Friday, 31 October 2008

The Boy Who Died Twice.

A few years ago I had just finished shooting a documentary at an HIVAIDS hospice outside of Lusaka where my father was volunteering as a medical supervisor The hospice was on the grounds of a catholic convent run by a Polish order of nuns and one afternoon Dad and I were asked into tea. In the living room was already ensconced a large bearded Catholic Father from Italy whose massive eyebrows were constantly twitching with chuckles and suppressed laughter. He prodded the nuns to get them to giggle. He even prodded my Dad – he was brave I’ll give him that.

However half way through the visit one of the nuns came in with biscuits looking grave.
‘That is a terrible story you bring with you Father,’ she said
Dad and I turned surprised to the priest who up til then had seemed as jolly as Santa.
His eyebrows settled and sunk. His lips thinned. All laughter was gone and a dark gloom filled the air.
‘Sister, he responded quietly, ‘ I had put it to the back of my mind but you are right. It has been a terrible week’

‘Are you all right Father?’ asked my dad.

The Father it turned out had just come from a funeral in Northern province. The funeral was for a boy who had died twice.

The lad had a form of epilepsy that caused him to fall into deep coma like sleeps after a seizure. Little was known about his condition but people understood that he would take an hour or so and then wake. He was 14 and one day he didn’t wake up. Eventually his mother panicked and took him to the local health centre. There a medic declared him dead. His heart broken mother was taken away to help prepare the funeral and his body was taken to the local morgue.

In the morning when the relatives and the priest came to collect the boys’ body they were horrified to find his head staved in and the body mutilated. Noone could understand why his body had suffered such abuse and then the priest noticed the morgue orderlies were looking terrified and guilty. He demanded to know what had happened and they told him the boy’s body had been possessed by demons.

In fact the poor kid had only been in a deep post seizure sleep and not dead. In the night he had woken in his metal drawer in the morgue and of course panicked and smashed and pounded to be let out. The two orderlies, believing the boy had returned from the dead as a demon, had opened the drawer armed with hammers and sticks and beaten the boy back down. Then they had laid out the body and kept watch until the grieving relatives arrived.

The priest finished his story and in the silence that followed he reached for a biscuit and munched it contemplatively.

‘The morgue attendants were arrested still protesting their innocence…in fact still thinking they were heroes. Dio mio! What could I do? We buried the boy in the grave prepared for him the day before he died.’

And that my dear friend’s, is God’s honest truth. Really. Ask my Dad.

Happy Halloween.

'Basketcase': Tanvir Bush (c) 2007

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

National Novel Writing Month

This morning I walked into a fist of bureaucracy kindly supplied by the Department of Work and Pensions. Not only does it ensure I remain in penury for several more months if not longer but it also emotionally knocked me flat on my back. Having been knocked down hard just last week by the non- job situation I decided not to bother getting up for a couple of days.

Self Portrait: Tanvir Bush (c) 2008

’I will just stay down and watch the fists whizz by from the safety of the dirt. I can grovel and whine from here,’ I thought, practically, to myself. ‘I know there will be some kicking whilst I am down but at least I will avoid the constant smacks to heavily dented brain. ‘

I was therefore lying in the dirt in a pool of my own self-pity when a ping ponged on my email. November is National Novel Writing Month and I, being careful to keep on my knees, reached up to my shining computer and subscribed. I have pledged to try and write a 50,000-word essay in four weeks. If you would like to keep tabs on this ridiculous exercise, join in or even sponsor me a bob or two then the links are below, below, below.

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.
Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.
Page details: Tanvir Bush's Fundraising Page

I think I might try standing up now. I have to make up some splints for the repetitive strain injuries in December.

This is all very exciting!
Read in Blue: Tanvir Bush(c) 2008

Friday, 24 October 2008

Pink Ball Blues

I bought a pink pilates ball. I blew it up and put it in front of the TV. The idea is that when I am watching endless amounts of mind numbing, soul zapping ,flab spreading, wibbling, rubbish; honing the shortness of my attention span and ensuring all my ethics, polices and global current affairs come filtered through the glib, greedy, greasy saturated fat of pressurised media methodology...any way when I am doing that..I get to work my core muscles at the same time.

I will be an empty shell but the shell will have good abs.

However…..what I actually do best on that Pilates ball is eat vast quantities of stir-fry bouncing idly and whooping at the Daily Show.

