Because Laughing Matters

Exercise is an important part of the Boulevardier’s routine, and to comply I am a regular at Virgin Active, Crouch End. A few weeks ago I went to the Saturday morning spin class, as usual. I was, however, incredibly tired and after about ten minutes started to feel dizzy. Mia, on the bike next to me, looked at me and said I didn’t look great and recommended I stop immediately. I left the class feeling a little dramatic. As I walked to Waitrose I started to feel a pain right across my chest. There was a familiarity to it. It was not as severe as it had been in January and I hoped it was muscular pain rather than more pulmonary emboli. I took to my bed for the remainder of the weekend.

I hoped Monday morning would bring a refreshing spring to my step. Once awake I took a deep breath and could still feel the pain. Eleven hours later I heard those fateful words ‘I’m sorry but there are more clots on your lungs.’

I thought my January episode was a one-off, and with clots dissipated by the anti-coagulant medication, my only reminder was a degree of tiredness, which had been a feature of the year.

This chapter means anti-coagulants for life, a lot more tests and the return of the debilitating weakness and tiredness. I was determined not to let it affect me the way it had previously and tried to press on.

After seeing a preview of Laughing Matters starring Celia Imrie with Fidelis Morgan’s direction, I purchased tickets as soon as they were available. I had been looking forward to the show and wasn’t about to let the blood clots ruin my enjoyment. They would limit but not destroy it. The only challenge was that the performance was five days after diagnosis.

Saturday evening soon came around. I felt tired and weak and needed to ensure I used my depleted energy reserves sensibly. I made quick decisions regarding my outfit and settled upon Ralph Lauren painter’s jeans, All Saints T, and H&M jean and jersey jacket.

The Revue was held downstairs at Brasserie Zedel, which is just behind Piccadilly Circus.

zedel

The Brasserie looks quite modest from the exterior. However, the downward sweeping staircase leads to a lovely restaurant, retro American bar, and an intimate and unique venue called The Crazy Coqs.

Crazy Coq’s oozes Art Deco with rich banquette seating along two sides, the stage and a Great Gatsby era bar occupying the others. The walls were lined with pictures from France in the 1930s. Chandeliers are draped richly from the ceiling. The room was filled with clusters of bistro style tables with red atmosphere lamps. 1930s Paris surrounded us.

Zedel - Crazy Coqs4

It was all very civilised, and while it was not possible to reserve seating, the  Maître d’ had our names and escorted us to our table. On stage were a set of drums, a coat stand and an ebony and sleek grand piano. The pianist enticed us to get into the spirit of the show with lots of Noel Coward numbers. I wanted to immerse and enjoy cocktails, served by blackuniformed waiting staff, but decided against it due to the state of my health.

I started to feel too tired already, but I was determined to ignore it. Stomach cramps were setting in too which added nicely to the way I was feeling. I was lucky to be surrounded by Michael, Alkan, Michael and Ange who looked after me.

Celia burst from the back of the room imprisoned by a straitjacket and launched into her version of Twisted made famous by Annie Ross which parodies the psychoanalysis of the protagonist’s insanity.

We were off and early signs were great!

The Revue combined music, dance and sketches perfectly and seamlessly. We were transported back to its golden years, the first part of the twentieth century.

This was going to be good and I wasn’t about to let my clots spoil the evening and popped a couple of paracetamol to lessen the pain.

The marketing for the show told us that Celia really believes that… laughing matters. It was true, she was clearly enjoying herself and we were too. Her classic training, pedigree and star quality shone through. However, she was not aloof. Celia was right there with us; yes on a stage, but if we were around a piano having a sing-song she would have been there too. And yes these evenings still occur. Only recently, after a few glasses of Prosecco at my friend Marina’s birthday, we retired to the home of her friends Patrick and Neil. They have a white, baby grand in the sitting-room of their terraced Islington Villa and we gathered around and sung show and popular tunes to our hearts’ content. Needless to say, we accompanied our singing with a few more refreshments.

One outstanding sketch for me was Common Talk by Alan Melville. It told the tale of a woman who had recently left the safety of central London and decamped to Wimbledon. Her vista allowed her to observe all the untoward (and mostly nocturnal) activity on the Common. It really is a common Common, or so she tells us a number of times.

I also really enjoyed ‘Smut’ where a rather well-to-do campaigner against double entendres tried to persuade us to reconsider hobbies to take our mind off of sex. She asked us to consider gardening and innocently delivered her own double entendres about her impressive melons and the like. I heard this piece, performed by Celia, earlier in the year at a Literary Salon where it was equally successful in having the audience guffawing out loud

There was a mass of nostalgia, of times lost, throughout the show and I for one would welcome back the Revue. We live in an age of auto tune and technical wizardry but none of that supplants the enjoyment received from raw and intimate performance.

I wish I had had the energy to laugh outwardly as loudly as I was inside. The show was all too soon over, but by this time I was really weak and needed to jump in a cab and straight home to bed.

The reviews of the Revue have been mixed, and perhaps I am not a professional, and therefore overlooked missing elements required to make the show a resounding success, but I thoroughly enjoyed its mix, and refreshingly new retro elements.

Laughing Matters

I can do no better in summary than to quote The Telegraph:

The evening is tinged with palest blue, but the allure is definitely more Anglo-Saxon than Gallic – saucy rather than sophisticated, more Marie Lloyd than Mistinguett, with overtones that are sexy, but also strangely comforting – as though your favourite auntie had dressed up in something sparkly and started twirling her knickers around her head.

