Tag Archive: Jeremy Kyle


The Landlady

Recently I have had the good fortune to spend 5 weeks training in and around Los Angeles. For the final week I used the website AirBNB to find me accommodation near Laguna Beach, C.A. I was to stay with a Californian lady by the name of Josephine (may not be real name). Here is a transcript of a series of emails I sent to a friend of mine over the first two days and an account of the final few.

DAY ONE:

*** Email: 8.30pm ***

So, it’s 8.30pm. Having finally arrived at the place I am staying, I was greeted by a woman in a wheelchair. Nothing unusual in this, although she hadn’t been in her photos. She also looked a bit older. Turns out she’d had two operations on her feet last month and has both in casts and struggles to get about a bit. I should NOT have judged her. I offered to cook dinner, during which she told me all about the fact that 1. She has sky-dived. Recently. 2. a) She has flown a Spitfire. 2. b) SHE HAS FLOWN A FUCKING SPITFIRE. 3. She is going to drive Nascar in a few weeks.

Anyway, she was telling me about the sky-diving and, after telling me it was like child-birth (‘only do it once’, LOL), she then told me how much she enjoyed it. “It was tandem, so you have someone strapped to your back. My instructor was HOT. I’d have flipped over for him in a flash”. She is 68.

I have no idea what is coming up…

*** Email: 8.35pm ***

OH. MY. GOD.

So she said her ex husband (who also survived testicular cancer and then died of a heart attack 8 years ago *sadface*) was from Ilford and had gone to school in West Ham in London. He was feeling particularly homesick and nostalgiac so on one of their visits there she went and bought the school uniform and DRESSED UP FOR HIM IN THE BEDROOM!

This is amazing. (I am also mildly terrifed).

*** Email: 8.38pm ***
I just found this on the coffee table…

Please, please, please, please, please, please don’t.

[Some time passes before we begin watching the tv adaptation of Birdsong, in which there is, for those who haven’t seen it, rather a lot of sex]

*** Email: 10.36pm ***

And now there’s a sex scene on tv and I want the ground to swallow me up. This is the third in as many minutes.

P.S. We are not watching porn.

*** Email: 10.39pm ***

During every single sexual overture or dalliance on screen she looks over at me and smiles, often with a flyaway “HA” or a joyfully salacious “At it again Leo!”. Eventually I pretend not to see her, made all the more difficult when she attempts to lean over into my eyeline as I fix my stare right through the tv screen and deep into approximately 17 new dimensions. Anyway, I’m getting tired now. So I’m off to sleep. In bed. My bed. Alone.

DAY TWO:

*** Email: 8.33pm ***

We are eating Oreo’s together on the sofa watching Antiques Roadshow.

We have high-fived at least twice.

I am feeling unusual.

*** Email: 8.34pm ***

*hurriedly*
‘unusual’ is NOT sexual.

*** Email: 9.00pm ***

She has dated both David Frost and Richard Burton.

I am beginning to feel that I am not in her league.
Suddenly she is unbelievably attractive.

***Email: 9:41pm ***

Josephine: “So, are you training for the Olympics?”
Leo: “Well, that’s kind of the idea”
J: “Well, well, well. An Olympian staying in my house”
L: “We’ll see”
J: “So I may see you on the tv then? I’ll be able to tell my friends!”
L: “Haha. Er yeah. I guess. Certainly the people I train with will be there”
J: “Well if you want you can bring them over for a barbecue”
L: “Oh that’s ni…
J: “I mean not because of what you’ve just told me”
L: “Oh, no of course n…
J: “I’m not like that”
*slight pause*
(‘has she finished?’)
L: “No, of course. I’ll see whether they’re free”
J: “Hmmm, interesting”

*thinks* ‘Interesting’? What could be ‘interesting’? Is she planning on COOKING them?

[At this point, I’m just slightly awkward]
[I had been watching stuff on my laptop so I now replace my earphones. Conspicuously. To end the conversation]

J: “You know. I was talking to my girlfriends ab… Leo? LEO!”
L: *takes out earphones nervously*
J: “I was just saying, I was talking to my girlfriends, the ones I mentioned earlier, about you today”
L: “o..o…oooh?”
J: “Yes I was saying to them ‘So I have this guy staying with me, when I saw his picture I thought “he looks a bit w-e-i-r-d*” – I told you this already haha – but then, I answered the door and there’s this… GORGEOUS… BUFF… *gesticulates male body*… HUNK of a man and I thought “Woah Mamma”‘.

At this point my face was fixed into the kind of gritted, horizon-staring grin only exhibited when you wish you had a remote control to fast-forward life itself.

