Friday, 5 February 2016

press your space face close to mine, love...

Earworms of the Week

"Escape (The Pina Colada Song)" - Rupert Holmes

I don't suppose I'm the only person who finds the lyrical content of this song a bit dubious. Just because the person he meets in that bar turns out to be his girlfriend, does that make the mutual deception acceptable, even if they discover so many wonderful shared new interests?  I say no.... but the song is utterly irresistible in any case.  And now I want to watch that film too.

"Montague Terrace (In Blue)" - Scott Walker

In the end, my choir solo try-out was postponed, but I have been thinking about songs that might suit my voice for the next opportunity.  Much though I'd love to give it a go, I don't think I dare attempt a Scott Walker.... his honeyed baritone might be a little bit of a stretch for me.  I think I might retreat back to the safety of early Johnny Cash.  Scott 1, 2, 3 and 4 are pretty much my go-to records for immaculate vocal performance, to be honest. Cash seems a little bit more of an attainable target.  If you can sing that deep - and I can - why not?

"Popcorn" - Heavy metal stylee

Worth it just for his facial expressions.

"All My Life" - Foo Fighters

As I ran to work in the dark the other morning, I was listening to BBC 6Music.  It wasn't a particularly pleasant morning and I wasn't feeling great.... so it was something of an unexpected motivational boost to discover that Chris Hawkins was asking for listeners' suggestions of "songs with shouting" and I tuned in just in time to hear him choose the winner.  From all the various nominations, he chose to play this record.  An excellent choice, I'm sure you will agree.  It put a very welcome spring into my step, anyway.  Still my favourite of theirs, I think.

"The Most Beautiful Girl (In the Room)" - Flight of the Conchords

I actually saw a greetings card that has the line:
"You're so beautiful.
Like a tree.  Or a high class prostitute"
Clearly it's a steal from Flight of the Conchords... but they totally don't bother with a credit.  Pretty classless, but obviously I wasn't going to pass this up, and bought it anyway.  These guys are geniuses.  I actually listen to their albums all the time: not only are they funny, but they're also full of really, really good songs.  This was from the first episode, for goodness sake!

In the whole wide room.....

"Chim-Chimney" - Dick van Dyke

Of all the things that I learned this week, I think my favourite was the fact that, if you use your finger to draw -2 -2 x = on a piece of paper (or your pillow or something), then it sounds like the first line of this song.  It really does too.  Try it.  And now try and think how you would tap out the rest of the song.

- 2 - 2 x =
= x + 2 +
- 2 - 2 x =
= x + 2 +
= + 1 = + 1

- 7 2 + 7
= x + 2 +
= 2 + 2 1
= x + 2 +

- 2 - 2 x =
= x + 2 +
- 2 - 2 x =
= x + 2 +
- 2 - 2 x =
= x + 2 +
- 2 - 2 x =
= x + 2 +

- 7 2 + 7
= x + 2 +

- 7 2 + 7
= x + 2 +
= 7 7 2 +
= x + 2 +
= x - 7
- 2

- 2 - 2 x =
= x + 2 +
= x + 2 1
= x + 2 +
1 2 = x 1 =

That's how.

You're welcome.

"I Dreamed a Dream" / "One Day More" - Les Miserables

I've not seen this or listened to the songs, but damnaggit if I'm not thinking about giving it a watch.  I used to like rock music, you know.  Bloody choir.

"Zach's Song" - School of Rock

Well, it was on telly the other night, and obviously I couldn't just channel hop past it.

"Let's Get It On" - Marvin Gaye

...even if I think that watching Jack Black might be directly responsible for the arrival of this song into my internal jukebox.  I'm trying very hard to make it the Marvin Gaye version and not Black's version from High Fidelity.  Really tryin', baby....

