Week 56: I’m A Hypochondriac

Friday, 25 January 2019

Reading time 02 minutes 48 seconds

“After obsessively Googling symptoms for 4 hours, I discovered ‘obsessively Googling symptoms’ is a symptom of hypochondria.” – Stephen Colbert

I have a hypochondriac friend who, like me, is afflicted by anxiety over the slightest of ills. There have been times when we have independently diagnosed ourselves with incurable diseases, discovered we have been googling the same thing at the same time, and both arrived at the same conclusion. Imminent death!

It’s been going on for several years and has gone from the serious to the ridiculous. Mostly it is a source of laughter although not for our loved ones. My buddy’s funniest example was when he discovered blood in his pooh, he freaked out and paid for several doctors to poke around his rectum. He survived, and he was told next time not to eat so much Beetroot.

Mine was the collapse of my mind.

I was hanging the washing in the garden and a pair of my girlfriend’s knickers fell. Instantly I expertly kicked them up into the air and caught them on my head like a Bold advert version of Lionel Messi. I air punched my success, looked around to see if any neighbours had noticed my cool move, then finished my task and popped to my local high street still smiling to myself. Whilst walking back home, still feeling oozing confidence I combed my hand through my hair and felt the underwear on my head.

Aside from explaining the weird looks in the shops it could only mean one thing, early onset dementia.

The same day the car wasn’t where I normally parked it although I was sure I had left it there. Maybe I had started drink driving and was unaware where I left it? This was doubtful as I could barely walk after two pints let alone operate complex machinery. I reckoned that the car had been confiscated to protect my own, and the public’s, safety although I had no recollection of this happening. This terrible disease had clearly dug it’s claws in and my brain neurons were collapsing. I was so scared I checked my scalp for knickers just in case.

The friends and family I contacted didn’t have the car. I called my girlfriend at work and she reminded me that she couldn’t drive. Wow my brain really was folding in on itself. I scoured my entire neighbourhood for over two hours but my mind was so occupied with fear that I had to walk up and down the streets two or three times and eventually trudged home sad and scared with no car and no memory.

I called my friends back and explained that I still couldn’t remember where I’d left the car. I went on to tell them that I loved them all, but I had dementia and this was probably the last time we would speak. A few were understanding but most laughed at my sorrowful little voice and told me that I was over reacting and that my car had probably been stolen.

The police found my car the next day.

I phoned my fellow beetroot loving sufferer and explained the situation and I was expecting, and wanting, him to say “we can’t go on like this Willsy” but he didn’t help and backed up my theory of dementia and suggested I should get checked out just in case.

I went to the Doctor fearing the worst but after a 1-minute examination he told me I was a hypochondriac.

I knew something was wrong with me!

Picture: I’ve replaced the normal picture of myself with something almost as lovely. This was the sunrise I witnessed from home yesterday. 

Week 55: I Had Me A News Fast

Friday, 18 January 2019

Reading time 2 minutes 48 seconds 

There is no such thing as addiction, there’s only things you enjoy doing more than life – Doug Stanhope.Devouring the news has taken up a big part of my existence. Typically, I spend 1-2 hours every day immersed in it, discussing and contemplating it which makes me a bit of a junkie. If the news was heroin I’d probably be dead by now or at the very least slimmer with less possessions.

My previous addictions have covered nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, Gears of War, various jobs, coconut water, and shoes. This is a normal list for most people my age and truth be told they were only the tip of the iceberg. I have put more effort into current affairs than my relationships with friends and lovers and believed that staying informed, and up to date, would mean I wasn’t ignorant.

I’m unsure how I got to this point in my life and when I moved from reading the Beano to the Sun and did not notice the difference. 

In January 2018 I decided to quit all news for 12 months and now I’m reviewing my year away. Has my life changed? Was it worth it or was the sacrifice too much? 

Looking back, I was scared about quitting and whether I could have an opinion or get angry about a person or event. Without knowing what’s occurring in the present I wondered how I would prepare for the future and if the Zombie apocalypse happened, or worse a Bird Box event, how I would survive.

A ban meant a total ban. No Newspapers, no news channels, no social media news, and finally my biggest sacrifice no Radio 4. This was proper cold Turkey. Given I’d quit alcohol and coconut water I wondered how hard quitting the news could be? Turns out it was one of the hardest.