Anyway, she continued..

J: “… and they were like ‘You be careful there Josephine, don’t you do anything stupid'”.
L: *grinning stops*
J: “…and I was like ‘haha, don’t be silly girls'”
L: *0.0000000000000000001% relief*
J: “…’but then had I been 20 years younger and 30 pounds lighter'”.
L: *5 billion% panic*
L: *weakly* “ha, oh… don’t… be… silly” (there might have feint ‘?’ sound here)
J: “Oooooooooh yes, believe it. Anyway, Oreo?”

(*The night before, over dinner, she had brightly informed me that I looked ‘really terrible’ in my picture on my AirBNB profile – which is linked to your Facebook account – despite the fact that I am, apparently, “wholotta hottie”. I actually just gagged typing that. Anyway picture attached here to make your own mind up).

Dressed for the English summer.

***

DAY THREE:

[We sit both watching tv again]

Advert: “…7 days of sex”

J: “huh, oh?”
L: *thinks* ‘ohgodohgodohgodohgodohgodohgodohgod’
Advert “How YOU can save your marriage”
J: “Ha, how to save your marriage”
L: *types fast at computer*
J: “Leo, if only I were young again”
L: *stares deep at every single pixel of his laptop screen* What on God’s green earth can she fucking mean? How in ANY way can that be directed at me?
J: *turns round to me*
L: “hahahaha, yeah” *sobs inside*

DAY FOUR:

*** Email: 10:30pm ***

So I went to sleep this afternoon. When I woke up she was nowhere to
be found and this was left outside my door.

“No Excuses” – laden with passive aggression.

***

DAY FIVE:

The following day, I drove up from Laguna, where Josephine lived, to LA for a training session. We’d been due to eat that evening and I’d noticed an additional place set at the table when I’d left. On the panic scale of ‘Jeremy Kyle DNA results’ to ‘accidentally emailing your lifetime’s internet history to your Mum’ this was roughly ‘sneezing the contents of your sinuses into your hands, moments before meeting the Queen’. As it turned out, my training ran over, I hit typical LA traffic and I wasn’t home until almost 10pm. I loped in to see a forlorn plate of cold roast chicken and limp vegetables and Josephine sat watching tv. Apparently her ‘friend’ had been and gone so I was left to apologise profusely and rabidly enthuse about how much I ‘prefer cold food after training’ (WTF?). Encouraged by this she sat with me and pulled out her camera as I was eating. Instinctively I put my cutlery down and smiled.

J: “Oh no, don’t do that, I want one natural”.
L: *thinks* Yes because naturally I stick sprouting broccoli to the gaps in my teeth and dribble orange juice down my chin.

Having got the ‘munching’ picture she then asked for me to pose for one too. This was quite one of the most uncomfortable pictures ever taken. I had no idea what the next day had in store.

DAY SIX:

So the day came where I was due to leave. This was despite Josephine kindly offering me as many days as I wanted ‘for free’. I knew that ‘for free’ might not come without a terrifying caveat so I politely declined. The friend with whom I had been emailing had left me with all sorts of instructions ranging from leaving love letters hidden within her books, winking at her slowly and seductively, to walking across the corridor to the bathroom naked (one of these I completed), however there was one I knew not only was altogether achievable but also one that took away a token of our time together.

Leo: “Josephine, it’s time for me to leave. Thank you SO much for your hospitality, you’ve been an absolute star and one of the most IN-TER-ESTING people I’ve ever met”.
Jospehine: “Oh Leo, it’s been my pleasure entirely, you should come again”.
L: “So, I was wondering, since you have so many of your own, that perhaps I might get a photo of us together for me to take home”.
J: *brightly* “REALLY? I’d be delighted!”.
L: “Excellent”.
J: “I have one request though”.
L: *panic now reaching ‘internet history’ level* “Ooooh?”.
J: “You need to take your top off”.
L: “…”.
J: “…”.
L: “…-…”.
J: *slow smile*
L: “Josephine, you know that I can’t do that”.
J: “But Leo, how am I going to remember that body?”
L: “Please don’t remember this body!”
J: “Spoilsport!”
L: “OK. Compromise. I’ll take off my hoody but the vest stays on”
J: “Deal”

Ladies and Gentlemen. Leo and Josephine. Laguna Hills. April 2012. In my fucking vest…

Addendum:

I am at absoute pains to point out that Josephine (not real name) was absolutely one of the funniest, kind-hearted and interesting people I have ever met. I am in no way mocking her. I am still in touch actually. Although we exchange less photos.