"Oh You Pretty Things" - Peter Noone
"Moonage Daydream" - David Bowie

Peter Noone - off of Herman's Hermits - had a UK No 12 hit in 1971 with "Oh You Pretty Things". Listening to his clean-cut version. With the lyrics inspired by the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche, it's hard to imagine that Noone had much of an idea of what he was singing about. It doesn't sound like he does, anyway. Bowie's own version only came later, and not surprisingly it's much better.  The Bowie song I've been really singing all week is "Moonage Daydream" though (another song from the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack, you'll notice...)

I'm an alligator, I'm a mama-papa coming for you
I'm the space invader, I'll be a rock 'n' rollin' bitch for you
Keep your mouth shut,
you're squawking like a pink monkey bird
And I'm busting up my brains for the words

He really was from another planet, wasn't he? Totally made by that Mick Ronson riff, mind you....

Right.  Done, done and onto the next one.  Have a good weekend, y'all.  See you on the other side.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

we ran a miracle mile...

I know I talk about running on here a lot.  Well, let's be perfectly honest: now that I'm marathon training, I think it's fair to say that I talk about running a lot.  In fact, I talk about little else but running.  Well, I guess I'm not going to apologise for that.

One thing that I don't do all that often is to trumpet our sponsorship site.  We're running London again this year to raise money for the MS Trust, but although all financial support is most welcome, one of the things I was keen not to do too much this year was to rely on my friends to raise the money we need to hit our target.  There are so many good charities, and I know that everybody gets asked for donations all the time.  It's hard.

We raised £7,200 last year, and the vast majority of that came from people we know putting their hands in their pockets and making a donation.  It was a truly humbling experience to have all those people show us how much they supported us by donating to our charity.  This year, I wanted to do things a little bit differently, and to try and give people something for their money. I was thinking cake sales, raffles and perhaps a silent auction or something.   Luckily for us, our friends at Virtual Runner gave us a couple of runs that meant that we were basically up to £4,000 before I'd even started training.  (Incidentally, there are still a few places left on the Revenge of the Sixth run.  Who doesn't want a glow-in-the-dark Darth Maul medal? Enter HERE!)

But we are still asking for donations.  I wasn't going to keep going on about it, but this morning, I woke up early: it was the morning after my injection and it was dark and cold and I didn't feel especially great.  But I got up, pulled on my running gear and went out into the freezing morning to run the 3.6 miles to work in the sleet.  This evening, after a full day at work, I pulled on my slightly soggy running gear and ran the 3.6 miles home in the dark - nearly being mowed down along the way by the idiot rowing coaches who cycle along the riverside looking at their boats whilst riding on bicycles with no lights.  I'm not asking for your sympathy because I got into this out of choice.... but I'm getting to the part of my training where the miles really start to rack up and it can feel like a bit of a slog.

I'm doing this marathon partly to prove to myself that I can run 26.2 miles on my own.  I've got multiple sclerosis and it is slowly taking its toll on my ability to run, mainly by wasting the muscles on my left side and reducing the flexibility in my ankle.  Running 500 training miles in four months in order to complete a marathon is the best way that I know to stick two fingers up at this horrible bloody condition.  But I'm also doing it to raise money for a brilliant charity that provides a critical support to people with MS, their families and the medical professionals who care for them.  And you know what, I am going to need your help and support... financial or otherwise.

I'll just leave this here.

YOU CAN SPONSOR US HERE:

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/TCMS

Thanks!

Monday, 1 February 2016

slow ride...

I have never really considered myself to be a particularly quick runner. I hated cross-country runs at school and walked whenever I thought I could get away with them (although I did accidentally once end up in the school team, but I don’t like to talk about that). I was a passably decent 400m runner, working out that you could beat most people if you just went out really hard at the gun and just tried to hold on over that awful last 100m. Even then, I was dipping under 60 seconds, but not by enough to consider myself particularly talented.

