The lay of the land, 6 December 2018

Six years ago today, I had a pacemaker fitted at Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire. The year before that I was in an advancing state of heart failure. At that point of my diagnosis, I was Class IV on the NYHA classification chart; the subsequent class is “end stage”, which is what it sounds like. My diagnosis was idiopathic hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disease where the myocardium is enlarged, weakening the left ventricle and impeding the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively.

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It’s nearly a year since Mel and I moved into our house together. Whenever one of us remarks on this fact, it’s in amazement. It doesn’t seem like a year. It doesn’t seem like five minutes, frankly. It’s been a wonderful year, in which we’ve done what we can to make the house into a home. Just a few more jobs to go now, then we’ll be done for a while, until it’s time to spruce everything up again. I can’t deny that the night I heard a dripping noise in our landing and realised that we had a leak, that it was coming from the roof, and that it was my responsibility to deal with it was a night I didn’t sleep much. But with great houses come great responsibility. Or something like that, anyway.

It’s been another good year health-wise. In the spring, my annual trip to St Thomas’s Hospital revealed that my heart is in very good shape for a man of my age with no medical history of heart problems, let alone someone who’s been where I’ve been. In fact, thanks to a renewed running regime, I’m fitter than I’ve been in at least ten years, and maybe since I left school. The next big goal is a half marathon in the grounds of Hampton Court Palace in March. Last time I entered a half my training schedule was disrupted by a chest infection that took weeks to properly clear up. This time, all being well, I’ll make it to the start line. I’m confident I could run it tomorrow, if I didn’t care about the time. I care enough that i’ll keep running the 14 kilometres home from work once a week and get out at the weekend for a 5k to work on speed.

This year I finally did release an EP on CD (download or order here), played a bunch of gigs with Mel as a duo (some very good ones, too) and did more work on James’s new one (an EP came out in the spring – the full album should follow in about six months I would guess). Other than James’s album and my full album (defo in the spring), the next project is a duo EP with Mel – we’ve got a few songs that were arranged from the ground up to be performed by us as a duo, so we’re going to record them the way we play them live, just two guitars and vocals.

That’s the lay of my land. The world beyond our front door is more worrisome. With Brexit an all-consuming oncoming storm, I despair at the lack of real leadership from the left. Not merely in terms of the division in the Labour party between centrists and the left wing, either. My dread fear is that, with politics (and the culture more widely) as polarised as it is now, any social progress made by a future government of the left would be immediately undone by incoming Conservatives, in much the same way that, if there were to be a second referendum on EU membership and Remain were to win, the Leavers would howl and scream for however long it took them to get what they want.

In such a situation, the only victory that could stick would be a revolutionary one – one where it was impossible to put society back together again, and building something entirely new became the only option available. Which is a pretty scary thought, as in that situation the forces that retained the most economic muscle would do the shaping. In the meantime, there are forces at work to keep left and right as far apart as possible. The deliberately divisive language of the right-wing media (which is most of the UK media), of “crush the Brexit saboteurs” and so on, is repulsive, but it’s deliberate. Its purpose is to fix people into position: to radicalise the right, to alienate the left, and to tell both sides that there is, there can be, no common ground. That’s how the right sees us, the left concludes. We can’t hope to reach them, and why would we want to?

Yet to make positive changes within the system as it exists today, we have to. More than ever, we need someone to make a moral, persuasive case for progressive policies in a unifying, consensus-building way.

On that troubling note, I leave you. Back next week.

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