I can eat twice my body weight because the bouncing seems to ease the food down.

Eventually I will burst the bloody thing.....ho hum...

Monday, 20 October 2008


Yesterday I found myself striding over a grassy ridge with the wind in my hair and the sweat trickling down my back. I was finding it all a bit hard going as every time I paused for breath I was overtaken by corduroy clad pensioners. It was slightly disturbing.
‘You’re a bit red,’ said a woman speeding past whose hair retained shape even as the wind gusted past scattering crows and low flying squirrels. She was perfectly cool, her dentures and mascara flawless.
‘What vitamins have this lot been taking?’ I puffed irritably to my aunt. This was after all her regular hiking group and she should be privy to their secret stash. She just smiled sagely and swinging her specialised bag of super nuts and raisins, deftly leapt over the next stile and disappeared into the woods beyond.

We did over 11 miles all in all up what she called ‘gentle slopes’ and what I called ‘bloody hills’ over Royston Heath. The landscape changed mile by mile from empty farm land with golden stubble fields and chalky mud to thick woods opening up to quaint villages followed by golf courses and heath land. The sun shone, then flagged then shone again and the wind blew keenly.

At the lunch break I surreptitiously massaged my knees and put blister packs on whilst the oldies caroused, clinking pints and talking loudly about whose funeral they had last attended. I tried to feign fresh youth by flicking my hair nonchalantly and cricked my neck. By the time we got to the tea and cake bit I was walking like Frankenstein. The rest of ‘em could have gone on till supper. Bloody pensioners. .

Actually it was lovely to get out and just stride out for miles. I have been worrying so much about things lately and I needed to clear my head and get perspective and it seemed to have worked. I did not get the job but I can now tell you that I was a strong candidate (it was a producer position for BBC Africa Service) but they were looking for an anchor and the bloke who got it had 17 years experience. Not a lot I can do about it

At midnight last night I lit candles for Teelo (and the cat)..already gone a year. I toasted all of his friends and family and mine and gave Teelo a shot of gin for the journey as I didn’t have a stone to lay on his grave. Then I slept and dreamt that I had a story that I needed to give as a gift. It was written in ink on yellow parchment. I know it is here somewhere.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Not particularly mellow fruitfulness.

The world is in a very bad way. Proof? OK. Waitrose, the Glamorous Supermarket, has a new advert out. Carefully lit portrait shots of humps of bloody meat turning into Sunday roasts, fireplaces and hot pototoes, squally rain and cosy kitchen sponge cake makers… the famous Mersey side poet Roger McGough pottles on about seasons of mellow fruitfulness..only the riff, that sweet music mandolining and wheeling in the background is the Stranglers ‘Golden Brown’ which I believe is a sonnet to heroin.

Hmmm.. What pray is the subliminal marketing message in that one then, mate?

DON’T’ ask about the BLOODY job!!! Still haven’t heard. However to distract myself I did overtime at CAB and I was given a box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates by two Lithuanians hoping to set themselves up in the burger business. It’s a long story, all legal and life is sometimes most marvellous when we least expect.

Have a good weekend y’all! And just so that The Man cannot steal the sumptuous, extraordinarily beautiful poetry of John Keats to sell battery farmed chicken and spotted dick (tis a pudding..honestly ed) here is ‘To Autumn’ for you to enjoy in Technicolor (that’s TechnicolOR to you New York cuz) In the second verse Keats too turns to poppies... perhaps some poor media executive at Watirose was actually being clever?! Nahh..surely not...

John Keats: To Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,

Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;

Conspiring with him how to load and bless

With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,

And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,

And still more, later flowers for the bees,

Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find

Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,

Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;

Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,

Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook

Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:

And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep

Steady thy laden head across a brook;

Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,

Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring?

Ay, where are they? Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,

-While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,

And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn

Among the river sallows, borne aloft

Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;

And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft

The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;

And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

getting out of my head.

I apologise. Have been out of sorts this week..scratchy and irritable due to the fact I have been slightly more blinded (complications happen...they pass) and I am still waiting to hear on the job from 17th . As I didn’t hear on Friday I suspect I shall be getting the ‘Dear John’ letter next week. Ho hum.

