For mum.

2 11 2013

Just for posterity, I thought I’d put this here. It’s what I wrote and read out at mum’s funeral last week…

The day mum passed away, I told her that she was the best mum I could have possibly had. She looked at me, smiled, and said ‘I know’.

The thing is, mum once told me, in all seriousness, that she just wasn’t a maternal person. I asked what she meant, and she replied, ‘Well, we only had you to see what you would look like’. ‘And what did you think?’ I asked. ‘Well. You have my ankles’.

So mum didn’t think she was maternal, but I have stacks of evidence to dispute that. She was adored not only by me, but by all of my cousins, who she looked after when they were little, and who she fastidiously kept in touch with as they grew up, even getting to know their partners and remembering birthdays of their children.

Even my friends think of her fondly as a woman who was funny, warm and friendly- she always knew exactly how to make someone feel at ease and welcome in our house, and unlike most teenagers, I was never ever embarrassed of my parents. In fact, I’m sure some of my school friends only visited our house so they could catch up with my mum and dad.

I often watched her interact with the staff and customers in the Hadrian, and I marvelled at how easily she could talk to anyone. A lifetime in hospitality meant she was the most hospitable person I knew. Her and dad were a formidable team, and I hope to inherit those skills that came so naturally to my parents.

Now, I do have evidence to prove that mum wasn’t always a paragon of parenthood. There was one Christmas when I came home to receive a home-made chocolate advent calendar from mum. I looked inside and realised she’d totally forgotten my nut allergy, and most of the days would easily send me into an anaphylactic shock.

There was also a time when that famous ease of conversation failed her entirely, and as she was trying to entertain some elderly relatives, she saw birds in the garden. ‘Oh!’ She exclaimed. ‘Look at those two little tits on the lawn!’

Dad and I regularly reminded her of that.

Some of you may know that earlier this year I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I was never scared- I knew my mum and dad would be there for me because the love they had for each other, and the love they had for me, is truly inspirational. You’re only as strong as the people around you, and in that respect I knew I was in safe hands. Of course, they got me through it with their trademark cheer, and even if mum was scared she made sure that all I ever saw was her positivity and love. One of the last things she told me was how she would be thinking of me for the next day, when I was due to have my final check-ups.

That was typical of mum. There she was, so unwell, and all she was fretting about was me being ok and not worrying about anything. As long as I was fine, all was right with the world.

Of course it wasn’t, and now we have to say goodbye to my mum.

I looked through some pictures of mum this week, and what struck me most was what a brilliant life she’d had- always smiling and full of fun, friends and family. I’m so proud that she was part of my life and that I was part of hers, and I take a lot of comfort in knowing that when she was here, she made the most of it.

I will think of mum as someone who loved people, who reminded me that sometimes I was very silly indeed and should just do whatever I wanted, no matter how worried about it I was, and of someone who showed me what it is like to love unconditionally.

So, mum. If you consider yourself to not be maternal, then I have no idea what more you could have expected of yourself. Because I know that if I grow up to be half the mother that you were, I shall be very grateful indeed.





The Big One

7 06 2013

Look, I could write another post here banging on about how crap cancer is. But if you’ve any sense about you at all, you probably already know that. Yeah, there have been some rubbish things I’ve had to deal with (calling my parents to tell them I had cancer wasn’t one of the easiest things I’ve ever had to do) but there have also been some lovely moments, some lessons I’ve learnt, and pals who have proved that sometimes, other people can be excellent.

So where to begin? When I told everyone I had cancer and wrote my original blog, I was amazed at the incredibly kind responses I got. I mean, I wasn’t expecting everyone to tell me to bugger off (I don’t think that’s the done thing when someone tells you they’ve developed the Ultimate Lurgy) but the overwhelming feeling I got was of love and kindness. You’re only as strong as the people around you, and from the beginning I could tell I was in safe hands.

