Working Out Towards Recovery

Six months after I 'froze' my sports centre membership when I was too biopsied to work out, today was the day that I felt thawed enough to unfreeze it. Yes, I returned to the gym.

And oh yes, it was good to be back. The familiar smell of foam mats, body odour and attempts to disguise it; the row of TVs with subtitles; the queue for the drinking water; and the motivational tunes: Skepta is going to get me exercising. It was good to get my muscles moving and endorphins flowing, and it was good just to get back to another thing that I used to do before cancer so rudely interrupted my routines.

Returning to the gym after six months' cancer treatment gave me measurements of the deterioration of my physical fitness that I was already aware had taken place. Where I used to pedal at level 7, I could only now only sustain level 3. The stretching machine which would hold my leg at a 100-degree angle could only take it to 80. And even without a way of precisely measuring it, I could feel in my bones that my bendiness was significantly less bendy, and my flexibility was down to about the level of a stick of rock. It's a very good job that the clientele of the gym I go to is very diverse, from the greek gods bench pressing to hone their already perfectly-honed figures to the noticeably out-of-shape doing a bit of light movement to stop themselves seizing up altogether.

Back to Work

Last night, I returned to duty in my proper job, as a London Underground 'Night Tube' station supervisor. These days, the official title is 'Customer Service Supervisor', but I prefer it if you have some idea of what I actually do ie. supervise a station, rather than imagining that I'm some kind of whip-cracker in the complaints department.

The last shift I did was on Halloween weekend, when one of the toughest challenges was distinguishing the passengers who were actually injured and bleeding from those who were simply wearing gory make-up. I have been working on London Underground stations for 20 years, and I would not have stuck at it if I did not enjoy it and value it. But cancer surgery and follow-up treatment were not compatible with the demands of the job, so since the start of November I have been either off sick or carrying out 'light duties' (in my case, planning a new set of hosted visits by autistic people to London Underground). As recently reported, I have not yet fully recovered from said treatment, but I have recovered sufficiently to make a start at returning to work. And working in a job which has - thanks to the past efforts of the union - 100% sick pay, I have been able to decide when to return to work on the basis of my condition not my income.

Janie's Drones

The Clash's Janie Jones from another point of view ...


She's saving up for a college course, whoa
She gets the cash and her boyfriend scores, whoa
She isn't helped by the vice laws, no
She don't mind her whoring job, no

Can Prayer Cure Cancer?

After visiting the hospital yesterday to get my oedema looked at, I sat for a while in the small church of St. Bartholomew-the-Less, conveniently located on the way out of the hospital on the way to the bus stop. I am not a religious person, and I can not even claim that it was an oasis of calm, as the sound of construction work blasted past the big wooden doors and bellowed around the nave. But I fancied a ponder on matters theological.

Barts-the-Less is a chapel of ease, meaning a church building that is accessible to parishioners who can not make it to the proper parish church (in this case, St. Bartholomew-the-Great). The clients and residents of Bart's hospital, and their visitors, surely qualify. For clarity, there was one St. Bartholomew, who had one great church and one lesser one; rather than two St. Bartholomews, one greater in some important respect than his lesser namesake.

It is, as are most places of worship, rather beautiful - unusually light due to its strikingly large windows, and its walls adorned with resolute plaques memorialising some of the Bart's hospital staff through the centuries who saved many lives and then lost their own. I sat on the crimson cushion on the wooden pew. The only other person there was, I think, praying.

That Can't Be Right

A retrospective blog post today, looking back at when I noticed that something was wrong. I didn't write about this at the time because I didn't want to alarm anyone without reason. The blogging only started once the diagnosis was confirmed. So, it went like this ...

This Poem is Sponsored

This stanza is sponsored
by a weekend bonanza
of two-for-one deals
on our easy-cook meals
from the town's happy eater
which has paid for its meter

All of its sponsors
have generously given
a big wodge of dosh
for their brand on its rhythm

A local disk jockey
has sponsored a trochee
(That's a tum-tee-tum beat
with some well-branded feet)

Marxism and Autism

Published in Solidairty 434, 29 March 2017:


Can Marxism can help us to understand autistic experience in modern capitalism? How might Marxism inform our struggles for equality and liberation?

There are different approaches to understanding autism. Perhaps the dominant approach is a medical one: seeing autism as a disease or tragedy, and autistic people as being broken and needing fixing. Over recent years, a more progressive approach has developed. It stresses acceptance of autistic people rather than simply “awareness”, and demands rights, equality and support rather than abusive “treatments”.

This approach is based on the concept of neurodiversity: the recognition that the human species is neurologically diverse; that different people have different brain wiring. But this more progressive approach, while welcome, does not necessarily locate autism and neurodiversity within the social, economic and political structures of society. It is important to do this — firstly, because all disability exists in a social context; and secondly, because autism is largely an issue of how people interact socially. We are all expected to follow social rules, but who makes those social rules, and how?


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