Here’s a short extract from my “scored readings” at Embrace Arts on 27th July. I’ll let the clip speak for itself.
Here’s a short extract from my “scored readings” at Embrace Arts on 27th July. I’ll let the clip speak for itself.
You’ve seen the clip now see the whole thing. Box Office: 0116 252 2455 http://www.embracearts.co.uk
A little vid from the last Parkin Presents. A romantic little section from near the end of the book. Wait till the music comes in.
Thanks to Dead Good Video! http://www.deadgoodvideo.co.uk/
Me talking about the part my parent’s play in the memoir and reading some bits from the book. Read writing below …
Extract from A Day In The Life Of New Timber Ward
After dinner my parents come. Tired, bedraggled, but looking like home. Mum has short brown hair, is very tiny but has a healthy strength. She used to be a P.E. teacher and is still a keen sportswoman. She’ll happily play a game of hockey then hit the bar with the girls afterwards. Some people might describe her as a feisty little woman.
Dad is quieter and less of a social whirlwind. He is pleasantly plump and I get my ginger locks from him. He, however, has lost the red and his hair has turned a nice blonde white. Another thing I have inherited from him is something about my face. We both seem to attract beggars and charity muggers. We must look approachable, harmless and nicely exploitable. Short blokes, both stuck with this dumbly amiable face.
So, they come and see me everyday and their visits have really improved recently. For a while they were visiting coma Dave and beeping, blinking machines. They then paid several visits to thrashing, angry, mute Dave. Who I am now is a fairly new development. Admittedly I might sound a bit drunk but I’ve always got a smile and a giggle. Plenty of giggles.
I am “suffering” from euphoria. It can happen with a brain injury, apparently. The poor stranded patient is left finding everything hilarious. And I do. Ridiculously, stupidly, funny.
I greet them with a smile and a laugh. I have a new laugh as well as a new voice. It sounds like a thick henchman’s guffaw, it is deeply, deeply dippy. Yuk Yuk Yuk!
I tell them about a moment when a nurse asked about my discharge. She, of course, was talking about my discharge from hospital, but I couldn’t help hearing the possible smut hidden within her innocent question. Now, I found this funny at the time, and it only sets me off again. For a good four minutes I’m quite, quite helpless. The thing about the giggles is that half way through you realise you are slightly out of control and for some reason this makes the whole thing funnier. Which only sparks more haw haws, and some more, and so on and so forth, and haw haw haw!
Lisa, a young passing nurse, looks over, “the discharge conversation?” I nod and gesticulate weakly at her, giving her the thumbs up. My parents smile, if this is brain damage then they like this phase.
We play Trivial Pursuit and keep busy. Every time I surprise myself with the odd thing I know. It is weird having no immediate past but being able to remember which Beatle wrote ‘Something’. Talking about my memory, my parents ask me what I’ve done today. Now, they know the answer, but are testing me.
I shrug, puff my cheeks out, “Just sat round all day I guess.”
“No Dave,” my mum says. “You had something, did something? Can you remember?”
“Erm, hang on. Did I have physio?”
“Yes. Well done. But you had something else…”
I have no idea. I cast around wildly, “They x-rayed my head? My catheter bag burst?”
“No, you had Stuart Little. Remember?”
“Oh yeah!” I lie.
That’s my reality at the moment. I have this goldfish memory but I do find the world hilarious. Just don’t ask me what made me laugh because chances are I will have no idea. So, on to another big hole in my memory:
“Mum, what happened? What was the accident?”
My mum rolls her eyes. “Not this again. Look, we’ve told you. You were in Eastbourne and that’s about as much as we know. We don’t really know what happened.”
“But someone must have seen something.”
“No, you were just found. We don’t know what happened.”
And this is all I get, but I do persist in asking, having forgot that I asked five minutes ago. My mum gets a bit annoyed, shuffles the Trivial Pursuit cards and says, “Look, it’s your turn for a brown cheese.” I get distracted and we move on, but this conversation is familiar and whenever I bring it up I’m met by a very thinly veiled agitation.
What happened? None of the nurses seem to know either. What went on out there? What exactly did happen? We are all, it would seem, in the dark.
My Drunk Mum and Dad
All those times, as a teenager, when I didn’t come home on time. All those times I was thoughtless and unpunctual. I think back to all those bollockings off my mum and decide that, maybe, she had a point.
