It's going on three months since my last post. Three months of stuff to do with writing, and many a game of Solitare to put off doing things like this blog. The big thing in my life is that I've published Ellydd Gate online, both as a hardcopy paperback and as an ebook for all sorts of devices. Check it out on my writer's page at www.dannyfurlong.com.
Publishing it wasn't simple. There was a cover to design and have made by someone proficient in Photoshop, ISBNs to learn about and purchase, book proofs to check, and a seemingly endless number of corrections of things that I'd forgotten to do - like forgetting to credit my editor on the frontspiece of the book.
The even bigger thing in my life is that concurrent with publishing Ellydd Gate I did the same with my autobiography, Flipside. It too is online as a hardcopy paperback and as an ebook. Check it out also at www.dannyfurlong.com.
I wrote it and got it ready for publishing about ten years ago. I've been adding bits to it on and off for the last twelve months. Seeing I had to do all that stuff getting Ellydd Gate online it wasn't all that much more trouble to get Flipside online at the same time.
And once I'd put those two books out there I had Gemma quite sensibly hassling me to market them. This is a problem for me and many an author. Writing is our thing. We begrudge having to spend time marketing our books, trying to get them to sell. I know I'm not doing anywhere near enough work in that area. I put it off and put it off, but every now and then I make a token effort. One afternoon I put together a publicity letter for newspapers. It begins with 'Hi. I’m Danny Furlong. I’m hoping for publicity for two books I’ve recently published onlie. My somewhat unordinary circumstances would make for an interesting article, so I’m also hoping you will see this as a win/win situation.' After that introduction I actually write the article, in the third person about Danny Furlong past and present - so that the paper can lift all or parts of it. I figure the easier I made it for them the more likely are they to do it.
I sent it to our local paper and they did a small article. I sent it to the Bendigo Advertiser (Bendigo - the closest big town, population 60,000) They sent a reporter with a photographer to see me and ran a double-page feature article. An article that ended with my web address printed wrongly. Luckily they added the Amazon web address for my books. A big feature article sounds good, but all that resulted from it was one paperback sale and a few ebooks.
I've only sent it to two papers so far. Now that I'm talking about it I'll try another paper or two this weekend. Maybe a city paper.
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Granny Thomas Gully, Campbells Creek, Victoria. 1987.
Since early this century our town, just like most towns, has had the right attitude about its frailer elderly residents - out of sight, out of mind. The Castlemaine home and hospital was built right on the extreme edge of the town's only industrial area. Its closest neighbours are a large factory, a sprawling woollen mill, a less-than-pleasant bacon factory and the stinking abattoirs. It's perched at the very top of a piton-and-safety-rope hill about two kilometres from the town centre, so even if its aged prisoners knew how to absail they could never make the round trip to the shops. After all, Councillors wouldn't allow themselves to suffer the indignities of age and infirmity - or would they? God, I hope so.
I attended the day hospital section specifically for rehabilitation therapies, but I got very little more in a whole week here than in any one weekday at PHH (which hadn't been all that much, anyway). I was getting nowhere very slowly so after three or four months I called it quits. I'd realized very early on that they were just giving me maintenance physio instead of putting in the time required to get me up and running again. Most of my time at the hospital was spent sitting and waiting or having lunch. I knew my days were being totally wasted, but I had one important reason for attending. It meant that I was away from home for most of the day three times a week and so Rainbow had some time to be by herself or to visit friends.
I placed an advertisement in the local paper asking for volunteers to help me exercise at home. About fifteen people offered their services, so we organized a five-days-a-week roster whereby they each came for a separate half-day session with me about once a fortnight. Naturally they were all novices at physiotherapy, so I paid for two sessions with the new local private physio. Luckily, she had only recently gone into private practice after having been a physio at the home and hospital. We had worked together for over a month, so when I took my volunteers to her for the two-session crash course she knew exactly which exercises were appropriate for me. Physio exercises are repeated time and again, so my helpers soon became confident and combatant. The quality of my physio dropped to about eighty five percent, but the quantity jumped by eight hundred and fifty percent.
