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There might not be too many sportsmen who can unite Piers Morgan, Brian Lara, Gary Lineker and Jeremy Corbyn, but it appears Cyrille Regis can. His tragically early death on Sunday, aged just 59, has led to tributes from all around the globe.

Cyrille Regis Goal Celebration West Bronwich Albion

Big Cyrille was one of my childhood heroes. In an era when most children I knew liked Liverpool (because they won everything), I was a contrarian, a West Brom fan. I loved Cyrille Regis and Laurie Cunningham, Bryan Robson and Derek Statham, Brendan Batson and John Wile and Ally Brown. West Brom played great football, had a great kit and scored blinding goals, and Cyrille was their centre-forward.

At the time, I didn’t really understand about the racism and abuse he and other black players suffered, I just loved the way he played. He was young (barely 20 years old when he joined West Brom), and he seemed to love playing football and scoring goals. Why wouldn’t he be a kid’s idol?

What a player, what a man.

It says something about his calibre as a person that he could play for West Brom, and their arch-rivals in the Midlands – Wolves, Aston Villa and Coventry – and have each club regard him as a superstar, and each club rise to salute him if he ever returned to play against them. Journalist Pat Murphy knows more about sport in the Midlands than most; I commend his tweets and comments unreservedly.

Regis trained as an electrician while playing non-league football as a teenager in the 1970s, but only a few years later he became only the third non-white player to be capped for England (out of more than 950 players at that time). He’s been described as an ‘icon’ in countless tributes today. This NME cover is from the week after Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister. The article isn’t about him, but about the general state of football, and they chose Regis, still just 21, in full flight to represent the sport.

That’s an icon.

Cyrille Regis NME cover

How many musicians get on Match of the Day?

Two years ago this week the world was mourning David Bowie and Alan Rickman but I am more sad tonight, because I loved Cyrille Regis, perhaps at a time when not that many people did. I re-enacted his goals with my Subbuteo teams. I created new ones, but they were always absolute belters. And I am sad tonight because we’ve lost one of the Good Guys.

RIP Cyrille.

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Despite all the other stuff that 2017 has thrown at us (including more in the last few days, sigh), I can say I have seen some bloody good films this year. As our children are growing up, we’re seeing a more varied range of films on the big screen and at home, so for the first time this list of my favourites for the year is purely based on those I saw in the cinema (and a summary of the best I saw at home too…)

Buckle up…

10. La La Land
This came with an inordinate amount of hype that it almost lived up to. There are fabulous scenes that are acts of pure cinematic joy, but there’s a lot of bitter alongside the sweet. And the ending is terrific simply because it’s not that fairytale-dream-come-true.

9. Goodbye Christopher Robin
Perhaps because I saw this as I was becoming more aware of my own mental health issues, but this resonated so strongly with me. I’ve loved pretty much everything about Winnie the Pooh and his friends forever, and the dramatisation of their creation by a shell-shocked A.A.Milne and his son was touching and extremely moving. Domnhall Gleeson is fantastic as Milne, at times broken, at times putting his game face on to meet society’s expectations. Sometimes his actions are heartbreaking to our contemporary eyes, but the film sympathetically shows his suffering too. Margot Robbie is great at making an unsympathetic character very real, while Will Tilston and Alex Lawther portray Christopher Robin with amazing tenderness and depth, and Kelly MacDonald is superb as Christopher’s Nannie.

8. Thor: Ragnarok
This is a blast from start to finish. By a street it’s the funniest superhero film, and all of it in a good way. Taika Waititi is one of my discoveries of the year, and I love his sense of humour, both as a director and voice actor of the stone-man Korg. It’s full of great lines, features Hulk brilliantly, and introduces Valkyrie as a strong new female character. I could see this again in an instant, not something I can recall thinking about other Marvel films (except one – see later)…

7. The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Yorgos Lanthimos makes unusual films and this is no exception. The subject matter is one thing, but the style and tone is virtually unique to him. Dialogue is clipped and often monotone, there’s a sense of underlying dread and darkness in almost every scene, and yet it’s also shot through with jet-black humour, often surreal and disturbing in its own right.

