21 Jan 23
When I was younger, a child and then a teenager, my father would encourage me to read and at times forcefully. He gave me books way beyond my years and the guardian. Nothing I read I found of any interest. I grew up in Oldham. My brother who is 6 years older than me, like most big brothers, was in to very cool music, fashion and art way before me. He was the first of our family to go to university and whilst attending Cambridge he gave me the black album by Hanif Kureshi.
I cannot explain to you the impact that book had on me at that time. There are very few things that have had such momentous impact on me and my future self - it was like taking ecstasy for the first time at a rave in Manchester at 16. Reading the black album must have affected the course of my life in the same way that listening to dangerous by Micheal Jackson and teddy Riley. It goes without saying I have read everything you’ve ever written before and after.
I’m sorry you’re accident happened and your life has changed the way it has. I cannot imagine. However, these writings feel somehow like the most precious, honest and genuine insightful writings I’ve ever read. They’re simplicity and nuance is so incredibly intoxicating.
I want you to know how much your books have meant to me. They’ve meant to me what the Beatles catalogue means to others.
Thank you. You’re biggest fan.
I had the gift of being brought up by a Grandfather who was severely physically limited by polio which he had acquired kissing a girl when he was 16 (according to legend). He was going to be a farmer and ended up heading up the orthopaedic department of a big hospital in a big town. He was the most talented, kind, and out there person I have ever met. Don’t even mention the anti-vax movement to anyone born in the fifties where we routinely saw callipers; pock marked faces; stunted bodies. Courage. I am loving your free writing.
When I was diagnosed with cancer well-intentioned people, especially people of faith, kept on trying to make me see a silver lining. All I wanted to do was club them on the head. Or they would ask me how the experience had changed me. And I was trying to make them see it was still me, I hadn’t changed. Just me + trauma + dealing with a series of problems we are wholly unprepared for. But of course trauma changes us. I would still give the cancer experience back if I could but, in the absence of such a choice, I learnt to find the grace and the beauty, just like you are. It also gifted me with a sense of immediacy and presence I previously lacked. Maybe the same place where your current writing stems from. Putting everything down in unrehearsed words helps us process and accept massive changes. As readers, we can only be grateful for your candor and willingness to share. (I love Crodino more than I should….it is a perfect drink)
1/6/2023 i suffered had a shock. It was somewhat but not totally catastrophic and could have been the end. Blood clots in my legs and a constellation of clots in my lungs. The big dipper, I asked?
Luckily they did not travel to the brain and here I am. I was lucky. So now on blood thinners for life i suppose
So i read your posts with great joy and thankfullness.
Yes, there is great compassion and beauty in the world, it manisfests quietly and is all around us if we truly look. You are seeing it at the gym and around you with the man who bathed you.
Before making feature films i worked in medicine so i saw what you are seeing today. All my life i felt that broken bodies belong to heroes. Real heroes.
You have an open heart and it will save you.
Do keep writing, it gives hope to all and the juxtaposition of your past escapades to your life today brings a smile to my face. Being children of the 60's, we had many escapades as the motto was "make love, not war."
Perhaps these dictated posts, written in your head, will end up being your most important project. It is so true that we live in an "ablist" world and are callous and frightened (perhaps callous because frightened) of those with disabilities. Your new (of course unfortunate) state gives you the opportunity to make us all more humane.
This week a young friend had a tragic bike accident and we are waiting to hear whether or not there's enough brain activity for him to recover. My own connection with him and his family go back about 45 years of so, so needless to say our connections run deep. As a point of curiosity, and unusually, he, his wife, and his child had passed through my thoughts on the day prior to the accident, and I'm left wondering what it is that interconnects us. Surely not all can be measured in a teaspoon or cup, or by ruler, whether metric or whatever. There's a thing in physics they call "entanglement," and according to theory, once two particles are introduced to each other they can be separated to the furthest corners of the universe and what's done to one will be sensed in some way by the other. So perhaps since the big bang we've been connected in unseen ways with each other and most certainly with all.
As I await word on my young friend, I wonder whether there's some hidden purpose to life. Thank you for your words and reflections. Perhaps one day we'll meet.
I love reading your daily blog. You are now part of a very, very exclusive club that no one in their right mind would ever want to join. Yet life goes on, doesn’t it? You adapt because we humans are resilient creatures. You see beauty in new places and in new people. Even if you have a full recovery and walk out the door, your life is forever changed by this experience. Disabled people are ordinary people with extraordinary challenges. I wish you well and by the way, a royal pain in your arse is encouraging. Sensation precedes function.
I once worked on a hospital unit where people who had suffered strokes or head trauma, or who were dealing with neurological illness came to be rehabilitated.
I was the only non-medical member of staff on the ward. I was also the first point of contact. In between my attempts to level a city skyline of patient case-note folders, I was continually tugging on the sleeves of those more qualified members of staff, who I thought might be able to provide solutions to problems that I lacked the wherewithal to address myself.
I recall one patient who did not speak English as a first language. I think he'd had a stroke. He was very distressed by his situation; very emotional and very easily upset. Matters escalated after an agency nurse handled him roughly.
