GOOD NEWS: JC’s HRT-joke is ‘taxing’ and a fallen Madonna bounces back.

I find him ... taxing
I find the little man … taxing

First Up: Jimmy Carr’s joke about Madonna’s stash of drugs (erm, HRT) wasn’t all that. He should find himself encircled by a hot-flash-mob of HRT-deprived ladies one day and crisp up in the face of Mons Fecking Vesuvius.

I just find the little man ….taxing ….these days. (boom tish but probably a boom tish for UK residents only: JC was embroiled in a tax avoidance scandal a few years ago. When Cameron thinks something is morally wrong, you know you’ve gone too far)

And so, to the fallen Madonna;

or as she’s known in the Vortex: La Madonna Caduti

Fallen Madonna
“La Madonna Caduti” (Fallen Madonna). Cape on Stair, circa 2015

Last night, I had every intention of getting off the Twitter at a reasonable hour when a little birdy told me that Madonna had just fallen from the stage at the Brit Awards! And … I was still in time to catch it on ITV+1.

Happy Days! I was preparing myself for a car crash of epic proportions and had to sit through a few more awards / performances/ant+dec unfunny ‘bits’ to get to the moment of interest.

Then it happened.

“Oh Sh*t!” I shouted at the telly.

It was really awful to see and I’m surprised ITV+1 aired it, to be honest. Surely Madonna’s “people” would do some fancy footwork of their own to ensure that bit would be edited out of the delayed coverage? Madge, you need some new “people” on the books.

At the start of the performance, Madonna stood atop 5 largish steps, her ginormous cape about to be whipped away from her neck by dancers in the dark. However …. the cape was fastened far too tightly and yanked Madonna instead – occasioning her to fly backwards over all the steps, landing on her ass – legs akimbo.

Kinda looked like she did a bit of a jump in there to aid some ‘bounce’ at the bottom? Imma running with that. (I’mma on the Imma bandwagon of late because I’ve only just worked out what Imma means and Imma use it all the time now). [Hard learning a new dialect? Innit?  Imma get the hang of it real soon – Ed.]

Apart from the booming backing track there was silence in the 02 Arena (quite the dichotomy, no?). The dancers look confused (and not a little terrified). When Madonna rose, I sensed the sheerest of rages sweep over her face and she looked F*CKIN FURIOUS! She brushed back her hair and carried on. With lyrics such as: “If I should fall” etc, I didn’t know where to look! My hand was still covering my mouth for the rest of her performance (Just in case, you never know).

You know what else? I felt nothing but pride for the lady. What a monumental joke gravity played on you love – so undignified – and yet you went ON WITH THE SHOW like an OLD PRO. It’s going down in history (pardon the pun) as one of showbiz’s best recoveries. The audience went wild at the end and I’m guessing she got heaped with praise backstage for making a silk purse outta that sow’s ear. I had a cursory look around The Face Book (I joined today in a personal capacity, hate it already – you’ll only find the Vortex on Google+) and yes of course people are making crude jokes about a hellish stuff up and worse; making fun of HER for falling.

People, no. I think the take-home message is one of triumph and I am going to renew my Madonna Fan Club status TOOT-EFFING-SWEET.

What did you make of it?

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Hi, my name is Vortex and I can’t commit to a book.

2dirty white boy

Here’s the thing.

I am the world’s s.l.o.w.e.s.t. reader. It’s not that I can’t speed read or nuffink, it just takes me forever to commit to a book. Huh?

Well, let’s take Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall” for example: Received for my 40th, just after it won The Man Booker Prize, I started it in good faith … and managed to finish it in my 45th year – when the sequel “Bringing up the Bodies” won its Booker. It takes me as long to read ’em as it does for her to write ’em.

Damn book (but exceptionally fine book, mind you) lay on the floor beside my bed for FIVE YEARS; Dusty jackets are not restricted to my wardrobe.  Oh I’m hearing you: What kind of wrong-headed biblio-refusenik ARE you? Oh, just your ordinary every-day kind of …

I digress. Back to the thing.

When I go ’round people’s houses I see they have all the books they have ever read and enjoyed, proudly co-habiting various rooms.  All of Them Achievers (it’s a conspiracy no? Straight out of Rosemary’s Baby)

all of them witches

What do I have?