Oops - I'm a few months ahead of myself. Rainbow and I went to a fairly quiet new year's eve party to herald in nineteen eighty five. We went to three or four parties before we moved to Melbourne in June of that year and they were all equally as much fun for me. I was never the life of any party even before my stroke, except for a few memorable drunken, stoned or sex-crazed occasions. Usually my idea of a good time at parties was to sit quietly in a corner to soak up the atmosphere and the music and to share a few joints with one or two good friends. In my younger days I'd often collar onto some stray skirt during the night, but of course I never even flirted mildly after I'd met Rainbow (???).
`And to share a few joints with one or two good friends'. How often in my lifetime has that happened to me at parties? Two, three times? The smell of dope has a strange effect on the few creepy ex-hippy guys that turn up at every party after the pubs shut. They can detect the smell from two smoke-filled rooms away and they hunt out the joint with the single-mindedness of a missionary seeking out natives to save. Sometimes just one of the creepy ex-hippies would sidle up to me and my mates - sometimes six.
‘Is that a joint, Dan old pal? We'll help you smoke it.’
After my stroke things were different. I couldn't just sit unobtrusively in a corner somewhere, because a wheelchair is obtrusive. It doesn't merge into the background. It shouts: ‘Here I am! Danny's sitting in me! Remember Danny? He used to be your friend once. Of course, the stupid bastard had a stroke, which put him in hospital for nine months. Nine months in which you couldn't be bothered even sending him a card. Act as if you're still his friends and come and talk to him.’
Maybe I'm not very nice, because I'd be happy to never see all those self-centred mongrels ever again. I didn't even want to go to the few parties we went to, but I had to make a bit of an effort for Rainbow's sake.
The Etran board caused many problems. Although it's very simple for an initiate to use it does require practice, so for a novice it can be difficult. The difficulty isn't in recognizing each letter as I gaze at it, but in remembering those letters long enough to form words and then sentences. Most novices are so on edge that they concentrate so hard on guessing the letters that after a few words have been spelled they forget a word or two. The simple sentence ‘Wouldn't a beer be good?’ becomes ‘Would a beer be good?’ or, even worse ‘A beer wouldn't be good.’
I'd spend ages getting someone to become comfortable with using the board then I wouldn't meet them again for months and so they'd be on tenterhooks once more - back to square one.
For people to talk to me at parties would most often mean them holding one-sided conversations which wouldn't last long, because the pressure to fill in the frequent awkward silences would soon make them crack and find an excuse to leave me. Many people see my board as some sort of intelligence test and they often feel they're failing dismally, so they lunge at any reason to escape and to avoid any subsequent conversations with me. I don't look forward to most party chat because of the excessive effort and dissatisfaction involved on both sided, so I often subconsciously put on a stern, uncommunicative face which scares people off me.
Have you ever been to a party where there hasn't been a party bore? Have you noticed how everyone that Bore buttonholes slides away at the first opportunity? This is normally his fate at every party, but just once in his lifetime God sees fit to give him a captive audience which surpasses his wildest dreams - me. What could be better for him than having a mute quad to bore? I couldn't interrupt with sarcastic or derogatory remarks and I couldn't escape. There's no way anyone else at the party would save me because as long as Bore had me he wouldn't annoy them.
You're beginning to see why I didn't enjoy parties much. Add the following to those things.
‘Do you want a drink, Danny?’
‘Cant swallow thin liquids without choking.’
‘Have some nuts them.’
‘Cant chew - Ill choke.’
‘Try a sausage roll. The sauce will make it soggy.’
‘Vegetarian ten yrs.’
I couldn't eat or drink; I couldn't have conversations or chat up women; I couldn’t the drawback to smoke dope; I couldn't mingle or dance; but I could sit - and sit - and sit.