The revelation here is Barry Keoghan as Martin, a young man who infiltrates the seemingly nuclear family of Colin Farrell’s heart surgeon and Nicole Kidman. From the start there’s something unnerving, almost other-worldly about him, and it gets worse from there. He’s utterly compelling, and I found the whole thing almost hypnotic.

Killing of a Sacred Deer barry keoghan martin

You should see him eating spaghetti, that’s REALLY unsettling…

6. Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 ryan gosling

Another release that almost out-hyped itself, this is an astonishing piece of visual creativity. So many frames a so beautiful. I said about Skyfall that Roger Deakins should win the Cinematography Oscar, but this is an even stronger case to celebrate his talents.

I’ve read and heard so much about this complex film to go into the details. I did find it a bit over-long; its deliberate pace and sparse dialogue means you really feel the time passing. This is a fantastic work of art and it tackles big and weighty themes mostly successfully, but I left the cinema thinking I needed to see it again to really process it. I’m sure that will happen sometime soon, but it left me somewhat unfulfilled (unlike my Top 5…)

5. Baby Driver
I love Edgar Wright’s films, and this may just be my new favourite. He’s taken a nothing-very-original plot about a getaway driver doing just one more job for the Controlling Gang Boss so he can escape, and turned it into a breathtaking, thrilling musical, choreographing jaw-dropping car chases, often pretty strong violence and more mundane things besides to a fabulous playlist of songs from more than 50 years of music. The details are stunning, the overall effect is uplifting and exciting. For its familiar themes and characters, it’s not like anything I’ve seen in ages. Loved it.

4. Get Out

Get Out Daniel Kaluuya

It takes something to out-unsettle The Killing of a Sacred Deer, but Jordan Peele’s stunning debut manages it, being both much funnier and more grisly at the same time. Daniel Kaluuya is near-perfect as Chris, the charming and handsome boyfriend of Rose. She wants to take him home to meet her family, and it gets weirder from there pretty quickly. Unpacking, laying bare and then stomping all over White Liberals’ underlying racism, Get Out reveals its secrets in stages. It cracks along at a real pace, but the full story only becomes clear late on, and you’re kept on the edge of your seat until the final seconds.

3. Paddington 2
This is a joy: nothing much more to say, really. It creates a fantasy version of London that’s just close enough to reality for us to easily suspend our disbelief that a CGI talking bear from Peru is at the heart of this brilliant film. There’s laughs throughout (surely Hugh Grant’s career high?!), a prison sequence that is a straight-out homage to Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel, and real jeopardy that reminded me of Toy Story 3. And any film that can make me think of those two greats has got to be good.

Grand Budapest hotel Prison Ralph Fiennes

Paddington 2 prison brendan gleeson

2. The Death of Stalin
The most scabrous comedy I’ve seen in ages, mostly because it centres on truly horrible people who have done and continue to do truly terrible things, who suffer from the most horrific paranoia, yet continue to utter belly-laugh funny lines. The ensemble cast is amazing and it never shies away from the atrocities committed in the name of Soviet Communism.
The Death of Stalin

1. Dunkirk
We saw this on my Dad’s 79th Birthday, just a couple of weeks before he died. We’d taken him out to lunch, but the Hospice staff said he wasn’t really well enough to see a film, which we had hoped he might be. So after leaving him to rest, we went to the iMax screen in Cheltenham, the first film I’ve seen on such a screen.

It’s such an overwhelming experience that I don’t believe words can fully describe it. Again there’s a sparse script that forces your attention to the visuals and the details. It’s intense, thrilling, human, terrifying and sobering.

