Wednesday 29 September 2010


My imagination has an incurable habit of running away with itself; not merely skipping a few paces in front of the truth, but darting off like Usain Bolt on rollerskates, having glued the soles of truth’s trainers to the starting blocks while it takes off like Superman, looping the earth at the speed of light. (I believe that sentence is what’s known as a case in point.) When my mate Suze recently revealed that she’s taking me to see Elbow as a something-to-look-forward-to-while-I-recuperate treat, I didn’t simply imagine the pair of us swooning along to Powder Blue from our seats in the circle, but spotting a broken-down Guy Garvey on the way to the venue, offering him a lift, hanging out backstage, joining in with the pre-gig vocal warm-up, being invited on stage to duet with him on Starlings, and getting snapped up by a major label for a million-pound recording contract. Because that kind of stuff happens all. the. time.

It works both ways, mind. Earlier this week, I also convinced myself that what is in fact a trapped nerve in my leg was instead DVT, and that I would gradually lose the feeling in my calf until it simply dropped off, leaving me with the embarrassment of hunting down a prosthetics manufacturer who could create a specially made limb to match the alarmingly wide circumference of my right thigh. I was even imagining the kind of outfits I might have to rule out once my new leg had been fitted, picturing the sort of minimum-stare-factor places we might go on holiday and wondering whether I’d still be able to paint my prosthetic toenails.
‘I can’t lose my leg,’ I insisted to a bewilderingly composed P. ‘I need this leg.’
‘Your leg will be fine,’ he reassured. ‘Trust me; it’ll be around for as long as you are.’
‘Hmph. Well if anyone even dares mention the words Heather Mills,’ I told myself as I fell asleep, ‘I’ll have their leg off, too.’

Since the film news, though, I worry that my fantasist’s imagination has got even more ludicrous (if such a thing is even possible). So when, on Thursday of last week, I received a clear histology report from Smiley Surgeon following my recent surgery only to have my plans for celebration brought undeservedly to a halt by a hurried ambulance-dash to the emergency room later that day, my mind wasn’t so much concentrating on the crisis at hand, but dramatically acting out an ad-libbed, live-action thriller.

Allow me a moment to recap on that peach of a good-news-flash I blithely dropped into that last paragraph. Because, yes, you did read it right… I have received a clear histology report. A shiny, clear, no-sign-of-cancer-in-the-stuff-we-scooped-out-of-you histology report. Fuck it, I’m saying it again: My. Histology. Report. Was. Clear. Better even than ‘clear’ actually, given that the three-page document ended with the delightfully poetic sentence: ‘Diagnosis: no evidence of malignancy’ – five words so beautiful that they ought to be offered up for an Elton John ballad. So unless there are any other rogue cancer cells twatting about inside of me (insert can’t-rule-it-out caveat here), then this wonderful revelation is as close as I’m ever going to get to the mythical ‘all clear’ (which is even more a work of fantasy than the contents of my brain). And that, I’m sure you’ll agree, is the World’s Best Excuse To Celebrate.

But of course it doesn’t work like that. Because, as we all know, at the end of any great mediocre thriller comes that most predictable of clichés: just when you think the bad guy is defeated, up he comes for one last parting shot. (Hence, always be sure to leave a gun/knife/grenade just within his reach, okay?) So yes, my three-page document served as the script that proved I’d done my worst with The Bullshit, drowning it, strangling it and stabbing it until it seemingly left no trace. But The Bullshit had other plans and, within hours of my appointment with Smiley Surgeon, it went all Fatal Attraction on me, smirking at me from my steamy bathroom mirror as it rained a shower on my parade and I watched helpless from a crumpled heap on the floor. If, indeed, the villain in Fatal Attraction were not Glenn Close, but Michael Douglas’s crippling constipation, and the final scene had been played out with his spouse and best mate cheering him on from the other side of the bathroom door. Because that, I’m mortified to admit, is the plot of my movie.

Let it be said: nine days is not a normal amount of time to go without a shit. Of course, when I say ‘not normal’ I mean ‘leaves you in the kind of excruciating pain that makes you pass out on the loo and isn’t even slightly soothed by morphine’. I’ll spare you the unedited gory details (because, frankly, not even Quentin Tarantino would touch this stuff) but suffice to say that The Bullshit became so angry at my histology victory that it staged a final comeback by planting an infection in my bowel that combined with co-corkamol’s effects to ensure that the only thing exiting my body were the screams ringing around a south London hospital. Endless painkillers, several suppositories, one x-ray, two enemas and a number of internal examinations later and I’m still not sufficiently post-trauma enough to give you any more detail than this paragraph. (Let’s just say that you can take your childbirth stories and shove them up your non-dilated arse.)

My point, however, is not the pain exacted by a poo-pellet barely worthy of a pet bunny (not even a boiled bunny), nor my troubling reliance on shit gags (shit shit gags at that), but rather the unpredictable, unscripted, rollercoaster-like drama of every single Bullshit moment. See, everyone gives it the warlike discourse when it comes to cancer – ‘battling a disease’, ‘winning a war’, ‘bravely fighting’ – but, frankly, I think they’re missing a trick. Because for me, The Bullshit has always felt far more like a surreal, hectic, mind-bending trip of a thriller than a trudging wartime epic. All that said, there is no spectacular blood-down-the-bathroom-tiles final scene – simply because there is no ‘final scene’ to speak of. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it over and over and over and over and over again: cancer does not tie up neatly with a clear histology report; it’s a story that plays out forever in check-ups and scans and pills and fears and anxieties, like a one-time Grease character endlessly pimping the next DVD re-issue or remastered soundtrack or TV spin-off.

‘That’s amazing! It’s over! It’s done!’ said, hell, everyone upon hearing of my histology result. (And rightly bloody so.) ‘What are you going to do to celebrate? You must be so delighted!’ And yeah, of course we were – are – delighted. Shit, ‘delighted’ doesn’t even nearly cut it. How could we not be? It’s the best news we’ve ever heard, and probably will ever hear. But contrary to my theatrical, movie-thriller comparisons, getting a clear report isn’t akin to shooting the villain in the heart and immediately walking triumphantly into a congratulatory press conference; it’s pulling the trigger, taking a quietly satisfied stroll back to your car (which, according to Movie Cliches #387, will be unlocked), then driving home for a brew. And, despite my twisted mind’s reliance on scripting even the most mundane of events into far-fetched spectacle, not even I need to conjure up an ending happier than that.

Roll credits.


Jo said...

Brilliant! How about a world Tour for the Movie release? New Glamorous Dress in each City. Cocktail reception. Finger food alas H'ordevers and no chairs to sit on whilst towering in a beautiful stiletto heels. And a town car at your disposal. I would come out to Leicester Sq to cheer your welcome!

swisslet said...

9 days? That's going to be one hell of a gorilla's breakfast when it finally deigns to make an appearance. A gorilla's banquet?

Fen said...

Awesome news on the histology result. I had a similar experience with my recent surgery & pain meds making me constipated for days & days. Morphine injections did nothing, I couldn't even lie down the pain was so bad! Thankfully an enema and tablets got things moving again, phew what a relief!

Enjoy Elbow, you've earned it!

Gráinne said...

Yup. Only you could celebrate a clear histology report by having an epic shit. Wouldn't have expected any less!
Seriously though, delighted for you on both counts-histology is fantastic news and at least you are feeling a bit better now. Impaction not really on my list of things I'd like :-(

Anonymous said...

"Let’s just say that you can take your childbirth stories and shove them up your non-dilated arse" - funniest piece of writing I have seen for a long, long time! Hilarious!