The Guinea Pig Diaries: Diary Entry from an Out-of-body comedian at home.
Preface: To the three people who read this - I have not written in a while, thus I apologise for the long sentences. This was written on a huge boost of opiods, coffee and St Vincent playing in the background.
12pm - Monday 29th October - Location - Family Kitchen - Pain Level: 7 out of 10.
I am covered in dog hairs. I find them in obscure places that they shouldn’t be, between my toes, behind me ears, my bra. No matter how many times I seem to hear the vacuum - the infinite ‘whrrrr’ downstairs and the thud of my parents footsteps curating it around the house.... it seems by the afternoon there is already a slow drift of the golden and black hair, like dandelions, finding homes over the table, the chairs, the floor, the food bowl, in my bed.
If I had to define my family home in a few words it would be: flowers and dog hairs.
Currently I am propped up with crutches and wheel chair, coffee in easy reach and a collection of ‘Stories of the Saints’ left by my mum, (she is having her confirmation on Wednesday and we've spent the last few days going through the Saints and discussing them). Today I am meant to be researching monetary policy, instead, my only focus is on the economics of my body. I am preoccupied with how my new body works - how to reach something in the most simple way - how to sit up without crying - how to make my way to the toilet with as few movements as possible before having to call someone for help. Having limited mobility means I feel like a puppet who has all the life in it, but needs someone to stick their hand up their back in order to do anything.
Or - as my friend Ryan Lane said sharply via WhatsApp voice messenger last week : “Oh! You’re basically that Colin boy in The Secret Garden! Cool! I can be your Mary Lennox and push you around the garden. [beat]. Does this mean if I come with you to the theatre we get nicer seats cos you’re now disabled?”. Charming Ryan. Charming.
(This is how Ryan Lane imagines our gorgeous future together. But in Brixton.)
(A picture of how Rob Kemp and I celebrating our romantic one year anniversary of consensual dirty texting)
For the three people reading this who don't know why I need help going to the loo- here is an update on what happened:
Straight after Medusa finished at the Nuffield Theatre Southampton on Sat 13th Oct, I was whisked to hospital by ambulance in the early hours of Monday morning - with loss of feeling in my legs, pelvis and control of my bladder. It seems that the last year of doing shows that involve Ice Skating, Ballet, Mime, Hula Hooping, Tap alongside teaching Ping Pong had a really big impact on my spine. Silly spine.
I am expected back in hospital soon. As we wait to watch my recovery and whether my last mini op had any effect, everything is up in the air. It’s infuriating. I can’t/am not allowed to do anything. Any time I attempt to do anything my father rushes at me manically going “PUT THE BOOK DOWN. IT IS TOO HEAVY. I WILL READ IT TO YOU..... NO! WHAT ARE DOING WITH THAT KNIFE! I WILL CUT YOUR SAUSAGES FOR YOU! YOU ARE TOO WEAK TO HANDLE THE CUTLERY!"
Weight is falling off me because I’ve lost all appetite. Every gig up until the end of the year has had to be cancelled. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. I have nightmares from the drugs. I miss my friends. Depression is popping up at the end of my bed like the sodding Babadook. Yesterday I came across the poem ‘Legs’ by Vernon Scannell and it made me weep - Both at its beauty and in indulgent self-pity. I am intolerable at the moment. I feel like a wimp. I go from crying manically, laughing manically, reading John Berger, quoting Stephen King and then furiously googling pictures of guinea pigs
(Thank you Clara Cupcakes for this gorgeous drawing. You are a legend.)
What's with the Guinea Pig obession, Elf?
I have been obsessed with Guinea Pigs since I was little. I have always wanted a pair called Simone and Sarte. I decided I would get some as a reward to myself after I finally paid all my debts as a mark of officially moving into adulthood.