I have all the books I’m gonna read, sitting up there like soldiers; proud and neatly colour-coded (The Decorologist made me do that). One giant bloody TO DO. Well, 2015 is the year that I’m going to tackle that TO DO and send all those books to the Loft where they belong (after I’ve read them, that’s my point).

Yes – this idea is stolen from another blogger whose name escapes me (tee hee), but I’m sure they suggested others climb aboard the book wagon and start throwing books around; I shall now be accountable and knuckle down and finish those goddamn books once and for all.

Oh sure, I’ve got plenty of time for TV – it’s the books that have me in a cold sweat. I keep buying them; second hand booksellers, charity shops, even full-whack up the mighty Amazon. A little non-book reading yet still buying habit. Don’t even talk to me about Kindle – it CHEAPENS the word!

Recently, I signed up to www.goodreads.com because I want a list (lists! LISTS! Everyone loves a list) so I can gaze upon my achievements and feel, well, “Listical” (totally ‘nicked’ that from Helen ‘Razer’ when I was researching the Taylor Swift / Triple J Hottest 100 debacle. Of which, I throw my hands up in despair. They’ve Changed.).

So here they are, all the books I’ve NEVER (and only partially) read. No particular order and my apologies if you spot last year’s birthday present in this list. It’s not that I didn’t like it, it’s just that …. I watched many hours of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills / Atlanta / New York / Vancouver / Melbourne instead. Beverly Hills wins hands down.)

US David Nicholls1.“Us” – David Nicholls Given to me by my friend’s mum who can inhale a book in one sitting; she swore I’d love it. I’m 20 pages in, I’m swearing I do love it – I just can’t commit. Forgive me Margie, I have sinned. It’s been 4 weeks since I’ve looked at it.

lena dunham not that kind

2. “Not That Kind of Girl” – Lena Dunham. Big fan of “Girls”, I gave this to my friend Sza but she already had it, saying: “you read it and we’ll discuss it” ….. feeling clammy ……can’t quite commit to it yet, BIG undertaking ….expectations of ruminations …..

zoe heller the believers3. “The Believers” – Zoe Heller. My sister popped this in my suitcase when I left her a few months ago. “You’ll really enjoy this.” Heller wrote “Notes on a Scandal” which was GENIUS. No reason to fear this? Or so I thought …..

gillian flynn gone girl

4. “Gone Girl” – Gillian Flynn. Oh god – every person and their pet has read this and I’m in a constant state of SPOILER ALERT! It’s exhausting  …. So tempting just to watch the movie on Netflix and lie to myself. Can’t be that much better on the page, surely?

pg wodehouse sam the sudden5. “Sam the Sudden” – P.G. Wodehouse. Not only am I a pretend-reader, I also harbour pretensions of writing (ahem) and my genre of choice is a detective / mystery / comedy – of which, I have absolutely no inkling. I saw this little old book for 50p outside the newsagent and snapped it up for research. Then I filed it.

robert sackville disinherited6. “The Disinherited: A story of Family, Love and Betrayal” – Robert Sackville-West.” Here we have a 2014 Christmas present from my Aunt, unread. I did manage to read his other: “Portrait of a Marriage” –  and gave it *two thumbs up*. I’ve even made the pilgrimage to Sissinghurst for crying out loud. I’m keeping up with the Sackville-Wests (or I’ll die tryin’….)

hornby a long way down7. “A Long Way Down” – Nick Hornby. Cannot recall ever reading a Hornby (always saw the movies first and then didn’t bother with the books). This is the only Hornby novel on my shelf, therefore it must bravely speak for the others. And yet ….

speaking with the angel8. “Speaking with the Angel” a compilation of 12 stories by Nick Hornby, Robert Harris, Melissa Bank, Giles Smith, Patrick Marbeor, Colin Firth (Golly, when did that happen?), Zadie Smith, Dave Eggers, Roddy Doyle, Helen Fielding, Irvine Welsh and John O’Farrell. I note from the bottom of the book that £1 for every copy sold was donated to the Treehouse Trust of autistic children. At least I contributed something there (unless this too is second hand …? )

virginia woolf mrs dalloway9. “Mrs Dalloway” – Virginia Woolf. This was given away free with a daily tabloid, of all things! Amusingly, Tesco didn’t force me to take the tabloid – just gave me the book! Goodie, I loved “The Hours”……Shelved.

joe keenan putting on the ritz10. “Putting on the Ritz” – Joe Keenan. OMG!! The palaver surrounding this book and I still haven’t read it! My friend Truuude gave me “My Blue Heaven” (hysterical, YOU should read it!) and this. Not unlike a scene in the book itself, Truuuude’s husband took back “Ritz”, to read because I still hadn’t. Shortly after, said husband went and lost it / filed it in the forever file. They were both guilted into buying me a replacement copy after a few “don’t you have it? / I thought you had it? / Can you look for it please?” conversations. Et Voila! Back on my shelf of the unread.

