Sunday, 19 September 2021

If you'd like to contact me, I'd be happy to hear from you, particularly if it's to tell me how much you like this blog and how you can't wait for the release of the book.

Or you can simply contact me to have a moan about multiple sclerosis. Up to you.

The email address is andy@ballstoms.com

BALLS to MS

Andy Reynard


'Moving, yes, but also laugh out loud funny.'

Annabel Port, Adrift podcast and former Absolute Radio presenter


20 Years of Discovering Your Body Hates You

Andy Reynard has had multiple sclerosis for most of this century and to be honest, he’s a bit annoyed about it. In this irreverent account of how the condition has steadily crept into his life, we learn that his brain is a murky, chaotic place place where the use of popular culture references is sometimes the only way he can make sense of it all. We also discover that his body is a bastard because shortly after his MS diagnosis his thyroid became ridiculously overactive, the bizarre treatment for which left him radioactive and dangerous to know.

Then things got serious, as he was given the news that another health crisis meant his life was under threat – and as this news was delivered by the super-hot Dr Amalia Gonzalez, he was in a state of arousal at the time.

It’s certainly been a bumpy ride and his physical decline continues year on year, but he’s survived at least. All he can do is keep clinging to the words of the wise philosopher who succinctly declared, ‘Shit happens.’


REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL (DESPITE HAVING MS)


No.1


Licence to be a lazy bastard / I can get out of doing all sorts of jobs that I don’t want to do.

Household chores, DIY, gardening… no, sorry, no can do. I’d love to but I’m just not physically up to it. Of course, it can be frustrating when you just want to get some tasks ticked off your list, but it’s also frustrating when you want to get on with doing things that you actually want to do, like writing your blog or your book, and you feel like you should put that washing out or cut the lawn first. In that pre-MS life, by the time you’ve worked your way through your list for the day, you realise that there’s no time to do that bit of writing you were looking forward to doing.

MS gives these duties a finality. You can only occupy yourself this way for a limited amount of time and even if you wanted to carry on, you wouldn’t be able to. Time for a nice sit down.

Now let’s get this laptop fired up.

 

Below is one of the later chapters of the book. It's one of the few that requires no real contextualisation. It stands on its own two feet, rather more steadily than me, I think.


AUG 2018 – THE BOUNCER

 

After the meal, we decide to grab a drink at a new bar around the corner. I say new, but refurbished and renamed would be a better description. I remember it as the Buzz Bar nightclub and before that, in the eighties, it had the very eighties name of Sloanes. Some of my formative experiences with the opposite sex took place in those establishments. Teenage parties in Sloanes, praying a girl might be interested in a pale, moody goth, and in my grungy twenties, hunting the three floors of Buzz Bar for talent, like a horny Kurt Cobain. I’d slip away from my mates for ten minutes while I raced up and down the stairs in a shallow examination of the female clientele, scanning the room for a potential love match. In a pre-Internet age, my rapid circumnavigations of Buzz were, I suppose, like an early version of Tinder, just one that involved a lot more leg work.

 

Thirty odd years later, here I am heading for the same place, only now I’m hoping there won’t be any stairs and that I can make the short distance from the restaurant to the bar. I clutch my wife’s hand tightly, as I’ve left my walking stick at home. I still don’t like being seen with it on a night out and we had no intention of walking anywhere tonight anyway. But the meal took less time than we expected and we thought we would check out what they had done with the old Buzz Bar/Sloanes, as it was nearby.

 

Nearby for your average person is not my nearby, however. We’re only halfway there and I’m struggling. Whenever my legs pack up on me and I’m walking hand in hand with Kate, I’m put in mind of the chimps that you used to see on TV variety shows in my childhood. Dressed in a tutu or similar, it would be walking upright, holding the hand of someone, or on occasion another chimp, who would be dressed in dungarees and also walking upright. Their bowlegs and awkward swaying gait would have the audience howling with mirth, as if we had not evolved one iota from the crass behaviours of the Coliseum crowds. But I fear that’s what I look like in these moments. I will often make a couple of chimp noises to try and deflate some of my frustration with humour, generally with limited success.

 

At least the chimp and his handler have now arrived. We approach the bouncer on the door, ready to nod, ‘Evening,’ but events take an unexpected turn. As Kate lets go of my hand and brushes past him with a smile, the guy places his arm across my path. “Sorry, pal. Not tonight.”

 

“Eh?” I squeak.

 

“Sorry, pal. I think you’ve had enough for one night.”

 

I laugh and roll my eyes, as it dawns on me what is going through his mind. I hope my expression is disarming, but the way his eyebrows are knotting on the bridge of his nose suggests otherwise.

 

“I can explain...” I say, about to explain, but he cuts me off.

