Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Nuns Escape Unscathed



My MS never ceases to surprise me.

Not content with having rewired my immune system so that it attacks my nerves with a gusto that it really should be applying to the bad guys, it has PMS.

Punctured My Scheme.

Regular readers will be aware that I intended to pull the plug on my body before the MS had got into the attic and destroyed the main fuse box.

“The best laid plans of mice and men/ oft go awry.”
(I thought that quote came from one of the usual suspects; Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde or Match of the Day’s Mark  “Corridor of Uncertainty” Lawrenson. It does not.)



Whilst I was relishing every second of every game in World Cup 2010, my MS quietly worked its way into my right hand. Result?

(a) Beautiful  Spain won the World Cup beautifully “encima el tuyo, Alemania”
(b) My right hand joined the left hand and went on strike “encima el tuyo, Jaime”

Now if I hold both arms out in front of me my fingers flop down so I look like I’m about to play the piano. My hands cannot pick up chocolate biscuits or get a good grip on anything 

Yes, anything.

The days of having a good old rummage downstairs are but a memory. Actually, the early morning tenting has been sporadic at best since the catheter was installed. My appendage is as useful as an appendix. 

By substituting the word “death” for “suicide”, Terry Pratchett had managed to remove the stigma that had been so wrongly attached to the final act of life. Assisted Death had always been my plan. Someone to watch over me as I quietly slipped away.

Any pills could be crushed into a powder and laid out before me by a good friend who had offered to be my assistant (conjures up images of a tall, long-legged, spangly-leotard-wearing assistant who distracts the audience with helpful pointy gestures and a flirty smile. That image still haunts me, Andy.)

My own fair hand has to deliver the fatal dose, but my own fair hand has turned foul. This means that I could not pour the ultimate fix into a glass of a fine vintage Burgundy (posh Pinot Noir.)

“The best laid schemes of mice and men/ oft go awry/ leaving us naught but grief.” (Bet some of you are feeling smug and about to write an email to tell me it’s a misquote; don’t worry. I’ve got it covered.)

As the awful truth dawned on me the black clouds rolled in and I withdrew from the world and disappeared into a fog of depression.

My MS had won the final battle. Now I could look forward to feeling my body slowly falling apart as my brain struggled to hold on to memory and reason. I would have to face another Winter after all. Going to sleep every night in the hope I wouldn’t wake up and waking up every morning in the hope that this would be the last day, nothing for me to do but to lie here waiting for my MS to finish the job.

Bollocks to that! My MS can take that plan and shove it right up its arse, which is my arse, so maybe that’s not such a good idea.

Watching familiar old movies, listening to familiar old music and recalling familiar old memories marked the beginning of my journey back to the real world. I started to feel better about myself and donated my self-pity to the local Catholic church. 

Then, I needed to make sure that my brain was clear had a good spring clean, or rather a good autumn wash. My MS has progressed to its next stage. My whole body is weaker, my spasms are stronger, my limbs are stiffer and my breathing a little shallower. On the plus side the medicinal marijuana is working perfectly, the chocolate still tastes chocolately and the Pinot Noir continues to flow freely. Basically, it’s a case of six of one and half a dozen of the other, and I’ve watched enough Carry On films to know that “the other” is a lot more fun, Matron.

Next, I needed to lie back and revisit a few important educational DVDs, but began my revision with an audio book.

“The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins searched out any tiny residue of Catholic dogma hidden in my subconscious and killed it violently, jumped up and down on it, set fire to it, sucked all the ashes up with a Dyson, opened the Dyson over a bucket of shit, flew to Vatican City and dropped the load on the Pope as he gave his Christmas message.

I became a fundamentalist atheist waiting for my first mission, obviously not as a suicide bomber. No afterlife = no room full of virgins = what’s the point?

“Cosmos” by the gentle Carl Sagan led me through the evolution of the universe with its simple language and simple message.

I became an evangelical atheist desperate to go wheeling round Wimbledon stopping passers-by and saying with open eyes and wide smile, “Have you heard the great news? There is no God! Go forth and have a fucking good time.”