I know everyone deals with bad news differently, but every response was appreciated. Whether you texted, tweeted, hugged or gave me a smile of solidarity, you’re in the good books. You’ve no idea how much it meant for someone to ask how the treatment was going, take it in, and then carry on as normal.

I think a lot of people expected me to run home, live with my parents, and retreat. But as far as I was concerned, that was admitting defeat before I’d even fought the battle, and where’s the fun in that? I admit it did get hard- I feel like the last six months have been mostly spent in waiting rooms and hospital appointments. I am genuinely excited at the prospect of summer, of having fun, and of not travelling home every two weeks to gear up for the next round of treatment.

One thing I should stress is that I have never been as popular as when I had cancer. Seriously. Suddenly my diary was full of coffees and dinners and lunches and brunches (I put on some weight at this point). I think a few people were suddenly jolted out of that mid-twenties fog, and realised that life is short, friends are important, and I like food.

One good friend asked me if the whole experience has made me love life more- do I want to seize the day, jump out of airplanes, swim with dolphins? Um, no. But it has made me more aware of what to worry about and what just isn’t important. In a way it’s given me a perspective and focus in my life that I didn’t have before. (I guess cancer is a pretty heavy way of learning that lesson. Sometimes I think a stern talking-to would have done the same thing…)

The weirdest thing I noticed was the amount of people who asked if I would take part in Race for Life this year. Hey, I know it’s a great cause and if you’re doing it I doff my cap to you. But I cannot stress enough that getting cancer has not made me enjoy running.

And now, it’s near the end of my treatment and it looks like maybe-hopefully-perhaps the cancer has gone away. That doesn’t mean it won’t be in my life forever; I now have to take tablets every morning to replace my thyroid, and I have a lovely scar on my neck to remind me of what I’ve been through. The whole experience has changed my reactions and thought processes (for better and for worse), and it’ll always be something I carry.

But I am lucky. Because I’ve got through it, because I have friends and family who were nothing short of perfect, and because I’ve got my last check-up in July, perfectly timed to make sure I manage to wriggle out of the Race for Life.





The Difficult Second Blog

22 04 2013

The last thing I wrote here was about being told I had cancer, and I can’t help but feel there’s now a bit more of the story to tell. I’m a firm believer that all the best things in life come in threes- think Sugababes, Musketeers or Alvin, Simon and Theodore- so I thought I’d turn it into a trilogy. That’s right; you’re getting two more posts about cancer- wahoo! How delightfully upbeat!

A week after the second operation to get rid of Captain Cancer and his Cells (that would be a brilliant name for a 60s band, by the way) I was on a train. The train was hot and, by extension, so was I. And in an not-unreasonable action, I took off my scarf to feel the slight breeze wafting through the carriage. As I did so, I felt the gaze of the woman sitting opposite me; her eyes had rested on the bottom of my neck. I didn’t understand why she was looking at me. I’d had people stare at my face before (often followed by the words ‘why didn’t you brush your hair today?’) and I’ve had boys look at my cleavage before (you know who you are), but this was a region that wasn’t used to unwanted attention.

Being totally flummoxed and somewhat uncomfortable, I carefully curled my scarf back around my neck and had a think. The woman turned her head to look out of the window (a riveting view of a cow) and I realised what she’d seen- the new scar at the bottom of my neck. Now, I realise that to someone who hasn’t seen my Facebook profile or twitter feed (I know, I was shocked that those people exist too), it looks like I’ve gone mad and done some pretty intense self-harm. But really neat self-harm in a perfectly straight line, because although I wanted to hurt myself I’d be damned if it wasn’t tidy.

I wanted to tell this woman- I haven’t done this on purpose! I didn’t wake up and decide to do this! I haven’t joined a gang, I haven’t been in a fight with a pirate, I haven’t had an accident with a knife! I have cancer, and if anything this scar is a badge of honour to prove what I’m going through!