21DUNKIRK-master768

Perhaps most strikingly compared to so many films these days, it doesn’t outstay its welcome. It tells a story (here driven by the experience rather than plot or characters) and gets itself gone in barely 100 minutes (almost an hour shorter than Blade Runner 2049). It truly needs to be seen, and I hope it wins all sorts of awards. I want more film-makers and films like this to be rewarded.

Dunkirk Beach

Before I go…

I saw some pretty terrific films at home this year, so in no particular order, consider this list a recommendation…

x+y: a sensitive, human, moving depiction of teenagers some of whom happen to be on the Autism Spectrum
What We Do in the Shadows: brilliantly funny mockumentary by and starring Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi about the adventures of a group of house-sharing vampires.
Their Finest: another great WW2 drama, proper characters, lovely stuff
Nightcrawler: wow. Jake Gyllenhaal goes full-on as the citizen-journalist in this chilling companion piece to Network…
Whiplash: the film Damian Chazelle directed before La La Land. IMO it’s better, virtually a horror film about being the best you can be, with an outstanding villain and tremendous Big Band music.
It Follows: a very unsettling horror film about sex and the way it can really f**k you up.
Hidden Figures: fabulous telling of a story that needs to  be more widely known.
Train to Busan: a brilliant, kinetic, heart-stopping zombie thriller from Korea. Amazing.
The Babadook: another great horror film, this one a dissection of grief and the dismantling of a young mother’s psyche.
John Wick: I love me a good Keanu Reeves film, and this is a VERY good Keanu Reeves film. Brutal, simple, takes no prisoners.

Spiderman – Homecoming: Ferris Bueller with suits & powers. Tom Holland is great as the 19th Spider-Man since the Millennium and Michael Keaton a top villain. Loved this.

Let me count (many, but not all of) the ways I have felt anxious, scared, overwhelmed in the last week or so.

  • Driving to visit Mum to help her getting settled in her new house. All the way there I knew that I’d get within 300m of our family home, but then have to turn right instead of going straight on
  • Having left the office early to do the school pick-up, checking my email at home and seeing 5 emails about the meeting in the morning
  • In Tesco to buy milk and bacon for Saturday breakfast, Mariah Carey bellowing over the speakers about what or whom she wants for Christmas
  • Trying to book a train home from London after an evening event with clients (avoiding engineering works and replacement bus services)
  • Not wanting to go out in the snow where our children were excited, making snowmen
  • Being in a meeting room with 25 other people all making small talk
  • Thinking about Christmas presents, shopping, food shopping, logistics
  • Seeing old colleagues for the first time in ages and how to respond when they smile and ask “how are you”?
  • When Rachel is upset about her own Mum’s health and stressed with too many things going on at once (I feel it’s partly my fault for not supporting her more)
  • Catastrophising about when my employers might start getting impatient about how long it’s I’m taking to recover and be back at full responsibilities. In truth, they’ve been brilliant, but that doesn’t stop the feelings
  • Doing a Mindfulness meditation that’s supposed to help me feel better, but I don’t
  • Being at that client event, 20-odd people sat around a massive table; eating, drinking, laughing, talking
  • Leaving that event early, hoping no one notices or calls out after me
  • While Rachel was downloading the details of everything she’s been dealing with in terms of family logistics, the electrical, decorating and plumbing work we’ve had done and whatever else (as well as doing her job in the last week of school term)
  • When someone asks me what I’m up to this weekend

I’ve had good days. For most of the time on most days I’m OK, but these things keep coming through, and they’re often pretty intense.

I’m trying to accept them, not to fight or resist them.
I’m trying not to retreat into my Safe Place where I just watch films or listen to music or podcasts on my own.
I’m trying to take things one day at a time, to be present in the moment.
I’m trying not to feel ashamed that I’m not coping with ‘life’, that everyone else seems to cope with reasonably well.
I’m trying to do some sort of exercise.
I’m trying not to blame myself for being scared, thinking and feeling things that objectively aren’t true.
I’m trying to talk to friends.
I’m trying not to feel guilty about how my colleagues have to cover for me, how I’m not getting better sooner.
I’m trying to be, feel and act positive(ly).
I’m trying not to judge myself.