During the 1970’s a friend of the family (and brother of my Godfather, keep up!), Jeffrey Bernard wrote a column for the Spectator. So frequently was he absent (mostly through booze-addled carousing in Soho) that in place of his column, the editor would simply write ‘Jeffery Barnard is unwell’. This phrase grew in infamy when it became the title of a play about his life starring Peter O’Toole. Now I should start out by saying that my absenteeism has not been down to booze, nor has it been down to death and I would most certainly hope that my blog wouldn’t be described as “suicide note in weekly instalments” as Jeff’s column was, but I have, frustratingly, been unwell.

Days before the hair dropped out. Definitely not an excuse to woo you with kitten.

The last we spoke, I had skipped through my first dose of chemotherapy with very few issues. I’d even managed to get back to training before the second bout started. Things looked very easy. The first fallout (excuse the pun) was with my hair.  I had been secretly hoping that the extent of my Chemmomunity would extend to this as well and I’d be able to keep the floppy fuss of fluff I call a haircut. Sadly, this was not the case. I first noticed a few strands come out at training almost exactly when my oncologist had predicted. I didn’t think too much of it as it wasn’t really enough to concern me. By the next day I’d noticed a few more on my pillow at night. And by my next training session, I went to show my coach that it was coming out and pulled way more than I had expected clean off my head. At this stage, I wondered whether much more than a gust of wind would leave me looking like someone had thrown a handful of hay at a sticky egg, and so did the rest of my training indoors. So I headed home with a friend who had promised to help clipper it off. When I say ‘help’ she had also said that it was highly likely that she would cry throughout the whole process rendering it traumatic AND emotional. As it turned out, there wasn’t the slightest sign of either (more than a mild disappointment). And the best bit was that I didn’t look as much like a terrified marble as I had expected.

The dent on my head is actually a 'bulge'. Too MUCH brain you see.

The next dose of chemo was a little worse but I was still almost fully recovered a few days, and again I was out training before my third dose was due to start. But then, I crashed. Now when I say that “Leo Barker is Unwell” I didn’t really mean so much physically but what few braincells had been left intact by the treatment decided to fill my mind with a fusty fog of fart, fear and failure. For a while this was put on hold as I spent the week in hospital experiencing a level of nausea akin to letting Jeremy Kyle tongue your gag reflex to infinity whilst being forced to listen to the ‘Go Compare‘ opera hummungotwat singing his catchphrase to you. In your bed. Forever. But once I was free of this again, my brain flicked me the most almighty V-sign, decided to turn itself inside out and pissed itself. Every little issue I experienced was now magnified to galactic levels. And so I retreated into my room for days where I obviously wasn’t going to sit over-analysing every angle of every negative thought*. (*This is a lie). This really isn’t like me. Those that know me will know I am spectacular mix of sneering cynicism and delusional, delirious, hedonistic positivity. But more than anything I need to try and find humour in anything and everything. This, however, was not a funny period.

But in the past couple of weeks, I’ve started training again and that’s made the world of difference. It fills my day, keeps me entertained by friends and floods my body with addictive endorphins. Obviously, this is one of the first steps to completely getting my life back. Which has been the worst part of all of this. The feeling that I’ve had it all hijacked. So I have now regained perspective on the events of the past few months that had contributed to my brain melting into a puddle of grief-gravy.

"I'm going to lick your throat".

Anyway the point of this much-hurried scribble of sickening self-indulgence is that today I have a CT scan. Now, although my blood was not showing any abnormal tumour markers a week or so ago (the signs that there is still cancer somewhere in my system), there is the chance that it has returned and is sitting back in my lymph nodes. Apparently the chance is around 5%. This wouldn’t normally be anything to worry me, but I have felt a dull ache in a few of the places it was previously spotted (collar bone, shoulder and lower back). Nothing like as bad as it was when the lymph nodes swelled up before but enough for me to know that my main concern this time won’t be about whether the injection given during the scan is going to be nearly as arousing as last time!

I won’t go into the repercussions of a the cancer returning as it’s pointless now. So instead, I’m going to go to training, run my bollock off, joke with friends then go to find out whether I can make the title of the next post “Leo Barker is Well”. Very well indeed thank you very much.

Chemommunity

A scientifically-factual account of my insides.