The first few weeks were difficult. I’d reach for my phone and realise it had lost most of its appeal. I’d get in the car and the radio would be tuned to classic FM. I found myself longing to hear the shipping forecast, but I couldn’t risk dipping in case I heard the news by mistake.

I would listen to people talk about Trump or Brexit and had nothing to contribute. When latching onto very small bits of information about world affairs I’ve failed to understand most of them because big parts have been missing. I thought Reesmogg was the welsh equivalent of long grain Cat food and have been asked if I’m not scared by “The Russian” thing. Royal weddings have happened, and celebrities have died that I know nothing of. Although my friends who know me well would WhatsApp me the important ones. RIP Burt Reynolds. 

I have been told by other news junkies that I don’t have a right to an opinion on any subjects. Like Donny from The Big Lebowski I have no frame of reference but I’m fine with that as that guy died happy. (Spoiler alert). 

Most news stories seem weird without knowing some context and curiosity killed the Mat on more than one occasion. As much as I tried to avoid stories sometimes a newspaper headline had to be explored. For example “Beheading at Labour sex party” on the front page of the Standard. 

In a way it has felt like learning to touch type. Initially it was difficult, but it gets easier and you get to a point where you ask why you didn’t always work this way. An extra chunk of time has become available to me every day and by concentrating on other things, I have wasted my time on them instead. I can now complete the 4×4 Rubik’s cube. 

I’m not ignorant. I’m just not fully aware of the detail that some people are. I’ve learnt that I can affect no change on the world and whilst one person can make a difference they really need to want to. I didn’t.

The most important thing I’ve discovered is that people who follow news and current affairs are miserable. They seem to have a fatalistic doom about them and everything is terrible. Whereas in my new tribe (I’m calling us “The news ignoramuses”) we are enjoying a happier existence. The Ignoramuses have worries but they are centred around their loved ones (and Strictly Come Dancing) which sometimes can be the same thing. 

My Name is Mat and I’ve now been 12 months clean and can honestly say I’m a happier person for my fast as it is liberating not being connected to things you have no control over. Will I return to my news junkie way? No! I will continue to make a conscious effort to not touch the News.

Obviously, this excludes Football news. I’m not a machine and a man has to eat.

Picture: Me in a cigar factory

Week 54: Mistaken Identity

Friday, 11 January 2019

Reading time 02 minutes 21 seconds 

A Beautiful sunset that was mistaken for a dawn – Claude Debussy

I was at a “relationship fixing weekend” with my girlfriend. We had decided on a 3-star hotel, which was on the coast, where we could get together and have a few laughs.

On arrival I suggested a drink. I promised it would be just the one then we would have an early night as it was a fixing weekend after all. She had that glint in her eye which said “sure why not?”. Four drinks later and we were getting along famously. Things were fixing just right.

At the same time, I couldn’t help but notice three middle aged men sitting in the corner of the hotel bar who were looking at me and whispering. As their drinks flowed they became a little more boisterous and slightly more finger pointy but I shrugged it off as I’m used to people staring at me. My girlfriend was possibly giving me the come to bed eyes and I was talking her into another drink. She reluctantly agreed but only if we could take them to the room and as she departed I stood at the bar and waited.

As I hovered looking for the barman one of the boisterous gang sidled over and asked “Can I buy you a drink Tony?”. I explained that my name was Mat but he just laughed and moved the conversation on as it turned out that he and his friends thought I was the former West Ham United, Everton and Leicester City striker Tony Cottee. The men explained it’d be a real honour if I had a drink with them and whilst I didn’t know who Tony Cottee was, I shrugged it off and played along with it. 

(For the record I look nothing like Tony Cottee. He’s taller than me, he’s slightly better looking than me and he’s scored more times for West Ham than I could ever dream of.)

I explained that I couldn’t stay for a drink and motioned to the recently departed lady who had just gone upstairs. “Just the one” they pleaded, “it’s on us”. I relented as when I’m drinking my stranger danger defences are down.

They asked what it was like being a professional footballer and proceeded to tell me about my entire footballing career. I didn’t object as I knew nothing of football back then, which is not dissimilar to now. 