Of course shouting that on a train would make me look crazy, and I’d most likely be chucked out at Peterborough, and nobody wants that. Not even people who live in Peterborough. And really, did I need to explain everything to a nosy stranger on a train? No. But it made me realise there are people I do need to explain everything to- my lovely friends, caring family, and people who I might not see all the time but very kindly ask how I am and what’s been going on. And to be honest, if you’re reading this blog, you probably fall into one of those categories.

So. You know the beginning, right? I needed an operation to get rid of half the thyroid, yeah? Well. Let’s begin there.

The day of the operation was nerve-wracking. I’d never been under anaesthetic, and one thing no one told me is that it makes you incredibly weepy. The things I sobbed about that night are unbelievable- my pillow was too high, my pillow was too low, the lights were too bright, the lights were too dim, and- oh yeah- I had eight staples in my neck to hold it together. (Ask me to show you the pictures; just as I predicted in the last blog I did look like a low-budget Frankenstein). The day after was, I think, the lowest I’ve felt during the whole treatment process. I couldn’t believe I had this ruddy scar on my neck, it hurt to move my head, I was scared to sneeze or cough or swallow in case my neck came apart (a ridiculous notion, I know, but to be fair I’ve never trusted the staying power of a staple. I just thank god they didn’t use blu-tack). For about a week after I couldn’t talk for long (an awful prospect for someone who presents on the radio) and when I did I had to pause, at unnatural, moments in the, sentences, I was, speaking. I also couldn’t move my head without putting my hand behind it and taking the weight off my neck. And then when I looked in the mirror, I couldn’t see anything apart from this long, unsightly red mark.

I was not fun to be around.

The worst thing of the two-week healing process was that I couldn’t laugh at anything; I found nothing funny. The world had faded to grey and nothing could cheer me up. I actually spent one morning wondering if the right side of my thyroid had been my sense of humour in physical form, and now the thyroid was gone maybe so was my ability to laugh. Then I realised that was insane and I just needed to stop watching depressing episodes of Neighbours.

The morning I was due to return to London in a blaze of glory was the morning I was told the cancer had most likely spread, and I needed another operation and more treatment. I have no qualms in saying that crushed me. I really had hoped, and I think you can tell from my last blog, that I’d only need one operation to solve the whole thing. And the fact that it wasn’t over, I had to keep going, I had to spend more time planning for a thing that was consistently interrupting my life, was not one I enjoyed.

But we soldier on. Actually, in comparison to the first, the second was a doddle- the only thing that annoyed me was the woman in the next bed spending twelve hours demanding an enema; after about six hours I offered to have a bash at it myself if it would help shut her up. Anyway, this time I had eleven staples gripping my neck together and although it hurt and I was scared, I felt so much better than before.

And now I have this scar, proof of what I’ve been through. Admittedly so many people have it much worse…all that happened to me was a surgeon emptied a monthly supply of the WH Smith’s staples into my neck. Happily, I think the end is in sight; there’s only one bit of treatment left, where I get a few injections and swallow a radioactive tablet. I’m thoroughly disappointed to report I’ll gain no superhero-type side effects, but I will have the power to make pregnant women have mutant babies, so I have to stay in solitary confinement for a few days. Obviously I’ll let you know how it goes, but I suspect I’ll end up spending the whole time either napping or playing Peggle.

So now, when I look in the mirror at my scar, I see all of that. Sure, I’ll see the difficult stuff like operations, injections and waiting rooms. But I’ll also see the good stuff like the friends who supported me, the family who have been there every step of the way, and the fact that I, Bex Lindsay, aged 25 and three-quarters, got through a spot of cancer. And I hope that next time we meet, and you get a glimpse of my scar, you’ll see all of that too.

PS- I’m glad I decided not to tell the rude woman on the train where my scar came from. Part of me hopes she thought I was a cut-throat Al Capone mafia gal, and I would hate to ruin that image with a story about something as boring as cancer.





Just letting you know..

