of the drums, making them almost angelic. I had found a new world I could escape into and my life would never be the same again. I was 14 when I heard this, along with U2 and Echo and the Bunnymen and they became the initial soundtrack to my transformation into becoming a thoughtful youth.

5  I was brought up listening to The Beatles, The Moody Blues, The Who and stuff like that, but Revolver has been the one album that has stuck in my head more than any of the others. I wanted to play guitar when I was little, because of this album. I didn’t try to learn until I was 14, because I didn’t think I’d be able to do it. The artwork even inspired me to draw! The Beatles seemed as godlike figures to me and they provided the whole basis for my love of music.

6  Listening to Echo and the Bunnymen set me on a path to listen to other music and I often delved back in time, after reading interviews with Ian McCulloch talking about his own musical influences. I asked my dad about The Velvet Underground, because I didn’t know anything about them, but he just said they were “a mad band from America in the late 60s”. They were far more than that, as I was soon to discover. Again, my mate was a step ahead and we listened together to his album The Velvet Underground and Nico. “Heroin” was the first song he played to me and I was fascinated by what I heard. He lent me the album and it truly captivated me. The production was slapdash and it seemed like it had been recorded with out of tune instruments and singers, who couldn’t sing, making strange noises with guitars, a single drum and electric violins. It inspired me to look at music and life in a different way, to try and think outside of the box and to be individual as much as possible. It was, as if, a part of my inner self had been discovered and released after hearing this album.

7  Again, inspired by Ian McCulloch and the movie, Apocalypse Now, I ventured into the world of The Doors. Once opened up and entered into, you never leave. Enough said.

8  I went on my first family holiday abroad in July/August 1986, aged 17, with two other families in a minibus and camping near Biarritz, south west France. It was also my last family holiday anywhere. As we were driving south all we could see on every poster were pictures of Robert Smith from The Cure. The radio stations seemed to be playing The Cure songs almost constantly! The adverts were for a gig in Dax, which was around 40 miles away from our camp site. Myself and the two other, older lads from the other families, decided we’d like to go and it would happen near the end of our holiday. We’d just need a lift. This was refused. I was very tempted to just hitch a lift and go, but on hearing, from my brother, that I was thinking about doing this, my own money was taken off me and I was given a small allowance to spend each day out of that money. I still should have gone, but didn’t. Regret! I wasn’t even a big fan and, up to that point, hadn’t really heard anything by The Cure, but suddenly it all fitted and hit me between the eyes. I was late into them, but they would soon become, and still are, my favourite band.

9  I liked a lot of music in the 70s, such as Bowie, Sweet and Showaddywaddy, when I was quite young and ELO were a favourite until I was 11. I was too young to really get into punk, but loved many of the songs, New Wave had more of an effect on me, as well, but one band’s songs stuck in my head and, I think, taught me about the beauty of melody, harmony, musicianship and the joy of music, whilst singing about some of the most painful of things. I was given an album for Christmas by someone, I can’t even remember who, or who by, but I didn’t like the band and asked if I could change it. It had been bought in SavaCentre, Washington and I, therefore, had to be taken there to perform an exchange. They didn’t have an extensive music collection amongst the clothes, lighting equipment, fridges, tellys and food, so, I settled on ABBA Greatest Hits, Volume II and loved it. It was missing my favourite song by them, SOS, but it still had some great pop songs on it. These were songs that you heard on Top of the Pops and were singing the next day in the school yard or whilst playing football with the lads on the field. I upgraded a few years later to ABBA Gold and I seem to come back and forth to this music when I’m not feeling very good. A lot of the songs are about breaking up and it’s quite apt and sad right now, but the music and vocals are so uplifting at the same time.