 

“No need, not a problem. I just can’t let you in. I’m glad you’ve had a good time tonight but it’s not carrying on in here.”

 

Part of me is feeling like I no longer want to enter anyway. His manner is overly aggressive and is not putting me in the mood for relaxing with a beer. Kate then turns round, wondering what the cause of the delay is.

 

“What’s going on?” she asks, as she sees the bouncer and his broad arm barring my way.

 

“He thinks I’m drunk. I was just about to tell him...”

 

“He’s got MS!” she blurts out, laughing, preventing me from explaining for a second time. At least she didn’t say M & S. She used to work for them and I’d been diagnosed five years before she broke the habit of calling it M & S. “He has problems with his legs,” she adds, flashing a smile that is no doubt considerably more disarming than anything I could ever manage.

 

I expect he’ll feel pretty foolish now and I wait to hear him apologise profusely. I will of course be magnanimous, as I tell him it’s no problem at all, no really, don’t worry about it, it’s fine. I am therefore somewhat surprised when his face emits further hostility.

 

“Well how am I supposed to know that?” he spits.

 

I’m so taken aback that I find myself still spouting the words I had prepared. “Don’t worry about it, it’s fine, not a problem,” but my sentiment is not imbued with the same level of magnanimity. He finally stands down and I step past him. Kate is certainly seeing the funny side and, in a way, I am too. But mostly I am just puzzled. It was an honest mistake that anyone could have made, but his reaction to the truth of the matter was bizarre. Maybe he’s full to the eyeballs on steroids and is incapable of reacting to any situation with anything other than belligerence. Existing on the cusp of a verbal explosion due to chemicals in the system is something to which I can relate.

 

“Can you believe that guy?” says Kate. “Trying to bar chimps, in the twenty-first century!”

 

I bow my legs and curl my arm over my head like I’ve seen chimpanzees do on TV. “Oo, oo, oo.”

 

She shakes her head. “Don’t do that in here please.”

 

I stand up straight and scour the bar for a free stool, chair or sofa. The place is packed and sitting down appears unlikely. If I had come out with my walking stick, I would have waltzed, OK limped past the bouncer without any issue and now someone may well be offering me their seat. As it is, I’ll just have to lean all my weight on the edge of a table.

 

Yes, maybe I’ll come out with the stick from now on. Maybe it’s time for me to accept that I’m disabled.


Back of my original blue badge. I felt better about the whole thing for using an old photo from my halcyon days.



 

As featured in the chapter Three-legged Man Acquires Four-legged Friend. I figure everyone likes a cute dog, so why not (that's a Schmackos by the way - she doesn't have a weirdly rectangular tongue).




A taste of the pills I consume on a weekly basis. The one on the left is Baclofen that helps to control the spasms I experience in my legs, a relatively recent symptom of the MS. Only really get them when I'm tired and trying to sleep or relax. Body, you really are a bastard that hates me.



I only take around 50 a week of the Baclofen. Add that to the 21 tablets I take every seven days due to the thyroid problems detailed in the memoir, the 7 that are supposedly to counter the MS fatigue and the 14 cod liver capsules I take, as fish oil is thought to be a good supplement if you have MS, and that's 99 tablets a week. Don't forget the squirt each day of Vitamin D though. Again, thought to be a good idea for those with multiple sclerosis. So that tips me over into three figures.

Everything completely normal. Nothing to see here. Move along please.

Balls to MS, the book, is due to be released in late 2021 or early 2022. While you wait with baited breath there’s this blog. Get in touch if there’s anything you’d like to say, but please be nice – I’ve enough to deal with already.

Click HERE to read the back cover blurb of Balls to MS.

Author Profile: I’ve had relapse-remitting multiple sclerosis for most of this century. It’s probably progressed to secondary MS by now. It certainly feels like it. I’m still walking but with greater difficulty each year. As they were fond of saying in The Sopranos, though, what ya gonna do?

What I do is I write about it. I don’t do inspirational messages but I do strive to look for the positives in the situation in which I find myself and most of all, I look for the laughs. I hope you can find them too on this blog.

Writing CV: For many years, I worked as a freelance copywriter and proofreader, which led to such projects as writing children’s activity books for Marks & Spencer and reviewing pubs (I know, but someone had to do it).

More recently my work has featured on several funny podcasts, such as Adrift with Geoff Lloyd and Annabel Port (six Drifter stories read out so far as I write this), The Jason Manford Show and Top Flight Time Machine. If you insist on proof that my writing can make people laugh, click HERE to listen to my podcast contributions.

One More Thing:

If you or someone you know has this mysterious, frustrating, cruel condition, I invite you to join me in saying, ‘Balls to MS.’

 

Andy Reynard

September 2021

 

If you'd like to contact me, I'd be happy to hear from you, particularly if it's to tell me how much you like this blog and how ...