We need more shows like this, and who knows, I might just be brave enough one day to put one on.

TNW

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Well I Wonder

A Boulevardiers life is often fun, and filled with culture, events and fashion. But from time to time there is some slippage and I enter a phase where it’s hard to maintain.

I am still on the road to recovery following the diagnosis of pulmonary emboli, or to those less clinical, multiple blood clots across both lungs, in January. Some weeks are harder than others.

I normally just share the fun side of life here on my blog, but after a recent week I needed to share some of the shade.

The remaining and debilitating symptom is an extreme tiredness or weakness. It’s not something that my usual extra cup of assam will rectify. This will apparently be with me for up to a year, and there is no logical pathway, and much of the evidence seems to be anecdotal.

The week started rather more tired that I wanted it to, which was compounded by extreme busyness at work, and a long stressful meeting I was chairing.

I woke Thursday morning feeling weaker than I have for a while, and knew I had overdone it.

Thursday was the day I needed to go to the Whittington to check my blood levels. This at least had extended to fortnightly intervals over the preceding months, and better than the several times a week. And to be balanced, any less than fortnightly and I would probably start worrying about my blood levels.

The plan was to be up and out for 8.30, blood tested by 9, subsequent results within 45 minutes and heading home for 10.

At 9am, the third mug of assam did not contain the healing qualities I needed, and I switched on my work laptop, and dealt with a few emails.

At 9.45am I left my home and headed to the bus. The streets which are relatively flat felt like a steep incline.

The Phlebotomy sector is signed ‘Blood Tests’ and contains a waiting room, which on this occasion was packed, and 5 small treatment rooms.

I pressed the small, hard button on the ticket machine. It’s akin to the machines you get at the meat counter in supermarkets, where you are given a number dictating your position in the queue. There is also a digital clock on the wall advertising the number last called into one of the treatment rooms.

The red display said ‘89’, and my ticket ‘21’. 21 is usually a lucky number for me, but it wouldn’t be today.  I once pulled 007, but didn’t feel any of my Bond qualities flow.

So after waiting for some time as the numbers increased to 99 and then back to 1, and up again, we reached 17. The next number displayed and electronically announced was 32! There was a murmur of low voices across the road, and a lady strode across with her number 32 ticket! An older gent stood up and announced to the waiting phlebotomist that the machine had gone out of sync.

Number 32 expectantly waved her ticket and offered ‘I don’t mind going next!’

‘Well we do!’ I replied.

‘I am 18 said the standing gent, and I know I am next’.

The phlebotomists scurried into one room until the senior appeared to confirm that numbers would be called out by the mere humans until they reached 32.

Good! 32 sat back down and looked shady.

18, 19, 20 and then 22. I stood up and said ‘You missed 21!’.

I was ushered to room 3, which is one of the bigger cubicles at the back. The room was really hot and sticky despite the window being open. My phlebotomist was not one of the usual team, but they had all seemed good previously so I was not concerned.

I knew the routine, bag and jacket on the hook, sit down and extend either arm (I generally opted for the left), clench fist, and wait for the strap to be wound and tightened around bicep.

‘Name and date of birth’ were confirmed and she approached the chair strap in hand, which she applied as usual.

She was looking at my arm and asked ‘Do you usually have trouble when getting tests?’

‘No’

‘Well let me look at the other arm as I can’t see your vein here. Maybe you are cold.’

This was the muggiest day of the year thus far, which I swiftly pointed out to her.

She moved to the right arm, and after much slapping found a vein, and prepared the needle. At this point as always I breathed deeply and closed my eyes. Does anyone ever really get used to needles going into their body?

It was soon over, and she was back at her station writing on the plastic tube containing my blood.

‘Are you here to check your INR for the anti coagulant clinic?’ she validated.

‘Yes. I am heading to the clinic today.’

‘I am sorry. I have done it wrong, and will need to redo.’

I am not really sure what was wrong, but she seemed to indicate it had something to do with the container. She had used the wrong container. She disappeared and spoke to her senior colleague and reappeared. I heard him say ‘Will you please pay more attention’ as she re-entered room 3. She rolled her eyes and said ‘I really need a break. That’s the problem here there are not enough breaks.’

I took a deep breath and decided to try and block out thoughts that she was obviously too tired to be poking needles in my arm.

She tried the left arm again and after inserting the needle, decided the vein was too deep as after pulling the syringe to extract it stayed empty. This was bloody painful.  Excuse the blood pun, as there was none!

She apologised and moved back to the right arm. I wasn’t going to say anything. I wanted to say ‘Why can’t you do this? I have been having regular blood tests for 5 months and never gone through this, or had problems in anyone finding veins!’

The needle went into the right arm and she exclaimed ‘Oh no, now the vein has collapsed!’

What did this mean? I had no idea but was really starting to sweat, panic and feel quite queasy.

She applied cotton wool and left the room and brought back another phlebotomist (who again I hadn’t seen before) who had two further attempts in the left arm before getting the blood.

5 needles in my arms in the space of 10 minutes. After apologies from both ladies I gratefully left their space and headed to the clinic to wait my results. They usually take about 45 minutes, and headed for a coffee and cake in the cafe. I had earned a big bakewell tart today dammit!

After getting a good result I headed home, even more exhausted, and tried my utmost to carry on with my working day.

Sometimes it is so difficult to muster the energy to go on as normal…

Both arms were bruised and had needle marks, the number of which indicating I was a serious drug user!

After a restful Friday and a great session at college I felt restored. The Boulevardier is back. He may shrink away at times, but never may he shrink and not reappear.

TNW