2dirty white boy11. “Dirty White Boy: Tales of Soho” Clayton Littlewood. I have no idea whose book this is, or where it came from. On the cover: Hot Pink, coupla gay blokes in angel wings, man in a bowler hat giving me the two finger salute, and a horny hooker in her doorway. Sensational! Right up my street! Looks like it’s never been opened, even by its original owner  …. and probably for the best?

thackeray vanity fair12. “Vanity Fair” – William Makepeace Thackeray – Holy Hell … Biig book with tiiny writing. I started this about 2-3 years ago, and am one or two chapters in (will need re-starting at this point). Problem was, I read it right off the back of Pride and Prejudice. P’n’P was a pot boiler, this? … not so much. It needs a space, in time, of its own when I can find a quiet corner and sit down to read.  Unlikely at best, and just quietly:  NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN.

proulx shipping news13. “The Shipping News” – Annie Proulx. I found this about a year ago, trolling my local charity shop. I knew her name from somewhere – just couldn’t put my finger on’t. Took it on a hunch anyway. Later that day, on the googler, Bingo! She wrote “Brokeback Mountain”!  It’s a really oddly written book – all jagged edges and prickly, much like the characters. I was starting to find its rhythm when, for reasons unbeknownst to me, I fired up dusty ol’ “Wolf Hall” (after its 5 year hiatus). Annie … wait!… I don’t know how to quit you …

belinda alexandra white gardenia14. “White Gardenia” – Belinda Alexandra. Mum left this with me after one of her visits. “Just finished this, you should read it” Yeah, you should write “You Should Read It” on my Tombstone!

meyer twilight15. “Twilight” – Stephanie Meyer. *tired sigh* No, you didn’t misread that. Me, the biggest Vampire-genre-sucker walking around in shoe-leather has never read “Twilight”. I have read all the others in the franchise , never the first. Here’s another defect:  I start in the middle of series, to see if it’s any good. I saw the movie first – then saw no point pursuing the book; until it appeared in a discount store. I may be right this time; Leave the undead, unread. Save my poor eyeballs for Thackeray, ditch Meyer. That’s the kind of advice I need people!

mcewan solar

16. “Solar” – Ian McEwan. This man’s writing is an education. I’m not often in the mood to be schooled. I’ll take it as read (if only), this one is excellent. Plenty of other McEwans I haven’t tackled yet; no wonder they’re looking worried (boom-tish).

eggars you shall know17. “You Shall Know Our Velocity” – Dave Eggers. My lovely friend Huggeeee Bear gave me this when I had my first child. I guess he & I both thought I’d have lots of time to read; seeing as though I wasn’t at “work”. Indeed. Unread.

winton breath18. “Breath” – Tim Winton. Mum again. “You haven’t read any Tim Winton? None? Take it! Take it! I’ve had this one for about 8 years. I did start about 10 pages, it’s written in a most peculiar style which is kind of reported with no quotes. Yes, I should probably read one of his books – but is this the one?

niven straight19. “Straight White Male” – John Niven. Oh Boy. This writer is the original revolting magnet. Husband of Truuuuude gave me “Kill Your Friends” to read (signed by the author – so trusting!). It was all a bit Dick Emery (Oh you ARE awful, but I DO like you!) And I did like it. Not that I’ll admit it in polite company. “Oh, you should read his other book then” and I was duly loaned SWM. I know it’ll be a rip-roarer, just need to light it up and see …..

