Right up until yesterday morning - sitting in the bath with gritted teeth and the feeling that it was never going to stop - I hadn't made my mind up. Then I realised that this was one of those once in a lifetime moments. Porcupine Tree are one of my favourite bands of all time; I might have seen them 3 times already, but I'll probably never see them at such an incredible venue and probably wouldn't see them do tracks I've been dying to see them perform, but probably wouldn't ever again. In the end, I decided to dose myself up with painkillers, bite the bullet and go. As those of you who have read the review, I was glad I did. But what they review doesn't do is explain what it was like for me...
I've taken to using a walking stick. It gives me a little bit of support on the left side, which is where I have the problem. The slipped or compacted disc I'm suffering from is all down the left side of my body - bad pain in the back, excruciating pain in my groin and sharp shooting pains in my left thigh, disappearing into numbness and odd tingling sensations in my calf and foot. The prospect of sitting on a train and then the tube and then in a cramped seat at the Albert Hall was quite frightening and daunting, but like I said - a once in a lifetime chance, fuck the pain.
The train journey down was fine - the painkillers were doing their job and it was so deserted I could walk around, keep myself active and it only took 52 minutes before we got to Euston. However, we got there just as rush hour was starting; it was like the inside of the terraces at Wembley stadium on a good day; yet amazingly the combination of me limping around like a raspberry and the walking stick seemed to generate an enormous amount of respect from people I encountered. Especially on the tube when, despite it being packed to the brim, I was constantly offered a seat by at least 3 very kind hearted people. I thanked them wholeheartedly for their consideration, but explained that if I sat, I'd probably have trouble getting up again and didn't bother to tell them that sitting is considerably more painful than standing.
We met one of my bestest buddies in the entire world at Euston. Martin Shipp and I have been friends since 1989; we instantly hit it off and don't see enough of each other. He was my right hand man on Borderline and two years ago we attempted to write a TV series together. The wife thinks the world of him and it upsets me that we only see each other as little as we do. But life, work and the lack of time and money means that we have to make the most of the few times we do see each other. He's a man I have no problem giving a massive hug to each and every time I see him. Me, him and Roger made our way to Charing Cross Road and the truly wonderful Pillars of Hercules pub - after a couple of pints and a lot of catching up; we made our way to the tube station and headed off, without him, to the Royal Albert Hall. Unfortunately there was tube trouble, our train was delayed and we were stuck about two miles from the RAH with no obvious way of getting there. we opted for Queensway tube station, on the opposite side of Hyde Park and decided to walk across the 2 miles of parkland to the venue... Except Hyde Park was shut. So we got a taxi, which only cost us b£6.50 - a bargain.
What made the evening even better was that our seats were directly in front of the stage and my one was right by the aisle; so instead of being cooped up in a cramped space, I could have all the room I wanted and I needed it, because by the hour mark in the show my back was screaming at me, my groin was beating me about with a club studded with nails and my left leg had gone to sleep; but because of the perfectly placed intervals, I got to get up and walk around inside one of the most stunning buildings I have ever had the pleasure to be in. And because I had a walking stick and was limping like I had a prosthetic leg, every one I saw was helpful and courteous. I had doors opened for me, people allowed me to push into queues and it struck me that if someone wanted to, all they'd need to do is borrow some crutches and London would just roll out the hospitality mat.
We had at least a mile walk to Kensington High Street tube station and after the gig, despite having a virtually seized up leg, I insisted we walked rather than got another taxi. I needed to exercise the leg and hip because that would make the train journey back easier. We walked past some wonderful landmarks that I'd never seen before - The Albert Memorial, the National Geographic Society, Harvey Nicks and just down the road was Harrods. It was a painful but truly uplifting walk after what was one of the best gigs I'd ever seen.
However, London becomes a different place after dark. Where I was overwhelmed with the generosity of people towards the disabled in daylight hours; all the selfish cunts in the world surface after dark. We got on our tube to Euston and it was almost 11.30. The tubes were busy, but nowhere near as packed as they were earlier. When we got on our train there were no spare seats, just standing room and I hobbled onto the tube and the two people sitting in the spaces reserved for the old or disabled both looked at me and then dropped their eyes and looked at the floor - neither of the two seats and occupants were going to give their seats up for the raspberry with the cane. That gave me a wry smile and gave me an idea. You shouldn't really look anyone in the eyes on the tube - this is advice I've been given - but I decided to stare at the one particular guy who quickly averted his gaze away from me - making sure that every time he looked up he could see me staring at him - burrowing into him with my disabled eyes. God, did he look guilty and uncomfortable - but did he give his seat up? Did he fuck...
Now, when we got on the 12.05 train back to Northampton. It was packed and there wasn't a seat to be had; yet within two minutes of struggling onto the train a very nice man from Tring - an insurance assessor for Lloyds - offered me his seat. he was the oldest person in the that section of train. Everyone else, all averted their eyes, looked at the floor or at their copies of Metro and probably all hoped that I'd just disappear. I thanked the man from Tring (in Bedfordshire), but declined. I needed to stand for a while, and I also knew that by the time we got to Watford a third of the people on the train would have got off - which was exactly what happened. I ended up sitting next to guy from Tring as we listened to two arseholes arguing over their personal space and human rights. It was laughably pathetic and almost came to blows and yet both of them could see and saw this disabled bloke in front of them and neither considered for a minute that they were being ignorant, stupid, selfish and basically a couple of worthless cunts. It made me smile.
We got back into Northampton at 1.30 and I was home in bed by 2.15 am; dosed up on my new drugs. Drugs, incidentally, that have been really difficult to get. Oxycodone hadn't been dispensed by Boots for over a year; yet on first results appear to work - quite well. Can't quite work out if they kill the pain or they just make me not actually give a shit even more than the last lot.
Now, depending on how much I've rambled and wibbled about, you can make your own minds up!