goodbye to 2022, no, not 22022, but 2022 – I couldn’t be clearer on this matter

Hello there: I’d apologise for the next few paragraphs, but you know what you’re getting with us by now.

I write this entry not by way of update, but by means of a goodbye. See, I have been poorly for three whole days now and events are now hastening me to the end. As someone who enjoys the giddy thrills of health anxiety, and an occasional dabbler in Eastenders spoilers, I have diagnosed myself with a brain tumour. Plus, for good measure: bum cancer, gastroenteritis, pneumonia (double pneumonia mind you, it is Christmas after all), encephalitis, fuch eye disease (genuine thing, and don’t google it) (you googled it, and see it wasn’t actually so bad) (but do what you’re told), parentheses-overuse strain and, for a brief yet terrifying moment, the worry that I’d been forgetting to take my contact lenses out of an evening and had built up an entirely functional second eye facing into my mind. Imagine being able to see inside myself: I’m 97% cherry cola Elf Bar and the rest piss and vinegar, no-one needs that.

Of course the reality of my situation is that I have the sickness and Does It Always Run Really Horribly Over Each Ankle (you’re welcome) bug that everyone else has both had and seemingly taken the time to make sure they wipe their shitty fingers on every conceivable surface I would later go on on touch. I wouldn’t mind so much – I love a good sit down at the best of times – but it’s become a source of mystery to me exactly where all of this effluence coming from. Simple maths would suggest that if there’s only a plain sandwich and a cup of tea going in then a similar volume should come back out, but goodness no – going to the toilet at the moment is like playing the world’s worst slot machine. Sometimes you get three bells and a few dinky coins drop out and you feel grateful for a good time, sometimes the sevens roll in and it’s like someone crashed a plane into Scrooge McDuck’s Money Bin.

The constant use of the bathroom means we are saving money though: the heat produced from the simultaneous whirring of both the electricity and water meter wheels mean we’re officially off-grid. I’ve oft-mocked Paul on this very blog for his urgent need to defecate the second he steps off a plane, enters a new hotel room, clears his throat or blinks, and now here I am hurtling out of the room at any given moment shrieking as though the chair I was sitting on had suddenly electrified. Worse, I return from the bathroom looking like Matt Smith when they put the old-man make-up on him in The Time Of The Doctor. It’s no life, but Paul does have the good grace (and inherent sensibility) not to look smug, I’ll give him that.

On top of my arsehole looking like the map from the Bonanza opening credits (one for the oldies there), I’ve also had a terrible headache behind my left eye for the last few weeks. I say terrible because it’s me and I can’t go a single moment without hyperbole otherwise I’ll die, and naturally that ‘constant’ headache has actually been intermittent and only mildly painful, but even so – I’ve been mentally preparing my funeral wishes. In the spirit of over-sharing and just in case for the first time in my life I’ve actually managed to correctly pre-empt my own quietus, my wishes are simple:

  • please burn rather than bury me: yes, it’ll be like when they burned all the cows during the foot and mouth crisis, but I eat well and the smell will be delicious – plus it’ll be good to choke someone on my smoke one last time
  • I’d like Abide with Me played at the funeral, and not just because Eastenders did it (beautifully) when Dot died, but because it’s the best hymn in the world
    • well, after ‘Were You There’, that is, but if we had that at my funeral, half of the North East’s plumbers, tradesmen and passing lorry drivers would have to pause, dab their eyes and nod solemnly when the line ‘I was cold, I was naked, were you there, were you there?‘ came about)
    • that said, circling back to Eastenders, if you wanted to play the duff-duff when the curtain fell across my coffin, I’d be absolutely game, doubly so if you could finagle Sonia into doing it on the trumpet
  • be sure there’s the most terrific buffet you’ve ever seen put on at the wake – and double whatever the amount you were planning on putting on because it’s rare I associate with anyone whose belt doesn’t come from the back of the rack;
  • scatter my ashes somewhere wonderful and plant a tree somewhere I’d love, though I imagine you’ll have a fight on your hands getting Moto to agree to the planting of a sapling in the gents at any services along the A1

Either way, it’ll be fun. Just be sure to look after Paul: he needs three square meals and eighteen opportunities to tell people he’s lost weight a day otherwise he gets fussy.

The eye thing isn’t really anything to be concerned about: a few weeks ago Paul was away for a couple of days and I spent 24 hours watching 24, with the remaining six hours staring at my phone and doing indiscreet things to myself, resulting in eye strain and wrists that sound like corn popping in a microwave. In a way, it is fuch-eye disease, but not in the way google suggests. As I’m forever wearing my glasses for a moment and setting them aside for an exciting treasure hunt four days later, the eye strain is taking a while to wear off, and as I am focused (well, barely) on it, I’m exacerbating the situation, and it’s all very tiresome. I have had an optician look deep into my eyes and reassure me via the faint whiff of their breakfast breath that everything is fine, so mustn’t worry. Plus I used my own health anxiety against myself and examined my own medical notes from 2017, which revealed the exact same issue and a similar timescale of recovery. I knew having my medical notes printed and bound over sixteen luxurious editions would pay for itself in the long run.

Oh! Those notes did spit out something curious though: in 2018, there’s a note in there for ‘removal of a foreign body’ at my doctor’s surgery. I can say now with absolute sincerity that I have zero idea what this refers to, and nothing either side of this mysterious entry sheds any light. It’s not even as though I can ask for elaboration – the doctor has long since gone – but that is going to itch away at me for the next few weeks until I shoot upright in bed with my epiphany. Will keep you posted.

Anyway, I mention all of the above as a somewhat jokey goodbye, but of course it isn’t goodbye (just yet). But this will be the final post of 2022, and I thought it would be good to finish it the way we started it – 1200 words about nonsense and no food recipe. But 2023 will bring change and good things four all, I promise. The gentlest reminder that our cookbooks make wonderful Christmas presents and it isn’t too late to get them ordered for those you are stuck for. They’re on Amazon and bookshops but I won’t sully this by spamming you with links.

Assuming Paul and I don’t shit our arses off, we’ll see you in 2023, and until then, have the most amazing Christmas, lord knows you’ve earned it.

James x

PS: Christmas Goomba says hi.