It’s somewhat ironic, then that I now spend so much of my time running. I started dabbling whilst I was still a student. I’d played loads of sport at school and that all suddenly ground to a halt at university when I realised that most of the people in the university sports clubs – especially the rugby club – where utterly insufferable. I felt I needed to do some sort of exercise, and running seemed to deliver the biggest bang in the shortest amount of time. One short-ish run a week didn’t really become much more for several years, and my running only really took off when I stumbled into a running community. Not only did I discover the joys of running with other people – apparently my assumptions that running was a quintessentially solitary sport were mistaken – but I also started to run further and faster than I have ever done before. I’m not the fastest person in the club, by any stretch of the imagination, but I was probably in the top 10 or 15%.

Mind you, running is such a relative sport: most runners learn pretty quickly that they’ll be quicker than many but also slower than many, and the only person you can reliably measure yourself against is yourself. By that benchmark, I’ve been getting steadily faster over the last three or four years. Not too bad for a 41 year-old guy with MS. At my best, I can run fairly steadily at a pace of around, on a good day just under, 8 min/mile…. Although, to be honest, almost all idea of pace have gone out of the window since I started training for the marathon last year, which has continued into my training for this year’s London Marathon: my focus has completely changed to thinking about how far I run , not just how fast. I’m now rarely running flat out because my objective is now to nurse my body around much longer distances, and I don’t trust my body enough to try and run both far AND fast without breaking down.

Something else has changed too: since I started getting involved with my running club and especially with parkrun, I’ve found that I derive much more satisfaction from the community than I do from simply turning up and running as fast as I can. I enjoy volunteering at parkrun at least as much as the actual running. I’m now a registered guide for visually impaired runners, and on Saturday I took Steve out for his first ever parkrun. We went round in a gentle 50 minutes, maybe 25-30 minutes slower than I might run it on my own. But, you know what? That’s okay. That run was for Steve, not for me and I’m totally fine with that. In fact, I enjoyed it and doubtless derived a lot more satisfaction from my morning’s work than if I’d challenged my personal best.

There’s a bit of tension in my running club at the moment: there are those people who like the community and want to make sure we have enough trained run leaders to keep offering beginner’s courses and to make sure everyone feels welcome and safe, and there are those who like to run as fast as they can and who only want to run with people who can run as fast as they can (with a particular set of initials, apparently. They’d hate to mess up their little team acronym by having someone join with the wrong Christian name. I wish I was joking….). People can run with who they want to, of course, but I find myself increasingly impatient with those runners who swamp our facebook group with stories about how fast they run, and banter about who can or cannot join their little clique. I can probably run fast enough to train with these people, but you know what? I’d rather train on my own. That might be what community is for them, but that’s not what it means to me.

People run for all sorts of reasons. Speed is undoubtedly one of them, but it’s not the key motive for everyone and I’m increasingly realising that it’s not really about that for me either. PBs are nice, but they’re definitely not everything.

Maybe, if I was a faster runner, I’d think differently. Where would Mo Farah be if he had that kind of an attitude, eh? NOWHERE.

Friday, 29 January 2016

the wind that lifts her perfume through the air...

Earworms of the Week

"I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair" - Nellie Forbush (South Pacific)

Not only do I not have hair, but I don’t really own any shampoo either. Nor do I have any great need to forget a man. I haven’t even ever seen South Pacific either…So, all in all, this one is a bit of a puzzler. Still, there’s a bit of a musicals theme to this week’s earworms, so it seem kind of apt that we kick it all off here.

"Autobahn" / "Computer Love" – Kraftwerk

I listened to some of my Kraftwerk albums this week. My conclusion: I much prefer “Man/Machine” to “Autobahn”. The latter is far too much like background music for my liking, whereas the former has things that can much more simply be recognised as tunes. “Computer Love” is a great example, with a riff so catchy that it was wholesale stolen by Coldplay for “Talk”. Unlike lots of people, I actually quite like the first two or three Coldplay albums, and that’s not actually a bad song… but it is pretty much totally made by the genius of that original riff. Plus, those lyrics are timeless and as relevant today as they day they were written. Perhaps more-so, as they seem to be foreshadowing Tinder….

