Once, Twice, Three times a Daddy

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At the end of May our house will be five strong as we are expecting our third child – and no it’s not a mistake before anyone pipes up! We decided earlier this year that we’d try for another one but we didn’t think that it would happen as quickly as it did. All four of us are excited to meet the new addition next year. It was always Jill’s decision to make as it is her who has to go through the physical strains involved and she decided that she wanted another. I would have been happy whatever the decision as we have two great, if slightly unhinged, kids already but a third will be just as welcome.

Looking back to 2005 when I was diagnosed with Cancer I thought there was a chance that kids would never really feature in our lives – well not naturally anyway. Adoption or IVF were the possible options had we had a different outcome or treatment. We would have had to consider freezing sperm or forgetting about kids for a few years had I undergone Radio or Chemotherapy, but the Consultant decided because I’d been quick to go to the doctor and get the orchidectomy to remove the cancerous ball that it would be better to keep me under close supervision for the first couple of years instead.

I was in the hospital every month for the first two years. Full body scans, X-rays, bloods and physicals were all part of my life in the initial 24 months – because of that we were able to have Jake in 2007 and Jenna three years later. I still remember being left on my own with Jake and realising just how lucky I was to be in this position – me and my boy were both alive and healthy and it had seemed so far away just a couple of years earlier. Now we stand on the brink of number three and I still feel the same. Even when the kids drive me round the bend or use me as a climbing frame I am always aware of the good fortune we have had.

Most of all I am pleased for Jill because she is a brilliant mother. She will ensure that JD mark 5 will get all the love and attention it deserves and more – I am in awe of her patience and ability with our kids. Well it’s just as well one of us is capable of it. Neither of us has any preference whether it’s a boy or a girl as long as it’s healthy – mind you the kids have their opinions with each wanting another of themselves so the numbers overall are in their favour! Also I’m sure everyone will try to second guess names with us since are all JDs, but you never know we might surprise you….

JD

 

The loneliness of the long distance blogger

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It’s a strange feeling to be so isolated when you are surrounded by others – it’s something you never come to terms with in depression. I know I’m surrounded with great friends and family but I can have a sense of being removed from it that makes me socially awkward and scared of such occasions. This isn’t a blog to ask for kind words; to see this as a cry for help or a rally to friends to come and hug me is missing the point – it’s not a needy Facebook comment phishing for compliments – it’s just a fact of my life, nothing more. So much of my time is spent on my own regardless who else is in the room with me. It echoes the idea from many philosophers that only you exist and the world around you is a creation of your own mind. In that case I’m really fucked.

For most of my life I’ve felt like an outsider, a loner who moves through social groups but doesn’t really settle in one. I have great friends but I am aware of my awkwardness around them and how I end up making them feel unsettled at times too. It takes those with a lot of patience to be a friend to me because I’m not the easiest to be around between the jokes that go too far and the silences that punctuate conversations. And the most unusual thing about the loneliness is it becomes worse the bigger the crowd I’m in – it’s why I hate overcrowded supermarkets, don’t go to standing gigs and hate nightclubs. There’s a claustrophobia that is only solved by introversion.

Often throughout my life I have removed myself from groups to find clear space to be on my own in. Some used to think it was an attention seeing manoeuvre, but the opposite was true – being on my own actually stops that pit of loneliness being a problem. But the irony is clear to all that this puts me in a solitary position whichever situation I find myself in. It’s almost like you can hear yourself think and it calms you down. Whether on stage with the band or at the front a classroom I have space and distance from the crowd so that makes me comfortable, but step into it and I feel lost.

Most of the problem is in my head – obviously – but trying to help others understand depression means trying to explain the deep and aching loneliness that goes with it. The removal from society, friends and even those closest to you. Alcohol used to help at parties and nights out because it drowned out the thoughts and you started enjoying yourself, despite yourself. Now I am teetotal (due to the fact the tablets I’m on would be in direct opposition to the effects of the booze) I am more aware than ever of my socially inept self.

Inept is the wrong word but the negativity of depression makes you see the world in darker hues and flavours. You assume that the guilt or embarrassment you feel about situations is matched by those it involved and rarely is that the case – in fact very often they don’t even think about it. I’ve sent many an apologetic message in my time to cover stupid situations that stay with me long after the situation has been forgotten by everyone else.

Loneliness is a sad thing – real loneliness of those who live on their own must be crippling to the soul. I, on the other hand, almost have a false isolation, one I assume others who struggle with depression have – perhaps not. I can lose myself looking out a plane window, at the cinema, looking out at nature as if I’m the only person around and no-one around me even exists. If you understand that feeling then imagine that throughout your life in everyday situations. Pleasant enough but detrimental to relationships and friendships. I wonder if this is why many couples split up because of depression/mental illness? The inability for the other person to fit into the lonely world the depression creates. It is selfish more than anything else.

