26. Be Fucking Nice

Lately Freddie has been so keen to welcome in the day he’s decided that 4am is a reasonable hour to do so, which seems pretty unreasonable to me. 4am is officially the middle of the night; lights out, deep dreams, silent streets, dead to the world territory. It certainly isn’t the optimum hour to begin the day, not even with a rendition of Heads Shoulders Knees and Toes. But Freddie doesn’t know this.

After beginning my day in the middle of night, I was a little blurry eyed on the way to work. Blurry because I was tired and because my morning had been fairly eventful in the five hours I’d been reticently awake. In those precious pre-dawning hours I’d already thrown up into a miniature whistle*, survived a flash flood** and showered twice in a sick storm***. It is fair to say my morning hadn’t started all that seamlessly.

So when confronted with unyielding traffic that stood between me and my bus to work, I was somewhat affronted by the cyclist who took offence to my position on the pavement, shouting ‘stupid idiot’ at me as she whizzed passed. And as I watched my bus pull away without me, my mind was still with the cyclist who’d shouted at a stranger at the side of the road – a stranger who’d been up since 4am, who had thrown up into a miniature whistle, who had fought a flood and showered in sick. A stranger who would never shout at a stranger for standing at the side of the road. And I thought ‘why can’t everyone just be nice?’ It’s really not that hard.

Be nice. Don’t huff behind someone whose contactless card is feeling frigid at the barrier. Huffing won’t help their card work any faster. Just be nice. Lend a pen, leave your change, open the door; wouldn’t that be nice? For goodness sake, give up your seat to the pregnant lady. Give up your seat to the boy with too many bags, or the red-faced woman with two children slipping from her hips, or someone who looks like they’re carrying the weight of the day on their shoulders and might just need that seat more than you. Be nice. When you walk past a homeless person don’t pretend you can’t see them. That’s not nice. Don’t blow smoke in my baby’s face at the bus stop. Be fucking nice. If someone falls, help them up. If the door closes, open it. Don’t gossip, say sorry; that’s nice. Say thank you (even if you don’t mean it) and say please because it’s just nice to be nice. Let them out, let that go, save a slice; be nice. Be fucking nice!

I appreciate that nice isn’t all that exciting. It’s not anarchic or passionate. It’s not sex on the beach, or screaming at the ref or drinking jaeger bombs from a bucket. Nice sits neatly on the white fence in middle of the road in Sussex. It’s a biscuit with your tea and flowers on reception. It’s ‘excuse me’ and ‘after you’ and seven kinds of ‘thank you’. But nice isn’t just agreeable, it’s essential. It’s essential to the life-blood of society that differentiates us from the rats in the race, grappling to survive in a world without compassion, empathy or understanding.

We are all guilty of focusing on our own feet, keeping our heads down in an effort to make our way through the day without disruption. Life is challenging enough without being tasked with sustaining societies good vibes; but surely we can all take responsibility for playing our own small part? A smile takes but a second. A pleasantry in passing can make a day. ‘Thank you’ might make it all feel worthwhile. Shouldn’t we all want to treat everyone like we’d want to be treated, no matter how insignificant your meeting.

Give it a go. Try it out for size. You might find your niceties are infectious and breed like a flu for the fair hearted. And whatever you do, please don’t shout at strangers on the side of the street, because they might have just thrown up into a miniature whistle. Think before you holler and BE FUCKING NICE!****

 

* Fred has a tendency to launch himself from his changing mat, so to distract him from such audacious actions I Iike to entertain my reclining prince with a miniature whistle. On this particular morning, his nappy was powerfully potent and I learned that throwing up into a miniature whistle makes for an underwhelming tune.

** The dishwasher broke and emptied 320 gallons onto the kitchen floor. I learned that I don’t own enough towels for such a situation.

*** I learned that when all your towels are on the floor mopping up the contents of the dishwasher and sick from a miniature whistle, you need an emergency back up drying solution when your son can’t stomach his third breakfast. (Socks aren’t a very good emergency back up drying solution.)

**** If you don’t think it’s nice to swear, I apologise – so don’t be fucking nice, just be nice. Thanks.

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Fred says, ‘BE NICE!’

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12. Miles Davis and the Mexicans

My weekend began with a text to Saint Luke; ‘I’m 79% sure I’m having a heart attack’. I wasn’t, a chainsaw had just taken residence in my chest. I crawled into bed and was surprised when a family of Mexican neighbours arrived to wish me well. I was grateful that they’d come, all eight of them, but as they sat awkwardly on my bed I felt terribly self-conscious and the small talk was dwindling. I shouted to Saint Luke for back up, concerned that no one had offered these poor Mexicans a drink! But he wasn’t there and neither were the Mexicans, so I fell back into a fevered sleep.