10  I saw Kathryn Williams at The Stand, with Phil Jupitus and Ross Noble. I knew of her, singing the theme tune to The Cafe, Beyond The Sea, which I thought was lovely, but, to my shame, didn’t know much else. She came across as funny, but very interesting and intelligent as she sat discussing dinner guests such as Ivor Cutler, Columbo and Patti Smith, over a meal. I went home afterwards, found her on Facebook and started listening to her music on Youtube. I asked Kathryn herself where I should start and she told me to get the new stuff and work back. That’s what I’ve done and bought Crown Electric and The Quickening as birthday presents to myself with the few quid I got for it. It was just so relaxing to hear something so fresh and simple sounding, yet knowing it was complex and heart wrenching at the same time. I smile when I listen to the songs, hear Kathryn singing so sweetly in her own accent with no pretensions and baring her soul to the world, whilst playing simple, but perfect acoustic guitar, that she claims to know nothing about. I’ve also been reduced to tears by Sequins. It seems to all come effortlessly to her, but you can tell from underneath it all, that it’s a battle. She has inspired me to play guitar again, for the sheer enjoyment of playing and I sit with my acoustic perched next to me, ready to be picked up and messed about with.

The rest of the albums are important: Jack White got me into listening to music again when I heard this album, I discovered The Band very late and it was almost like my dad bequeathed them to me when he died. The guitar on Modern Life Is Rubbish was a big influence on me, as was Radiohead, which probably also led to a near suicide attempt, along with Smashing Pumpkins and The Stone Roses. Morrissey helped me get out of a bad place when I was ill and I found an escape with The Cocteau Twins, whilst also discovering new ways of approaching the guitar with Robin Guthrie’s work on there. The Wedding Present inspired me to play original music and try to start a band of my own and Adam & The Ants, apart from being fun, also inspired me to play music, albeit the drums!

Funny how music can have such an effect on your life!

Responses to “30 Problems Only British People Will Understand”

RESPONSES TO “30 PROBLEMS ONLY BRITISH PEOPLE WILL UNDERSTAND”

1. Not quite catching someone’s name, meaning you can never speak to them again.

Even if I do catch your name it seems I have an inbuilt filter that immediately puts it into my brain’s junk file. I, therefore, don’t refer to anyone by name in person, in case I can’t access my junk file and call everyone “mate”, or leave out any personal reference altogether. If I’m with someone else, when bumping into a friend, I turn away from my companion, pretending to not be with them and, thereby, avoid any awkward introduction moments. If, however, my junk file suddenly becomes accessible and I remember the person’s name, I’ll enthusiastically start over, using their name and begin introductions, making it look as if the person I’ve been walking with has lagged behind, at which point I normally forget my, eyebrow risen, sidekick’s name and, in some cases, my own!

2. Realising you’ve entered the wrong shop and having to pretend to look around for a bit.

I find myself looking in Ann Summers’ shops a lot of late, trying to judge the acceptable amount of time that I should stay, before I sheepishly smile and head for the exit, looking as if I’ve remembered to be somewhere else.

3. Being incapable of placing your items on the counter in a shop without saying “Just these, please.”

I feel compelled to say “no, I don’t want ear buds at discount price today, thank you!” a lot these days! Can’t help it!

4. Going in a pub to use the loo and pretending to look for a friend all the way to the toilet.

I often end up actually meeting a friend, talking for a while and then forgetting what I went in to the pub for in the first place!

5. Worrying you’ll be suspected a thief if exiting a shop without making a purchase.

Not if I’m thieving!

6. Saying you’re pleased with your haircut despite the deep inner sadness it’s causing you.

I often cut my own now and feel even sadder!

7. Deeming it necessary to do a little jog over zebra crossings, while throwing in an apologetic mini wave.

I move as slowly as possible and frown as if the driver, who happily stopped in time, almost ran me over.

8. The shock of testing Earl Grey when you expected otherwise.

Earl Grey never seems surprised!

9. Attempting to deal with a queue-jumper by staring fiercely at the back of their head.

..and talking about them to the stranger behind you as if they can’t hear, but knowing they can and you want them to hear, to annoy them, but they really aren’t bothered. Due to this I find that the best course of action is to tap on the person’s shoulder, saying “Excuse me! There’s a queue!” If no response is forthcoming I then walk in front of the jumper and encourage everyone behind me to do the same. It normally works!

10. Resigning yourself to an unusual and arduous train route, rather than risk sharing your commute with a colleague.

I find that avoiding work altogether solves this problem.

