The Night They Said I Might Die
Live fast, die young, leave a beautiful corpse.
Well I can’t quite do that anymore, but for a while on Monday night, it looked like I might be about to try.
The backstory is that I am Bipolar – you didn’t think these dark old dirges came out of nowhere did you? – and am prescribed lithium, the ancient cure. Nobody is quite sure what it does, apart from making batteries that catch fire on aircraft. It has a very narrow band of effectiveness. Too little does nothing, too much kills you.
I like to think of it as the Rolls Royce of drugs, and was perversely pleased when the psychiatrist said it was the last thing left to try… I’m a poet dontcha know! I’ve been taking it for five years now, having spent the rest of the century on synthetic medications. Lithium was good, and far from tranquilizing me, it woke me up – like Heineken – it reached the parts other pills couldn’t reach.
I began to paint, write more, and I gave up wondering about the body-bearing strength of all branches and household fixtures. Every couple of months, I go to the Royal Free for a blood test, to make sure my lithium levels are within the correct band, and until now, they have been.
Towards the end of last year, the depression came back. I know when they’re coming – Paul Simon gets it right with the opening line of Sound of Silence. I know when I’m about to go up as well, which is really exciting, although perhaps not for those around me, who know they are about to get roped in to my latest bipolar scheme… have I ever played you my country and western album, my Krays musical, or shown you my etchings?
Lithium doesn’t stop the mood swings, but keeps them within a narrower band. However, the new black dog was much more pronounced than usual, so I sought treatment before it got out of hand. My lithium dose was upped, and I felt a little better.
This would have been fine had I not taken the reckless decision to get healthy. With a gig on the horizon, a dash of vanity, and post-Christmas good intentions, a lethal cocktail was accidentally concocted. I stopped drinking, began eating well, rice and apples mainly, and dragged an exercise bike back from the charity shop. The weight was dropping off, the guitar practice was going well – I even soaked my fingers in surgical spirit every night to toughen them up, and all looked bright for the 24th Feb, The Waiting Room, N19… plug!!!
On Monday afternoon, I waltzed into the blood room at The Royal Free and rolled up my sleeve. I knew what they were going to find – a healthy man, finely tuned, and much younger than his years – Oh yes.
Later, when the phone rang at 7pm I didn’t answer, expecting the usual cold calling enemy of humanity. Also, I was watching Heartbeat on catch up. The message was from The Out of Hours Medical Service. It told me to get back to The Royal Free at once, this was an emergency, and that a doctor was on the way to my flat. If I felt ill, I was to call an ambulance immediately – it looked like I’d failed the test. I believe he also mentioned that my kidneys were about to pack up.
At first, I wondered if this was a joke. Then I thought it was a major inconvenience, as Heartbeat was still on. Slowly, it occurred to me that this was quite serious, and rather more than a courtesy call. I played the message to my girlfriend, Marie, and told her I’d probably be needing one of her kidneys… she agreed at once.
We puzzled over the information, both calm, but she grasped the seriousness of it better than I did. I called 111, and immediately got through to somebody who knew who I was – this was getting bizarre now, like the scene in Harry Potter where letters start coming through the fireplace. The operator called me by my first name, told me to keep calm, and said that a doctor was on the way. She ended the conversation with a hearty ‘Well, good Luck.’
Now, many of my songs are concerned with death. Most of them, in fact. I have been rehearsing them, intending to play them at my forthcoming gig, but I hadn’t expected a practical tutorial from The Grim Reaper himself. I notice my joke about dialysis machines hasn’t gone down well with Marie, she is very quiet, and it occurs to me that she is worried, and possibly even upset. I serenade her with a verse of Dr Death
The doorbell goes… actually it’s a knock, because there’s no batteries in the bell.
A witch is on the doorstep, a beautiful, glamorous witch, all in black, with long glossy hair, and piercing eyes. Marie lets her in and holds the door open for the man with her.
“That’s just my driver, he’s not coming in.”
Whatever’s happened tonight has opened the door to another world. Big Brother most definitely is watching you. These are the Interzone agents of William Burroughs, secret, but always there.
