Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Bacchus against a wall

I drink too much. I don’t drink as much as I used to drink, which was quite a lot; but I still drink too much. There’s no joke here by the way. There’s no pull back and reveal: look! It was too much camomile tea or chicken soup! No, its booze; delicious, tasty booze: wine, beer, gin, brandy, whiskey. Those guys, my old gang!

And what times we’ve had together! Remember that time I missed the last bus, walked home and got mugged inside my own hall-way? Classic! Remember when I fell into a bin and it became wedged on my arse at a house party, humiliating my then-girlfriend? I am legend! And then there was that time I decided to stick to red wine because beer was making me fat but then drank so much of it on an empty stomach that at some point on the journey home I managed to break a finger so badly that it took a year and a half to heal and yet neither I nor my two drinking companions had any idea how it happened! Truly I am a prince among men!

Of course it’s not all top laughs, there are some down sides to drinking too. I’ve been leafing through these back-issues of the Lancet and I’ve got a couple of bones to pick with those drinks manufacturers! Looks like I’ve finally found the reason for my muffin-tops having muffin-bottoms and why my tongue has 5 O’ clock shadow. And there seems to be some sort of causal link between my lower back-pain, bulbous red nose and bibulous eyes. It turns out that my shaking hands and string-vest memory can be traced back to a cheeky little glass of red! It all seems so woefully out of proportion.

And that’s only the obvious signs: there’s brain damage, hypertension, lung infections, cirrhosis, internal bleeding, chronic kidney disease and impotence, all either all ready going on or just about to kick off. I’m a ticking time-bomb of auto-destructive self-annihilation, a Chinese New-Year of shit-brown and cancer-black fire-works, just waiting for the touch paper to be lighted. There is no option to retire.

I gave up smoking with comparative ease because I never really liked smoking and held a cigarette like a fey Gestapo officer. I was never any good at it. So while in terms of sheer tonnage I was a heavy smoker, two packs a day at the height of my death-wish and more on a Friday, it was simple to give up because it was so unpleasant. I timed it right too – I gave up the January before they brought the smoking ban in, so I’d be comfortably established as non-smoker by the time of prohibition. Wise, or so I thought – in fact it meant that when my smoking friends, and that’s all of them, needed to go outside the pub for a crafty lungful, Muggins here was left behind as table monitor, fending off all-comers while my friends laughed, chatted and socialised.

Booze is different, though. Booze I love. I like looking at it in a glass, in the light; dark as a Homeric ocean. I like running a little of it over my tongue and the pretentious faff of trying to extricate a tang of chocolate, grapefruit or pencil shavings from a glass of fermented grape juice. (Never say it tastes “a bit grapey”. For one thing it can be easily misheard.) I like the bubbling bonhomie of a relaxing evening with friends and the way it takes the edge of anxious social gatherings amongst enemies. It is social lubrication, a badge of honour, a measure of worldliness and panache. If you look at drinking through the bottom of a glass it seems to be a tremendous cultural boon. Booze manufacturers now ask you drink their products “responsibly”. Aye, and there’s the rubbing alcohol. I don’t much care to stop.

Something magical happens at around the third glass: Dion Nice-Arse arrives to get the party started, regardless of occasion. Planning a children’s tea-party and need someone to vomit on the bouncy castle? You’ve got my mobile. Tea dance at the vicarage and you need someone to crack open the communion wine? My card. Art aficionados, perhaps you’d like someone to fall over a table of drinks at your private view? I have a taxi on speed-dial. You can throw my trousers in the cab after me. Yes, once that third glass has been poured I am in the grip of a panic that somehow the drink will run out and I’ll be left alone with my thoughts or what passes for them. It’s no way to live and something must be done. Quite apart from the physical damage I’m doing to myself and the psychological damage I’m sustaining from regurgitated self-disgust, I can’t afford it. I’ve been cursed with expensive tastes. In a way it’s lucky I’m poor. If I were rich I’d be a smiling, purple corpse by now. Barney in a coffin.

I’m currently in self-imposed exile from the Land of Cockayne. I’ve rationalised that you need a glass in your hand in order to network effectively, people run scared from mineral water guy, but I’ve rationed the amount of glasses in my hand. It is baby steps as it ever was: clumsy, staggering and holding onto the walls.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Valentine's Day

It's been a long year and a somewhat hazy one and so I don't remember what I did last Valentine's Day. It was Kelly's last, though we didn't know that at the time, as the doctors were still saying that she could have another ten years. Doctors.

I imagined that I'd cooked a fancy meal, like the Fancy Dan I am, or else we had gone to "Season" on Stroud Green Road, which rather became "our" place in our last year in London.

