Maggy van Eijk (2018) Remember This When You’re Sad.


I don’t know Maggy van Eijk, but I’ve read her poetry on ABCtales. It’s memorable because it’s amazing. But don’t ask me to tell you the names of any of her poems. Often I can’t remember my own name. What stands out is her loopy ability to juxtapose two images that makes sense. I’d like to give you an example, but I can’t be arsed looking. I had her down at one of those exotic younger women that had pretty much everything and jam on top. Remember This When You’re Sad’suggests that I wasn’t looking very hard. I wasn’t looking very closely. I don’t know what I’m talking about. Well, that makes sense.  Most of us don’t, even when we do.

I hate that ‘brave’ description, but like the wee drawings. Maggy isn’t brave, but she’s honest. If you can’t tell me how it is honestly then you can just fuck off.  I won’t read your work and I won’t ‘like’ your page. Maggy tells us that by 2030 one in four of us will experience mental health problems. I’m pleased with that because that means I’ll still be alive in 2030.

I didn’t read Remember When You’re Sad in one go. I nibbled at it, a couple of pages at a time. It reminded me a bit of Christine Hamill’s B is for Breast Cancer. I also remember Hamill’s prototype on ABCtales Harry Hill, something or other, that metamorphosed into The Best Medicine.  I claim credit for both books because as Maggy reminds us the internet has been created for the singular purpose of telling whopping lies. Instagram pictures of Maggy, for example, out partying and enjoying herself she tells us also show a bandage on her arm where she had cut herself or burned herself with a cigarette. I find that sad.

It also enrages me. Maggy recognises our glorious NHS is underfunded and falling to bits. I’ve long know that there is a pecking order in the NHS as there is any other organisation and mental health is aligned with old-fashioned geriatrics (care of the elderly) where those in medicine that can’t quite cut it in the elected fields of surgery all the way down to the fields of urology, general medicine and paediatrics are all better funded because mental health is where losers go –literally.   Remember This When You’re Sad reminds us that such demarcations are stupid, but the resources attributed to other specialities make it real. There’s no them and us. There’s only us. Humans (and sad Tories).

There are bits of the book I didn’t quite get, but that’s a generation thing. I remember about two years ago in the Horse and Barge somebody said I hadn’t friended them on Facebook. My phone is old fashioned. It doesn’t take pictures. It doesn’t do all that other stuff.  A phone call costs more than my phone.  My response,  who gives a flying fuck about Facebook just about covers that exchange. Maggy tells us she worked for BuzzFeed, she mentions the angst of Instgram, Reddit, blah, blah, blah, that’s just noise to me. Negative noise.

Sometimes as Maggy points out, we all need a holiday from ourselves. I once used that line in a story I wrote. I quite like the bit about Maggy loving dogs. My partners like that about most animals too. I guess it’s an energy thing. I keep my distance. But I like kids because they haven’t got any distance and they’re funny. Maggy tells a story about when she was a cocky thirteen-year old in Oman or some other Gulf State coming back from a teenage party and falling backwards into the pool in her party dress. It would be foolish to declare that’s when it started to go wrong or right, because it’s not a morality problem, it’s not a mental health or medical problem, it’s just life, in the raw. Remember that when you’re sad. Honesty is truth. Maggy’s got that cornered.  I wish her well.

Christine Hamill (2016) The Best Medicine


the best medicine.jpgI can hear my partner, Mary, yakking on the phone downstairs, talking to her Auntie Mary about another Auntie- Eleanor who is dying. ‘She did have a bit of fear…’ she’s talking about her Granny, not her Auntie Eleanor, but the story is familiar, the same one. The Big C.

‘Apparently one in three people get cancer,’ Philip Wright, the thirteen-year old narrator tells the reader. That’s a 50/50 chance. That’s a joke. Jokes don’t have to be funny, but that doesn’t stop you being very trying. ‘I just wanted things to be normal. I wanted Mum to be normal. I knew she could never ‘unhave’ cancer , but…’

The structure of the book is before the but—with the usual school-boy concerns, homework and hanging out with his best friend Ang, being bullied by the Yeti, getting his specs broken, being in love with the ‘Goddess’ Lucy and getting detention, even though it wasn’t his fault—and after the but. It would also come under the letter B for Breast, but not Mum knows best because she’s being acting very strangely. Baking wholemeal buns. Tidying up the mess before there’s a mess. Ordering the cutlery drawer. And locking herself in the toilet and bursting in tears at the drop of a hat. Or the drop of her hair.  Or Harry Hill, a bit like Hara Kristna, but with big open-necked-shirt collars ‘our very own Harry Hill Appreciation Society’. That’s what Philip does, writes letters to Harry Hill asking for his advice, because laughter is the best medicine   ‘Even if Mum could write a guide and leave it – “An A—Z of Philip”’.  Christine Hamill did both of those things on ABCtales.

ABCtales is a kind of online gang hut for people with too much time and even worse literary ass-perversions. B is for Breast Cancer got my vote for book of the year. It offered advice for cancer sufferers and useful tips on topics as diverse as how to keep your head and lose your hair. When it was published it was a runaway success for older people that couldn’t walk very fast or very far. I’m sorry to say I’m in that cohort group. But positive thinking. Think yourself younger.

The Harry Hill Appreciation Society was the bastard child of the A-Z. A book for YA. Young Adults. A kind of fictional Wright what you know. Although Philip Wright isn’t sure about that idea. As he find out on his journey from childish understanding to childish understanding the best medicine, of the Harry Hill, kind is love and laughter. As long as no one dies in the process. Spoiler here. Nobody does.  And the boy gets the Goddess.

the best medicine.jpg