She attaches a clip to my finger, asks me questions, then admits she has no idea why she’s there. She calls the surgery, then looks a bit more serious. My lithium and potassium levels are through the roof, and I have to go to A & E at once. I say that I am sure tomorrow would be fine. Don’t forget, I had to fast for this blood test, so had eaten no more than a bowl of muesli in the past twenty-four hours, which, even with my diet, is pushing it. I tell her I feel fine. Actually I don’t, but hadn’t made the connection yet.
“What’s the worse that could happen… I don’t want to go tonight.“
She tells me that I may well die tonight if I don’t get immediate help. She mentions the dreaded Heart Attack, and I suddenly feel like I’ve got one coming on. She takes my blood pressure. It’s frighteningly high. We discuss any other tell-tale signs of renal failure I may be experiencing. Tremors? I can hardly hold a glass. Rashes? Scratch this for me please. Thirst? Excessive urination? All of the above. Bad temper? Marie answers for me.
So, this fifty two year old monument to athleticism, eternal youth, and poetic beauty, is about to head off to Paradise by way of Golders Green? Disappointing.
My Uber up the big hill is a sombre affair. Through the sodium lit Hampstead streets, Marie and I hold hands – she’s packed my pyjamas. It does seem possible that I am being driven to the place I will die, and that my time is short. Without irony, I tell Marie that I love her, apologise for being an arsehole. I told her how to break it to my mother – straight, nothing spared. To please still go to Venice for her eightieth birthday. To watch out for my daughter and – in a magnanimous gesture, slightly more meaningful if I’d actually had some hits – share my royalties for life.
The bloody cab goes the wrong way, so we get out and I walk to the gallows. I am feeling pretty ill by now.
We get stopped on the door of A & E by the local idiot asking for change. I tell him we don’t have time because I’m having a heart attack. I like this line, it has impact. In the lift down to A & E, I catch my reflection. I am grey. This is where it gets serious.
As we check in, a frightened woman whose husband is arriving by ambulance pleads to go in front of us. We let her. She just needs directions, and doesn’t take long. As we give our details, a man tries to interrupt us for a glass of water.
“No, you can’t, I’m having a heart-attack.”
The entire waiting room is watching now… problem is, I think I am actually having one. I am getting light-headed, and can feel coldness in my chest, like swimming out of shallow water and catching a cold current. I think I’m about to lose consciousness and die. I feel sorry for the aforementioned frightened woman, because she is looking at me now with great concern as I slip down in my chair, and I hope she is not embarrassed for going first. How was she to know?
I am feeling very strange now, is it happening?
I don’t want to die staring at a plastic clock. Then I think of my poem – I’ve already foretold this.
It calms me down, I am where I am meant to be. My ashes will be scattered by the viaduct, the ladies will weep, but not for long…there are some minor instructions, but perhaps not for here. I would require some solemnity at my funeral though, all this wearing bright colours is appalling. ‘In life he was a miserable bastard, in death so shall he remain’.
Poor Marie must be terrified, I want her to hold my hand, but she has to check us in. She’s bloody good in a crisis, it has to be said.
Over the course of the evening, I am seen by three doctors. The first assesses me. I assess him as a fan of rockabilly music, the Labour Party, Arsenal Football Club, Penguin Classics, and John Hegley. The second, who was also the receptionist, due to understaffing, takes my blood, and gives me an ECG. He looks like Richard Hawley, and is also extremely nice. He can’t tell me if I’ve just had a heart attack, but by now, I am beginning to think I’ll be watching Heartbeat tomorrow evening, as usual.
Finally, Dr Number Three, he’s got his hair tied back, and resembles Nijinsky, as Le Faun. He seems like he might break into dance at any moment, and complete this magic night. This guy is so enthusiastic he makes the whole evening worthwhile. Forget Stockholm Syndrome, I’d like to buy this man a drink.
My blood levels are all back where they should be – better in fact, so the health regime has worked, in most respects. My heart attack was almost certainly psychosomatic, caused by being told I was just about to have one. I felt some unusual sensations, while expecting to snuff it… like stage hypnosis.
So, what caused the death level lithium debacle? Giving up booze, that’s what. My previous regime contained some alcohol – I’m not saying how much, but the last time we took the pledge, the Off License went bust. No meat, no alcohol, exercise, a virtuous existence meant that the lithium had no predators, so became super strength, like those powders from South America so popular with people in advertising, when they’re uncut. Not only had I upped the dose, I gave it clear passage. Had I not had the luck to get my blood tested on Monday, the time bomb would almost certainly have exploded within a day – and I wouldn’t be writing anymore of this rubbish.