“The Ascent of Man” by the cleverest man I have ever seen or heard, Jacob Bronowski, clinched it eventually.

Mind you, it put my 7 ‘O’ levels (old, black and white version of GCSEs) to the test. I had to watch each episode at least three times, and the one on physics five times, and I still only understand that crystals aren’t just pretty but have some important stuff about physics in them too.

Jacob made me an atheist at peace. There is no God. This is it.



My new life calendar begins on 1st October 2010. Whatever time is left for me will be spent filling my head with thoughts, facts and experiences.

I want to be able to say that…

“My brain hurt like a warehouse/ it had no room to spare/ I had to cram so many things to store/ everything in there."
(David Bowie. 1972. “Five Years”. 3rd Line. 3rd Verse)

I am going to devour any and all the knowledge I can collect on the single most important interest in my life. The months that I have spent just thinking about anything and everything has brought me to the conclusion that the only aspect of life on earth that has ever mattered is people. 

My family are wrapped around me to keep me warm and sane. My Mum calls every day and my brother Sean has remained unbelievably calm as I have dictated this blog and rewritten it time after time. The Comedy Store Players won’t leave me alone.  They phone, they snail mail, they tweet. They are my band of loving stalkers. All visit regularly and fill my room with laughter, gossip, and wonderful gifts.

Other famous friends phone, visit, email or send me DVDs of Gogol Bordello playing for their lives. 

My lifelong friend Seeta Indrani knows how I feel about her and my other lifelong friend Steve Steen knows what I think about him, but that hasn’t stopped him phoning and banging on about Fulham.





There are projects in the air.
(a) Writing a short film about a couple. Lovers? Friends? Married? Their conversation leaves these questions unanswered but slowly a secret is revealed. He is bedridden but she is still mobile. Casting? There is an actress who would be perfect for the female role, but I am having difficulty trying to find an actor who can play a bed ridden, weak man with a progressively degenerative medical condition.
(b) Lynn Ferguson is working on a script with Len Simpson. I was attracted to the concept because of its interesting historical context, but mainly because it is also about me.
(c) Vickie Cullen. This is a young comedian who has performed her set at over 20 Open Mic spots and died on her arse every time. But, she finds the positive each time she fails and wants to go on again until she finds her voice. This is the project that excites me most. Her enthusiasm is infectious and I feel re-energised whenever we talk.
(d) My YouTube Vids. Fun to make and they keep my brain ticking over. SirRobertBellinger @YouTube.
(e) twitter. There have been moments when I have felt miserable but a click on Twitter will always lift my spirits. Not only my funny famous showbiz chums, but those who are following me and send me messages bulging with love. They also provided the coded message that I was to post when my assisted death-day had come. The message? “Punching Some Nuns” (Thanks to @Numabo)

It may well be true that…

“The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men, Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!”
(Robert Burns. 1785. “To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough”. 3rd Line. 7th Stanza).

… and it may be an ugly ride but you’re all coming with me because I will keep the world informed. Not because it needs to know but because I need to tell.

PMS? Perhaps the British term PMT is more appropriate:

Prognosis? Mildly Tedious.

I'll leave the last word to Carl Sagan and the Universe. That's the actual Universe and not the Catholic fanzine called, “The Universe”. Perspective putting time.

21 comments:

  1. Lordy love ya, you can have a gal on the brink of futile girlie tears only to have her burst into a fit of snotty (currently full of cold) giggles. Much love to you - look forward to next vid :)

    FA x

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  2. Wise words as ever. Good to have you back, Jim.

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  3. These are beautiful words, and something I will pass on to folks who don't know your work of days gone by in the hope that they will have the same impact - positive energy.

    I have two of those three learned DVDs you mention, and they have been sat dormant, but I will dust them off the shelves and put them into action.
    (We have the Gogol Bordello ones on hand too, in case of emergency.)

    Thanks for sharing and inspiring.

    Ade

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  4. I found this via one of Tim Minchin's retweets, and I honestly can't remember the last time I read something as inspiring. For the first thirty seconds or so, I thought MS referred to manuscript; thank you for showing me how completely absorbed by my degree I've become. I have this bookmarked, to come to whenever I need a reminder that there is more to life than X, Y or Z.

