Saturday, 17 August 2019


Before Thursday, I'd only been stung by a single wasp my whole life. By the end of that day, my wasp-sting tally increased by 300% and one of the culprits was dead at the time; if these trends continue, I'll wind up looking like that pin-cushiony chap in Hellraiser.

"But how did a dead wasp sting you?", I hear you ask (your voice a-quiver with intrigue).
By leaning on it; that's how.
Despite knowing it was there and being mindful of its position throughout my conversation and the perceived threat, I still managed to rest my arm on its mangled corpse to receive its beyond-the-grave vengeance. And I won't lie: it bloody hurt.

The scene of the crime was a pub-garden picnic table, and my one mistake was wearing short sleeves. Within seconds of the second squishing - my friend Stephen was the initial culprit what with his deep-seated hatred of flying beasts - my arm began to throb, and that's how an ignorant thirty-something learnt the stinging potential of a recently-deceased hymenoptera.

Having read up on the subject for minutes, literally, I discovered wasps release a scent at death that causes other wasps to attack. So this could be why I wound up in the line of fire again. Half an hour later, a second wasp disappeared down the back of my shirt and stung my neck in an awkward place. While this was painful, it wasn't as bad as the first one because I'd presumably hardened to the experience by this stage Still, I didn't expect my sting tally to increase at such an alarming rate. All par for the course with British summertime I guess; little stripey gits.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

PIPped to the Post.

I finally received some good news today: my mental health benefits adviser - we've all got one - had a call from the DWP to say my PIP is being reinstated without appeal: apparently, pointing out their inability to count the number of people in the room at my interview worked.

While I'm relieved it's set to return, I'm frustrated by the stress they've put me through when trying to prove myself, not to mention the money I'd been previously counted on that was suddenly taken away. There was absolutely no sense of being mindful about my delicate mental health situation and how it could be affected; if it weren't for the strong support I have from the benefits advisor aI would have given up around two steps back.

And that's the most galling part of it: how hopeful they were that you'll just stop trying. There are countless stories in the press of people suffering from physical disabilities that are even more obvious who've been refused PIP too; it's a joke.

At least it looks like I caught them out. The last thing I heard they'd refused my claim point-blank, despite all the specialist evidence. Then all I did was write a letter requesting an appeal hearing and a few weeks later they've changed their mind. So what happened in the interim, other than them realising I intended to see this thing through? Answers on a postcard, marking the top left corner, 'cunts'.

Monday, 12 August 2019

Scotch Missed.

It's only over the past few days that the fact I'm not in Edinburgh has started to tug at the heartstrings.

It doesn't help that everything's resoundingly shit at the moment and that's no understatement; so much so, the fact I had to cancel my Fringe run having shelled out thousands of pound's worth of donations and Dad's/my money for no reason has become a minor footnote to my terrible situation; at any other time, this last-minute change of plans and what it stood for - being forced to abandon a year of work - would be the overriding event, but here it's barely significant.

When this eventually stops being something I feel forced to keep to myself, I might at least have the relief that comes with understanding; I had every intention of still going to Edinburgh right up to a few days before when someone's actions were such I felt I no longer had a choice. And they're yet to even acknowledge I didn't go, which says a lot by omission. But when I briefly discussed it with my dad a few weeks before he died and hinted I might have to pull out depending on the situation (which was a thinly veiled way of saying, "If you were too ill for me to leave") he misread this as me thinking he'd be angry if I cancelled and said, "But I'd never make you do it"; that's the fundamental difference.

So now I'm seeing things in a harsh new light and - while I don't like the wakeup call - I guess it's good to know the truth. I just wish it wasn't so inherently painful. All I can do is try to keep sight of what matters and protect myself and my family while being true to what I feel my dad would want. Right now though, I'd do anything to speak to him.

Friday, 9 August 2019

Fi Fie Foe Fum.

I've had this bonus track from Paul McCartney's most recent studio album Egypt Station as an earworm for much of the past few weeks whether I like it or not.

Luckily, I do like it; it's typical quirky Macca of the type no-one else does and it's always great to hear; I like it when he fucks about to entertain himself not worrying what people think. And while albums like McCartney II - which this song's reminiscent of - contain some of his most questionable material of all time (*cough* Frozen Jap *cough*) it's still always good to see him experiment and entertain himself.

Once again, it serves to reiterate how surprisingly left-field he can be when left to his own devices, something that doesn't match up with the boring cliche of the sentimental balladeer. It's probably why I loved his Fireman album Electric Arguments so much as it just bristled with invention. And okay, this song's just a silly throwaway, but I can't help but like it. It may be attempting to give Temporary Secretary and the medley a run for their money. I know some people will hate it, but for me it's got that refreshing random edge that 

BIcycle Race.

I'm not having the best of times at the moment, as is evidenced by the radio silence, but it's fair to say that people's kindness has helped.