Marie-Louise and I were at the Royal Free as Valentine’s Day began. Matters of the heart were very much on our minds. Life and death and love. We downed the bottle of tequila we’d been saving when we got in. It seemed like the right thing to do. To life!
Thanks to the 111ers, the incredible A & E doctors of The Royal Free, to Marie-Louise Plum for offering a kidney, and to The NHS.
Also, please come to The Waiting Room, N19 (nicely ironic) on the 24th February, where (if I live that long) I will sing songs of death, and a few about love. Click here for the event page.
The John Moore Bench
The John Moore bench that isn’t me
Whose middle name begins with E
Who must have come here just like me
And seen the things that I can see
On leaden afternoons
This John Moore who isn’t me
Whose middle name begins with E
Whose wooden bench now welcomes me
Did he die at The Royal Free
And is that fate awaiting me?
And was he once a blue-eyed child
A little shy, a little sad
Who never understood the world
And wouldn’t like it if he had?
And did he dream of towering seas
And jagged cliffs, and ancient trees
And did he die at The Royal Free
And is that fate awaiting me? We’ll see
But wrapped against despondent air
Did he gaze without despair
And wait until the evening lights came on?
Then did he stand, then did he leave
Turning from The Royal Free
Knowing that the magic hour had gone?
I’m beaten down by life, ground into the pavement by its dirty heel, until all that’s left are innards and skin. Perhaps I protest too much, but you’d think that the acquisition of a new pair of swimming trunks wouldn’t be such a fucker.
As we know, it is almost the season of hot, lazy days, spent frolicking by Hampstead ponds, or perhaps even in the sea. Never a keen swimmer in my youth, I have, throughout my older years, begun to enjoy it more – especially now that I’ve resumed my disastrous smoking habit, and shed a few pounds.
However, an investigation of my swimwear showed it to be well past its best, very near its dangerous worst in fact. I had no idea that swimwear loses its elasticity over time, or becomes transparent. Thank god I tried them on in the modesty of my own home, before strutting across the heath, and straight into Highbury Magistrates court.
I hoped at first, that with some simple seamstressing, my lovely old Hugo Boss’s could be salvaged – pretty sure when I was at school, boys wore trunks their mothers had re-elasticated. We gave this a go, but they looked like balloons – or a swimming nappy – hardly the debonair image I was going for. Giving up on the salvage job, I decided to see what was available online – surely there would be a fine selection? Wrong – unless you want a mankini, a thong, or stars and stripes shorts that reach your knees – the choice was woeful.
At last, the idea of vintage retro trunks hit me, and I found a pair on ebay, proper dad trunks from the Co-op. Without reading too much about them – such as they had already been worn – I placed the order. Had they been advertised on a specialist site they may have fetched a good deal more than twelve pounds. The urine soaked rags that arrived, were an affront to human decency…and they were too small. Reader, I sent them back.
The contingency plan involved a new stripy number from Turkey, with indecipherable sizing – they could be budgie smugglers, or the entire aviary. I hoped for the best, and bought with one click. The bastards arrived today, and have now been passed on to the Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP to use as a hammock. Fortunately, the weather is not yet up to outdoor swimming, so there is still time, but at this rate, Highbury Magistrates court seems a distinct possibility.
John Moore 05.05.15
Have you ever heard ladies laugh, I mean really dirty laugh, a conspiratorial titter that erupts like a wave of mirth, then engulfs an entire room? Well, I have.
An utterly innocent remark I made during an Orange-themed dinner party last Saturday, with four of my closest lady friends, may have caused structural damage to the Bloomsbury area. While regaling them with tales of my lustrous – and in no way thinning – silver locks, I mentioned what my barber (Mill Lane Barbers, NW6) had said to me on my last visit.
“ John, every time you come it gets thicker.”
I’m not sure where the first titter came from (I have my suspicions, SL). At first I thought it was a cross conversation – not being listened to wouldn’t be a first, especially as it was hardly my finest repartee – but in a moment all four orange goddesses were cackling with mirth like drunken sailors, tears rolling down their radiant faces, and their laughter grew and grew. I felt very left out. What had happened?