…Will I always feel this way?
So empty, so estranged…

Ray Lamontagne – Empty

My parents moved into my childhood home when I was 5, in 1974. I only remember anywhere else from photos: Sunny Cottage was where I grew up. Earlier this week Mum finally moved out, downsizing to a smaller place barely a few hundred yards away. And so our home is no longer home.

In fact Mum has been keen to move out for years, but for a long time Dad resisted. The big garden was his pride and joy, filled with densely planted flower borders, fruit bushes and trees, carefully tended vegetable beds and a greenhouse loaded with tomatoes and cucumbers. Eventually it became too much and it was great that, a few months ago, they chose the new smaller house together before he died.

Sunny Cottage

Instead of mourning this hugely significant and symbolic change, I instead hope to reflect a handful of the positive times, memories and experiences I can recall from my many years in Sunny Cottage.

The original cottage is the section to the right of the white porch and is over 250 years old. The middle of the three windows is the original front door. This was our lounge, the heart of our home. Here’s where I played; downfall and computer battleships when they were the latest thing, creating Space Lego crafts and space stations. Here’s where Dad taught me to lay and light and maintain a real fire in our beautiful fireplace, where we toasted bread on a Sunday evening. Here’s where I made countless tape-to-tape compilations on the Technics stack system, first watched Not The Nine O’Clock News, The Young Ones and Blackadder, where I spent entire Saturdays watching Swap Shop in the morning then Grandstand all afternoon…

Fireplace

The fireplace earlier this year, when we no longer had real fires…

Upstairs from the lounge on the far right was my room. The stairs and corridor to reach it are narrow, so when we moved in apparently my bed had to be hoisted in through the window. When we helped Mum and Dad earlier this year to start the clearing-out process, the bed left the house via the same window.

My room, where I listened to Radio Luxembourg late at night, face pressed against the speaker, sound as loud as I dared. So many times I woke up with the corner of the radio digging into my cheek, batteries dead or dying. Here’s where I practised French Horn, created worlds during my Dungeons & Dragons phase, revised for exams, plotted countless visions of a future I was actually clueless about…

Height Chart Cupboard under the stairs

As Mum prepared to move out, she traced out the inside of the door to the cupboard under the stairs. This is where we would periodically stand, shoes off, flat on the floor and she would track our height (I’m on the right, then my brother Mike, then my daughters). The first measurements here were taken in 1979, the last just last week. Now our younger daughter is 12, it turns out she’s the tallest of all of us at this age, while my brother is the (ahem) least tall…

For me the best thing about our house was the garden. It’s sprawling, with countless opportunities for imaginative play. We’d play football against the Cotswold Stone Wall, cricket, frisbee, boules, mini golf, anything – even using plant pots and bamboo canes to create obstacle courses for amazing Spacehopper races (look it up!)…

I remember trying to be Ian Botham in 1981; hitting the ball over the fence into the (main) road meant ‘Six-and-out’ and you had to go and retrieve it. We often had so many apples that we’d use the fallers for smashing around with the cricket bat, spraying pieces everywhere.

Before the path around the house was gravelled it was paved, which made it a great race track. The lane alongside the property went up into a field of allotments (long since developed into houses where Mum now lives). We would ride our bikes up the lane into the field, then come screaming back down the hill and skid spectacularly in the dusty grit at the bottom. We’d laugh and do it again, and again.

Garden Frisbee

Garden Frisbee, 1989, post-interrailing holiday

Rachel and I celebrated our 10th Wedding Anniversary in the garden in a joint party for Dad’s 70th Birthday. Next year we’ll reach 20 years and he would have been 80, and we’ll have to celebrate and commemorate elsewhere. But nothing can diminish or extinguish the sunshine I’ll always carry from our Sunny Cottage home.