Mengestu children of the revolution20. “Children of the Revolution” – Dinaw Mengestu. I know nothing of the origin of this book (probably Mum? Right?) except that it has a sticker on it: “Winner of the Guardian First Book Award”. How many has he written now? Lemme check: That would be 5. He’s written 5 books, I’ve read … not many.

atkinson one good turn21. “One Good Turn” – Kate Atkinson. Another “you must read this” book pressed upon my person. The name sounds like chick-lit, the cover looks like a mystery. Smells familiar. A quick flick through the early pages tells me, yes, I’ve started this one too. It didn’t grab me then, not sure it ever will?

polly bad bride22. “A Bad Bride’s Tale” – Polly Williams. Most definitely chick-lit. I hate chick-lit except for …. who am I kidding? This one will float to the top as an “ice breaker” and a “ball roller”.

rushdie midnights children23.“Midnight’s Children” – Salman Rushdie. I bought this because I was on a “must read every Booker Prize winner” jag. This was always touted as “The Booker’s Booker”. When I commuted by train for 3 hours a day I could afford to have such highfalutin dreams. The sad reality, I suspect, was that I was never brave enough to openly read Rushdie on the London Underground. I would have needed to cover it in a brown paper bag, like a wino. A job too far.

bernhard schlink the readerhomecoming schlink24 & 25. “The Reader” & “Homecoming” – Bernhard Schlink. I really loved the film “The Reader” so I think I pinched the second book from my parent’s home in order to complete my set of non-read books.

26. “Angela’s angelas ashes frank mccourtAshes: A memoir of Childhood” – Frank McCourt. Mum. Again. “I’m going to give you this now because you REALLY should read this one.” I’ve not quite recovered from the nuns at Primary School so it’s going to be a while before I delve back into that world. It has been with me for about 10 years – so maybe the time is nigh?

barrett crime scene cessnock27. “Crime Scene Cessnock” – Robert G Barrett. Another book given to me when I had a new baby. Pregnancy might have been a better window (and I ain’t doing that again!)

austen persuasion28: “Persuasion” – Jane Austen. Emboldened by my assertive stance with “Pride and Prejudice”, I bought a gnarly old copy of this book at a book fair and told myself I’d read ‘An Austen each year until read‘ …Ah yep.

rupert everett red carpets29: “Red Carpets and other Banana Skins” – Rupert Everett. Truuuude again. Believe it or not, this is actually quite the riveting read. I let it get away from me and then other books queue-jumped.  Elbowing poor little Rupert off his own Red Carpet! I was enjoying it – 4 years ago.

I'm not arguing!
I’m not arguing!

30. “Undisputed Truth: My Autobiography” – Mike Tyson. I was loving the whole “new” Mike Tyson brand. The doco and the book. I must be about 120 pages into this with 440 to go. Ay Ay Ay! It didn’t stop me giving all of the male members of my family a copy this Christmas. I should finish this before they do – because that would be wrong in the eyes of the Lord (and probably Mike’s). I have to cover those eyes when I go to bed, they freak ‘im indoors out!

litt exhibitionism31. “Exhibitionism” – Toby Litt. Toby Litt wrote one of my all time top 5 books: “Finding Myself” so of course, when I saw this on a friend’s bookshelf in 2007, I took it. (I did tell him about it later). Stop/Start, Stop/Start, Stop/Start. I don’t remember anything about it and will have to start it again if it’s to make any sense at all.

So there we have it: 31 Books NOT burning a hole on my bookshelf.

If you’ve gotten this far then here is your PRiZE!

You get to shout numbers at me like it’s Saturday Night Bingo to see which book I start AND FINISH. I may even give you a review, if at all tolerable.

My shame is on public display – feel free to FLOG IT for all its worth! Hell, you can HAVE the book when I’m finished with it! Send me your address to vortexofbloggery@gmail.com and it’s yours (except for the ones that don’t belong to me – don’t worry Truuuude, I know which ones they are).

NB: If you’ve read anything on this list and think it’s a total waste of time – be a Good Samaritan and lighten my load. I’m not parting with the Tyson though.

In the “Comments” box please! Even if it’s 2020 …. I’ll still be going

Mad Dash to the Desert Proves Fruitful: 54 Rides Again.

studio54

Truuuude, our work-experience Culture Vulture, has just rushed this item over to my desk (Those heels are killing you!)

Read that54 Bombed in 1998. Now It’s Been Resurrected as a Cult Gay Classic. by Louis Jordan (www.vulture.com)

& 54 Director’s cut a Lost Gay Classic? by Andy Towle (www.towleroad.com)

Now read this!

