A bone is born

I’ve broken my elbow. To be precise, I’ve fractured it. To be utterly accurate, the end of my funny bone has been chipped off. I’ll leave the gags to you. I was knocked over by a group of charging youths late on Friday night. It was an accident; these things happen; it could have been worse – I could have chipped a bit off my head. The lesson I’ve learned is to wear body-armour whenever I go to Bath.

I’ve never broken a bone before, at least I don’t think I have, but now I wonder about all those times I tripped and landed on my knees when I was young. Are there fragments of my fractured knee drifting inside my joints?

On the X-ray I could see the end of my funny bone floating some distance from the main bone, like an off-shore island. Its shape exactly matched the coastline where it had once been. I felt strangely uplifted, as if it were setting off on a new adventure.Elbow

While the X-ray was being displayed the nurse explained the purpose of each bone inside my arm. But she had to agree that, strictly speaking, I now have an extra bone in my arm, and one that has no purpose at all. I like that. I am proliferating.

It’s been a while since I was clattered to the ground. The last time was when I was thirteen and playing rugby. I was a terrible rugby player and they only picked me because I was big and heavy. The opposing scrum would charge at me and knock me flat and then run over me in their studs. Sometimes my own team did that too. Getting back to my feet in Bath city centre  brought back many of those happy childhood memories. And it’s made me wonder if adults fall over enough. I don’t think we do. I think we need to establish controlled environments where we can go on a Saturday morning and spend an hour or so tripping up and falling flat on our faces. Just like we did when we were young.

I feel positive about this new pain in my life. There are lots of advantages to having a broken elbow. Playing my ukulele, for example. I can only strum and pick for a few minutes at a time. This is a tremendous relief to so many people. And carrying things and lifting things up – I don’t have to. In fact, almost any household task can be avoided by saying, ‘I have broken my elbow’. Even typing takes its toll which means I have the perfect excuse to finish whatever I’m writing, such as this blog post, whenever I want, and without having to come up with a witty or satisfying or logical ending…

The Limehouse Golem review – a big helmet with lots of makeup – 3/5

The Limehouse Golem is a Ripperesque throat-slasher stuffed full of London fog, grubby horse-drawn coaches, grimy cockney characters and naïve prostitutes with dirt smeared on their faces. Was it ever clean in London?

It stars Bill Nighy, Olivia Cooke and Douglas Booth, ably supported by a bald Eddie Marsan who steals scenes and Daniel Mays who wears a big helmet.

Directed by Juan Carlos Medina , based on the book by Peter Ackroyd, Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem and with a screenplay by Jane Goldman, the film is a convergence of two storylines: a series of explicitly gory and unsolved murders in olde London-town and the trial of a musical hall comedienne Lizzie Cree (Cooke) who is accused of murdering her failed playwright husband. Drawing these strands together is Inspector John Kildare (Nighy) and his sidekick, Constable George Flood (Mays).

Plot-wise, the requisite twists, turns and red herrings of any self-respecting whodunit are all in place, along with the bold device of the audience seeing each suspect in situ as the murderer, but what really keeps us guessing is how much was the makeup bill? Most of it is slapped on the musical hall mentor and star turn, Dan Leno (Booth), but there’s plenty left over for everybody else. My tip for any school-leaver is to forget university, get into the makeup supply business and win a contract for films based in Victorian London. You’ll be on velvet for the rest of your life.

For me, despite the calibre of the cast and crew, it’s the plot-driven narrative that is the film’s weakness (unless you like people being cut up with knives in which case it’s all great). Yes, it keeps us guessing but is that enough? I think it’s reasonable to expect more of the character-driven strands to be developed, such as Kildare’s past victimisation (just say he’s gay and be done with it) and his relationship with his sidekick Flood (just say he’s gay and be done with it), or the way in which the claustrophobic dynamics within the theatre’s ‘family’ worked. Otherwise, why mention them?

The characters are, with the notable exceptions of Lizzie Cree and Dan Leno, thinly drawn. I doubt Flood is meant to be a Watson to Kildare’s Holmes but even so, Daniel Mays must be wondering what is the point of his character other than to take the weight of his considerable headgear. Remove Constable Flood from the film and nothing changes. But it’s Inspector John Kildare who gets most of my sympathy. No DNA sampling, no crime scene forensics, no computers – and he’s being played by Bill Nighy.

Olivia Cooke and Douglas Booth are fascinating to watch on screen because they bring something of the human condition to their characters – but with Bill Nighy the acting is in what he doesn’t do – which is act. With Bill it’s all about the twitches, stares, stiff movements and The Face. The joy is watching Bill Nighy ‘be’. He is a character in his own right who simply has lots of different jobs: louche academic, resurgent pop singer, ageing lover and now a Victorian policeman, Inspector Bill Nighy.

As the credits rolled I was left with a feeling that the likes of TV’s Sherlock and Ripper Street have done this sort of thing to death, and done it well, and that this film needed to be something really special to justify its big screen status, something more than just a neat tale. Sadly, it’s not. I think more bald men and smaller helmets might be called for. And makeup. Lots more makeup.