“ What’s the joke?” I asked.
“ Do you know what you just said?”
I didn’t, I couldn’t think of anything, I was just telling them about……
“Oh fuck!!!! Yes, I see. Shame on you, ladies!”
As the spirit of Sid James has channelled through their honeyed larynxes I am blushing so hard you could fry eggs on my face, especially when they repeat my words back to me with their own mocking inflections. Still, It’s certainly one way of breaking the ice at parties. I might even have it printed on a T-shirt.
The Orange evening was a magical triumph that I am massively privileged to have been a part of. No men to ruin the mix, with their macho bravado and bog brush beards (except yours truly, an honorary Orange County lady, the new Sir Les Patterson, with his barbershop quartet) but if I told you any more, I’d certainly have to kill you.
Ernie Pip 20.04.15
I am undergoing a domestic revolution, of sorts.
Now, this won’t be of interest to all of you, I am sure, but what I am about to tell you is important to me. The revelation I am about to impart is that for many years, I don’t believe my vacuum cleaner to have worked. I had always assumed that my carpets were beyond redemption, so when I occasionally pushed this clumsy great Dyson upright across their distressed threads and moth tundras, my expectations were excessively low.
I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it (perhaps in a bid not to break the hearts of those who fantasize of marrying me, I should keep my romantic status in the shadows, and remain a happy-go-lucky bachelor boy like the chap who drives the bus), however, I have recently formed an attachment, once again – not with a Dyson, I hasten to add, but with a lady – and we have set up shop together, so to speak.
One of the joyful by-products of domestic coupling, is that your partner might own better stuff than you – and this is what has happened. The apple of my eye, my beloved, owns a Henry Hoover, one of the red ones with the happy face on it, and now it is in our shared custody. I was naturally rather sceptical that anything could out-perform a Dyson; the triumph of good taste for middle-aged, design-obsessed, architectural book on the coffee table piling, Provence holidaying, one glass of Chablis quaffing, denim wearers, but when little Henry Hoover got sucking the dust, it was an epiphany. The ancient shroud of grit, skin flakes, fag ash and moth eggs I’d reluctantly called a carpet, lifted, to reveal… well, the carpet. The Dyson, given to me by my multi vacuum cleaner owning mother, was hastily dispatched to the street, with a note on it, assuring treasure hunters that it worked – and it was gone the next morning.
My love and I still have much work to do, pictures to hang – many of an unusual nature – and sadly, owing to the lateness of Henry Hoover’s intervention, we may yet decide to dispense with carpets all together. I saw the first moth of the season yesterday, along with an actual False Widow spider, who must have been disturbed due to some actual gardening. Hopefully, its sympathetic treatment will make us friends, favoured humans, not to be bitten and photographed for the Daily Mail, with our puss-oozing swellings on display.
The Labour Party, now gearing up rather well I think, are on to me, and have realised that I am not really called Syphilis. I am now the rather respectable Jonathan Goldenwinkle of West Hampstead.
Mother came to visit, and enjoyed the paintings, especially the new one. We had Shepherd’s Pie, which reminds me – I need to wash up.
Have a fine weekend – here’s to red wine, Windsor and Newton, love, and Henry Hoover.
John Moore 10.4.15
I have just received an election leaflet through the door from my local Labour party. Our candidate is called Tulip Siddiq, and the leaflet poses the stark choice: The Tories or Tulip? – and you can put it in your window. I know it’s her name, but it’s a bit of a twee slogan – who comes up with these things? Not very good PRs, that’s who. People that fancy themselves as communicators. I would happily display a Vote Labour sign, but I don’t live in bloody Toy Town. The Labour party already think my name is Syphilis Goldenwinkle – I filled in a survey to tell me how many of the electorate shared my name – apparently, in the whole of the Blighted Kingdom, there are less than six Syphilis Goldenwinkles registered to vote… shocking, isn’t it?
Each newsletter I receive from Mr Miliband, refers to me familiarly as Dear Syphilis… and goes on to tell me “We can do this together!” I’ve already got a peerage, well, of sorts… self-inflicted, so I’ve no need to worry about fucking up my chance of an honour. I had thought of offering my services to the party – they will certainly have my vote, but like most publicly minded, selfless, middle-aged navel gazers, I never quite got round to it. The last time I got seriously involved in an election was 1974, because my father was agent for the local liberal party. My best friend, Tim, (whose father was also in the party), and I would stuff envelopes, paste up posters, usually in places where fly-posting was forbidden, and throw eggs at the Conservative Party HQ. Halcyon days. If you click on this link to my Muddy Waters article in last Friday’s Guardian, you can read some more about it >> CLICK HERE!