Saint Luke mused on the ‘best-laid plans’ for our weekend that were promptly cast aside, whilst I wrestled with the aches in my body, the chainsaw in my chest and the Mexicans on my bed. My dad gently suggested, ‘perhaps you’ve overdone it this week?’ If overdoing it means racking up copious lines of kale and raving (reading) until 8pm, then YES I’d overdone it. ¡Ándale! ¡Ándale! ¡Arriba! ¡Arriba! Somebody stop me!

And so it came to pass that I should learn another solemn lesson; I simply can’t make plans, no matter how modest, not even best-laid ones. I spent Saturday sulking in bed, wondering if there’s anything more pathetic than crying over a lost trip to the supermarket. I used to be fun. I used to be a contender! The most frustrating thing is not being able to predict when I’ll be visited by Lucian Lupus, or Mexicans, because there seems to be no warning, not even a courtesy call. How rude!*

Last week I was thrilled to have accomplished five days of work with relatively manageable pain, as long as I kept my inner tempo tuned to soft jazz. This is no easy feat for a girl who opposes the sedentary beat she has to keep**. You see, because I’m upbeat and excitable by nature, I often forget myself at work when we win a new job, or someone tells a hilarious joke or reveals a most wonderful sandwich, only for my body to be thrown back down by a chainsaw. My natural and forced rhythms are constantly at odds; it’s like an experimental jazz battle in there (with brief interludes from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.) So perhaps I should have predicted the fall out at the end of last week, which left me surrounded by Mexicans and in a lot of pain, just like Miles Davis***. And maybe my dad was right (he tends to be) and I did too much. And maybe I brought it on myself. Damn that natural funky rhythm of mine!

But where does that leave me? I don’t want to slow down the up-tempo beat that makes me, me. I don’t want to walk instead of run, smirk instead of smile, titter instead of laugh with my head thrown back. I don’t want to dampen my spark any more than I’ve already had to, because I’m in danger of fizzling out entirely. I can barely recognise myself beneath all the cotton wool, and I’m finding it hard to breath.

Before my laboured beat makes me feel downbeat, I must remember that this departure from myself is Only Temporary. Lupus Troopers, when the music changes, so must the dance my friends. Hang up your sequined trousers, but don’t abandon the idea of ever wearing them again. Leave your best-laid plans at the door and collect them on the way out of this mess. Sit back, relax, turn your electric blanket up to 11, and tune in to soft jazz. Lay down that boogie and play that funky music, until your pills kick in. (And please don’t stress if you’re unexpectedly visited by Mexicans; perhaps they’re listening to the music too).

***

* I’m not suggesting all Mexicans are rude – just hallucinated ones.    

 ** This sentence is also a poem. You’re welcome.        

*** Replace ‘Mexicans’ with ‘New Yorkers’ and ‘pain’ with ‘trumpets’. Now that’s Miles Davis.

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In days of yore, when the sparkly trousers were in action.

11. Let’s all do a medical limbo!

I had an audience with The Supreme Super Doc this week to see if the magic beans he’d prescribed have found their groove. His review was mixed – the groove not altogether groovy. Some great things are happening (applause, whoop) and some bad things are happening (boo, hiss). So I have found myself in a medical limbo, which must not be confused with ‘doing’ a medical limbo, involving bending backwards below conjoined stethoscopes (applause, whoop). On the contrary, I’m ‘in’ a medical limbo, which is rather like sitting in a metaphorical waiting room with no magazines. And in this no-mans land, I can’t beat my chest on bended knee and cry ‘why me?’ I can’t light a slim cigar and huskily sigh ‘je ne regrette rien’. Nor can I spin around on a mountaintop, singing ‘the hills are alive…’

I don’t get to partake in any of the above activities because I can’t be happy, or sad, or Edith Piaf. Instead, I must wait for another FIVE WEEKS, wondering if the drugs are working or if I’ll have to move onto more fearsome drugs. For another FIVE weeks, I’ll be contemplating what my body’s game plan is. Kidneys – are you looking lively? Heart beat – keeping up? Chest tissue – stop being so weedy, your teammates need you now! Isn’t it boring to have become so self-obsessed. I’m quite literally gazing at my own navel, wondering if Lucian Lupus is about to take hold of that too.