I am me. Really.

Yesterday I had to visit a solicitor’s office to have my identity validated. I’d failed a money laundering test because I have two addresses and it wasn’t clear to anybody, including me, in which one I lived. According to the test I was a paradox; an object that had failed to satisfy any condition.

Fortunately, these days, solicitors offer an existential service, and for £15 they confirmed that I am the person I’ve been claiming to be all these years. Me. And they stamped a letter to confirm it. But can I still launder money? I don’t know. I paid in cash.

As I walked home to one of my possible addresses I wondered what other philosophical uncertainties the solicitor could resolve and stamp.

  • Why is there something rather than nothing? Because there is. Bring in a photo ID and a recent utility bill. £15. Stamp.
  • Do we have free will? No. Bring in a current council tax bill and a current driver’s licence. £15. Stamp.
  • If I see blue, what colour do you see? Blue. Bring in a letter from your parent or guardian and proof of postage. £15. Stamp.

The possibilities seemed endless. After all, who can argue with a stamped, legal document? But when I walked into my house I was surprised to find myself already there. So I went back out to demand the return of my £15. They were closed.

 

That Moment

Five months ago a very important person in my life died. I was there. I saw it all. Senses diminished. Movement slowed. Breathing stopped.

It might be witnessing the mechanics of dying, or trying to accommodate the loss, or just failing to comprehend nothingness. I don’t know. But that moment, that image… it just won’t go away. I do get it. I do get that we all die. But for the life of me I cannot shake that moment from my mind, that moment of being and then not being.

Her last breath.

 

A cure for the common cold

You have razor blades in your throat and water-filled eyes and bubbling nostrils and you’ve become deaf in one ear and you can’t talk without coughing yourself inside out, and every now and then you sneeze and sneeze and sneeze until your nose falls off.

You have a cold.

Some people wrap their heads in gauze and carry on regardless; others share their wet, watery germs with as many people as possible; others stay at home hidden beneath a pile of damp tissues; a few turn to alcohol and other recreational options. However you handle it, there comes a point in the evening when you’ve just about had enough of the wretched thing. Here is a suggestion for when that moment comes.

  1. Run a hot steaming bath and fill it with bubbles. Close all the windows and take something interesting to read – I would suggest one of the graphic guides from the wonderful Introducing Books team (@graphicguides).
  2. While the bath is running squeeze the juice of one lemon into a glass tumbler, and keep squeezing until there is no squeezing left to be done.
  3. Add a spoonful of honey – not set honey but that runny honey stuff that somehow gets all over your fingers.
  4. Add hot water until the tumbler is half full and stir vigorously.
  5. Lie in the bath amongst all the bubbles and the steam, and drink the drink and stay there until you have hardly any energy left at all.
  6. Get out of the bath, dry yourself, and climb into a freshly made bed with clean sheets and a thick duvet.
  7. If appropriate, spray Difflam into your throat.
  8. Think of nothing.
  9. Sleep.

In the morning you will wake up cured. If not, repeat each evening until you are.

Please vote on the 23rd

It would have been lovely, wouldn’t it, if we’d been able to have an inclusive debate in which the pros and cons of remaining in, or exiting from, the European Union were aired and discussed and respected?

But we didn’t.

Instead we have had a highly polarised, venomous argument in which political leaders, elected and unelected, have thrown their weight about and dominated the debate, and left me feeling that the last few weeks have been more about their career aspirations than any consideration for what is good for the British people, and for the people of other countries. Which is a shame because this vote is much more important than any politician’s career, and it is much more important than any general election.

This vote is about us: the populace, the masses, the multitude. And ironically, the nasty nature of the arguments has elevated the debate from a pragmatic question of sovereignty and economics, to something far more reflective.It has become an act of defining ourselves, our country and our continent. And it is as much a vote for our children and grandchildren as it is for ourselves because we are deciding on the type of country and world in which they will live for many years to come.

So no matter how disenchanted you might feel by this whole process, and how weary you might be when trying to find objective facts on which to base an opinion, and how nauseous you become every time you hear the same old rhetoric, please hang in there and make the effort to vote on the 23rd, wherever you intend to put your X. Because if ever there was a decision to be made in which every vote will count, then it is this one.

You are so very very big…

“Let us praise God. Oh Lord, oooh you are so big. So absolutely huge. Gosh, we’re all really impressed down here I can tell you. Forgive us, O Lord, for this dreadful toadying and barefaced flattery. But you are so strong and, well, just so super. Fantastic. Amen.” (Michael Palin as the chaplain in The Meaning of Life)

Fair enough. But look what stunning architecture such flattery creates…

Wells Cathedral

I do like the Python approach, though. Here’s my own prayer in a similar vein.

Dear God.
You are so big and we are so small.
Please don’t tread on us or eat us.
Sorry we are so rubbish.
You are much better.
Sorry.