A recent thing that’s been doing the rounds on Facebook has been the 7-day Black & White Challenge: post one photo a day for a week that reflects your life. Photos should contain no people and carry no captions or explanation. And like the best (sic) memes, you’re encouraged to challenge another person to take the challenge each day. 7 times the fun!

Of course, in the grand scheme of things, this is hardly a challenge, and apparently it’s caused far more ranting on social media than I’d wish for from a civilised society in 2017. But never mind that, I took part and enjoyed it. But why should I let the pictures speak for themselves when I can speak for them?

Birthday Cake
The first day of my challenge happened to be Eleanor’s 12th Birthday, so there was cake. She’s an avid baker and indeed she made this red velvet cake herself, and the icing, and iced it!

Black and White Challenge 2017 Birthday Cake

Whiskers
We adopted Whiskers on 1st July 2016, almost on a whim. We knew the family of his elderly owner, but she had to go into residential care, so he needed a new home. We went round to meet him and he was so immediately friendly that we took him there and then. He’s 9 years old, adorable and adoring, he craves and loves attention. I can scarcely remember a time without him.

Black and White Challenge 2017 Whiskers Cat

Bedside Table
These are a few of my favourite and least favourite things, some of which remind me of my mortality every day. Is it a cheat to have these pictures of Rachel, Jamie and Eleanor? I love (not in the same way, obviously) cinema, films and Empire magazine. The Handmaid’s Tale is my current much-overdue reading material. We’ve been watching the stunning TV adaptation, and in fact experiencing the two simultaneously has in fact enhanced my appreciation and admiration for both. A rare feat.

I’m less keen on needing two pairs of glasses now, and two different daily eyedrops to keep my glaucoma under control. Nor am I thrilled about the Citalopram tablets, but after 6 weeks, I genuinely think they’re beginning to make a difference.

Black and White Challenge 2017 Bedside Table

Sibelius
This coming Saturday the Stroud Symphony Orchestra is playing Sibelius’ 2nd Symphony. It could prove to be an emotional evening, as it’s the first concert I’ll have played since Dad died in August. It will be something not to have him in the audience, as he (and usually Mum too) came to virtually every concert I’ve played in the last 20 years. Sibelius is one of our shared favourite composers, and this perhaps his finest symphony. The epic, triumphant final movement might be tough to play without tears.

Black and White Challenge 2017 French Horn Orchestra Rehearsal Sibelius 2nd Symphony

Headspace
Rachel has been a practitioner and advocate for mindfulness, meditation and self-compassion for a couple of years, especially after she took a course locally with Linda Thomas. I’m using the Headspace app (free for a 10-day basic trial, paid-for after that, packed with loads of good stuff). Just taking time out, focusing on my breathing and how I’m actually physically feeling, not suppressing thoughts, just noticing them and letting them pass on by without beating myself up; observing, not judging. It’s worth a try…

Black and White Challenge 2017 Headspace Mindfulness App

Map
I’ve loved maps since I was a child watching my parents navigate our way through France on holiday, and closer to home. I love OS maps and their symbols, contour lines and clarity. This is centred on Tetbury and barely a day goes by without me pausing to reflect on how much I love the Cotswolds. I’ve planned many bike rides on this. Strava is great, but it’s not everything.

Black and White Challenge 2017 Ordnance Survey Map Tetbury Cotswolds

Clock
My last picture was taken on Wednesday, a Bad Day. I’d been working at home but it hadn’t gone well. After a poor night’s sleep I was down, distracted and dismayed all day. Sunday and Tuesday had both been Better Days, but Wednesday certainly wasn’t. By the time I needed to go and do the school run, I felt like I’d achieved virtually nothing. The clock ticked on and I felt lousy. The volatility and seeming randomness of what can make for a Good or Not Good day is almost debilitating.