11. Writing a terribly modest CV, for fear of appearing boastful.

I reduce the size of the font to get as much in as possible!

12. Being unable to eat crisps at your desk without worrying your mouth sounds like a building site.

See no.10

13. Never wanting to use an exclamation mark yet worrying you’ll come across as miserable without one.

I often use far too many!!!!!!!!!!

14. Hoping your friend finishes their story so you don’t have to miss your bus stop.

I find that smiling or looking exasperated, depending on the tone of the storyteller, whilst not actually taking in a word they’re saying stops this problem, because you can concentrate fully on your stop. Traveling by car is an even safer option to avoid this.

15. Panicking in a sandwich shop and allowing a distressingly odd combination of fillings to happen.

Packed lunch is the only way forward, unless you favour Greggs.

16. Allowing your bladder to explode rather than wake a fellow plane passenger.

Securing an aisle seat is a must or making sure you have an, almost finished, two litre, screw top plastic bottle of fruit juice with you, preferably pineapple. Boats and automobiles are other alternative forms of transport.

17. Nodding silently when your barber says “Is that alright?” even when it isn’t.

This is no. 6 reworded for men!

18. Not being able to say “great” without sounding sarcastic.

Great Britain doesn’t sound sarcastic at all, but it’s existence is the epitome of sarcasm.

19. Not wanting to use an emoticon yet worrying you’ll come across as sarcastic without one.

What’s an emoticon?

20. Receiving an email ending in “regards” and wondering what you’ve done to cause so much anger.

Deleting all emails before reading them solves this problem, then, when quizzed about it in person, simply reply that it must have got lost.

21. Asking to sample an ale, disliking it and ordering a whole pint so as not to further waste the barman’s time.

Drink only Guinness and then you know what you’re going to get! Pissed!

22. Seeing someone you know walking just ahead of you, so stopping dead in the street until they’re completely out of sight.

My alternative action accounts, in part, for no. 2!

23. Losing faith in your delivery halfway through a joke, so just explaining what the punchline was going to be and why.

Be miserable and never tell jokes.

24. Nearly washing the skin off your hands so as not to pressure using the dryer.
Doesn’t make sense!

25. Pretending to look at things you don’t even want in the supermarket when someone else is browsing the food you do.

Comparing fruit and vegetable size is far more fun than looking elsewhere! Even better when done silently and slowly rubbing your hands over a cucumber. This doesn’t work if it’s plastic wrapped and you’ll more than likely be asked to leave the store!

26. Being unable to turn and walk in the opposite direction without first taking out your phone and frowning at it.

See no. 2, again!!

27. Noticing a small patch of blue sky and immediately purchasing 24 cases of Pimm’s.

This is never going to happen. Ann Summers don’t sell Pimms.

28. Running out of ways to say thanks when a succession of doors are held for you, having already deployed ‘cheers’, ‘ta’, and ‘nice one.’

“Thanks” is a worthwhile alternative.

29. Shutting yourself in the wardrobe until the window cleaner has finished and left.

Not moving and trying not to breathe is a much better option, or turning the telly up and employing the use of mime without looking in the window cleaner’s direction is a fun alternative.

30. Assuring your hairdresser the water temperature is fine, despite a strong suspicion your scalp is beginning to melt.

I refer you back to no 6. Spluttering and pretending to drown is another alternative.

Is It Raining?

Is it raining?
Rain is a wonderful and beautiful thing to me
I love how everything shines
In the gloom under the car and street
Lights and the leaves on the trees
Have a fresh, new sheen.

I love the individual drops
That cling to a flower
Reflecting the world around
The feel of a drop on your nose or
Trickling down your back
Reminds you of being alive.

Go and get your wellies and a coat on
Maybe take a hat and a brolly

Or just get totally soaked and lap up life!

First Match Memories

On Saturday, 26th April 1975 my dad spoke the words I’ll never forget and which sealed my fate forever: “Come on and get ready, I’m taking you to the match!”

I’d celebrated my 6th birthday three weeks earlier but this was better than any present I could’ve received then.  My uncle arrived soon after I’d dressed in my replica black and white shirt with my neck proudly adorned by my black and white scarf. I was reluctantly forced to spoil the look by putting a duffle coat on top “because that wind might get cold” but nothing could dampen my sprits now!

