Yesterday, I went to a posh hotel in Birmimgham for the 10th birthday party of Jooly’s Joint, a community web site for people with Multiple Sclerosis, founded and run by Julie Howell.
It’s a fantastic community service that helped me a lot when I was diagnosed in Thailand, and had no information other than a photocopy of some medical textbook, full of cheery information about mortality rates and how to diagnose MS at autopsy. So I went to the web – and found Jooly’s Joint, which was cheerful and optimistic and thus just what I needed.
I felt a little nervous about going to the party, though. I’d once been to an MS group meeting when visiting the UK in late ’99 and found it terribly gloomy: a room full of lachrymose people involved in some wierd circlejerk of self-pity, and was worried that last night would be the same. Or, conversely, as I’m reasonably healthy (my MS is pretty invisible), I was worried that I’d feel a bit of a fraud. Mostly, though (and I’ve never really admitted this to myself before), I don’t particularly like meeting people who are more affected than me: it makes me think of what could happen to me after the next relapse. (Isn’t that a terrible thing to say?)
But, Jooly had invited me, it wasn’t too far from home, so I went at 6 p.m., resolving to say “hi”, have a couple of beers and bugger off home around 9 o’clock. But it was not to be!
Not long after I’d situated myself conveniently next to the complimentary plonk, Zoe from Cornwall introduced herself to me, and we got chatting. Then, a punk rocker named Dave with a huge mohican bounded up and we started getting stuck into the booze. The band were good, as Julie is an 80′s chick with pretty good music taste (except the ridiculous preference of The Cult over Echo and The Bunnymen), and soon we were strutting our somewhat spastic stuff to covers of Talking Heads, U2, The Jam and classic Beatles. The picture shows Dave, Julie and Zoe, all refreshed.
The beers kept flowing, and I felt the urge to make a nob of myself in time-honoured fashion by commandeering the mike and treating the room to a cover of The Undertones’ “Teenage Kicks”. (Readers from Bangkok may recall my regular hijacking of the house band in the “Country Roads” bar in Soi Cowboy).
By the time I could mumble coherently enough into my mobile to get a taxi to my bed for the night, it was 2 a.m. I awoke, somewhat delicate, eight hours later, with a sore throat and mysteriously stained clothes.
Thanks for the fun, Dave, Garret, Zoe, Mel, Lankey, the band – and, of course, Julie. I’ll no longer be such a dick when faced with meeting people with MS who are worse affected than me. Here’s to the next decade! (More pictures, article in The Guardian.)