Friday, 30 December 2016

2016 from What I Can Remember

2016 has generally been characterised as the year which can fucking fuck the fuck off, at least on facebook. Up until a couple of days ago I remained sympathetic but uncommitted to this verdict because people are dying all the time, it's just that this year they were mostly people we'd all heard of. Then on Saturday the 17th of December I discovered that my friend Robert Dellar had died, which more or less settled it for me. He was fifty-two and had just had his birthday. A few days later, Sophia Pearsun wrote:

I have been speaking with the coroner and our family GP yesterday and today and it has been decided that there needs to be a post-mortem done to determine cause of Robert's death. Robert was anaemic, but other than that all other test results were within healthy ranges.

Robert had been feeling unwell with low energy since about May this year. This got worse around two months ago when Robert also started to be in pain when he lay down. This was sometimes helped by sitting up but occasionally Robert needed to stand to make the pain go away. Robert got very few hours sleep and not more than two to three hours at a time, usually far less. The exception to this was Thursday when he slept all night.

Last Wednesday, Robert had another blood test and it showed that his haemoglobin levels had started to fall again. Robert was told to go to hospital to get a transfusion. On Friday, his fifty-second birthday, we went to the hospital with a letter from our GP. Robert's blood was tested again. Blood oxygen levels were normal. Haemoglobin levels had also risen since Wednesday which resulted in Robert not being eligible for a blood transfusion. Robert was pleased that he didn't need to stay in hospital. We went home and had tea and birthday cake. We spent a pleasant evening in reading, listening to music and watching telly.

When I got up on Saturday morning, Robert was awake and asked me to get him a cup of tea. I made him some, said goodbye and went out at around 10.15. When I got back at approximately 13.45, I opened the front door to find Robert dead on the hallway floor.

It turned out to have been a pulmonary embolism, apparently meaning it would have been quick and without pain. Robert and I were never close as such, but I'd known him a long time and we had collaborated on a cartoon strip called Raffy the Psychiatric Labrador. He was one of the gang therefore yes, 2016 can most certainly fucking fuck the fuck off so far as I'm concerned.

The death of Lemmy of both Motörhead and Hawkwind almost certainly came at the tail end of 2015 but somehow felt like part of the reaper's open season on top pop personalities which later claimed both David Bowie and Prince; but I'm writing from memory here. I've kept a diary going for the duration of 2016, but I can't be bothered to spend six hours going through it all, day by day, so I'm going to work on the assumption that I will have remembered the things which were worth remembering.

David Bowie's death somewhat knocked me sideways. I gave up on him back in 1980 when he decided he'd really just wanted to be Marty Robbins all along, but the internet coaxed me into buying Blackstar out of curiosity, and for the sheer thrill of buying a brand new vinyl album in a record shop. Amazingly it turned out to be a genuinely great vinyl album, which made me feel somewhat guilty at having ignored the man for most of the previous three decades; and then suddenly he was dead, and as stated it knocked me sideways, and specifically it knocked me sideways into the local head shop because it's the only place where I can buy tobacco which isn't completely disgusting. I only smoke when unusually stressed, an indulgence I allow myself mainly because I now seem to be able to give up once I've reached the end of the packet, and I suffer no further cravings. There was almost certainly more to my being stressed than the death of David Bowie, but whatever else was going on I can't remember, so it was probably something to do with Junior's continued aversion to flushing the toilet.

I gave up smoking yet again and then Prince died, which was sad but which concerned me less, and at least didn't drive me back to the snouts. The radio filled with glowing tributes omitting the fact of his work having been mostly unlistenable since Sign o' the Times. My wife and I watched Purple Rain in tribute but it wasn't very good.

My next ciggies as therapy session was inspired by the election of the Annoying Orange. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised what with the way the world has been going. They want to make America great again. Personally I'd rather make America Mexico again, but apparently that's just me.

