I’ve just watched the Jeremy Paxman documentary about his Parkinson’s Disease.
We met a woman who can smell Parkinson’s, a doctor who can see the Parkinson’s mask on a face, and Sharon Osbourne who supports her rocknroll husband Ozzy, who is a Parkinson’s sufferer. The film made me cry. ‘There for the grace of God’ and all that.
A month ago we had lunch with some dear old friends. I say old, in fact they are years younger than me and the old git. I could neither smell my guest, or detect anything in his face, but over lunch he revealed that he had been diagnosed with PD two years ago.
The conversation turned to therapies and trauma. We talked until the table top was covered in crumbs and grape stems, balled up chocolate wrappers and spilled coffee.
Our dear lovely young things left and the ‘oosbind and I were left with the washing up.
There’s nothing like standing at the sink with hot, foamy water, reflecting on the dinner that took two days to cook and half an hour to eat.
But it’s that standing time that allows the event to percolate.
I cried over the plates. Such a beautiful young man living with such an unforgiving illness. And then after the draining board had been sponged clean, leaving the kitchen and conversation behind, I sat next to the old git on the settee, clasped his hand and watched mindless telly to dilute the sadness.
I worked with Jeremy Paxman fifty years ago. We did a game show together. We didn’t really talk. I was young and he was clever. Sitting in the green room before the recording he suddenly stood up and said
‘What the fuck am I doing here?’
I felt the same but telly then was telly and when they called you up, every job was a possible possibility.
I never met him again but he set the tone for the rest of my career. What the fuck was I doing there? I’ve never accepted a game show since. I think I probably have but thankfully I can’t remember them.
Watching Mr.Paxman revealing the total fuckery of PD made me cry twice. Once for him and once for the ridiculous lucky dip of our lives. Those that shouldn’t die inappropriately do and those that should be struck down remain. Apparently they have developed a test where they can predict when you’re going to die. I ain’t interested – although a witchy woman did tell me years ago that I would pop my clogs at 96 – would I have the test so I could count down my days. I think not.
Now the trouble with getting older is that, if you’re not careful, you start collecting other peoples symptoms. From skin cancer to rheumatic arthritis, from Parkinson’s to dementia. I have to disabuse myself of diagnostic imaginings. I don’t use the internet to find out whether I am heading for toe amputations, colostomy bags, or brain tumours, but I know a lot of people who do. Dealing with old age is not necessarily about longevity, for me it’s about packing in as much as I can before I become infirm and die.
All my posse is ageing, there are some with ulcers, some with prolapses. There are some who can’t hear, and some with fatty lumps that stick out of their vests, it’s hard knowing that they are mirroring back to me my withering self.
How to deal with the next twenty years is an absorbing topic especially since we are now living under a regime that couldn’t give a monkeys about the weak and vulnerable. Watching Liz Gusset being so personable with journalists makes me want to slap her in the face. Watching Suella Bravershit tutting on the podium as she dreams of deportation makes we want to stamp on her kitten heeled feet. I am, of couse, one of those old people that should be grateful for their hand outs but I am appalled and patronised by their condescending smugness.
I sit sideways on the armchair, my feet on a hot water bottle my arms clasping another one close to my chest, as the old git makes a fire out of chopped up wood from our left over sofa bed – we haven’t had to resort to burning our dining table yet, we are not on the breadline, but there are fucking millions who are.
Watching dear Mr. Paxman walking with a stick and playing bowls, learning how to live with such a debilitating illness, it was evident that having a few bob in the bank helps. Illness is a lot easier when you have a lifetime of well paid work behind you. I know I’m stating the obvious but the unprepossessing advert for health, the very smirking Thérèse Swollen Coffers, does nothing for the well being of our nation, but then how many of our unelected politicians do? In-fighting, back-biting, mud-slinging, self-serving ninnies who have about as much compassion as a cannibal in an abattoir.
Jeremy Paxman showed a quiet dignity, I wish him well. And then I got frightened that my lack of balance was a symptom, I got scared that I was giving off a Parkinson’s smell, but most of all I was poleaxed into worrying that the Northern git would die sometime and I would be left with only the fragments of a life, or maybe I’ll go first living him with the mopping up.
So, I put the washing in at 12.30 a.m. – much cheaper I’m told – put the kettle on for two hot water bottles, and decided to tackle my melancholy head on. Normally I would eat but it’s Yom Kippur and from Tuesday sunset until Wednesday is over I have to atone for my sins which means no bathing, eating or drinking or wearing of leather. All manageable.
I am in no way religious but why not have a day just to apologise for all my misdemeanours. Of which there are many, not least slagging off a group of people who well may have shitstorms of their own, although to be fair I do not feel I should atone for calling Putin a Puttanesca, and I sincerely hope that his dis-ease continues until he shrivels up and dies. No I have to atone for my own sins, and for my own self. It is beholden to myself to stay fit and well so that my dawter won’t have to wipe my ageing arse. I have to stay mentally alert so I can argue with all the fuckers who accuse me of envy politics. I have to stay moist and ungent so that when people accuse me of unfettered anger, I can say fragrantly ‘If the fucking cap fits wear it.’
I have no time for niceties, and if one day of atonement for sticking up two fingers at the bastards who have got us all by the short and curlies, will buy me a few more years of legitimate rage then it is worth a day without leather. Because, make no mistake, after Yom Kippur I will return to my old self of wishing buckets of shit and ill will on the lot of them.