I bloody-well knew something was missing from “54” – turns out, the best 40 minutes of the film were discarded on Harvey Weinstein + Co’s say-so; bowing to someone’s idea of the cultural norms in 1998. Thank f*ck times have changed and that mad dash to the desert proved fruitful!

“54” was released around the zenith of my Sydney clubbing years. God knows how but I managed to find time one weekend to go-see with two local identities: Let’s just call them “Bella” and “The Badge.” Obvie, we had other urgent matters to discuss, so the date wasn’t a total waste of time but when the lights went up, we all felt as though we’d been ‘missold’ some type of insurance.

“I thought I was gonna feel like I’d had a big night out” The Badge sighed wistfully.

“Yeah, me too” pouted Bella, giving the credits an absent-minded boogie.

“We could just go out?” Vortex ventured.

….and it’s highly likely we did.

Sure, the soundtrack worked out in every muscle mary’s car up and down the golden mile – but the movie? Meh, not so much.

UNTIL NOW.

I’ll be giving Bella and The Badge a nudge to ferret out their disco slippers in anticipation. The film had better deliver this time; all the good clubs have shut down and I haven’t the courage for the three-day hangover.

Happy Valentine’s Day? #Valentine #teamporridge

AORTA be your Valentine!  Ooh, that was Offaly Good.  Healthy Hearts love Porridge. Heartfelt greetings from the Vortex.  xoxo

Can I have some more, Please? The Great Porridge Renaissance

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What’s cooking?

A coupla weeks back, I hankered for a new dish of sorts. It was brunch-time, I had a few minutes and my Rotunda (it’s the elaborate name I use for the rotating shelf in my kitchen) held the necessaries.

I went online, as you do, and found this recipe from The Guardian. Now, you can go there and read Felicity Cloake’s version of “Perfect Porridge” or you can read + see what happens in the real world, when you try to do it yourself.

If you no wanna cook (not really cooking though is it?) then head down to the Porridge Cafe, opening early March, somewhere around Old Street, London (www.porridgecafe.com) where they are cooking up all types of weird & wonderful, sweet & savoury Porridges. Back to me!

I call it: Porridge

For 2 peeps (halve it down for one, it works):

1/2 cup coarse oatmeal (50g)

1/2 cup medium oatmeal (50g)

1 cup whole milk (200 ml) – I use semi-skimmed, Purists don’t use any! Eek!

2 cups water (400 ml)

2 pinches of salt

Honey + Greek Yoghurt to serve.

“It’s just Porrdige love.
Yes, but it’s what you DO with it ….” 
The Castle (reimagined)

1. Get dem oats and tip into a non-stick fry pan. Turn the hob on a medium heat and cook until someone rushes in, asking if you’re making popcorn. That’s the aroma you’re going for. They should look a bit brown too. NO OIL – just the oats.

2. Tip the browned/fragrant oats into a heavy saucepan (I like a Le Creuset, but then, who doesn’t?). Tip the milk/water on top and turn the heat on high, until the mixture bubbles. Turn it down to low, still bubbling, just not quite as furiously as before.

3. Get your phone, scroll through some social media for 10 minutes. Make sure you’re stirring the porridge. You can’t walk away from this, you must be present. In the moment, mindful of the Porridge (Yet tweeting about something unrelated) Not me, I’m tweeting about the Porridge.

4. Many schools of thought on “When is it Done?”. This is my School of Porridge: when the bubbles start leaping out of the saucepan expressly to burn you, they’re trying to tell you something. The liquid is mostly absorbed. It sticks together and makes a blobby shape (esp when you spoon it into a bowl later on). You can also try tasting the oats, for “bounce”. Complete mush is not my thing – so I like a little bounce-back on those oats. I think your colon does too. Best not to mention colon in a recipe though.

5. Throw in the salt & stir it up – give it a minute to collect its thoughts …… and then spoon into 1 or 2 bowls.

6. Don’t leave it like that! The winter wonderland of this dish is the juxtaposition between the salty nutty oats and the sweetness of the honey and the tangy creamy yoghurt. Just so you know – “Greek Style” yoghurt from the supermarket is not as good as “Greek” yoghurt made in Greece. Use whatever you can get though – it’s all good. Sometimes, I’m able to fashion the British Isles out of the yoghurt. Not on this occasion, sadly.