Black and White Challenge 2017 Kitchen Clock Cornish Blue

But today I’ve genuinely tried to be present, in the moment. I’ve not thought about next week or next month or should I go to that meeting or what about Christmas Shopping? And it has felt productive. Laundry, cooking food, writing this, doing yoga, going to the gym. It might not seem much, but it’s been a Good Day.

We recently spent three days in Amsterdam, the best family time we’ve had in months. The last time I visited there was just for a few hours after a work meeting, on a frigid drizzly January afternoon. Even then I enjoyed walking along the canals, soaking up the history and architecture.

This time we were blessed with fantastic Autumnal weather and a terrific Airbnb apartment within walking distance of everything we wanted to see, and we absolutely loved our time there. Perhaps the highlight was our open boat tour of the central canal network, starting in perhaps one of the busier spots opposite the Rijksmuseum, where cars and bikes and pedestrians come together just like in any major city centre.

But within minutes, the boat had slipped down a canal-alley onto a parallel channel. We were 200m away and 80db quieter. We could have been in the countryside, it was that quiet. And with only 9 of us in the boat, our pilot and guide gave us a fantastic tour, complete with history, architecture, politics and social niceties of this most un-city-like city. We loved noticing all the ‘wonky’ houses, assessing the different styles of rooftop, revelling in the effortless beauty of the place.

Amsterdam Canals Bridges

Amsterdam Architecture

Compact & Bijou? Skinny House.

Amsterdam Architecture

Not quite straight?

 

Bike Bingo

And then there are the cyclists. Bikes and their riders are everywhere. I Reckon about the same amount of space is dedicated to cycle paths as to car/bus lanes as tram lines as pedestrian pavements. It’s very equitable, and this can make for some difficulty crossing the road, as there are so many different things to be looking out for!

Most importantly, however, is the atmosphere around the cyclists in Amsterdam. When I was thinking about this post I was going to consider a series of cultural comparisons on why cycling in this Dutch city looks and feels so different to cycling in Bristol (where I have commuted) and London (where I’ve observed commuters). But that just seems fraught with potential for people to take offence, so I’ll reserve my comments to observations rather than judgements.

In three days in Amsterdam, I noticed

  • traffic signals seem far more geared to the needs and priorities of cyclists and pedestrians than cars: we hardly ever had to wait more than 20 seconds to cross
  • more male cyclists in suits and female cyclists in (proper) high heels than wearing lycra
  • most bikes in Amsterdam rattle, have baskets or panniers, and look like something from a different age
  • very few have racing/drop handlebars
  • hardly any cyclists seeming to ‘race’; very little overtaking or jockeying for position
  • many cyclists wear headphones, many ride along using their phone in one hand
  • parents doing the school run with huge child carriers on the front, or remarkably young kids sitting behind the saddle, or toddlers in special seats mounted on the handlebars
  • people carrying huge bouquets of flowers, or large paintings, or guitars, or briefcases
  • almost no-one wore a helmet or high-vis jacket. Quite a few cyclists at night didn’t use lights

We loved playing ‘bike bingo’ scoring points for spotting different behaviours from that list above. Through the three days we were there, no-one looked stressed: there was no fuss, no fear. I didn’t see a single incident or anyone raising their voice to anyone else, even at rush hour. If we strayed onto the cycle path (this happened quite a bit on the first day) noone yelled, they just rang their bell (everyone has a bell) and we moved quickly away. I’m not saying I agree with all of this (especially those not using  lights at night), but it felt very different from cycling in Bristol, and almost entirely in a good way.

Our younger daughter Eleanor described Amsterdam as a city for people who don’t like cities. Perhaps that’s why it’s one of my favourite places.

The response to my last post was at once astonishing, heartwarming and more than a little worrying. So many kind words, so much unconditional support, not even a hint of the hard time I was giving myself, that I feared might come my way. And so many people who have clearly experienced similar feelings and issues themselves.