Seven drinks later I had become Tony Cottee and went into great detail of the great life I was having although sometimes I needed to escape the limelight hence why I was here. I was lying like a politician.

Then I realised why I was there. My girlfriend, I’d forgotten all about her. It had not only been seven drinks but also several hours. I was in so much trouble that I would need another two weekends away fixing the mistakes of this weekend.

I skulked back to our room. Within seconds my life as Tony Cottee had been replaced by someone going totally potty and I discovered that being a fake professional footballer was not the life I expected it to be. Scoring is not as simple Tony made it look!

Picture: This superb dude hosts a mini Glastonbury music festival in his back garden at Bluebell Hill in Kent. I was honoured with my good friend Kev to host a few years ago where I learnt that hats are not for me. 

Week 53 AKA Week 1 Year 2: Gate Crasher

Friday, 4 January 2019

Reading time 2 minutes 22 seconds 

Embarrassment is where growth happens – Jaylen BrownI volunteer from time to time in my local Hospice. If you are unaware of the great work they perform, in essence it’s where you may end up just before you die, a lot like me at a some comedy nights. I’ve clearly a fascination with death. 

It’s an emotionally tough place to be, the Hospice that is, but it’s very rewarding. If you wish to know how precious your life is go spend a moment or two with someone who hasn’t many moments left.  

A Hospice survives by using a huge network of volunteers. We are rewarded at Christmas with a carol service and a lovely little Christmas party.

The Hospice Christmas carol night is an event I love. It’s held in Rochester Cathedral and is very grand and posh. I fit right in. I was a little late arriving so walked with my girlfriend up to the main door and tried to sneak in.

An arm came down like a car park barrier. “Ticket please sir” said the arm. I followed its source and found a man in uniform. I put on my most professional tone and said. You what? The command was repeated.

Then the little, aggressive, angry man who lives inside me popped up. I tried to shove him back down deep within but he’s a wily and tenacious little creature.

I looked at the arm and the uniform. Didn’t the big bicep know me? I was kitchen Mat, the funny little man who worked at least 7 shifts a year over Easter and Christmas. This Carol service was being held in mine and my fellow volunteers honour as a mark of gratitude for our service. This bloke had a bloody cheek. 

I reached into my coat pocket and produced my NHS Volunteers badge. It had a smiling face which showed me in a much happier state.

I shoved my badge in his face like an American cop. Wills, Volunteer! I announced and followed that with – I don’t need a ticket. I’ll go find a seat, that will be all sir.

I then pushed the car park barrier arm up a small fraction, slid underneath then rudely but purposefully strode off. My girlfriend followed, apologising in my wake.

This was an incredibly dull night compared to previous years. Where were the Volunteers Choir? Why were there lots of people with Cellos milling about? Why was everyone dressed so incredibly well. Then some posh looking dude stood up and announced the interval.

I wandered around the Cathedral. There were Canapés and Champagne being handed out. The Hospice had really gone to town for us this year. Budgets be dammed seemed to be the message. 

I then noticed that someone had a programme and I had a peek. That’s weird it didn’t mention me or the Hospice. I sat back down and while finishing off my marvellous Canapés opened the invite on my phone.

The carol concert started back up while I read in horror. I was in the wrong place.

My carol concert was located in the Hospice building due to NHS budget cuts. I had gate crashed what turned out to be a fund raising night for a charity event at £50 a ticket.

I didn’t have £50 and I doubt if my Mrs did either. I showed her the email.

She supressed a giggle. Which in turn made me laugh. I motioned for us to leave.

We very discreetly left which is hard when you have 400 pairs of eyes staring and you’re trying but failing not to laugh like a maniac. 

It reminded me of the time at a friend’s funeral where I gave a mate a fit of the giggles as I mentioned that I’d once jumped into a train carriage as the doors were closing in a supermanesque pose and by mistake punched a nun. 

I was so embarrassed, not of knocking out a nun, she wasn’t very nice to me when she came too afterwards and my ex had taught me that nuns are not very nice people. 

I was embarrassed as I had to walk past the man with the arm. I should have apologised. I should have done lots of things. I didn’t. I burst into laughter and tried to say sorry while everyone watched me being dragged out the Cathedral by an also giggling and very embarrassed girlfriend.

If the quote at the top were accurate I’d be much taller.

Picture: This is how to hide my double chin