I did all the research to prepare. I bought the cage, the toys, ordered the food and asked my landlord for permission. Yes, I got ahead of myself. Now, turns out, I can barely look after myself, so there is little to no chance of me getting a pair of beautiful little Elton-John look-a-like rodents until I can squat down and touch my toes. The guinea pig dream is now off in the future and I have a large empty cage in my bedroom to remind me of it. It’s the rodent version of something from Whatever happened to Baby Jane or Grey Gardens.
Moping aside. It is what it is. My body will evolve in a new way and I am excited to get ready for the future - this isn't going to stop me. I am just in physical purgatory for a bit. But next year.. WHAM BAM. THEATRE. COMEDY. WRITING. I WILL BE UNSTOPPABLE....
Post hospital, I did the normal thing and stuck my head into copious activities that involved little to no physical exertion. I’ve devoured books, I’ve binge watched The Haunting of Hill House and started learning all of my favorite lines from Moonstruck. I made my dad a website (www.drgerardlyons.com) . I've started writing Love Songs to Guinea Pigs for Vault Next year. I am editing my pilot of Furniture (the modern day Beauty & the Beast sitcom I have written). I’m reading Montaigne, learning poetry, writing postcards, writing gratitude lists, whatsapping my friends until my thumbs are numb, Instagram stalking, doing research on my dad and I’s book on economics. The book, hopefully finished this month, is becoming as much a book about father-daughter relationships and our music tastes, as it is about what fiscal policy actually is.
Crucially - I am doing research on THIS amazing event - which is keeping me bubbling with creative adrenaline....
(Claude Cahun is the ultimate non-comformist surrealist gender breaking badass)
On the 15th of November I am speaking at the Barbican. This is what I am reserving all my energy for. It is on their exhibit on Modern Lovers - Art, Intimacy and the Avant Garde. I am reflecting on my time as a student at L’ecole Gaulier from 2015-2017 - drawing it back to artists and couples reflected in the exhibition and my own relationship with their work. The work of Claude Cahun, Lee Miller and the surrealists and existentialists in Paris to name a few. They impacted the way I evolved my work and influenced my intimate and physical relationships and collaborations with other artists around me in Paris at that time.
(A picture of my normal life).
Overally, there is little reason for this diary entry. There is no thesis. But I had to write. It is like the desire to exercise. I needed to exhale some words onto the page and into the ether - before dissolving back into bed in a sedated sleep of morphine and nerve pain.
Below are five things that have really resonated and made me smile the last few weeks. One is a poem, one is a quote, one is a book, one is a film, one is a song.:
HAPPINESS by STEPHEN DUNN
A state you must dare not enter
with hopes of staying,
quicksand in the marshes, and all
the roads leading to a castle
that doesn’t exist.
But there it is, as promised,
with its perfect bridge above
and it’s door forever open
JOHN BERGER - 'AND OUR FACES, MY HEART, BRIEF AS PHOTOS'
'What reconciles me to my own death more than anything else is the image of a place: a place where your bones and mine are buried, thrown, uncovered, together. They are strewn there pell-mell. One of your ribs leans against my skull. A metacarpal of my left hand lies inside your pelvis. (Against my broken ribs your breast like a flower.) The hundred bones of our feet are scattered like gravel. It is strange that this image of our proximity, concerning as it does mere phosphate of calcium, should bestow a sense of peace. Yet it does. With you I can imagine a place where to be phosphate of calcium is enough.'
DOLLY ALDERTON - What I know about Love
I read this memoir in one sitting yesterday. An extract on bins made my cry with laughter and the final chapters caused me to call my closest friends last night to tell them I love them. I caused me to go to bed with excitement and hope.
"Loretta, I love you. Not like they told you love is, and I didn't know this either, but love don't make things nice - it ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess. We aren't here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us! We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and *die*. The storybooks are *bullshit*. Now I want you to come upstairs with me and *get* in my bed!"
ST VINCENT - NEW YORK from her new piano version of MASS EDUCATION. Beautiful and haunting.