Another lonely night
Another lonely night
Stare at the TV screen
Stare at the TV screen
I don't know what to do
Don't know what to do
I need a rendezvous
I need a rendezvous

You can’t argue with “Autobahn” though, eh? All 22 minutes of it….

"These Dreams" – Heart

I have been sort of meaning to get around to downloading “Barracuda” for some time now. That’s a proper tune…. But quite why this one is in my head, I have no idea. I actually had to double-check to see who performed the song as it seemed to have just dropped into my subconscious of its own accord and set up camp. When was the last time I even heard this? 1989? Why now?

"Let It Go" - Idina Menzel (Frozen)

This one I can explain: I spent a few hours today sitting at a colleague’s desk and she has a box of Frozen tissues featuring both of the princesses. I’ve been through a lot of tissues over the last couple of weeks, so my eye was drawn, and that together with the fact that I had to learn this song for choir in the summer, and it all comes together. Is it just me who has a soft-spot for that lyric about frozen fractals? Is this song at least partially responsible for educating a generation of children about the geometry of snow? Alt-J would be proud.

"Island in the Sun" - Weezer

An awkward band at times, but when they hit a melody like this, they’re pretty much untoucheable. I put the whole of the Green album on this week, and it still sounds great, even though it was (unbelievably) recorded in 2001 – fifteen whole years ago, ladies and gentlemen. I’m old and Zayne Malik has a solo single out. Hip hip.

"Spanish Ladies" - Sea Shanty

Reading an article about how the chumming of water off South Island New Zealand to draw in Great White Sharks for the cage divers is maybe changing their behaviour and teaching them to see boats and divers as a source of food…. Something that, as a diver myself, I’m keen not to encourage. And the earworm that played as I read this? Quint singing this sea shanty in Jaws, and the image of him sliding down the boat into the open maw of the shark, hacking at it with his knife even as he’s bitten in half. What a great film that is, and what a magnificent species sharks are. Before I learned to dive, you always have an anxiety about sharks in the back of your mind. Before I’d even qualified, I was happily jumping into water where I could see sharks circling. There’s not much better than seeing such a beautiful creature in its own environment. Apart from anything else, in the context of the open ocean, you soon realise that you’re just not on the shark’s agenda. I’d recommend it. Although perhaps not with a Great White…. Here's to swimming with bow-legged women!

"The Thénardier Waltz of Treachery” - Les Miserables

The only version of Les Mis that I can remember seeing is a straight-laced, no-singing version starring Anthony Perkins as Javert, and I can’t remember much about that because I was about 8. I’ve never seen the musical and I don’t know any of the songs. Imagine my delight, then that we’re singing a huge medley of songs from the musical in this season’s choir set. And by huge, I mean it’s about 17 minutes worth or something. We tend to learn these things a song at a time, week-by-week, singing the medley through up to the point we’ve learned. I have to tell you, I still haven’t watched any of the songs on YouTube, but I am quite enjoying singing them, and I actually found myself singing this one to myself completely unprompted this week. They must be doing something right, eh? The choir voted for their favourite song from each of the fifteen seasons we’ve done (this is my fourth) for the CD we recorded in the summer, and this was by far and away the most popular song, apparently. We couldn’t get the rights to record it, but our musical director brought it back for us to sing, and I must say that I’m pleasantly surprised how much I’m enjoying singing it. What’s it about? No idea. Convicts innit?

"Wonderful Life" - Black
"Wonderful Life" - Smith & Burrows

I was due to sing this song at a singposium on Saturday, but unfortunately it’s been cancelled due to illness, and I now have to decide if I want to audition this for a solo proper without the benefit of any feedback or knowing if it sounds any good. It’s also been very much on my mind because of the very sad death of Colin Vearncombe this week at the age of 53. No need to laugh and cry, indeed.  (My version is deeper than both of these, incidentally.  I struggle to reliably hit the high note at Black's pitch, but I'm all over Tom Smith's version.  My backing track just takes me to the deeps...)

