Daily Check In, 5 (Us, Skellig)

The week begins! I have but one day of work (today) followed by the rest of the week off to spend some time with my other half for her birthday. There are still cards to be made and stuff to be wrapped – I have little time!

I’ve just had a frustrating night of never quite being properly asleep, bedevilled by images and configurations of floating widgets. An utter waste of lying down and closing my eyes. This sleep thing isn’t really working that well, and none of the last three nights have left me feeling remotely refreshed. On the bright side we did some cool stuff over the weekend, and I’m reminding myself to remember the good things.


We caught Jordan Peele’s Us at the cinema on Thursday. It’s a very satisfying horror/thriller, with most of the scares delivered early before it settles into less immediately stressful spine tingling horror at the situation. I don’t like being made to jump – I’d much rather be left in existential terror than heart-leaping anxiety. Peele’s done a great job – Us looks beautiful, is wonderfully performed and will serve as a metaphor for almost any kind of social separation and exploitation you wish. Lupita Nyong’o and Shahadi Wright Joseph are especially terrifying and gripping to watch. The final twist is entirely what you expect, but like all good twists, is inevitable and satisfying (Peele may prove be the anti-M Night Shyamalan). I’m not entirely sure the actions of Red make sense once you’ve had the reveal, but I’m not inclined to complain. The central horror of the shadow people is delightful and their performances feature some great mime and choreography. I’m looking forward to a second watch on Netflix.


Nottingham Playhouse does a great ‘pay what you can’ promo for many of their productions and really helps to make theatre accessible. I picked up tickets for Friday’s odd-timed five o’clock matinee. I’d never heard of the book Skellig, probably because it’s a children’s book published since I was a child, so everything was a lovely surprise. It’s a simple story of a family who move into a near-derelict new home to support their growing family. But the new baby comes too soon and is very unwell, and the 12 year-old boy, Michael, struggles to cope and when he discovers a strange man living in their garage, the family drama takes a cool magical realist twist.

The set is an incredible, deep and complex piece of theatre all on its own, with props, costumes, entrances and exits hidden in plain view and only recognised once used. They have some charming animal puppets with a pleasing low-fi vibe and clever (spoiler) wings and flight. It’s largely an ensemble piece with quick character switching, lots of well choreographed stage business and endearing stabs at Geordie accents.

It was very lovely and engrossing – the children in the audience were rapt. It’s definitely worth catching if you have an evening free and want something heartbreaking, funny, and uplifting.

Other Things

More episodes of the bonkers but fun Umbrella Academy, birthday drinks, It’s A Trap rehearsal, gift-wrapping and getting ever closer to the end of The Crippled God.

We Are What We Overcome – Pilot Podcast

We Are What We Overcome

A couple of months ago, Matt McGuinness of Matt McGuinness & the MLC asked me and my other half,  Marilyn to help sharpen up his mental health chat & music show. It was fun, and challenging, both to script and think about.

Now he’s adding a podcast to generate further opportunities to talk about and hear people talk about their mental health. Our desire is that it should ultimately become as normal as discussing having a cold or a broken arm. This is one step in that journey. I joined Matt and our new mate Huez Everns to talk about Matt’s show, as well as the general topic of self-care and some other rambling bits. Thanks to Neil Munro for tireless editing and possibly succeeding in getting a coherent conversation out of us.

Speaking of colds, I had a terrible cold when we recorded this, so apologies in advance. This is our pilot episode, with more to follow as we travel about a little with the live show, so keep your peepholes peeped. We will almost certainly get neater and tidier as we do this more. We’d love to know what you think.

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The next episode will be recorded in front of a live audience in Burnley on Sunday 14 April. You can find all the deets here.

Daily Check In, 6 – Back in the Horse

I have, reluctantly, been re-prescribed amitriptyline. It’s really hard not to see this as a failure. So hard, in fact, that I am feeling that I’ve failed. I realise that I haven’t really and that a vast proportion of us are medicated in some way for at least some of the time. I had hoped that after the best part of a decade on sleep/anxiety tablets, something would have magically changed. But I guess the medication is an adjustment or correction, so naturally, absent the correction, I return to baseline. Le sigh.

On the plus side, as I steadily ramp the dosage back up to something that actually knocks me out, I’m beginning to go to sleep pretty much when I want to and more or less sleep through the night. Waking up is a bastard though. I did alright yesterday, and both cycled and swam on the way to work for the first time in months. It was amazing. Except for my little finger (he of the snapped metacarpal bone), which is evidently not quite as strong as it used to be, because is it flaps and flops alarmingly as I drag water behind me. I’m sure it’ll pep up.

It’s hard to tell this early on how my general mood and affect is being affected, and more so to separate that from the abrasive influence of lacking sleep. Everything is harder without enough sleep, and it thins down that membrane between me and the world. Too easily pierced… I prefer it when you can give that bubble a decent punch and not get bruised. For now, I guess I’m going to have to keep an eye on myself. That means I do need to write these posts. It’s perversely much easier to write about bad mental health than good. Good should be the default, right? So why does that need commentary? I think it’s because otherwise, when we crash, it can be so hard to remember that it’s temporary and that things have felt better.

Having some kind of diary record is so useful. I found that out when I was in counselling, and (due to never throwing anything away if I can possibly help it) I still had letters and diaries from when I was a teenager, and they provided an invaluable portal back to the teenage me, along with their firsthand impressions, memories and feelings.

I cast back to some of my earlier posts about feeling hideous before going back to the doc’s, and realised I’d ended up in almost exactly the same mental and emotional space I was on before I started taking amitriptyline to begin with. Frustrating, but it did at least help me to understand why I’d been prescribed it originally. It led to me being uncharacteristically teary at the surgery, which felt super-uncomfortable. The Verve were wrong: the drugs do work, but you need to know what you’re taking and why.