Mum and Dad aren’t home yet.
They’ve been to a hockey do or Gala or something and they are not back at the time they said they would be. I sit up in bed, turn the lamp on and frown at my watch. Where are they? I tut and decide to read my book.
They are only fifteen minutes late when I hear the taxi pull up. There are jolly voices, a joke is cracked and laughter. The taxi drives off with “goodbyes” yelled from the windows. Then I hear Mum and Dad coming up the drive and trying to scale the few steps leading to the front porch. There is a slip and the sound of crackling branches as a hedge is heavily leaned into. Then laughter again.
“Oh John … come on,” says my Mum in a high voice, filled with mock exasperation. It would seem my Dad is the problem.
“I’m fine. Fine. Don’t you worry. Why isn’t the porch light on? Can’t see anything.” I can hear the slur in his voice. Mum, tiny woman that she is, could always handle the sauce better.
Then a few attempts at getting the key in the lock. An expletive in a low voice.
“Here John, let me do it.”
I get out of bed and make my way to the top of the stairs. The door swishes open, they pile in and for a while I watch them in silence.
My dad tries to get his shoes off and then decides that he better sit on the stairs to do it. Mum blearily inspects her makeup in the mirror.
“And what time do you call this?” I say in a booming voice.
My mum turns the landing light on.
“Oooop, are we late?” She scowls at her watch. “Oh for God’s sake … I can’t read this bloody thing. John, what do you make it?”
“What?” my Dad is still grappling with his shoes.
“What do you make it?”
“What do I make what?”
“What do you make the time?” my mum’s voice is high and shrill, once again filled with pretend tried patience.
“Right,” my Dad looks at his watch, a moment passes. He brings his wrist closer to his face, frowning. “I can’t read this bloody thing.”
“It’s a QUARTER PAST twelve,” I say.
“Oh,” says Mum looking up with droopy eyelids. “Sorry,” and then in a low voice, to Dad, “I think we’re in trouble…”
Then they try to tackle the big stairs. My mum takes my Dad’s hand and leads the way.
As I look down on them I am reminded of a moment in my youth. The moment I was introduced to the concept of goosing. I was about 10 and in the same position on the stairs. My parents were also in the same position, making their way up the stairs, my Dad following my mother.
Then, with a jokey gasp my mum said, “Oooh John. Don’t goose me!”
They both laughed and I looked down, confused.
“What’s goosing?” I asked.
A memory from a time when I was younger, when they were younger and more carefree. They are in this mood tonight as they clumsily ascend the stairs. I say good night and go back to bed.
I listen as they make there way down the hallway, talking about the night. “Did you think Brian was a bit smelly?” and I smile.
This is the first time I’ve seen them drunk and happy for a long time. I must be getting better. They have stopped worrying about me quite so much. I am pleased they have let themselves go a bit tonight. They deserve it.
Extract from Leaving Home, Going Home
I look at my mum and dad, silent in the front seats, and I think about how much I love them. As I was lying in a bed, tubed, lost and defenceless, they were asked for a very particular love. A love from a long time ago. To love the defenceless thing that is yours. Elemental and there.
They are parents and they have done their job, breathtakingly well. I love them very much indeed.
So … the “clinical depression concept album” Good Friday will come with the memoir. I talk about writing the album in the book. I also talk about writing this new song “Something Beautiful” that will be extra/hidden track on the album. It’s about love so here’s a little bit of the soppy stuff from the memoir. The below section comes early on in the book when I am still in hospital and VERY broken.
Ruth and The Sea
I see her on a hilltop, looking out to the sea. The wind catches her hair and she smiles.
I have been told that Ruth is on a Camino. She went on one last year, a sort of pilgrimage through Spain, to the coast. I made her a collection of songs to listen to as she walked.
In between the songs I dropped in little bits of me chatting and other stuff. One or two of my poems, a comedy sketch I recorded, and general ponderings. As I sit here writing this, I have just listened to these ramblings again.
Journeys and holidays are the main themes. I also talk about yearnings and ‘spiritual’ journeys, and all that hippy stuff. In my defence I do underpin the whole thing with the odd wink or smirk. A particularly moving song runs straight into “Kyle’s Mum’s A Bitch” sung by Cartman from South Park, for no other reason than it makes me laugh and I think it will make her laugh too.