    Also, your "Pope Nope" photo makes me laugh more than I probably should be. Which I desperately needed today, so thank you again. From the other side of the world - because everyone who's anyone is on the other side of the world to me - a complete stranger sends you bunch of hugs. They can be stockpiled if you like. Some days require more hugs than others. :)

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  5. This is an incredible piece of writing. Laugh-out loud funny and achingly sad. Inspired by your journey. I am a Christian minister, but challenged by your wanting to make the most of every moment, seeking knowledge and spending time with family. Loved you on Whose Line is it Anyway? Thank you. This blog will stay with me for many days.

    Andrew Wooding

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  6. Lots and lots of love Astrid xxx

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  7. I agree, laugh-out loud funny and achingly sad. My Mother has MS that doesn't yet many serious effects and I haven't read any blogs about it. I suppose this is the first bit of insight I've heard. I am glad you are finding things to be happy about. That's the most important thing in the world. And I am glad twitter makes you smile.

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  8. Excellent read Jim. Nice new blog too. I like the look of your room, it appears you have wine bottles like Tribbles.

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  9. As time moves on we 'lose' many friends, family and people we just admire. It's all part of life but it doesn't get any easier to say goodbye, or make the grieving any easier to bear. It would be nice if they had all had the opportunity to leave a blog or two behind. Thanks for yours. Damn it, I'm gonna miss you. But, until that day arrives, I shall enjoy sharing with you and being rude to you ;) xx

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  10. I wonder what it would be like if we could step back from our life; from the drive and just be a passenger.
    (all the drive gone just taking it all in)

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  11. Well fuck, my bestest friend has been banging on
    for years telling me my plan to check out could
    be thwarted by my own body. My body, at 73, is
    not too bad. I am so glad you are wrapped in love with family and friends. Hell, I love you and we have never met. You have had to deal with a huge "shift", it does not surprise me that you are
    working it with that wonderful, inspiring and funny brain. Love to you kid.....Val

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  12. love reading the blog...tears in eyes but you still have a bit of kick in the body!
    love you muchly... and you will always be a friend! vickie

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  13. Ah Jim, this is a wonderful piece of writing, and like all the best things in life, made me laugh and cry. I met you in real life only once, briefly, at The Comedy Store, and have met you 'virtually' more often, and it's always an honour. I note the 'I Know Where I'm Going' references with pleasure. It was you that introduced me to that perfect film (I pretended to have already seen it so as not to look stupid ...) and for that alone, a million, million thank you's. xxxx

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  14. Dear Jim, Just wanna say how moved I am by your courage and amazing attitude. My heart breaks for you and what you are dealing with. You have my total admiration. I think the nhs should be using your blogs for anyone who ever has to face something so bloody awful. You are a true inspiration and very special. Thank you so much for all the laughs, hopefully youre not done yet! I wish there were more Jims in the world. Lots of love sam xxxx

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  15. "Not because (the world) needs to know, but because I need to tell."

    Rest assured, some of us ARE listening.

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  16. What a man. Great comic, great improviser, great human being. Your public loves you Jim. And this, specifically, is from every Whoser round the world who still thinks of that Scene To Music with Mr Steen set in a greengrocer and wonders how anyone could even think they would better it.

    Party on.

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  17. That's right Jim. Stick it to them. Cado

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  18. I did, in fact pause and read.

    Dear Jim, as one who spends her time counting the overwhelmingly large losses I've achieved far more than my gains I am always thankful for your perspective. Your place on this infinitesimally small blue dot is a large presence for me and many of us, both well and ill, as we face each day. For me I awake each morning rather surprised the brain thief has not stolen the rest of my meager functions to leave me stranded in the sea of my bed. I struggle on and cherish the bright points I can find. Such as you, dear sir, you continue to be a bright spot in my day even in your silence as my memories of the past have not been taken from me yet.

    Blessings of chocolate to you and keep on keeping on. Those of us fighting this losing battle with you appreciate deeply your perspective. xoxo

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