Here are some pics to help you through the process – you will be hard pressed to find a better dish for the wintry weather ahead. DO let me know how you get on – I am yet to see Singapore on my WordPress map of world domination. I know it’s hot down there – turn up the aircon! #justsayin Click the “comments” icon at the top of the post. Got to run, I smell popcorn.

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Toast the oats. See them browning at the edge? Jiggle the pan so they don’t burn. Photo: Vortex of Bloggery
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Yes, it looks like too much liquid to begin with. It’s not. Photo: Vortex of Bloggery
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I’ve been burnt a few times by the bubbles by now. Off with the heat. See the tidemark on the saucepan? That’s how much it’s reduced down. Photo: Vortex of Bloggery
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Yes, that is salt. 2 pinches. In it goes. Photo: Vortex of Bloggery
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Stir in salt and it looks a lot less liquidy now. Let it be, let it be, let it be oh let it be. Sing that song and it’ll be done by the time you are. (Maybe just a verse + chorus) Photo: Vortex of Bloggery
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Good? You call that good? That’s not good ….. Photo: Vortex of Bloggery
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Ta Da! Bon Appetit. Photo: Vortex of Bloggery

Book Review: “The Cancer Survivors Club” Chris Geiger

Updated link

Vortex of Bloggery

Reading “The Cancer Survivors Club: A collection of inspirational and uplifting survival stories” by Chris Geiger, is like finding someone’s diary – opening it to the most devastating day of that person’s life – and reading on and on because you can’t stop.  Only, this is a collection of stories from twenty-three people, who have had cancer dumped in their laps, right out of the blue. One of your greatest fears, right?

However scary this all seems, the title of the book gives its premise away: you see, these are the stories of cancer Survivors. These brave souls have weathered their various storms and have come out the other side on a wave of positive energy. The Cancer Survivors Club has offered up its stories for the greater good. What’s so great about that?

Well, when it comes to the “Big Bad C” there is a…

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Book Review: “The Cancer Survivors Club” Chris Geiger

The Cancer Survivors Club by Chris Geiger
The Cancer Survivors Club by Chris Geiger

Reading “The Cancer Survivors Club: A collection of inspirational and uplifting survival stories” by Chris Geiger, is like finding someone’s diary – opening it to the most devastating day of that person’s life – and reading on and on because you can’t stop.  Only, this is a collection of stories from twenty-three people, who have had cancer dumped in their laps, right out of the blue. One of your greatest fears, right?

However scary this all seems, the title of the book gives its premise away: you see, these are the stories of cancer Survivors. These brave souls have weathered their various storms and have come out the other side on a wave of positive energy. The Cancer Survivors Club has offered up its stories for the greater good. What’s so great about that?

Well, when it comes to the “Big Bad C” there is a lot of fear and negativity swirling around. Magnify it by a million, when all that crazy happens to you. Hearing about someone else’s sh*tstorm – which has been conquered – is bloody marvellous. These folk (and little folk) have endured hellish chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and the full gamut of surgeries. Best of all: Cancer has been in their rear view mirrors for a good 5, 10, 15 years and more. Good News indeed.

If you want to know how any of these stories might relate directly to you – I can report that the cancers discussed in the book are: Lymphoma (Non-Hodgkin & Hodgkin), Pancreatic, Breast, Bowel, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), Testicular, Spinal / Brain & Stomach tumours and the very rare Pseudomyxoma Peritonei (PMP) – with its equally rare course of treatment:  MOAS (Mother of all Surgeries) – look it up – or better still – get the book. If your friend tells you they have cancer and you don’t know what to say – get the book and give it to them. I can guarantee they will appreciate it.

The stories which particularly resonated for me were not – as I had presumed – in my own area of expertise. They were Kate Beynon’s “Animal Therapy” (Kate used to have Non Hodgkin Lymphoma) and Mark Davies’ “How Do You Solve a Problem Like My Rear?” (Mark used to have Bowel Cancer) – Gotta love a Sound of Music reference!