One of the health care assistants discovered that they could calm him down by singing 'Una Paloma Blanca', which was a global hit for The George Baker Selection in 1975. It is one of those songs that you would swear was a Eurovision winner, even though it wasn't. I thought it was funny that a song written and performed in a language that neither the patient nor his carer spoke nonetheless crossed language barriers, and made this poor man feel more at ease. The importance of a good bedside manner is often overlooked.
Nobody tap dances off a rehab ward, or if they do I've never seen it. What you do see is people who have suddenly found themselves physically or cognitively impaired – sometimes both – attempting to put themselves back together. This often entails finding workarounds that enable them to perform tasks, that they probably used to perform automatically, in slightly different ways than they did before. The solutions are seldom perfect or aesthetically pleasing but they are effective.
I don't know whether it is a flattering comparison, but some of the patients who passed through the ward reminded me of those trees one sometimes encounters, whose development has been impeded by an obstacle, usually something man-made, and who have been forced to grow in a peculiar way. Maybe the trunk kinks at a jarring angle, or it narrows and then widens again. At first glance its appears jarring and very un-tree like. On reflection, the tree is adapting and is doing what is necessary for it to continue to flourish. However that might look to a casual observer, there is a very pure form of dignity present in any attempt to rise above an undignified situation.
Sleeping soundly to my right there is a very elderly blue chameleon, named Frederic (after Chopin). He has mobility issues resulting from a bad leg that was broken in middle age. I build configurations of branches to make it easier for him to get around. Sometimes I help him to climb objects that he used to be able to race up and down whenever he chose to do so. Before bedtime, I always remind him: 'you are the best chameleon you know how to be.' He doesn't hear me because he lacks conventional ears. Even if he could, he wouldn't understand me, but I tell him anyway because I love him.
My new hero: the guy who had your shit in his fingers and kept singing “Fernando”. We just need more people like him. And more like you to appreciate the wonders of Crodino.
Dear Hanif, I am incredibly moved and amused, by your wonderful posts. They are so real and raw and unflinching. I read every one. I am wondering if you have considered getting voice activated software? It can be a pain in the ass (forgive this reference please as I realize it is an issue for you) to get accustomed to and it can make funny mistakes, but I used it when I had a problem with my hands a few years ago. (Problem has since resolved btw) But anyway in case a family member isn't near by or it's in the middle of the night and a brilliant thought is going to flash through your brain and then burn out like a shooting star, might be worth trying. Please keep writing these. Sending you warmest wishes from Brooklyn. Mary Morris
I've recently emerged from a sobering year of medical trauma, including spinal compression fractures that left me in awful pain, on opiates and in bed for about three months. I felt as if I'd aged a decade, gone from relatively healthy middle age to being geriatric nursing-home material. (I'm six months older than you!) But I have emerged - forever changed but capable of many things again. The truth that disability can happen to anyone, any time, has sunk deeply into my psyche and with it much more compassion for those who are physically broken or have isolating illnesses. I am reminded of the comment of a former Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh, when she found herself being treated in a cancer ward. Her first reaction was 'I don't belong here with all these sick people'. Her second reaction: 'None of these people 'belong' here. They are all dealing with the unexpected'.
Hoping you heal well enough to recreate you life in positive ways.
Life is not beautiful but beautiful words arise from a not beautiful time in life, I guess this is it. You are amazing, great to be able to read such an immense reaction to pain, it is pain made into art and hope. And concern. How amazing.
Querido Hanif, if I dare such affection in writing, the quality of tenderness is so underrated. After my liver was resected, I couldn't eatfartpoop for four days. My first enema!!! I dreaded it, not for my dignity but the imagined discomfort of the nurse. And she was so beyond matter of fact into playfulness, and Happy for me. Poop schmoop🤷🏼♀️
I've been where you are, in a grave state and utterly dependent on others. During one hospital intervention, the lights were too bright and I had to keep my eyes closed. I told my mother, "You know, I can't actually DO anything about the cancer. I have to outsource this to the professionals." Nurse Rajni, who was attending to my infusion, said, without missing a beat, "Of COURSE you're outsourcing to the BROWN PERSON."
Your Isabella is amazing...
Your thoughts on the creative energy released by trauma resonated with me. About 9 months ago my husband died of cancer in a palliative care ward in Berlin. Knowing his diagnosis I had often imagined his death. He would get thinner and thinner, and we would exchange ever deeper words about our lives together, until he gently drifted away. Instead he swelled up from liver failure, he lost his brilliant mind gradually in little pieces and was unable to speak for the last two days. We resorted to improvising outrageous stories for each other when he was lucid, and he shared his hallucinations with me when he wasn’t. When he could no longer speak I sang for him. Hours of it, Elvis, Louis Armstrong, muppet show, improvised songs. Off he went, without managing to give me the password for his computer stuff. Bugger.
And now? I am filled with pain and raw energy. On fire. Hyper aware and full of thoughts and ideas I would never have otherwise had. It’s dark, brutal and at the same time purifying. I feel he’s the only person that would get this, but I am writing here just in case there are others who might get it too.
Thank you for sharing your reality.