When I was a lot younger than I am now, I looked forward in fevered anticipation to the time when I’d need my first x-ray. Not because in some horribly sado-masochistic way I was hoping for a broken bone, but because I thought it would be then, and only then, that I would be confirmed as special. Not just brilliantly unique, but scientifically “Get the President” kind of one-in-a-million. I was convinced that my body was more likely to be made up of Fraggles and Doozers than bones and joints. That I would be lying there watching as teams of ever-more-important Doctor’s and Surgeons were ushered into the X-Ray theatre to review the miraculous findings as the prints were sent off to Britain’s equivalent of Area 51 for comparison. It was through snorted disdain that when I finally did require such tests I was ushered out of the hospital without so much as a “Sir there’s something we need to discuss with you, but first a call from The White House…”.

You see, my point is, that by and large we don’t change an awful lot. We grow and we mature and we learn (so far so Jeremy Kyle) but essentially I’m still the precocious little shitflap who can’t see any reason why he shouldn’t be the best at everything he turns his hand to. And this includes Chemotherapy. My hope going into my treatment was that the symptoms so commonly associated with ‘Chemo’ (sickness, fatigue, hair loss, ulcers, etc.) would not appear at all and I’d be first in history to sail through untainted by it’s toxic hand. Initial signs were not great.

My treatment consists of 3 ‘cycles’ of drug therapy.

The irony of my t-shirt was completely lost on my first day at hospital.

Each cycle starts with a period of 5/6 days in hospital where I am pumped full of Ifosfamide, Etoposide and Cisplatin for 20 hours each day before being sent home to rest for 2 weeks before the next cycle. It’s in the period of ‘rest’ that your white blood cell count drops and you are left to feel the full (side) effects. My first few days in hospital were a breeze of friends, family and food. The next few were pretty ropey.

My temperature soared and I could barely get out of bed. The worst part of it all is that, for all but about 4 hours of the day (and night), you are connected to a drip. I can’t tell you how quickly I lost patience with my bladder’s insistence that, despite deliberately not having drunk anything for the past few hours, it would very much like now to deposit as close to a litre of liquid into the bathroom. ‘A litre’ you ask? Yes a litre. ‘How do I know’, you definitely don’t ask? Well I’ve been told to ‘log’ (sorry) amount going in with the amount going out in case my kidneys pack up from treatment.

Thumbs up. N.B. The coil of tubing. Cute, yes? No.

Anyway, I was finally unplugged and sent on my unsteady way, accompanied by my sister back home to stock up the fridge and prepare to hibernate.

Except that’s not really how it’s worked out. Other than a couple of days where I’ve spent most of the day sleeping, I’ve been pretty much ok. I’ve managed to get out and I haven’t yet been sick. I have experienced some cravings and changes in my taste-buds. But this is no worse than expecting a lime chilli taco and getting a mouthful of oyster-hammock. In fact the worst part so far has been the fact that for the first week my brain has been replaced by a satchel full of fog and wet wipes.  I’ve developed a sudden incapacity to remember where I was coming from or going to. Like walking into a room and not only forgetting why you’re there but wondering how it is that gravity works. This goes for conversations too. Beyond simply losing track of your train of thoughts, I have got to the point where I find myself looking in on my on conversation watching the whole thing implode in a cloud of ash and ‘WTF’. Everything seems to take a lot longer, and generally needs restarting (e.g. I began this blog post in 1989). Now, where was I? Oh yes, The Cuban Missile Crisis

What? This old thing? How embarrassing.

So far, so to be expected. Then I ran out of a couple of my anti-sickness drugs (one of which my oncologist said was ‘total shit’ anyway) and for some strange reason I have now returned almost completely back to normal. I should emphasise the ‘strange’ there as well, given that I was left  a message from said oncologist this afternoon who told me that after my blood was taken yesterday, they’ve found that my white blood cell count has dropped prematurely and that I was most likely experiencing chronic fatigue. I listened to this message whilst enjoying a meal at Wagamama‘s shortly after a 30 minute run. I’m now beginning to wonder whether in fact the bags full of toxic chemicals weren’t mistakenly replaced by a large pouch of Um Bongo.

YAY! CANCER!

Through the course of the final week before I was due to go into hospital I must have looked like a ‘bucket-lister’. Every meal I had, or friend I saw was ‘the last before treatment’. I rushed around seeing as many people as I could, packing in as much fun as possible. I even raced up to Norfolk with a friend the day before hospital to drive an old sports car to the beach where I lay wondering if it might be alright if we could all ‘forget about the whole cancer thing thank you very much’. But it came. And went. As did hospital. And you know what? It’s not been that bad*.  So here I am, almost 2 weeks down. 7 weeks to go. I’m about to go to the gym. At least I think it was the gym. It was the gym or Button Moon. One of the two. Let’s just hope I don’t break anything and need that X-Ray.

(*this line will be deleted if it gets really bad – never, ever quote me on it).