Stokes

Two days after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s, I sat slumped on my sister’s sofa trying to take in the Champions League final. My team, Liverpool, (yes, I know), had, like their opponents, reached the final thanks to a miraculous semi final victory that, one that had left me an emotional blubbing wreck. Unlike last year, Liverpool were starting the game as favourites. And over the course of a tense 90 minute match I could not summon up any enthusiasm at all.  I was flat, depressed, guilty about spoiling my sister’s big evening, tetchy, and short-tempered. Yep I jumped up when the second goal went in, but the jump never felt spontaneous. When Jordan Henderson lifted the trophy, my main thought was “That’s nice”

A horrible thought crossed my mind. Am I destined to spend the rest of my life never again getting  over emotional about sport? That is my bloody brand ffs.

That’s when a man called Ben Stokes decided to stage a two-pronged recovery plan. Stage 1, his two match winning World Cup final innings were an extraordinary combination of skill and good fortune, that left me breathlessly muttering “I’ve just never seen anything like it” repeatedly, in the company of great friends and a fiance that doesn’t quite get sport, but patiently listens to me wang on about it. Yep, I felt desperately sorry for my New Zealand friends, but I was delighted to be excited again.

Then there was yesterday. A day’s cricket that managed to make the Greatest World Cup Final Ever seem like an ephemeral irrelevance in comparison. The Ashes were gone, English cricket was done, Stuart Broad defiantly and ridiculously insisted he had hit the ball that had him plumb lbw, Joe Root was pondering his increasingly depressing options. Ben Stokes realised that the only way to win was to repeatedly smash the ball out of the park. And Jack Leach realised that all he had to do was bat better than he had ever done in his career. And they bloody achieved the impossible. Yep they needed bad umpiring, bad captaincy and bad fielding. But they also needed superlative skill, Stokes showing a ferocity and determination that was truly awe-inspiring.

As the miracle was unfolding, I forgot my aches, pains, anxieties, weaknesses and limps and just got lost in my “happy place”. I was unconditionally excited. Ben Stokes was Saving my Summer for a second time.

A lot of people don’t get over emotional. It’s not for me. As I get used to this new life, I treasure the things that remind me that most of the time life is great. Love is a Bourgeois Construct by the Pet Shop Boys; Fleabag’s sister finally doing the right thing;Bacon and egg baguettes; Steve Cram’s commentary on Kelly Holmes’ first Olympic gold;The Chase contestant who gave Bradley a lecture on the lammergeier; Sporting miracles.

With the return of Steve Smith, there is every chance the Aussies will outclass a mostly misfiring England team. For now, I don’t care. Ben Stokes, for what you’ve done to help me on the road to emotional recovery, you’re a hero.

 

Two Months

It’s been eight weeks today since I evolved from Minor Celebrity Who Is Shit at Tasks, to Minor Celebrity with Parkinson’s.

The first thing to say is that going public was a massive weight off my shoulders. No pun intended. Looking back, it is quite clear that in the two weeks between first being diagnosed, and going public I had something of a shut down. Not least during the Champions League Final when Liverpool’s two goals had me struggling to get off the sofa to celebrate.

But things are different now. The overwhelming level of support from friends, strangers, family has been a massive emotional boost. Having a medical background means I have never been short of medic friends to guide me towards the right decisions. I had a mountain of comedy gigs and Chases to get through and it has been fine. And I’m delighted to say that my quiz results have been excellent.

I have also started writing routines about it all. It’s not necessarily easy to listen to, and it can be a bit brutal, but it’s my job as a comedian to be funny and honest, and I’m not about to stop trying now. It’s going very well so far.

As for the media, some outlets have been better than others at giving me some space. All have promised to deal with it with “tact and sensitivity” , yet some of them can’t even deal with my agent with “tact and sensitivity” As yet I have not dipped my toes, because I’ve been busy with work, but rest assured if your newspaper has a track record of demonising immigrants, demonising gay rights, or telling lies about Hillsborough, you’re not likely to get an interview. If your TV show lost its shit over a vegan sausage roll, I’m not convinced you’re ready to discuss a progressive neurodegenerative disease. Though my biggest disappointment was the Daily Star front page lead which used a photo of me from before I lost 2 1/2 stone. Brutal.

Although I reserve my right to be choosy, I’m comfortable for the public to follow my fight. I’d like to be an unofficial mascot for Living Your Life. With two elderly parents, and a severely autistic nephew, I’m only the fourth most unwell member of my immediate family. This helps prevent me descending into self pity, and perhaps more importantly self pity won’t help my health.

Happiness helps my health. And for me that is drinking and dining, the company of friends, family and engaging strangers, and striving to be as good as possible at my two beloved jobs. Comedy and Quizzing. As long as the rest of my life is mostly that, then quite frankly Parkinson’s can go f**k itself.

Live your life.