The Universe Is An Angel

Temperatures in the high seventies in the last week of November? Toto we ain’t in Kansas any more. In fact, Toto, if I’m perfectly honest, we’ve never been in Kansas and you’re not even my dog. Go home boy, go find Dorothy. She’s got pumpkin pie and other Thanksgivingy dog type treats.

We are in Carmel-by-the-Sea. That’s California to those of you who ain’t been paying attention. I understand if you ain’t been paying attention, I mean only a few moments ago I thought Toto was my own dog. I miss the rains down in Africa. And I’ve never been there either.

I don’t believe I’ve ever wandered around in a t-shirt on 22nd November before. If I did that back home I’d be dead by the 23rd what with having shit lungs and not being able to survive the pneumonia it would cause to wander around in a t-shirt in Britain on 22nd November. But yesterday I could and I did. Because California. Keep up.

Carmel is full of quaint little houses and shops that all have neckscarves and say “Make my day” as you go past them. If you don’t know what I mean by this I believe google exists. If you want to live in Carmel you need MONEY. If you just want to look at the nice houses and eat some lunch then looking is free and we found a place that didn’t charge us a fistful of dollars for food.

Now, did I mention Thanksgiving six times or was it only five? In all the sunshine I clean forgot. So you got to ask yourself a question: do I eat turkey? Well do ya, carnivorous punk?

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Exercising My Right Not To Wear Some Flowers In My Hair

There’s nothing quite like having to go to an American medical clinic to make an Englishman appreciate the NHS. The staff were excellent and the doctor very calming and knowledgeable but the handing over of large sums of cash for a consultation and some drugs is a real kick in the crutch for someone who lives in one of the almost all of the countries in the world with a form of universal healthcare.

Anyhoo, I got the meds I required and I may be able to claim some money back from my health insurance (not that much as there is an excess, of course. Insurance companies really have this shit sewn up, eh?). While I hardly feel any better physically there is a great relief to be had from not having to be whisked off for hospital for IV meds or anything. Hopefully I can be a slightly more proactive participant in my romantic vacation in the coming days.

G has been so supportive and caring. I knew these were qualities she possesses from our months and months of interaction via that newfangled Internet the young folk are so keen on these days, but it might be quite a different thing altogether to have a stupid limey come six thousands miles to see you and then have a health flare up and be all scaredy. Surely that could challenge even the stoutest of hearts. She’s an angel and I feel blessed that if this health blip were going to happen then it has happened in the company of someone so very kind and genuine.

We’ve a couple more days in San Francisco before heading south to Carmel where we may stick out like a sore thumb on account of it being a rather exclusive rich folks place and us being not so rich at all. We are exclusive though, we’re in an exclusive gang of two and that’s all I care about on this trip. Spending time together in 3D was the whole point of coming all this way after so many messages and phone calls and video calls. It’s like we’re in a movie. Lucky, ain’t we?

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On Being A Moron

At any time back home a chest flare-up is frightening and weakens my spirit. Thousands of miles from home it is even more frightening and my spirit is taking a serious beating.

I saw my chest specialist the day before I flew and he didn’t have any particular qualms about me travelling, just reminded me to take emergency antibiotics that I have at home. What did I forget to pack enough of? Yup, exactly those antibiotics. I’m so cross with myself. I should be able to sort some out through a clinic today but this ain’t England and I’ll no doubt pay through the nose. I’m a moron. A scared moron.

People who know me best know that I’m a wise-ass: I crack jokes, I use my smart boy brain, I look for positives if I can. Fear strips all of that away until the man behind the curtain is revealed not as a man at all but as the same terrified, traumatised and vulnerable little boy who somehow survived an often scary childhood but not without developing an unhealthy set of neuroses and anxieties.

I just hope G can still see the guy she cares for behind all those neuroses and anxieties. I’m hardly presenting myself in the manner I’d wish to. I know she already knew about my health but I rarely let people see me this scared and vulnerable so I expect them to think I’m stupid for getting into the states I do. I’m honest, at least, I just don’t feel very attractive or loveable right now.

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Haight Speech

California. So good they named it California, San Francisco. So good that nobody calls it Frisco.

I’m here. My battered old body is rather unreliable and wobbly but I got here. Well, you know, this is where the plane was coming so I couldn’t exactly hop out over the Rockies or anything.

Not that I wanted to. I wanted to meet G, the woman I told you about in a previous blog post. No, I didn’t use the initial G in that post but now I am using it. And she’s awesome: funny, so kind hearted, thoughtful, smart. She doesn’t even want to chop me up and make soup out of me, which is such a relief in this day and age.

She greeted me at the airport with a sign that said ‘Sir Limey Wanker’ (it’s a private joke) and my heart leapt the moment I saw her. We’ve now spent a couple of days just hanging out, making one or two small forays into the city but not for long as I’m not yet capable of standing up or moving about for too long. But I’ve seen enough to know this is a magical place, quite an atypical American city too with less strict adherence to the grid lines that characterise the few cities I’ve been in over here. And because there are so many hills and so many interestingly shaped buildings and homes peppered across those hills the overall effect is quite European if you don’t look at the road signs.

Do look at the road signs, though. They say things like ‘San Jose’ and other places named after Burt Bacharach songs.