A few of these stories told the heartbreak of babes lost, babes born prematurely due to competing with a tumour in utero – and – as was the case in “Animal Therapy” – babes born against all the odds. After completing her treatment, and being told she wouldn’t be able to have children, Kate proved the experts wrong and went on to have three healthy children. With the aforementioned Bowel cancer story, I felt the direct hit of Mark’s built-up tension and one of those “delayed reactions” you have when something is too big to deal with at the time. It made me cry. Then I pulled myself together. Ultimately, Mark’s story is one of seeing life through new lenses, as he found he was able to live a more centred life, up north, post-cancer.

I found myself open-mouthed at times to see just how busy these folk were whilst recovering from chemo/radio/surgery: there were house moves, charity walks, marathons and riding a new horse home after a painful bone marrow harvest! OMG! All I could manage was a lot of sleeping in bed on an extremely large amount of codeine!

Two of the stories are from the perspective of parents. The father of a young woman who very sadly lost her baby due to emergency surgery and the mother of an 11 year old boy. Sometimes it is so much harder to watch another go through a dreadful illness (and the subsequent treatment) than it is to go through it yourself. There were silver linings here too as the young boy discovered his passion for music, during the lonely and boring months of recovery in a foreign country.

A couple of the people in this book also question their course of treatment: Mark Davies refused the standard “cut you open and whip it ALL out” approach to his bowel cancer. Instead, he used a technique his mum found out about from talking with a neighbour who turned out to be a cutting-edge colorectal surgeon! How lucky was that?! The new technique used Papillon radiotherapy and TEM microsurgery which spares the patient incontinence and impotence and the loss of the large intestine. Another lady, who knew her limits due to her allergies, declined to go further with her chemotherapy. Instead, she used an alternative approach in conjunction with the Penny Brohn Cancer Care organisation – with great results for her.

I love hearing about good news + cancer. The “Survivors” all wanted to share their stories so they could offer hope and inspiration to other people experiencing a cancer diagnosis. Here’s to their continuing good health and yours too. I hope this book reaches the many, many, many people who need to read it.

Oh, by the thrice beshitten shroud of Lazarus …. ! How good is that Score? #WolfHall

Calling all Wolfies! Did y’all enjoy Episode 3 of “Wolf Hall”?

Now what I really want to know, ever since reading the book (and I did tweet @HilaryMantel, so I’ll let you know if I get an answer): Did she make up that totally Tudor cuss – or did she come across it during her research phase, inscribed in a leather tankard somewhere: “Oh, by the thrice beshitten shroud of Lazarus, where’s me meade?” It is magnificent, so much so that I did urge my stockbrokin’ brother to try and weave it into a conversation at work for laffs. Not sure how he got on there …. perhaps someone else can have a go?

The standout performance from last night’s episode, was ….. The Score! (NB to ‘im indoors: My birthday is only a week away ….)

The music is quite fabulous (if not quite “authentic” – electric Tudor keyboards anyone?) but I’m not on that jag today – what wait? Looky here – an explanation for the instrument selection, from the Amazon listing:

Leading British film and TV composer Debbie Wiseman in her sixth collaboration with BAFTA Award winning director Peter Kosminsky has created a highly original score mixing Tudor instruments with modern to create the austere and vivid musical atmosphere of the time.

The final scene where Cromwell watches Queen Anne being sent up the river, up the duff, with many paddles – for now (so he thinks – oh, the imagery!) is an absolute corker. Cromwell is thinking, thinking, always thinking and the electric minimalism carries such introspective suspense with a bloop here and blip there; little (dark) ideas are popping into his head.

Cromwell doesn’t need a soundtrack to be walking tall these days (unlike the rest of us): Perhaps there is an animal’s last “spray” in those furry collars, a hidden pheromone if you will, as the Ladies are a’likin what they’re seeing! The “action” was definitely missing in the book, it was ‘reported’ but we never really caught them at it. Obvie, that kind of restraint ain’t going to work on the telly. The producers, rightly, are giving us the “Lupine Lodge” version of Wolf Hall; hands on heaving breasts, going in for a pash/snog/kiss, and a bit of post-coital pillow talk. Pass me my fan!

A final word: Falling short of an explanation for the explosive outburst of Sir-Swearsalot (Norfolk was it?) for today’s post, I went to my source of all things Biblical / post-Medieval: My friend Sza says: Perhaps Lazarus died of dysentery?

I’m off now to look up The Locrian Ensemble of London! Anyone up for a Volta?

#WorldCancerDay – What the hell do I know about “The Cancer Survivors Club”?