"Good Vibrations" / "Sloop John B" - The Beach Boys

I watched “Love and Mercy” the other day, the Brian Wilson film that stars Paul Dano as the young Wilson and John Cusack as the older Wilson. It’s a triumph of a film, but perhaps the best part about it is the way that it so vividly captures the way that Brian desperately tries to catch the sounds that he hears in his head. The soundtrack, of course, is second to none. What beautiful songs that man has written, and it’s a sad story with a happy ending. I was lucky enough to see Brian Wilson at Glastonbury ten or so years ago. It had been a muddy weekend, but the sun came out and we were able to enjoy some of the most joyful music ever written. I was delighted to be able to secure a couple of tickets today to watch Wilson performing Pet Sounds in full in Nottingham next June. Maybe he’ll play Glastonbury again, who knows…. I just didn’t want to miss my chance. He’s over seventy now, and there won’t be many more opportunities. An absolute genius.

That’s your lot. Have a good weekend, y’all.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

sugar, sugar...

I read something terrifying today: according to this article, Britain spends more on obesity-related healthcare costs than on the police, the fire service, prisons and the criminal justice system combined, he says. Obesity-related conditions cost the NHS £6bn a year and rising. The diabetes bill is £9bn more. Type 2 diabetes now accounts for 10% of the entire budget of the NHS. More than 65% of all men in the UK aged 16 or over is now either overweight or obese.

Those are some frightening statistics.

I have a slightly different problem: I think I'm losing weight again.  I've written about this before, but I struggle to see myself as thin.  Since the age of about seven or eight, I've generally been big for my age.  I was tall, rather than particularly fat, but children tend to see things in absolutes, and if you have big feet and take a bigger size of shorts than they do, then you're fat.  I think this set my body-image fairly early, but it's also true that I have been about 40kg heavier than I am now. I lost that weight fairly steadily over a number of years, but I've never quite shaken that picture of myself as big.

Still, the fact remains that, by most people's estimation, I am pretty thin.  You can count my ribs and everything. I eat absolutely loads - especially bread - but I just can't put weight on.

It's probably all that running I do.

Anyway.  I'm about 4 weeks into marathon training -- sponsor us HERE -- I've upped my mileage and have covered about 120 miles so far this month.  And, well.... my trousers feel a bit loose.

I mentioned this to a colleague this afternoon, and she asked me if I'd started eating more to cover the extra calories I'm burning up in marathon training.
"Um.  Well, I eat loads"
"Yes, but have you started eating more?"
"No.  But I eat loads"
"And you're wondering why you might be losing weight? You need to look after yourself."

She's right, of course.  I've acted on her advice immediately and had sausages for tea.  I'm planning bacon and maybe black pudding for my breakfast.  That's a start (albeit absolutely no different to what I eat every week).  My mother-in-law is coming over for a visit next weekend too, and she's threatening to stock the freezer.  As she's an excellent cook, this is a most welcome development indeed.

I understand that there are also calories in beer?

I need to look into this.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

dreams hang in the air...


About six weeks ago, I decided that I'd take the next step at choir and sign up to sing a solo at a singposium.  This isn't an audition as such, but it's a chance to sing in front of an audience and to receive feedback on your performance.  It's a step up from just being a member of the choir and towards perhaps auditioning a solo for one of our concerts.  I wasn't sure if I was ready to do it, but I'd already picked out a song, and I signed up because I knew I would be disappointed in myself if I didn't at least try. The worst thing that can happen is that I get some feedback that might help make me a better singer.

I chose a song that I thought would work well in my register (and actually, because of the backing track that I have, I'm probably singing it even deeper than I initially thought).  The song came to mind because I heard a cover of it on the wonderful Smith & Burrows album on the way back up in the car from my parent's house at Christmas.  Tom Smith has a pretty deep and resonant voice, and the idea sort of took root from there.