Suffice to say, the Liberals came last, and the candidate – some time later – hanged himself.
NB. Just as I reread that line, the door burst open…and I’m the only one in the house – unless Walter, the upstairs cat has crept in.
I’ll tell you about Walter – this is a rambling blog, because the rather large oil painting I am trying to finish is surrounded by boxes, and is slightly inaccessible… and she needs to dry a bit… my beautiful girlfriend is moving in, you see. Anyway, Walter is the most incredible cat I have ever encountered. He is a Siamese/Burmese off-white feline symphony, and lives with the people upstairs. I live on the ground floor, and have large French windows – easy for him to go in and out. He made it very clear, early on, that although I was not his real father, I would make a splendid daytime surrogate. He comes in each morning, stays as long as he likes, yowls for GoCat, then goes home at night.
It’s an arrangement that suits both families. Whenever his real parents go away, he comes to live with me full time, which is great until eleven O’clock at night, when he gets adventurous. There is quite a lot that is fragile in my flat – guitars, ornaments, and a lot of crap – which he likes to investigate, He thinks my record shelves are a climbing wall, and that the piano keyboard is a dance floor. Most cats are terrified of pianos, but Walter would be happy if the keys lit up, like Saturday Night Fever. Slightly worried that his collar was gone this morning – did someone try to steal him perhaps? It’s more likely that he managed to get it off himself, but extra vigilance is called for.
I think this blog’s gone on long enough now – unless I mention the dreadful woman that lives upstairs – not Walter’s mother, but a vile creature, who throws cigarette butts out of the window…lots of them. I would go and speak to her, but worry my response would soon turn disproportionate. Considering collecting all the butts, then making a large piece of art with them – spelling out the word ‘Cunt’, right beneath her window. She’s pretty quiet though, so perhaps I should just sweep them up and be thankful that I haven’t got me living above.
That’s it for now, more soon, please buy my records, pledge for my book, hire me for extortionate amounts to play at your corporate function, vote Labour, be kind to one another, love cats, hate litter, get naked, drink wine.
John Moore 7.4.15
So here we go again, more dispatches from the front. Another hastily constructed, and barely edited, attempt to ‘raise awareness’ of the John Moore brand. We’ve had the decorators in. Marie-Louise Plum. I am, metaphorically speaking, standing on the pavement, with a sandwich board, ushering unsuspecting customers into my newly-furbished emporium of exotic and not so exotica, and if you are still reading this, I have succeeded. Come and have a look round, there’s plenty to see and read. It’s a culture hub, and I’m Boy John. The only thing we don’t have is an artisan bakery, and a mindfulness area.
The music link will take you to my Soundcloud page, where you can hear a selection of songs and albums. I will be adding to this as we go along. As well as my two recent albums, Lo-Fi Lullabies, and Floral Tributes, there is a genuine antique item up there, from the tight pants and hairspray era. I listened to it for the first time in years, yesterday, and almost had a stroke.
There are articles I have written for various publications, The Guardian, Select, as well as some rather smutty stories for The Erotic Review. Again, many more articles will follow. I do believe I have something cooking in The Grauniad, as we speak.
I will post a long excerpt from my novel Bad Light, for which I am currently seeking pledges to get published, along with a link to the Unbound Publishing Company. It’s currently at twenty-five percent of its target, so there is some way to go.
I paint, when the mood takes me, so there is a gallery of pictures to be viewed – not all are fit for the church art exhibition. There are several poems to read as well – should you have a mind to.
Lastly, there is a shop. At present, it’s a link to Cargo, my distributor, but over the course of the recent refurbishments, I have uncovered several ‘other’ items, which may be of interest to the serious collector.
So, that’s about it for now, I have a giant nude to finish. And the light is too good to waste. I’ll be more specific with my opinions on specific issues, in further missives, but here’s a general idea of how I stand: Whatever it is, I’m against it.
John Moore 2.4.15