17 01 2013

A little while before Christmas, I was told I might have cancer. (I should stress that I was told this by an actual doctor, not just a rogue stranger or particularly hurtful friend). Thing is, I’d somehow acquired a lump on my neck, and after putting it off as long as possible, I finally decided to do something about it and check it out.

In retrospect, I can’t believe I left it so long. I had a lump! Coming out of my neck! That’s not meant to happen! But I thought that maybe it was totally normal, or that it had always been like that and I’d never noticed, and maybe everyone called me Lumpy Bex behind my back but I’d just never known.

As it wasn’t confirmed and it was officially coming up to the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, I let it fall to the back of my mind. That’s not to say I forgot about it; the tests I had made sure it wasn’t something I let slip by. The first test was an ultra-sound scan where it looked like my neck was pregnant with a little baby thyroid, and the second was a camera delicately dangled down my nose and into my throat. (Apologies if you’re particularly squeamish about this kind of thing but the point of this blog is to be as honest as possible, so honesty is what you’re going to get, nose-cameras and all). Finally, I had a biopsy where a needle was jabbed into my neck while I pretended this was all totally normal, and was secretly thrilled when the nurse told me I’d been very brave. I looked around for a sticker and a lolly but I don’t think they give them to 25 year olds, no matter how brave you are.

And this week I was told that yeah, actually, I totes blates obv do have cancer. It’s thyroid cancer- one of the boring types with no pink ribbon or yellow wristband to wear- but still it’s a cancer. I promise. Look it up, it’s there on Wikipedia. And so now I have to take out half the thyroid and hopefully the whole cancer-thing will go with it. (By the way, when I say ‘I have to take out the thyroid’, obviously I mean it’ll be done by qualified surgeons. I’m not going to be messing about with a scalpel and hoping for the best). There might be more operations or injections along the way, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

I should stress I’m absolutely fine in myself- fit and healthy (well, not fit enough to run a marathon, but I’ve never been fit enough to do that, so no change there) and I think I’m pretty solid in dealing with it. I need to get through this because I’ve got stuff to do, guys. I’m also lucky enough to be surrounded by more loving and caring family and friends than any one person could possibly deserve, for which I am eternally grateful.

So I thought I’d write about this for a few reasons. Firstly, if I normally see you quite a lot but I’m suddenly not around and you think I’m avoiding you, I’m not. (Unless you actually are the person I’m trying to avoid, in which case, can you take the hint, pal?). Secondly, I thought that writing this should help tell as many people as possible in a quick way, and to avoid the Chinese whispers of one person telling another until the truth becomes a mangled shadow of what it actually is. And to be honest, I’ve thought, talked and emailed about this so many times over the last few days that it seems it’s the process of telling people, and not the cancer itself, which is exhausting. I also know it’s a pretty emotive subject, so hopefully by quietly putting it here and not making you have a big conversation, some of you won’t feel as uncomfortable about it.

Thirdly, this isn’t something I’m particularly precious or awkward about. Treat me exactly as you did before, ask me questions, feel free to make jokes. I don’t care, I’d rather we all carry on as normal.

Fourthly (is that a word? Am I allowed four points?) next time you see me I may have a scar across my neck. I’m slightly concerned that I’ll look like a low-budget Frankenstein.

Finally, I just wanted to tell you that I now appreciate just how serious Snap! were when they sang those glorious lyrics-

‘I’m as serious as cancer,
When I say rhythm is a dancer’.





On your high horse

7 05 2012

Like most twentysomethings, I often leave the house to meet my friends. As far as I know, it’s not a rare occurrence; I’m not in the minority. And of course, if you leave your house, you probably want to go back to it (unless you get a very good offer on your night out). And this is what I did on Saturday. I left my house with the full intention of going back there at some point in the evening.

Ok, so I’m aware that’s not exactly groundbreaking stuff. And to be honest, from talking to my friends, I don’t think that what I’m about to write about is groundbreaking stuff. And that worries me, because I think it should be.