Before my stroke I was heavily into marijuana. Now I can no longer control my diaphragm to hold smoke in my lungs - the few times I've tried dope recently it hasn't been in my lungs long enough to enter my bloodstream, so it's been ineffective. I used to be addicted to it.
‘But grass isn't addictive’ all the outraged heads amongst you readers are protesting.
Boy - have I got news for you. Before my stroke I rarely smoked on weekdays before about five or six in the afternoon, but by then I'd be hanging out for a J. If for some reason I had to go a whole day without dope my head would ache and my stomach would feel awful. Dope mightn't be physically addictive, but it sure grabs you psychologically. Maybe it doesn't get you if you're just a social smoker. I grew a lot - for personal use only, so I smoked nearly every day of the year for a few years.
No reason was ever found for my stroke, but it wasn't caused by dope. Hard drugs like heroin and crack do that. Soft drugs like grass and Valium don't. I should have suffered withdrawals in ICU, but my very abrupt halt with grass was more than compensated for with the morphine that I was being administered. I was given morph for a week or two to block out the psychological traumas brought about by my stroke. It MAY have done that, but it gave me some very disturbing hallucinations/dreams as well. Whenever I'm around people who are smoking dope nowadays I get a slight nostalgic yearning which I rarely try to satisfy, because my new coughing and choking for so little result just isn't worthwhile.
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June 1, 1977 - Todra high-plains, Morocco
The Kombi's parked beside a smallish stone-fenced paddock, not a square paddock, a near-round paddock that's packed with parked donkeys. We're at a windswept village market, a weekly open-air market (souk). The village is half a day from the Berber tents - half a day for the Kombi, but maybe a week or so for the Berbers' camels.
This souk replicates souks throughout Morocco. There are vegetables and herbs and used cloaks, jilubas and dresses in small piles on the ground. There are tethered goats and sheep for sale; tiny tented stalls of this `n that - carpets, new cloaks and jilubas, aluminium tea sets, and other stuff; two barbers under a tree; hundreds of farmers and villagers, even a few women; and two Westerners - us.
We buy a few days' food - milled wheat for couscous, a few vegies, bread flat round and freshly-baked - and, would you believe it, we find butter. It's dolloped out onto paper from a tin under a counter. Bit dicey that, but we never see butter. I haggle for a second-hand cloak for the ever-present wind and I get it not too cheap. I get it not too cheap and now Rainbow says ‘We'll be in Marakesh tomorrow and into the desert soon after that. You won't need this then.’ She says it now, mind you, not before - she always does that.
I see a barber standing sheltered from the wind by a hut, and there's a straight-backed chair for his victims. It's not in the wind either. My hair blows in my eyes too much up here, so it's a haircut for me. I sit in the chair and I'm having second thoughts now I'm here. All Moroccan men have neat hair and I'm yet to see one with long hair. This barber's got short back-and-sides just like barbers back home in the Forties, and I'm offering up my shoulder-length hair on trust? No way, Hose'. I hastily mime a beard-trim and ‘don't touch the hair’ displays.
Rainbow's at a tree waiting, no wind that side. An old man's watching her watching the barber, watching her from three metres away in the wind. He stokes his kif pipe carefully and approaches her with it held out. They do small things like this for her, because she looks good. They do small things for her smile, for her voice, for her notice, however fleeting - they clear a path for her, dust a seat for her, charge less for her. This one's offering kif to her. Why aren't I good-looking like her? Not that I want the men's attention, but I'd go some of their women, though.
She smiles the old man her thanks, she sucks on the pipe lightly, cautiously, she pauses, she sucks deeply, confidently, then she turns deathly pale. The top of her head lifts three feet, a metre, more, more. She's coughing, coughing, coughing. She plonks down coughing, dying, coughing, and dying. The old man retrieves his pipe from her hand and fades away, judiciously. Half an hour she's white, getting less deathly slowly.
And me? I've got a neatly trimmed beard, hair ever so lightly trimmed, I'm wrapped warm in my cloak, and I'm glad she's the attractive one.