The nature of things right now is such that when I just checked my email to see the guy I sold my dad's electric bike via GumTree (solely to raise money for Edinburgh) is still having problems with it so I'll need to refund the balance (thus lessening what's now been repurposed as the Edinburgh cancellation fund) I wasn't surprised, though at the same time I felt a little bit like pulling my hair out; the issue with the bike was entirely unintentional on my part, which he knows, but that doesn't mean I can leave it at that; when I'm down on money I still to pay for my cancellation my cancelled Edinburgh run anyway, it's a situation - albeit a totally unavoidable one - I could do without.

But then I could do without it all at the moment. I'm still trying to process the loss of my dad and the fact I had to cancel Edinburgh, yet I'm being challenged at every turn, both intentionally and unintentionally (more on this to follow in time). A couple of days ago I received a Twitter notification to let me know an interview I did with On the Mic to promote my Edinburgh show Niche was being broadcast later that day and made available as a podcast soon afterwards.

I didn't want to have to process that information at the moment, but I also couldn't just let it slip by.  I listened to the interview - which came across well - but was obviously hearing it from the point of view of a run that didn't happen, which is eternally frustrating when I had every intention of going ahead but had to pull it due to the fallout connected with my dad's death. While things are bad enough that I couldn't have left Hitchin for a month, this was not to do with losing my dad, so much as to do with the circumstances that followed this, regarding his Will and protecting his house. And the lack of support from the person connected with this, which has resulted in this situation following years of covert behaviour, left me listening to an interview about a show that was meant to go ahead as a mark of tribute to my dad, but had to be pulled without any sense of guilt or care from the other party.

In summary, things are currently pretty shit, so having to refund £450 from the sale of a bike that went towards the void left once I'd cancelled the show, but suddenly meant nothing, is the ultimate kick in the teeth; well, not the ultimate, as that's stuff's going on on top of my dad's act of generosity.

Interview starts at 24:30.     

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Life Lessons.

Today I received a burst of pure unconditional support from a source I would never have expected it from a few years back, and it was so generous and illustrative of what I've not been getting it made me cry.

What it reminded me was that there's always the option of kindness and that anyone who's so insistent on you fulfilling certain expectations to receive it without applying the same rulebook to themselves will only let you down. If someone finds new ways to astound and upset you with alarming regularity, then you've already been warned. And the reason you didn't get the message was it should go without saying, and if you have to say it then it's best to not expect anything else.

The point I'm learning is I've never been respected from certain quarters and if the current context wasn't enough to make them instinctively lend a hand, they never will. Their hold over everything is more vital than anyone else's, regardless of whether their attitude deserves it, and if that's the starting point, it's the endpoint too. So now it's about giving one last chance while also preparing to write them out of my life if they continue what they're doing as, this time they took a terrible situation and multiplied it by ten, and that's unthinkable, really.

For tomorrow's life lesson, I'll teach you how to whittle a basket from scratch - don't worry, it's all part of the cost of admission.

Monday, 29 July 2019

Not So Niche After All.

It's with real sadness and frustration - though it's totally unavoidable - that I've had to cancel my Edinburgh Fringe run.

As I've intimated on social media and on my blog, I'm in a punishing situation involving long-standing issues, which have proved too much to work around. Add to this the loss of my dad, the fight to get my PIP reinstated, plus my poor mental health and this final twist was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Firstly, I can't thank everyone enough for the ridiculously high level of support I've had to raise the money I couldn't get to due to my dad's assets being frozen after his death. My JustGiving page raised £3120 of the approximate £6500 grand total, which was bloody incredible.

I hope no-one thinks the money was pocketed & not used for the cause (said while wearing my gold lamé jacket). While it's true some was spent on things I wouldn't need if I'd known I'd be cancelling - train tickets, flyers, £2500 on digs - most bills had to be covered either way. For example, I still have to pay over a grand toward the cost of venue hire, though I should have nearly enough for this thanks to everyone's generosity)

I'll explain more about my reason for pulling the run in time if I can, but one thing's for certain: I wouldn't have reached this decision if I felt I had a choice; an EdFringe show is a year-in-the-making, so it's a lot of work to go back on, plus I wanted to do it for my dad.

Thanks to everyone who put time and energy into supporting my predicament (with special mention to Gemma Poole, Glyn Doggett, Emma McKenzie & Lucy Ralph, Claire Saddler, Norman Lovett, Paul Sullivan, Richard Perry, Philippa Collins, Alex Pope Nick Gill and Georgia Barrow, though I've probably missed someone important out).

I also want to thank Darrell Martin at Just the Tonic and all at At Home in Edinburgh for being super-understanding when I broke the news that I was doing a metaphorical runner at such short notice.

Finally, I'm ramping my thanks up-to-eleven in the case of Katie Poole, Ian Tivey,  Mike Mackenzie and Lucy Porter, all of whom went above the call-of-duty and offered to lend me the rest of the money; sorry to embarrass you by outing you, but you were so generous.

As to all my friends on their way up to Scotland: best of luck, don't overdo it...and keep my seat warm until I'm back next year (with a show almost certainly about the infamous Barry Ephgrave.)

Where's he bloody gone, then?