I don’t want to be that girl, obsessing over a wannabe Harry Potter villain stealing her tummy button**. She’s the last person you’d want to hang out with at a party! I have to remind myself that the magic beans will work, or won’t work, regardless of the amount of time I spend thinking about them. I have to fill my time with wonderful things I CAN do, instead of dwelling on all the things I can’t. Fun doesn’t have to mean Sauvignon Blanc, skipping and The Macarena at 4am… does it?

The Supreme Super Doc gently advised me to be patient, (apparently he had pre-warned me that this journey would be long, but obviously I hadn’t been listening because my head was busy planning my ‘I’m totally better’ party). So now I’ve got to ‘practice patience’. Gosh. I’ve never been any good at that. I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that patience is exclusively for people who have time to be patient. Take Buddhist monks for example– they’ve literally got nothing on – no TV series to catch up on, no drinks parties to go to. Their diaries are empty, it’s no wonder they’re so Zen! Perhaps they’ve learnt to practice patience waiting for party invites to turn up? Poor monks. Regardless of my devout impatience, I’ve taken a solemn vow to abstain from parties and commit to kale. I will embrace early nights and green food. I will remove myself from fun scenarios because I simply can’t keep up with them. For now. I will press pause.

So to the Lupus Troopers out there; learn to be patient patients my friends because fighting it won’t speed your recovery. Try not to remove all joy and replace it with navel gazing, because let’s face it they’re not all that exciting to watch. Enjoy the space your medical limbo has offered you. Focus on all that’s great. Take stock. Reflect. Laugh at this nonsense. And rehearse your rendition of ‘the hills are alive….’ Hare Krishna. (Applause, whoop.)

 

**As weird as that sentence is, it’ll make absolute sense if you’ve read a previous blog post. If it doesn’t make sense then you only have yourself to blame. Now, you’ve got a backlog of posts to catch up on dear! Quick sharp. Look lively! 

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Check me out with my green juice! Beat that buddha!

1. Welcome to ‘Lush to Lupus’, this is just the beginning…

I work in the best area of London when the summer sun begins to shine. In a celebratory mood, Soho is awash with Aperol Spritz as long lunches turn into long cocktails until long after the sun goes down. Thankfully I work in an industry populated by creative mischief-makers and my incredible job has allowed me the opportunity to court fun like 007 courts danger. So when a peculiar chest pain crept up on me this August, I was more concerned about the opening of the new Soho House, rather than my health. In fact, my heath was so far down my list of priorities and lost within my thoughts, I could barely see it; I imagine it looked a bit like this inside my head… ‘I wonder how much it would cost to build a vineyard in Puglia? Do you build vineyards or grow them? I’d love a puppy. How long does it take to grow the vines and is £2082 savings enough to buy them? My chest hurts, I’ll just Google ‘vineyards for sale’. There’s a Zara sale! I know nothing about vineyards so I should probably quash the dream of owning one. I want to launch a new short film festival. I’d just drink all the wine before I have the chance to sell it so a vineyard is a terrible idea. How about a bed and breakfast in Cornwall?’

As a healthy 30 year old (ok ok, 34 year old) I have garnered the nickname Leonie Lush for my crafty ability to find the fun in any occasion. ‘We just won a new client, let’s go for a DRINK! I LOVE Taylor Swift’s new song, let’s find somewhere to DANCE to it! It’s TUESDAY and I’ve got a voucher for PIZZA EXPRESS! It’s TUESDAY!’ Etc. So when that niggling chest pain kept interrupting my fun, I reluctantly decided to go to the doctors. But because I’m normally a picture of health (minus the hangovers and subsequent Domino’s Pizzas), I didn’t have a doctor, so I had to borrow my parents’. I popped on the train to Guildford and was greeted by my dad who was waiting with the anticipation of a Labrador whose owners had tied him to a lamppost and gone travelling round Europe. Dad wagged his (invisible) tail and we merrily drove to the doctor to get some antibiotics for my ‘chest infection.’ In the car he warned me that ‘Doctor Englesfield doesn’t like it when you tell him what’s wrong with you, you have to let him think he thought of it first.

So with that in mind, I told the ‘know-it-all’ doctor that my chest hurt, a lot. At first it just hurt after the gym, then it hurt when I ran for a bus, then it hurt when I walked up the stairs, then it hurt when I walked, then it just hurt all.the.time. and it had been getting progressively worse over the past three weeks. The doc said it wasn’t a chest infection after all (fancy that!) He prescribed me some non steroidal anti-inflammatories for Costochondritis (which is inflammation of the cartilage between the ribs, possibly caused by a virus.) I happily picked up my prescription, and my dad drove me home where my mum had just popped a bottle of Prosecco in celebration of my return. Cheers!

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Three glasses… one for Lizzie, Lenny and Leonie Lush.