Our apartment is amazing with a view across the city down towards the Bay with Oakland visible across the water if it’s not foggy or rainy. Today has been rainy but I’m British so it just made me feel more at home and didn’t stop us spending a short time at Haight Ashbury checking out some retro stores and fulfilling my instrument porn needs by staring at the rows of Gibson, Epiphone, Taylor and Martin guitars in the acoustic room. I only came in to buy an Allen key – because my Allen is locked.

I wonder where I can buy an eye key to stop my eyes getting so very tired so very quickly?

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Written In The Sky

(Words put together about four hours out from San Francisco yesterday afternoon)

Airline coffee – brown sludge to take away the taste of other passengers’ farts.

I must admit I never imagined I’d become comfortable enough with being on aeroplanes to reach a level of irritation with my fellow passengers that cannot simply be attributed to the grumpiness caused by my fear of flying. Another first, then, as I have spent some of this journey to San Francisco annoyed by the manspreading of the guy opposite me, his feet casually stretched out into the aisle as though nobody has any need to walk along it unassailed by trip hazards.

To be honest he pissed me off as we were taxiing to the runway as he spent the entire safety message ignoring what was being said, preferring to guffaw at YouTube wankery on his phone. This, it seems, is his very own plane. Great disguise, Mr Branson. You’re still a dick.

And behind me a toddler has spent most of the journey so far (six and a half hours as I write this) sitting on her mother’s lap kicking her legs against the back of my seat. It’s not malicious, just a toddler fidgeting because she’s been confined to a plane for a very long time, so I’ve said nothing. But my back was hurting a great deal before I even boarded – my neck and upper torso pains have abated a bit but transferred the acute pain to my lower and middle spine areas. The kicky seat turbulence really isn’t helping. I’m not being British and overly polite by not saying something to the mother, I really do sympathise with the kid, but I may need to go and have a cry in the toilet if it goes on for the remaining four hours and however many minutes we will be in the air.

I’ve not managed to sleep. I guess I’ve dozed. I have a big old beany hat with me which is perfect for pulling down over the eyes and shutting out the light while headphones with music on low shut out most of the more disturbing noises: there are quite a few young kids in this section of the plane and they’ve all had a turn at crying by now. None of them for very long, though and now we can see proper light through the windows again (it seemed quite dark when we were more northerly but has become daylight now we’re cruising over Canada and approaching American airspace maybe in the next hour), the small ones are easier to distract from their woes with the astonishing even to grown ups like me sight of the sky from on high.

I’ve set my watch and devices to West Coast time although I guess we’re still some way from genuinely reaching that zone. How would I know where one time line sends everyone back another hour? They should paint them up here in the heavens. And the equators. And allow people to graffiti clouds but only with pieces of artistic merit, not with random words like ‘cock’ or insults about the sexuality of the graffiti artists most annoying mate.

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Travelling Man (Again)

I’m sitting in the special assistance lounge and it is a little over three hours before departure. I’ve already had one full blown panic attack this morning when I was struggling to move around through pain and breathlessness at breakfast. The best thing about Terminal 3 at Heathrow is the fact that the Delta/Virgin desks are right through the doors where the shuttle bus drops you off. And once they had my suitcase tagged and whisked away I was popped into a wheelchair and didn’t have to get all flustered and out of breath during security checks.

It’s no fun suffering from anxiety; it can trap the mind in decreasing, negative spiral. The support and therapy I’ve received in recent years does help me to recognise my mind is the problem more than my body is and sometimes I can calm myself down reasonably quickly. I had to do some serious focus breathing to calm down earlier but pretty much everything from here until I’m through immigration in San Francisco can be done sitting down.

I slept well enough in my hotel bed but anxiety strips energy like a forest fire defoliates trees. In an ideal world I’ll sleep on the plane. And then…

…and then adventure, love, wonder, wowsers!

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Lovely As A Landscape In A Dream

Monday. This is Monday. This is not a drill, it really is Monday (and anyway a drill is a powertool and a Monday is a day of the week so they’re not even the same sort of thing). This is THE Monday I get on a coach and head for Heathrow. Only to then get on a smaller bus and head to a nearby hotel. I don’t fly until tomorrow. But I do coach in about an hour.

It’s already been a busy morning. I had a check-up with my specialist first thing this morning. I told him I’ve not been able to take one of my nebuliser meds for the past couple of months because I simply cant tolerate it any longer and it makes me cough uncontrollably which is possibly one of the reasons the muscles in my torso and neck are so fucked lately. Luckily it’s not the nebulised antibiotic but the saline solution which helps to thin out the crap my lungs produce. There are alternative and when I get back from holiday they are going to trial me on one of those alternatives. Yay.

I had to go to my bank after the hospital and also nipped in to the nearest supermarket to the bank to grab a few things for the journey today. And I had some meds to pick up from the pharmacy.

I think that’s me done now. Packing done. Hand baggage sorted. Various pieces of paper checked and double checked to make sure I have the right things to enable me to board buses and planes. Passport checked every ten minutes or so to make sure it hasn’t leapt out of my coat pocket. In twenty minutes or so my friend Tony will pick me up and take me to the coach station, then I can lounge about on coach for four hours eating candy and trying to pretend the chemical toilet at the back doesn’t stink.

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