The walk home from the tube takes about 10 minutes, and I’ve done it hundreds of times- in rain, in shine, and once, in shoes that soaked up all water in every puddle. I know the route- it’s straight, on a main road that is well-lit, and pretty busy. So I came out of the station, turned my iPod on (I was listening to Belle and Sebastian, thanks for asking) and made my way home.

Then I walk a bit further, and a man tries to get my attention. I ignore him. Head down, hood up, headphones in.

A few seconds later, I feel someone running towards me. This is petrifying. The sensation of being alone, at night, and knowing someone is running behind you is not a nice feeling, be you male or female.

Anyway, fine, I’ve had people run up to me before to tell me my skirt was tucked into my knickers, so I’m kind of used to it now. (Incidentally, I’m now also used to constantly checking I’ve pulled my skirt out of my knickers. It looks like I have a wedgie-related nervous tic). I keep walking, and he taps me on the shoulder. And then this happens-

‘Here love, where are you going?’

‘Home’

‘Where’s that?’

‘Home’

‘Can I come?’

‘No’

‘Why not?’

‘I’m seeing my boyfriend’ (this is the weakest lie I’ve ever told)

‘Oh, you’re English’

‘Yes’

‘Oh, that’s means you’ll be up for fun!’

‘No’

‘And you wear glasses! That means you’re clever but naughty’ (no one, not even my optician, has ever been so excited that I wear glasses)

‘No’

‘You’ve got sexy legs!’

‘Thanks’

‘Can I show you something on my phone?’

‘No’

‘Come on, just stop and have a look’

‘No’

‘Why not, it won’t take long?’

‘No’

‘Come on love, do you now want to see what’s on my phone?’

‘No’.

This continues for a bit until I get to a crossing and lose him in the crowd. But I’m incredibly nervous, and basically run home. Who was that guy? Did he subtly nick anything from my bag? Is he still behind me? Am I ok? The answer to all of those questions is ‘no’.

Before I carry on writing, I should just let you know a few things about me- I rarely get angry (unless you steal my Diet Coke or make me watch Sex and the City 2) and I’m not a raving feminist. My basic motto in life is ‘don’t be a dick’, and I think it’s ok to expect that level of respect from other people, be they friends or strangers. So I was pretty disappointed by what had happened.

As you may have noticed, I said no to this guy many times, and yet still he persisted in walking with me. For all I knew he might have followed me all the way to my house, and demanded to come in. What was I meant to do? Avoid coming home? Kick him and run? (Another thing to know about me is that I run like a duck. Not even joking). Call up a friend to meet me? Maybe I shouldn’t wear a dress next time I’m out late at night? Or maybe I shouldn’t go out late at night at all?

The more I think about it, the more upset I am that this is something I even have to think about. Feeling safe on my walk home is not an unreasonable demand, and I don’t think it’s fair that I should have to worry that I need an escort, or that I should wear trousers, or, if we’re being ridiculous, that I should just avoid walking.

I wonder whether this happens to guys? I’m not saying it doesn’t, because I’m sure many boys have felt the clammy breath of a drunken girl stumbling up to them and propositioning them. But this felt different, because generally, men are bigger and stronger than girls, and if he grabbed me there would be nothing I could do about it. Basically, I felt a bit powerless.

I’m not really articulating this very well, I know that, but I came home feeling angry that I’d been made to feel targeted and helpless. And like it was my fault for wearing a skirt, or being on my own.

Maybe if I was in a better mood I’d laugh it off, say I was flattered to get propositioned on my walk home, and joke that it was the best offer I’d had all week. But I don’t think it’s fair that I have to do that. I mean, I’m self deprecating most of the time (although I’m not very good at it…) and I feel uncomfortable turning this into another one of those moments. Because the thing is, this happens to girls quite a lot, actually. And I don’t think it’s fair that we should accept it, say it’s ok, and just make sure we always look over our shoulder when we walk home.