I look back on this blog to find out what life-hugging, no, LIFE SWADDLING, things I was doing while I still had her in my life. The Feb 14th entry is a short rant about my broadband not working. There's not even mention of Kelly. The 2011 calender, which I've kept, and which as a record of my last seven months with her would be the first thing I'd save if the house caught fire, tells a slightly different story. Kelly had been to the "Museum of Everything" with Anna Asheton over the weekend and demanded that I go with her again for the the Peter Blake curated show. The exhibition contained glass cases of stuffed mice and squirrels in various tableaux, dressed in the manner of Disney characters (clothes on top, bare bums) in school rooms, scrumping apples, fighting duels. The reason that this was so amazing is that I had told Kelly about a tiny museum opposite the ruin of Bamber castle that I used to visit as a child, which had a stuffed animal exhibition. This was it. When the museum closed the collection was broken up and Peter Blake had bought up most of it, inveterate collector that he is. Kelly had remembered this and brought me here without telling me. That's romance. Not complaints about your internet provider.

Re-reading the stuff I wrote on her back then I'm surprised by the energy, the anger, the jokes. I wasn't sleeping at all and I was drinking a hell of a lot* and yet, I'm bouncing off the page. And there was a lot going on. And it's all because of her. She was so funny and clever and crabby. She kept me on my toes. It was like trying to keep up with the smartest kid in the class, it made me try harder. The stuff I write on here now, the endless complaints, the hand ringing, the howl-at-the-moon why-why-whys: it's rubbish. It's nonsense. Thee was something pretty great in me for a while. But it wasn't innate and it died with her. I miss her so much.

Love you, darlin'

*plus ca change.

Friday, 10 February 2012

No jokes jones

Life is hard. That's a truism and a cliché. But surely it isn't supposed to be this hard? I've come to the conclusion that it is me. I must be doing it.

This week I received a letter from a company called "Premium First" (or more properly Creation Correspondence Finance Ltd, they appear to be in a period of transition). Except I didn't Kelly did. It appears to be some sort of insurance finance agreement. They're asking for about £90. I have no idea what it is for. But there are account details so I phone them up and explain that Kelly has died. I hate having to do this. The feeling are still very raw and articulating it makes it very difficult. However, most people, on the phone at least proffer some sort of social nicety, an "I'm sorry to hear that" sort of thing. "Premium First/Creation" don't bother with that sort of nonsense. For the first time ever I'm met with silence followed by an "And how can I help you?".

That got me on the back foot, slightly. I've been on the other side of those phone-calls, not for this company, but for other insurance companies. There is a social contract there, it is a social situation of sorts, whereby, if you're a human being and someone tells you that someone that they love has died you blurt out a pleasantry. You can't help it, as insincere as it is. It's a human response. It's also good business practice, especially in an insurance company.

So I was somewhat wrong-footed. So I carried on. What is this for? I cant tell you. Why cant you tell me? We only claim back the money, sir. We aren't the insurance company. So what you're saying you want £90 but you wont tell me what it relates to or who it's for? It's Data protection, sir. We can't tell you. Well how are you going to get your money? Kelly is dead and doesnt have any money. Are you going to sue her? How do we resolve this? Could you send us her death certificate.

So you're saying that you are asking for money without telling me who you are, what the money is for, you're asking me to send you my wife's death certificate and my incentive to this is to pay you the best part of £100? Why would I do it? At this point the chap terminated the call.

I received another one this morning. Still addressed to Kelly. The amount outstanding has gone up to £111. I ring them again. Again no information, the data protection act quoted, no record of my previous call and when I ask to speak to a supervisor the call is terminated again.

So, am I obliged to pay this? Do they have any legal standing? Can they sue a dead woman? Do I have any relationship with this company at all?

Does anybody know?

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Another day, another letter from the Housing Executive, another form to fill in, this time they're demanding two months of banking transactions. Not sure why they didn't ask for this two months ago...

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

More complaining. Not that it matters

So I've started receiving letters from an insurance company addressed to Kelly. Excellent. They are demanding a payment of £86.43. I have no idea what this is for. I ring them. They tell me that they cannot give me any information. But I still have to pay them. They will only speak to Kelly. I say that's not going to be possible as she has been dead for six months. They still refuse to tell me what I'm supposed to be paying for. I ask them the type of policy, at least. They don't know, they only collect the money on behalf of another company. I ask them the name of this other company. They don't know. So I ask them if they don't know what the product is or who is supplying it, how do they know I owe them any money? Because the machine tells them that I do. So I say that's not really good enough. £90 is a lot of money, I'm not going to give them any money on their say so. Give me some information and maybe we can reach an agreement. They quote the data protection act to me. We reach an impasse. An impasse of swearing and hanging up.

I've come to the conclusion that death must be a rare and freakish event because every business I deal with has no idea how to deal with it. Trying suing her then you fucking morons, see how far that gets you.

The dentist won't fix my front teeth because they cant find a special NHS number that I'm supposed to provide. It turns out that my English one doesn't work over here. So I have to get a local doctor. I go through a battery of tests, fill in the forms, get an always unflattering B.M.I. and get registered. And later I ring them for the magic number (and for blood test results which are now, worryingly, four days late) and then I ring the dentist and quote it back to her. It is the same number that they already had. She's going to look into it for me.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Well the nurse promised to phone me with my blood test results if I was dying. She hasn't so I guess I'm not dying. Though my cholesterol is rather high. Time to ditch the cheese and wine diet, methinks.