We headed off in the old, white, well past its best, Hillman Hunter and drove towards Newcastle.  Some fellas were discussing the match on the radio and my dad and uncle seemed to be joining in the conversation as if they were all in one place together.  I sat in the back with butterflies in my stomach at the thought of finally seeing my beloved Newcastle United at St. James’ Park.
We parked in a car park with a sign saying ‘Van der Veldt’ and another saying ‘To Let.’  I couldn’t see any toilets and wondered why it had been mis-spelt but as I grabbed my dad’s hand and the three of us walked on I stopped wondering about that.  Other people were walking in the same direction in twos and threes.  The excitement began to grow.  I then noticed rows and rows of huge motorbikes standing next to each other as if in a queue.  We walked on across the road and I didn’t have a clue where I was.  I could smell a strange smell though.  It smelt a bit like my granda on a Sunday afternoon after he’d been to the club.

“That’s the smell of the hops in the brewery to make beer” I was informed.  I didn’t know if I really liked that smell but when I’ve noticed it ever since I’m suddenly transported back to that moment.

We came to a garage at the end of the road and there was a man selling badges and another selling programmes.  I had a few of these already as my dad would bring me one back from the match and tell me how the game went as I looked at the pictures, read the names on the back and tried to read the words inside.  My dad gave the man 10p and he handed me the programme.  It had a picture of a scarf, just like mine, on it and the words ‘versus Birmingham’ in blue down one side.

“Keep tight hold of it!”

We started off a bit faster now and all of a sudden as we came to cross the road I looked up and there it was, St. James’ Park!  I could see the floodlights, the main stand on the left and loads of men going up a maze of winding steps up to the top of a steep bank with big bushes dotted all over.  We ran across the roads and my feet were almost not touching the ground as my uncle grabbed my programme grasping hand.  We stood in one of the queues and I looked at the other men and kids getting ready to go in.  My dad went in first, pushed through the turnstile and then I was led through by uncle as my dad had paid for me as well.

We walked quickly up the concrete steps and I noticed men coming out of part of the maze all pulling up their zips!  I had no idea what was going on but my head was turned back to face forwards as we reached the top and came to a big wall.  My dad and I went in a gap as my uncle said he’d see us further along.

I found myself amongst a sea of legs as my dad, who now had me in front of him with both hands on my shoulders, walked me along the other side of the wall.  I was then lifted up on the wall and I could see my uncle’s head peeking over the other side.  He’d put a blanket on the top of the wall so that my bum wouldn’t get cold!  All of this happened so quick but I could suddenly see the pitch and the players were coming out of a tunnel that went into the main stand.  I was here, this was really happening.  I was engrossed by the men stood around in front of me so close together, the smell of beer and the strange words they were saying.

As I looked across to the Leazes End it looked as if the fans in there were moving together like black and white waves with a big surge as the ball came closer to the goal.  I also found out why everyone had been zipping their trousers up earlier as I was taken for a wee at half time.  I thought of Lindisfarne because I was being encouraged to have a ‘wet on the wall’.  I just took everything in around me the whole afternoon but the smells down there weren’t very pleasant!

I don’t remember a great deal about the match other than some baldy player called Howard Kendall scoring for Birmingham past Willie McFaul and someone else scored for Birmingham City to win the match.  But I didn’t mind because I’d earlier watched Stewart Barrowclough running down the right wing towards the corner flag at the Leazes End, crossing the ball into the penalty area and my hero, Supermac, rose above everyone to head the ball into the goal.  The whole place just went mad.  Malcolm Macdonald, the most important man in the world to me, had just scored again for Newcastle United, but this time I was there to see it!

I was well and truly hooked!

My first game at St. James’ Park was the last match of the 74/75 season but the above memories, emotions, sights and smells come flooding back.

Many fans will be taking their kids to their first match next season.  Hopefully they’ll have a great time but can any of you remember your first match and what are your abiding memories?

Here’s to next season.  Howay the lads!