I’m not saying we should ban men from the pavements of north London, and I’m not saying I want to start petitions and march around banging on about women’s rights.

 

I’m just saying, well, can the dicks stop being dicks, please?

 

 

 

 





If these walls could talk.

26 09 2011

Ten years ago, I was petrified.

Petrified of life, petrified of my impending GCSEs, petrified of boys, petrified of how uncool I was, and petrified that my teenage years would turn out to be as painful as I suspected*.

Basically, I had no idea of what to expect from the world, and I had no idea of what the world expected from me.

You see, it was around this time ten years ago that I moved house. (I should clarify; my whole family moved. I didn’t just bid farewell to my parents and set up a wendy-house in the park). We went from Newcastle city centre to an idyllic village called Wall, where my dad had recently started running the local pub.

I hated it.

I hated the smell of the smoke lingering with the spilled beer from the night before. I hated the way the locals talked in such broad Geordie accents that I couldn’t understand them. I hated that my dad made me work there with bad-tempered chefs and a temperamental dishwasher. But most of all, I hated the fact that this building took my dad away from the thing he should obviously have been focusing on: me.

(It’s worth noting right now that this sense of entitlement has since evaporated, but I’m sure if I looked hard enough in my boxes of diaries I could find the poem I wrote when I was 14 describing ‘the place that took my parents away’ or some such nonsense).

So we moved to the village, settled into a cottage next door to the pub, and set up our lives in our brand new home. (Well, I say ‘brand new’, but the cottage was around 200 years old. Still, you get the idea). And this village, this tiny place surrounded by green fields and cows and constantly circled by tractors, was the setting for my awkward teenage years. I’ll tell you now, they weren’t pretty.

Of course I had friends and extra-curricular activities, but I was also shy and not confident with who I was or what I looked like. I wore baggy skater jeans but the thought of actually going on a skateboard filled me with dread. I wrote dodgy poetry and kept copious notebooks.

I was…well…I was a typical, clichéd teenager, wasn’t I? There was literally nothing special about me, I was passing through all the correct phases of teenage life. Ridiculous crushes? Check. Awful haircuts? Check. More feelings than you can fit in a suitcase?* Double check.

Anyway, back to the pub. Slowly, like a new person who joins your school and is desperate to become your friend, it wore me down. I started to like the place. We got on.

When I began to notice boys, the pub gave me cocky-yet-charming waiters to fancy. When I was in danger of becoming painfully shy, the pub introduced people into my life who I needed to talk to and interact with to get through work shifts*. When I needed to revise maths, one of the locals, a teacher, gave me one-to-one lessons on the back of beer mats. When I decided, at the rather late age of seventeen, to get drunk for the first time, I did so in the pub at a staff party, where I knew everyone would take care of me.* When I took a year out in-between my LLB and my MA the pub was waiting for me, as faithful as ever, with open doors and a job to come back to.

More importantly, when my family hit rough patches, the pub was there, complete with customers and staff who were willing to help out. The sense of community has always been and will continue to be overwhelming, and something that recently I had begun to take for granted.

I will always have a fondness for the pub. It saw me, a frightened fourteen year old, and watched me grow into a much less frightened twenty-four year old. During those years of serving soup and cleaning bedrooms, I turned into someone I am proud of being and this is in no small part down to the pub and the people who have lived, breathed, worked, and drank inside it. (Luckily the pub also watched me ditch the baggy jeans. We both agreed they weren’t a good look).

So I write this blog because my parents are now selling the pub. My teenage home is to be passed on to another family. Oddly, the new people moving in are exactly like we were- a couple with a young teenage daughter. And if I could tell her anything, I would tell her the same thing that I wish I’d known myself- you are so, so lucky. Not only will you have a community full of people wishing you well and willing you to succeed, you will also have a very old building, benevolently watching over you every step of the way.

* They were

* This is an attempt at implying I had ’emotional baggage’. I know, I’m hilarious.