The United Kingdom had just about voted to leave the European Union way back in March or April or whenever it was, signalling a general return of civilisation to the political right. I had a few predictable arguments on facebook, and one unpredictable one with Harley Richardson who kept on repeating that the English people have spoken, which was also what my dad said and sounded nothing like the headline of a crowd pleasing newspaper which tells you what you want to hear. Apparently the notion that people had voted as they did due to an increasing hatred of those Islams coming over here and claiming our benefits was a tissue of lies forged by the leftie media owned by that notorious Marxist Rupert Murdoch and his Stalin-loving paymasters back in the Kremlin. Harley explained this to me very carefully, or he explained something to me very carefully, but not having attended a grammar school I was unfortunately too stupid to understand. Harley also weighed in on the climate debate, opining something along the lines of how we just don't know because there's no evidence, but sadly I was once again simply too stupid to understand.

Oh well.

Then it happened again in America. Just an hour ago I heard some bloke on the radio explaining how our President-elect had once eliminated contestants on his game show, The Apprentice, on a weekly basis; and when eliminating those contestants, he'd always consulted his two assistants to see what they thought about who he was about to stuff down the business end of his giant allegorical cannon; and a couple of times he'd consulted his own children, that week serving in an advisory capacity on the aforementioned game show, presumably taking a break from the entirely legal destruction of wildlife.

So that was a weight off my mind.

I suppose France will be next to fall to the forces of common sense, and we'll find that the French people have spoken, and soon the whole world will be great again, just like it was in the nineteen-fucking-thirties.

I read sixty-six books this year, although a few of them were comic books. I'm not sure which I liked best. The weirdest one would almost certainly have been something by Robert Moore Williams, who was churning them out up until the mid-seventies but whom I'd never even heard of until this year. The worst would have to be a toss-up between the Disney's Alice Through the Looking Glass novelisation and Simon Messingham's The Indestructible Man. In other media, I also discovered the wonderful music of Young Fathers and Ricardo Villalobos - although to be fair the Ricardo Villalobos album turns out to be over ten years old - and there was a new Pixies album, which was jolly nice. We saw both Lewis Black and Henry Rollins performing live, but not together obviously. I didn't watch much telly, but The Path was pretty great, and my wife and I discovered Jersey Shore. I think I may have watched an episode of Doctor Who with Peter Bacardi but I'm not sure which one it was. It was better than I expected, although on the other hand, whenever I hear something by Coldplay it usually turns out to be better than I expected.

I painted book covers for an Esperanto translation of Clifford Simak's Way Station, a couple of Faction Paradox novels, and something by Simon Bucher-Jones - although that may have been at the end of last year. I drew a couple of episodes of Raffy the Psychiatric Labrador for Robert Dellar's Southwark Mental Health News, and I wrote a fucking ton, some of which may have emerged in published form here and there, although apparently I'm not very good at keeping track of that sort of thing.

This was also the year in which I first entered a synagogue, and Bess and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary, and I renewed contact with Rob Colson and Jeremy Diston - both old friends to whom I had not spoken in a while. I was on the local television news talking about sewerage, and the doctor said I was too fat so I lost some weight. I tried eating boring food but it didn't make the slightest bit of difference, so I added five miles to my daily bike ride and that seemed to do the trick. Bess's car blew up so she bought a new one, and we acquired a new kitten. He's called Jello and he is the same colour as our incoming president - but obviously nicer, which brings us up to eight in total, not counting the strays I feed.

We bought our house.

Dee Dee and her family over the road moved out when her landlord sold the place, which was a shame, but I still see Angela on the tills at HEB and they seem to have settled in fine at their new place.

Also, I found out that the farm on which I lived in rural Warwickshire for the first eleven years of my life is the farm on which Teletubbies was filmed. The Teletubbies set was in the corner of a field in which I use to roam as a kid.

There was probably some other stuff which happened in 2016, but I'm sure that's enough to be going on with.

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