The song?  "Wonderful Life" by Black.  It's a song that I've loved since it was first released in 1987.

The singposium is on Saturday, and I'm not really sure how I feel about it.  I'm not exactly nervous, but it has been an awfully long time since I sang on my own in front of other people.  I've practiced the song a lot and know it pretty well.  I'm singing it quite low in my register, but I hope it sounds okay... although I suppose I'm about to find out.

This evening, when I got home from choir practice, I found out that Colin Vearncombe, the voice of Black and the author of the song, has died at the age of 53.  I knew he had been in a serious car accident a while back, but actually hearing that he's died was a bit of a shock and is very sad news indeed.

It's a beautiful, sad song and I hope I can do it justice.

Friday, 22 January 2016

american idiot...


Are you ready for a commander-in-chief, for a commander-in-chief who will let our warriors do their job and go kick Isis ass? ....Pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, strict constitutionality. Those things that are unifying values from big cities to tiny towns, from big mountain states and the Big Apple, to the big, beautiful heartland that’s in between.

Wow.

Looks like the Republicans are chasing the coveted idiot demographic really hard this year.

It would be funnier if it wasn't so terrifying.

David Cameron is a horrible troll who seems hell-bent on dismantling the NHS and punishing the poor and the sick... but it seems that it could be a whole lot worse.


Surely not, America? You're better than this.  Surely there's too much shouting in the world already.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

sing me to sleep...

You know you’re getting old when you start remarking to your colleagues that you’ve just had two really good nights’ sleep in a row. They were good enough not to laugh in my face, but I could see what they were really thinking. It’s true though: I’ve had a stinking cold for the last week, with a couple of restless nights. It was brilliant to go to bed early on Tuesday night and on Wednesday night and to have 8 hours of almost unbroken rest before heading into work. How often does that happen? Not often enough that I didn’t feel the need to talk about it at work the next day, that’s for sure.

I like sleeping. I don’t do anywhere as near as much of it as I would like, but it’s one of life’s pleasures, isn’t it? A good, long sleep in a comfortable bed and with no particular place to be in the morning: bliss. How often does that happen in a year? I think that one of the saddest things about getting older and having a job is that, even when you don’t have to be in the office, your body is still conditioned to wake up at the crack of dawn and you just seem to lose the ability to lie in bed for hours on end. My teenage self is disgusted with me.

I don’t even really get to lie-in at the weekends any more, either. And the worst part about that is that it’s entirely self-inflicted: parkrun on a Saturday and a long run on a Sunday. What with marathon training and all, it’s small wonder that I now spend most of my weekend afternoons asleep on the sofa. I don’t even think I can blame my MS, dammit. Tiredness and fatigue are completely different things, and I’m lucky enough to only get the former very occasionally (and when I do, it’s like the power-switch has been pulled and my body just shuts down rather than gently drifts up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire).

I like to think that I’m a night-owl and will happily burn the midnight oil on any day of the week, just pottering about, reading a book or listening to some music. This is now plainly a fantasy. This might have been true once-upon-a-time, but it definitely isn’t true now. I usually make it to 10pm, but even that’s not guaranteed these days, as the eyes start to sag on the sofa almost the moment I’ve finished my tea.

Still, the one good thing about getting older is that I pretty much don’t give a shit what anyone else might think about this. So much for getting old disgracefully.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

ch-check it out...

This came for me in the post today.


It's a DBS - Disclosure and Barring Service - certificate, and it means that I've been checked out by the Criminal Records Bureau and found to have a clean record.  I've had the check done before, when I used to spend a morning every week reading with kids in a local primary school.  This time around, I've been checked as part of the process I'm going through with England Athletics to become a properly registered guide for visually impaired runners.  Apparently, according to the certificate, England Athletics are now my employers.