I’m lucky I’ve found one of the most patient people on the planet. Even when I’m isolating myself she holds on to me and reminds me that when I come back, I’m welcomed back to reality. Not all partners have that selflessness. I’m just glad she accepts the loneliness as part of me and doesn’t take it personally.  Just as well or I might find out what real loneliness is.

JD

Dear Steven Moffat

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How are you? We don’t know each other but I wanted to write you a wee note after watching the Finale of Series 8 of the rebooted Doctor Who last night.

Firstly I’m not here to have a go at you because I think you are a great writer and have enjoyed many shows you’ve written over the last twenty or so years – especially Coupling which was very funny. Within the eight series of Doctor Who you have written some of the stand out episodes with Blink, Girl in the Fireplace, The Empty Child and Silence in the Library being amongst my favourites. Great monsters, great pace and storytelling and most of all great Doctor Who episodes.

But – and we knew it was coming – the overall running of the show is not your forte. Matt Smith was never going to have it easy following David Tennant but he did an okay job, where he and now Peter Capaldi have been let down is in the story arcs that have run through each of the seasons.

Series 5 – Doctor, Rory & Amy and the Pandorica: Here was a someone who had an idea but couldn’t make it work in 45/60 minutes but went ahead anyway. We have a dead boyfriend who has survived for 2000 years but hasn’t aged but is still human. Through the whole run he was dead, then alive, then dead again. Was this South Park or Doctor Who? You struggled to empathise with Amy as a character and that for me is key to a successful series like this. It’s unfair to compare your time with RTD’s but if you consider Rose, Martha and Donna they were all characters you cared for; Amy never really reaches that because she was too bolshy and spiky a companion.

Series 6 – Doctor, Rory, Amy & River Song: Again this was trying to tie everything together as if you were Agatha Christie with a genius whodunnit, but fell short. Short is an important word because you were trying to get the serial feel of the old series back but only had 45 minute episodes to pull off a narrative that would have been better served as a two parter covering 90 minutes – the same as a three-part serial of the original show. You seemed to ignore the idea of two-part episodes for most of your tenure which is a great shame as the cliffhanger endings were great. This series we saw the Doctor die in the first episode and then spent the rest of the series showing us how he cheated death.

Series 7 – Bye Rory & Amy and Hello Clara the Impossible Girl: I wasn’t sad to see A&R go although the last few stories they did were very good – mostly because they were stand alone wee TV movies. And just when we thought we were over the companion-centred narrative arc you throw in Clara who over the next series and a half repeats most of the Amy storyline. It’s a real shame as Jenna Coleman is very good and more likeable (despite you making her annoying at times with her sulking constantly).

Series 8 – Capaldi and Hope: A spiky, sarcastic but underneath it all big-hearted (both of them) Doctor who takes us in a new direction. But the writing and arcing is still the same. Boyfriend trouble, dead boyfriend, not dead boyfriend, is she pregnant? Don’t actually care I’m afraid. Capaldi is excellent but he is being woefully underused with Coleman front and centre too often. While the companions role is to link us the audience with the alien Doctor, we do need time to connect with him ourselves.

And then there’s the complete lack of subtlety. Missy is the Master – why? Could she not have been The Rani or Romana just to mix it up a bit. I thought it was too obvious to be the Master and dismissed it – so it wasn’t a twist unless you count a double bluff as one. “Dark Water” and “Death in Heaven” were as subtle as a breeze-block and cheery as genocide. I’m all for the show having darker moments and tackling big philosophical subjects but the dead rising, issues around cremation and leaving your body to science and the implications for the pain of those dead people is not a clever or suitable thing for a kids/family TV show on Saturday Night Primetime TV. I thought it was in bad taste. We’re left in the end with no real closure, no hope for either Clara or the Doctor and really only have empathy for the latter as he discovers Missy lied about the location of Gallifrey.

The point I’m trying to make is that maybe it’s time you stepped aside and let someone else take the reins. Please still write the occasional episode – I wish RTD would come back and write one once in a while – but give up the tired repetition and go and write another great comedy series. Please your depressing us – we need cheering up!

JD

Chemicals rushing in my bloodstream

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Six little tablets a day to make my brain approach a norm to live with. antidepressants, bi-polar meds and a sedative to help me sleep. Well it’s not been doing it’s job well of late. Last week I couldn’t sleep ad this week I can’t wake up. It’s strange but you are aware of them working on you – whether it’s a real feeling or just your imagination playing tricks on you I can’t tell – but you know there is a false reality you are living in.