Listening to it again, just now, it did make me smile. And yes, I am recognisably myself. A bit poetic, a bit cheeky, desperately self obsessed, the same slightly lost, navel gazing guy.
But there are other things that don’t quite match up. The voice isn’t quite the same. Even now, after all this time, the voice then sounds stronger, higher, lighter …. younger. And when I do make myself laugh …then … now … that’s when things really start to jar.
I still have the henchman laugh, I still have this weird laugh.
Back then I sound great. I was obviously having a good day, and I sound happy, healthy. My voice is at its natural pitch, and not this slightly lower alternative with its yuk yuk yuk guffaw.
And the things I recount, the memories …. I can remember them, but they don’t really feel like mine anymore. They feel like this other Dave’s memories. They are no longer as immediate as they were. It feels a bit like it happened to someone else. As if the guy I’m listening to, and the guy I am now, sitting at this keyboard, are … I don’t know … twins? Identical twins, yes, but still two separate people. The same, yet subtly, and fundamentally different.
There is an instance on the last section of chat when the doorbell goes.
And it’s her. It’s Ruth.
I gasped. I’d forgotten all about this. I turned it up, leant forward, and listened intently as young healthy Dave, laughing and joking all the time, made Ruth give herself some advice for the journey she was about to go on, all those years ago.
She wouldn’t so I cajoled. We happily bickered and laughed.
It sounded so … so nice, so natural, so close.
So … gone.
So … anyway lets get back to the matter in hand. Let’s shed all these Daves: the happy healthy Dave of the past, the guy I am now (sitting at this keyboard) and let’s get back, back to the hospital. Back to broken Dave.
As he sits in his hospital bed, thinking of a girl on a pilgrimage, he remembers that closeness and misses it.
He doesn’t know what’s happened yet, and why he can never have that closeness again. But as he sits in his bed, dreaming of a girl in Spain (who isn’t even there), he misses her.
And as I write this, I still miss her too.
Well … what astoundingly good news. Recently I have been awarded an Arts Council Grant to finish and get editorial help for my memoir, The Next Life (formally After The Fall), finish the my “clinical depression concept album” album, Good Friday (which is connected and will accompany to the book), workshop and make work with service users in partnership with Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust which will be the curtain opener for my “scored readings” (readings from the book accompanied by music) at Embrace Arts And lincoln Drill Hall. Phew! that’s a bit of a mouthful isn’t it?
So … all very exciting but I would like to start this series of blogs (where I will document the process) by having a big old moan!
Picture the scene: a miserable Tuesday morning. I had finished the first draft of the book about a week earlier and was lying in bed feeling miserable. Finishing the first draft of the book had been an emotional roller coaster. On finishing I was granted four days of joy. Wow – it was, more or less, there! What a thing, to (sort of) finish the bloody big enterprise that had engulfed my life over the last four years. I couldn’t quite believe it.
Then the ennui set in. Well, that was it then. It was done. What in God’s name am I going to do with myself now? I grumpily decided that I was going to spend the day in bed watching I player and moaning quietly to myself. Maybe cut my toenails…
Then KERCHUNK! Something big and heavy came through the door. I rushed downstairs and it was what I thought it was, it was from the Arts Council. Now, the kerchunk boded well. If it was a rejection it was only going to be a letter, the kerchunk meant it came with a pack telling me what to do and how to go about my successful application.
I had kind of forgotten about the application. I had decided earlier that year that I was not going to count on anything. Having been on the dole (jobseekers allowance) for a while I knew that getting your hopes up was a dangerous thing. Various jobs (that I was perfect for!!) I apparently wasn’t perfect for. I’d had a lot of ‘thank you but no thank you’s. I wasn’t going to get my hopes up on a funding application that was, at best, 50/50. I opened the envelope with trembling fingers.
And suddenly I was happy. My life had direction again.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves … this is going to be a moan. It’s going to be a moan about writing and how bloody hard it is.
Having messed about in all sorts of art I can give you (in my opinion) the top three artistic professions that are the hardest, for me at least. Bearing in mind I’ve never been a visual artist. Who know? Maybe oil painting is an absolute ball-ache.