* Some of these people have since become my closest and oldest friends. Some of them definitely have not.

* It’s a good job this turned out to be true- I’m hazy on the details but I’ve since been told that by the end of the night I had to be restrained from dancing, later passed out, and had to be given a fireman’s lift home by one of the bar staff.





Radio shows I have loved, Part 2.

29 01 2011

Seeing as I’ve had more deep and meaningful relationships with radio shows than I have with gentlemen callers (ahem) I thought I would write a story about another radio show that has meant something to me. In the interests of choice, you can either listen to me telling you the story, or if you can’t bear the sound of my voice (fair enough) you can just read it instead. Don’t say I never give you anything, yeah?

In September 2003 I had picked my AS-Level subjects, but within a month or so I realised that choosing biology over english literature had been a Bad Idea. Genomes and stamens (for that is all I remember of biology) weren’t for me. I’d much rather be sitting with a book, going over stories and learning about plays. I don’t know why I hadn’t picked literature (it was my best mark at GCSE) but a combination of trying to be an educational all-rounder (something I’ve come to accept that I most definitely am not) and some kind of misplaced rebellion meant I was stuck with plants and blood and other biology things.

After a while I decided I’d had enough of biology and definitely wanted to switch to literature. In my head it was a done deal- what would be the problem? Well, there were loads, apparently. Timetable clashes, the fact I’d missed most of the lessons on The Color Purple, and other factors I deemed to be trivial were thrown at me, but I’d be damned if I was stuck studying shrubbery and humans for another two years.

So I weasled my way onto the course and realised straight away that the teachers were right- catching up was going to be hard.

It was about this time in my life that I decided to experiment with radio. I’d only just turned the dial from my local pop music station, Metro Radio (a station I still have a fondness for) and towards Radio 1. In all honesty it had been an accident (they sit next to each other on the dial) but that wasn’t the point. A whole new world had opened up to me. I’d grown up listening to Radio 2 and although Metro had afforded me some independence from it, Radio 1 was something else. They played music with guitars! And there were no adverts! And I didn’t have to suffer with my S Club fandom much longer, because bands like Sum 41 and Blink 182 were being played (that’s right, I was that kind of kid).

For weeks I had to work hard to catch up with the rest of my class, because not only had I not managed to read The Color Purple, but I’d also not quite grasped the basics of The Tempest. Oh, this was going to be hard.

As well as having a short attention span, as mentioned in the previous post, I also tend to leave things to the last-minute. Sure, it’ll get done and it’ll be bang on time, but if something is due at 1pm, I’ll probably be writing the introduction at 12.15pm. This was one of those times. Every night I’d come back and put off the work later and later, until it got to 10pm and I had no choice but to buckle down.

Luckily, I had good company. Very good company. By absolute good fortune and brilliant luck, I had sorted my work schedule to start at the same time as the John Peel show. Every night I would wriggle into bed, armed with a pencil and a well-thumbed copy of The Tempest that the school had given me, and listen to John Peel.

He never disappointed.

His show was simple; just him and the music, and I appreciated that. Sure, there was music I didn’t like and music I didn’t understand, but it was music. Music I’d never heard before and probably would never hear again. Sometimes he played stuff twice, sometimes he made mistakes, and sometimes he rambled on a bit too long and I would be far too engrossed in Shakespeare to notice, but on the whole we were a great team.

In the months after the final exam I still tuned in to his show but with less regularity than I had done during my revision. I was always thankful to John Peel for sticking by me for the academic year. He would never know it but whenever I thought of The Tempest I would think of his show, and my bed, and huddling under the duvet while Pulp or The Smiths or a new band I’d never heard of played.

A year later, I was at home listening to Radio 1 when I heard he had died on holiday. I was shocked; he was the first radio presenter I’d felt a connection with, the first one I felt I knew. So I shed a  tear, listened to Common People, and nodded silently at my cohort from those late nights- a battered copy of The Tempest.