When you are down you feel that there is a lifebelt around you to keep you afloat from the hidden depths – not always of course at times you do sink and you have to fight back yourself to get back to the surface. Those are the days you don’t want to wake up. You know that if you look at the clock by the bed you can’t justify still lying there so you keep your eyes closed and the world can’t get in. Silence would be welcomed as any and every noise becomes an invasion on your psyche. There is a sense of an unnatural lift from the tablets, not a bad feeling because you know you need it – just more a curiosity that takes you a long time to adjust to.

The highs are the same – think of a hot air balloon and the weights that stop it floating of into the stratosphere. You are pulling on the cord to release more of the flame but the chemicals try to anchor you to bring you closer to the ground. It’s a shame because the views from up there are wonderful, unending and freeing in comparison to the depths you have had. Either that or it’s like a false ceiling that you cannot get past – for your own good to be fair as many who struggle with Bi-polar disorder can be very damaging to themselves and those around them as their inhibitions dissipate.

How would I be without the meds and treatment? I don’t really know having been on the antidepressants now for four or five years I am used to them and I don’t find myself as low as I did before the prescriptions started. Yes I still experiences down days the same as everyone does and some do tip into the darker waters but they are less frequent and because of this they are more manageable than they used to be. The highs are more missed though – a year into taking the bi-polar tablets I do yearn for the complete abandonment of inhibition and the mundane. The flights of fancy are not as colourful and I’m restricted in my silliness – again whether that’s real or imagined I really can’t tell – I remember standing in classes bored and then going off on a tangent that was fun and dangerous and exciting. Haven’t had that urge for a while – moments of being daft but the same as I presume everyone else has.

Part of me misses the real JD with the giant mood swings and the extremes of the illnesses. I loved the wallowing as much as the creative madness – but life can’t be lived that way when you’re a working husband and father of two. There are responsibilities, deadlines and consequences. It’s second nature to swallow the tablets; I’m like Pavlov’s dog now when I rustle a blister pack my mouth waters so I don’t even need a rink to wash it down with.

I know I can’t go without them but that nagging voice at the back constantly asks to be freed again. You ask yourself the philosophical question – am I still the same person I was without the medication? There is no such thing as “normal” but we surely each have an “x-axis” and “y-axis” we live in. I could be on these tablets for the rest of my days – am I going to miss out on anything or am I avoiding a decline that could see the illness develop and take over more obviously?

The truth is I’ll never know.

JD

Hairspray!

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This week I was on Follow-spot duty at the Arts Centre for Harlequin’s performances of Hairspray and I can say without a shadow of a doubt it was a great success. Considering I’m not the biggest fan of musicals and the thought of seeing the same on six or seven times in a week did leave me wondering if this was a good idea. Thankfully it was.

John Robertson’s first time as the Director and he can walk away with his head held high on what the show achieved. The look and feel of the show was his vision and he used what is not the biggest stage to its capacity using rotating “toblerones” to aid scene changes. Combined with his daughter Lisa’s excellent choreography and Craig McDermott’s musical direction the show was slick and above the standard many would expect from an amateur company.

The star of the show in every sense was “Tracy Turnblad” played by Amanda Watt. Amanda is someone I was aware of – mostly because she’s my cousin’s girlfriend – but without any signs of nepotism, she stole the show and put on a flawless performance every single time. Many said it was the part she was born to play, but that doesn’t give her enough credit for the job she did. At no point watching her did you see the cogs turning, or the performance being “switched on”, it was a naturalistic and genuinely brilliant turn. Everyone was talking about her and my favourite moment came when she came to the top of the stairs during the bows and everyone in the auditorium got to their feet as one to celebrate her achievement.

My little Kate Monster, aka Sophie Boyne, aka Penny Pingleton was another great performance but for a different reason. Not in the limelight as often, but when she was she was a great comedic force on stage and the perfect foil for Amanda’s Tracy. Often during scenes I wasn’t required to point and light you would find yourself drawn to all the little bits of “business” and acting Sophie did in the background. She is just such a natural performer that it will be sad not to see her for the next wee while, but I wish her and Murray all the best for their upcoming wedding in the new year and the family that follows.

I could rattle through so much of the rest of the cast and praise the job they did – from principles to chorus it really was a team effort, but there’s only so much people would read. Special mention for the comedy duo of Edna and Wilbur (Stuart and Gavin) who kept the comedy levels up and Tehillah as “Seaweed” who blasted “Run and tell that” every night and deserved the ovation he received each night. The company gelled really well and that’s down to all the creative team’s work.

All I can say is thanks for letting me be just a small part in the show and can’t wait to see what Harlequin does next.

JD