I couldn’t concentrate and my blogging kept descending into ranting. It had started low key along the lines..If this blog were a room I’d be trashing it. If this blog were a cage I’d be pacing up and down up and down
It gradually got more disturbed. …. If this blog were a photocopier I’d be the empty toner cartridge. If this blog were Georgia I’d be a Russian road block. If this blog was the new Zimbabwean power share I would be the paper it wasn’t worth writing on. (Errr? Ed.) If this blog were a swan it would be the flu under its pin feathers.. etc. I thought it best to ‘select all’ and delete’.

Today though, my eyes released me and the light was lovely, golden and warm. High skies of blue. I decided with deference to the lovely Gold Puppy person to take myself off on a long walk and chill the hell …out! (Do check out her blog and especially her gorgeous photos. This one’s for you!) I walked for nearly 4 hours and am so knackered I still can't think properly!

If this blog were a book it would be missing the last two chapters.

Cambridge: River Cam. Oct o8. Tanvir (c)

Monday, 6 October 2008


The woman on the make shift podium has got stuck half way through her ‘body ripple’. She has over intellectualised the move and stuck out her bum AND her breasts at the same time so setting up what should have been Newton’s second, ("F = ma: the net force on an object is equal to the mass of the object multiplied by its acceleration") but now seems to be his third equation. (Every action has an equal and opposite reaction." )

This is potentially painful, certainly hysterically funny and obviously embarrassing. She squeals and a tall blonde, lithe, lady in pink micro shorts leaps up and smacks her hard on the rump so precipitating the rest of the ripple and reversing the potential inertia.

Now why am I applying Newtonian physics (inappropriately – apologies to the physicists out there) to pole-dancing is a good question. Why I am standing in shorts and bare feet in a pole-dancing workshop on a Sunday afternoon at all is potentially a good question too.

Pole dancing is associated with sex. It comes pumped up and platinum-blonded from the sleaze pits of strip clubs. It involves gyrating around a sweaty, central pole in such a manner as to offer up various bits of body at different angles to whomever. It is not cute. It is lewd, crude and not in any way bashful. It is, when push comes to shove, a blatant parody of the notion of romantic love.
However, recently it has been hijacked by the endless pursuers of the body perfect as a dynamic method of body shaping. It combines simple dance moves with gymnastics requiring strength and agility. Thus we can neutralise its nasty odour of dank bars and prostitution by claiming it as ‘sport’.

As an educated, well brought up, culturally sensitive and gender aware woman, going to a pole dancing class for ‘fitness ‘ is rather like a vegan working in a abattoir for the overtime. There is conflict in my heart as well there should be but I did see ‘Flashdance’ when I was an impressionable teenager so there is no escape.

The room is chilly and bright and two poles have been stuck into the two make shift podiums There are nine women grouped in the darkest corner all looking sheepish and uncomfortable so the scene, what with the rough scaffolding, rather resembles a public hanging. The two instructors clap hands and start chivvying us out of our middle class angst. Daisy the one in pink shorts is very posh. She is a dance teacher who works as a pole-dancer at the weekends. ‘Its really rather jolly fun’ apparently. Tina is blonde, in charge and, surprising all of us, rather plumb. It is with immense relief that we watch her initiating the moves. She is entirely relaxed and graceful even with her white belly foaming over her trouser tops. We all loosen up a bit in out raggedy shorts and t-shirts.

We begin with a group stretch that morphs into the infamous ‘body ripple’, the base of any pole dancers craft. None of us can do it and walk at the same time. The woman next to me gets the giggles and falls over. Then there is the ‘walking and touching yourself’ exercise that would make me howl with laughter only I catch myself in the mirror and am struck dumb with mortification.

A mousy woman next to me tells me that she took belly-dancing classes. In order to give the dancers the right facial expression of seductive, winkyness, her teacher told them to imagine someone they really fancied in the audience.
Good god! I thought. If I saw someone I really liked watching me in a pole-dancing club I would be tragically relieved of my liking for them. I would throw my bra shrieking ‘what the hell are you doing in a strip club?!’’

But then we get to play on the poles.

I can only compare it to getting into a playground and finding the climbing frame free. (both as a child and occasionally as a drunken adult). We learn to do the ‘Fire girl’, step, step, whip around and around wheee… and the ‘Catherine Wheel’ step, step and whip around but this time leg follows at 90% (don’t worry if you can’t picture it..believe me its better that way.) There is the ‘under arm slip’, the ‘double knee lift with bum slap’ and the ‘back bend’; and all the time that ‘body ripple’ proving we are all very silly after all. We put them all together and I am having so much fun that when time is called by Daisy I am devastated.