THANK YOU to everyone who has sent kind words and thoughts, recommended reading, shared experiences, or contacted me to ask how I am and if you can help. It’s been humbling and uplifting.

More than 3 weeks on, and I’ve been riding the clichéd emotional rollercoaster. In the immediate aftermath of my diagnosis, I felt a wave of relief, of validation. It was official: I had permission to feel shit.

Too good to be true?

Then for a few days in that week I felt really good. I went cycling with friends, twice. I did yoga and played my French Horn every day, went for Autumn walks, talked with friends. But then I felt like a fraud, because I felt good. How can I be off work when I feel this good? How can I have depression? The tablets don’t kick in for a few weeks, apparently, so am I making it up?

But then we went for dinner with friends on Saturday, and I didn’t enjoy it. The food and company were great, but by the end of the evening I wanted to run away. A recurring symptom of my particular depression is an anxiety about being around people, even good friends. I want to curl up on my own at home, where it’s safe and I don’t feel like I have to justify myself. I’ve found it hard to explain exactly what I’m feeling, what I’m anxious about, which again makes me feel other people will dismiss it. I’m desperately sure that I’m bound to disappoint people, either for being depressed, or by not being depressed enough, or in the right way.

Don’t ask me…

The next week was a blur and chaotic. For more than 2 days we had British Gas men in the house ripping out the decades-old boiler and installing a new one, and our daughters were both on 1/2 term, meaning I didn’t have anything like as much time to myself all week. And what was hard was anything where I had to make a choice, or a decision, let alone anything more distant than something like What’s for lunch?  More complex projections were nearly impossible: What do you want for Christmas? What time do we need to leave on Monday? Which fabric do you like for the new chair cover?

Ups and Downs

Week 3 was mostly fantastic – a long-awaited trip to Amsterdam was our best family time in more than a year, despite the long and occasionally fraught travelling. We loved the city and had an amazing time, walking miles every day, revelling in art and architecture, bitterballen and stroopwaffels.

Last weekend we visited Rachel’s mum in her care home; the first time I or our daughters had seen her in a few months. She’s very frail and her mobility is really poor. Normally I’ve been able to almost dissociate myself from the emotions of this, helping her calmly in and out of the wheelchair or car, keeping conversations going. But this time I just couldn’t. I had flashbacks to Dad’s last weeks, worries of my own illness, almost overwhelming, and this lasted almost right through Sunday at home.

On Monday I started back at work, doing 1/2 days. Everyone has been terrific, and for a while it was great to be taking a step back towards normal. But every morning I’ve felt a pang of being clearly not normal. I’ve been (rightly) kept away from the day-to-day complexity of my normal clients: if I find it hard to think about lunch, their needs would not sit well with me…

While I exchanged banter with colleagues I worried again they would think me a fraud (he seems fine). At the same time I was anxious about completing even a relatively simple task, to the extent that when I got positive feedback I almost wept with relief. I’ve been anxious about going to make tea in case someone innocently or kindly asks “how are you?”… my worries being around people are still real. I want to explain myself, but (as this rambling proves) nothing’s clear-cut or straightforward.

Yesterday I got home feeling wiped out, exhausted, jittery. I had a nap and woke up with a fear that felt like it might paralyse me: I simply couldn’t haul myself out of bed. Today I’ve not been at work and have had a day more like that first week; yoga, the gym, time to myself. Again the lifting of any serious responsibility or decision-making is a significant thing. Even the smallest issue where someone else might judge me or have their own opinion is a challenge at the moment. I find it hard to think clearly, and just want to retreat into watching a film, where I can lose myself and shut out the world.

A first step?

But that’s no long-term solution, so I’ve booked a first session with a new counselling service next week. I honestly can’t easily rationalise what’s behind my symptoms; there’s so many potential factors, from work to family, my own health, my Dad’s death, Rachel’s mum… so hopefully they might nudge me into some clarity. And maybe my serotonin levels will start to rebalance soon. Fingers crossed.