Coming in at number three is directing a film. I only directed one (whilst I was in metro-boulot-dodo) and the really hard thing about it is managing time. You have all these shots to get and only so many daylight hours. And you are the boss! Everyone looks to you for firm guidance. Making a film is not a democracy, it is a dictatorship. During the filming process people started referring to me as Little Hitler. I, of course, had those people shot.
Second is stand-up comedy. You stand in front of a room full of strangers and declare “I AM FUNNY”. When it goes well it is thrilling, but when it goes badly it is devastating. It is the crack cocaine of the arts. To do stand-up you have to have stones of, well, stone. I had a terrible gig once and I stood up to go to the toilet. The comedian who was on asked me where I was going. I, distraught about terrible performance, said “I’m going to kill myself”. The guy replied, quick as a flash, “Well, it won’t be the first time you’ve died tonight.” The audience roared. Alone in the toilet I wished that I had a gun so I could kill myself. I’d kill the other comic first, mind.
And coming in at number one is writing a book. It takes such a long time and is very, very lonely. It is easily the hardest artistic thing I have ever done. For me it started as something fun. I very much wrote the book chronologically and the start is a right giggle. I woke up in hospital with many broken bones but also “suffering” from euphoria due to my brain bruise. I found it all hilarious: the grumpy old stroke victims, having my catheter removed, the pretty bottom wiping nurses. The book actually started as little Facebook posts I wrote to keep my mates up to date with how I was doing but also make them laugh. Then, for me, it got a bit harder when I realised this could be a book and if I was going to tell the whole story I was going to dredge up some pretty painful memories. And then towards the end, it becomes a huge, complicated head fuck. Suddenly something that had just flowed became an exercise in craft. It needed form, loose ends needed tying up … and all this needed to be effortless and flowing. I put up a plan of coloured post-it no notes on my wall and spent a lot of time frowning at it.
And the other thing is it is such a crap shoot, such a chance. You are spending hours, days, months, years on something that, at the end of it all, could end up (in 2045) in your niece’s loft, gathering dust and being referred to as that strange thing that Uncle Dave wrote. It takes a lot of nerve, self believe and sheer bloodymindedness to carry on. At the end of the day it becomes something very hard. It becomes an act of will.
To top that off is the fact that none of your friends get this. They think of you in your pyjamas, starting work at 11, happily typing away, sipping your coffee with BBC 2 in the background. OK … maybe that’s a bit true but they don’t grasp the graft or loneliness either. Oh … and being a first time author no-one has given you an advance. You do all this with no money. As someone who spent fifteen years (in metro-boulot-dodo) getting paid to make art is is all rather bleak and impoverished. It is rubbish.
And … breath. There we go. I feel a bit better now.
I am, of course, moaning (well, I did warn you). Writing, when it is going well, can be magical. When everything is flowing it is something very special indeed. Like writing your name in the air with a sparkler. Except your name stays there … and hopefully never gets pulped.
Anyway – let’s look to the immediate future and all its promise. The book, the album, the performances … it has all become very exciting. And I’m going to share that fun with you. I’m going to blog about the process every weekend and every Wednesday. Beneath is a little taster of the book. After that long rant I have chosen to post something short and fun. Enjoy!
On Being Overtaken by a Pensioner
I am getting more mobile. I am still on the bloody Zimmer but it won’t be long now, in a few days I will be going crutches. I have been putting the Zimmer through its paces though. Like deliberately walking the length of the ward every day, I have given myself a new challenge. I have been walking into town daily, visiting my friend Danny’s music shop, and hobbling home. It would take a fit, healthy person ten minutes to get into East Grinstead town centre from my parents’ house. A nice, brisk, ten minute stroll.
It takes me about an hour.
Today, on the way back, I was overtaken by a pensioner. And this wasn’t a young, healthy pensioner; this was some old dear, slowly tottering away behind one of those fancy shopping carts with wheels on. I wish I could pull off a tartan cart with wheels, but alas, I am stuck with the Zimmer. She’s got the speed and the style. I angrily glanced sideways, pulled on all my inner reserves, knuckled down and tried to give this decrepit old waxwork a run for her money. I grunted and scowled as she very, very, very, very slowly overtook me.
She was oblivious of course, intent on her day. She doddered past, all shaky and half-blind, chewing on her dentures.
But man, that hurt.
She may as well have flipped me the finger as she left me in her wake. I angrily shook my fist at her as she disappeared into the, very near, middle distance.