The teachers spend a couple of minutes showing us a few advanced moves that involve being upside down and ..well..lets say you should pay for it if you want to see it.. the woman has trained hard enough, called ’the Black Widow and ‘the Eagle’. I ask if there is a move called ‘the Beaver’ but quietly as I am impressed by their agility and don’t want to ruin the moment with post feminist irony.

I have bruises everywhere and a strange feeling of adrenalin tinged with wickedness as I leave. It is not an unpleasant sensation. Someone has written a letter to the gym saying that the pole dancing has lowered the tone. I do a quick under arm slip and double knee lift with bum slap and leg it for the door.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Po tree in times of high alert.

In Case Of Emergency

In case of emergency
Break my glass
I will salve, protect, smash
crash, bash, abolish...


Have you ever put back
What you
Broke out?

Bugger isn't it?

(In Case Of Emergency: T. Bush (c) 2001)

Thursday, 2 October 2008

No Joke.

I follow my young friend up the stairs and to the reception. My friend is a kind person, full of energy and enthusiasm and she has invited me to try out her boxercise class at the central gym but when I ask for my disabled discount at reception she makes a strange snorting laugh and says loudly to all around,

‘You’re kidding? If you can do the sport why should you get a discount? Why can’t I get a discount for bringing you? ‘

Totally embarrassed and extremely shocked I turn to her. I can feel my face reddening. The receptionist looks at me and stares. My friend grins. She thinks she is being funny..I think she does anyway. I feel shame rise up from my tingling fingers, up arms and into my chest
I remind this friend, who now feels like a complete stranger, that we about to go into a boxing class and shortly I will have access to gloves and a perfect excuse to smash her face in.
‘Only joking!’ says she cheerfully oblivious of the danger to her life. She strides ahead to the studio.

Of course I swallow the bile and get on with it. I am old enough and ugly enough to know these things happen. I don’t let my psycho ninja self out during the class and actually we have a good time and a good workout. She is just not the person I thought she was. I will always have to be a bit wary with her.

In the past these comments and daft jibes were not uncommon but since I have developed strategies i.e. hermit-like lifestyle, tendency not to go out after dark, caution and caginess with all new people etc, I have forgotten how much they hurt. This one, unexpected took me aback, winded me. Last night I dreamt people were all around me as I prepared to do a photo shoot but my camera was flooded with water. In the dream it had strange sliding shutters like eyelids and they became rusty and refused to open fully, obscuring the lens. I couldn’t see what I needed but everyone was waiting for me to take my shot…..the equipment is cheap, faulty. I am ashamed.

Will I lose my sight completely? I don’t know and neither do the tens of ophthalmologists who I’ve seen over the years. ‘Probably’ is the prognosis. Originally I went to se the ophthalmologist with my then fiancé. I was 21. The ophthalmologist was uncomfortable. He told us that I might loose my sight in 5 years..then again some people retained it for up to 15. There was nothing that could be done but ‘get on with life’. He couldn’t meet my eyes (ahh the irony..) and couldn’t wait for us to leave. I had been perfectly healthy the day before. Now my future was obscured. I tried to be heroic and at first the

drama of the movement was almost exciting. Photo; 'Obfuscate'T. Bush (c) 2008

Everyone gathered around…ohmigod..have you heard….etc. But as the months dripped by and not much changed, the tension lessened. Publicly I too got blasé but privately I clung to my fiancé desperately and, consequently, he poor chap managed about a year before he fled. (I have never talked about it in depth to subsequent boyfriends and made sure they were always the kind of men who would never ask..)

Look I’m not complaining. I have it easy compared to many people with my condition. My optic nerves have been so shored up by gin and tonic that I get confused appreciation at every hospital appointment. They are so far 'happy with my progress.' Importantly I am not in pain..not compared to many of my friends with other disabilities. And this is not terminal..except that I cannot imagine having to rely on others if I do become totally blind. That frightens me most of all....but I will cross that bridge when I get there.

However, in the meantime, let it be written here that the next person who makes a stupid joke at my expense gets it in the f+++ing eye.

(oh yep and rant over...still no news on the job. Will let you know as and when!)