I've guided Terry for a little while now - he hasn't required a background check - but England Athletics have been looking to kick off a register of qualified guides, and I thought I'd give it a go. Running has blossomed as a participation sport in this country, thanks in no small part to parkrun.  All sorts of people are starting to get involved, and England Athletics have a view that visually impaired people are no different, and many would probably like to start running, but obviously their barriers to getting started are that much bigger.  I love volunteering at parkrun, and I love guiding Terry... and it seems such a small thing to do that could potentially make such a massive difference to someone's life.

I wasn't really expecting very much to come of this, but almost immediately, England Athletics have put me in touch with a lovely guy who lives fairly near Colwick.  He's 63, is blind and has had multiple organ transplants (in fact, he's a gold medallist at the World Transplant Games, no less!).  He likes to run, and participates in half marathons, but he's been struggling for some time to find a guide.  24 hours after he got in touch with England Athletics, I'd set up a date to take him out around Colwick parkrun.  I'm marathon training at the moment, so I can't commit a whole lot of time to guiding (I think he'd quite like a guide to take him to the various competitions he enters), but I will be at Colwick most Saturdays for a gentle loosener, and there's no reason why I can't do that with someone else in tow and it feels good to be able to help.  Besides, the parkrun team at Colwick are brilliant and they'll be able to help this chap to find more guides to help him out more of the time.  In the meantime, the volunteer credits for guiding him around parkrun are all mine!

He might not like me, of course...

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

hope....

You think, okay, I get it, I'm prepared for the worst, but you hold out that small hope, see, and that's what fucks you up. That's what kills you.” (Stephen King)

Did you catch last night’s Panorama: Can You Stop my MS?

It followed some patients with MS who are undergoing a pioneering cancer treatment to try and treat their relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. It was one of those programmes where the very science involved was utterly terrifying and wonderful at the same time: they blast you with chemotherapy to encourage the release of stem cells from your bone marrow; they harvest the bone marrow to access cells that were formed at a time before MS manifested itself in your system; they blast you with chemotherapy again to destroy your immune system completely; they then put the stem cells back into you to “reboot” your system with a copy from before you had MS. Sounds ridiculous, but some of the results were astonishing: from wheelchair to walking and cycling and swimming again in less than a year. Not only does this seem to halt disease activity, but it seems to roll back disability too. The holy grail.

I found this a difficult programme to watch. One of the patients featured had been a marathon runner and triathlete who had gone from immaculate physical specimen to a wheelchair in the course of 8 brutal months. His positive attitude and his remarkable physical improvement were truly wonderful things to behold and had me on the edge of tears several times. The programme offered hope, but it also showed how cruel this disease is and how quickly and indiscriminately it takes hold. I know that I’m one of the “lucky” ones. I’ve got my problems, but I ran a marathon last year and I’m training to run another one this year… but it’s hard to think how quickly this could all change. Perhaps, thanks to a treatment like this, this could all change. Perhaps no one diagnosed with MS will have to go through this sort of thing again. This was a programme that made me realise all over again what a wonderful institution the NHS is. This treatment works out at around £30,000. That sounds like a lot, but that’s about the same as the annual cost of the drugs I use that are *maybe* slowing down my disease progression. According to the MS Trust, this treatment might have advanced faster if there was anything in it for the drug companies…. But of course, if they fix us, they can’t milk us ongoing, so they haven’t invested. Luckily for us, the NHS isn’t driven by a profit motivation, and they are pursuing this line of treatment.

Hopefully, this treatment will represent the future for people diagnosed with MS – for those with progressive forms of the disease as well as those of us with relapsing-remitting forms. Who knows? What we can say for sure is that, after years with no hope of a cure and an uncertain future, there’s some genuinely encouraging news of a treatment that might help us bring about the end of this damn disease. We have tangible cause for hope.

After hearing about the programme, my comrade-in-MS, Steve Domino, pointed me in the direction of this little beauty by Emily Dickinson:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.

As Napoleon Bonaparte apparently said, “Courage is like love; it must have hope for nourishment