Oh Lordie – a bit too much, I’m sorry to say. But that’s where the fear ends.

The Cancer Survivors Club by Chris Geiger
The Cancer Survivors Club by Chris Geiger

Today, I have been listening to Vanessa Feltz’s show on BBC London (because I love her) and a most genial man, by the name of Chris Geiger, has been talking about a book which is out today. It’s called “The Cancer Survivors Club: A Collection of inspirational and uplifting stories” and a summary can be found on his website of the same name.

It was so good to hear someone (else) feeling positive about surviving cancer and I’ve tweeted the man to let him know – especially (or more likely because it is) on #WorldCancerDay. The scary statistic of “50% of us in the UK will be diagnosed with Cancer” was released by Cancer Research UK today – and whilst there is safety in numbers most of the time, this is definitely not one of those times! Reassuringly, the survival rates are lot better these days too – so it is those stats I’ll be keeping in the front of my mind today.

I will read & review “The Cancer Survivors Club” in the not too distant future (two copies on the way from Amazon – one for you Mum!). For those of my subscribers who tune in for a laugh – you’ll know I’m a purveyor of fine gallows humour – so I’m sure among the angst & poignancy of cancer survivor stories, there will be a smile or two, too.

Lastly, I am reminded of the late, great  Yul Brynner and another famous health campaign of the past “Whatever you do … Don’t Smoke” so I’m going to send that thought out to all my friends and family who are still smoking, on World Cancer Day! (that’s you, and you, and you, and you, and …. YOU)

It is probably a more than a little bit wrong to say “Happy” World Cancer Day – but I am having a happy day regardless. Hope you are too.

PETTY THEFT!* Does Sam Smith owe a “writing credit” to Tom Petty?

*Not my gag – apparently there is a Tom Petty tribute band out there calling themselves this. Genius and current. You can run yourself ragged trying to be current ….

Maelstrom. Copyright 2015
Maelstrom. Copyright 2015

Right outta the blue a statement from Tom Petty appears on my radar: http://www.tompetty.com/blog/statement-tom-petty-423041 which was really my first inkling that something was adrift in the cosmos; that Tom Petty, wasn’t happy.

Really, Tom Petty? Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me (2014)” is so similar to “I Won’t Back Down (1988)” that you’re going to have to insist on a writing credit and, I can only assume, all the other credits that go with it (I mean to say, why would you “pass” on the royalties after all that kerfuffle?)

Well, we didn’t see that coming at Vortex HQ, and neither did Sam Smith, so the story goes. Most of the noise on the net suggests that Smith’s camp said something along the lines of: Sure thing, Tom Petty (whoever you are?), we’ll throw an ageing rocker a bone. Even though we (me and my team of myriad songwriters) have never, ever, EVER heard “I Won’t Back Down” before, our songs do sound awful samey when you speed one up, put t’other in reverse and transpose all the chords to end up in the same key.

Don’t take their word for it! Hear it for yourselves. Some kind soul going around town by the name of envanligfjant has thrown together this demo for us: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkcZV97O3pw

Now, as some of you are well aware, I’m of a late eighties sensibility. So it was only when my “Cramps” (R.I.P. Lux Interior) cassette had been chewed for the umpteenth time in the VW Golf of Doom (actually, the VW Golf of Doom was totalled in ’86 so it would have been the Dawn of the Unreliable Volvo in ’88), that I may have had occasion to smoke’n’drive along to “I Won’t Back Down”. High probability of air-banjo at the lights.

Somewhat catastrophically, the mists of motherhood (among many other mists) had filed Petty’s vital song away for safe-keeping. I can swear with my hand-on-heart that I have not recalled “I Won’t Back Down” from that day to this – such are my filing skills. Until ….Tom Petty and his Statements brought it again to my attention.

What does it all mean? There’s no such thing as a free lunch? But whose buffet is it? The Smith Buffet; with a help yourself to a writing credit bar & I’ll pick up the silverware (“Stay With Me” is now up for “Song of the Year” at the Grammys, unlike “I Won’t Back Down” which spent 15 weeks on the Billboard Charts and peaked at number 12) or the Petty Buffet; small servings of a generic salad which you can dress up any way you like, but you gotta admit brother – it’s still my f*ckin salad.

Where will you be dining?