Brain Attack Music

A true story of stroke survival

The Colour Of Spring

I have reached the conclusion that it’s not all ‘downside’ for us survivors.  Our situations are all different and we have differing ‘deficits’, but there is an ‘upside’.  We may need to look hard and long to see what they are, but there will be something.

After passing my four year anniversary, I have been reflecting quite a bit.  Just prior to my brain attack, I was teaching drums (in schools and privately in my home studio) and playing in bands.  I’m still not working so we moved from the south of England to the south of Scotland about 18 months ago mainly as it was cheaper but also because it was a much slower pace of life, a much more laid back atmosphere, and therefore a lot less stress and anxiety for me.  BBA (Before Brain Attack), my life was lived at 100mph.  It felt like I always had to be somewhere, by a certain time and I definitely put myself under a lot of pressure to ‘not be late’ and to ‘always be prepared’.  If my first drum lesson was at 9.00am, I would arrive at the school at 8.15am (at the latest) having left home in plenty of time to allow for traffic.  If I had a gig and we had arranged to meet at the venue at 6.00pm, I would be there at 5.30pm.  My set list for the evening would be typed up in an Excel spreadsheet with a large font so I could see it clearly under dim stage lighting, and it would also be colour coded.  All the settings for my electronics rig would be fully notated, along with mixer settings, click track BPM, and so on.  Any notes I needed for unfamiliar songs would be produced in the same way.  I once bought a laminator so I could laminate my set lists and notes.  (Suitably hole punched and placed in a lever arch file, they don’t crease or blow away in the wind on outdoor gigs, you see).  This became a source of some amusement amongst my fellow musicians.  I just saw it as being organised.  Looking back, it was a bit over-the-top and I can quite see why they took the piss!  I also abhorred traffic jams.  I would rather be travelling in the wrong direction than stuck in a jam.  And I did do that.  By choice.  Seriously.  Yes, just to be clear, I admit to you that when faced with a traffic jam, I would turn around and drive in the WRONG DIRECTION just so as I could be moving.  Better to be moving in the opposite direction than to not be moving at all.  What’s THAT all about???  And don’t get me started on airports.  Need to be at the airport 2 hours before departure?  Let’s aim for 3.  Well, the traffic might be bad, so let’s aim for 3 and a half.  Oh, parking might be an issue, we’re in the long stay, so let’s say 4 hours to be on the safe side.  No wonder I had a stroke . . . .

I never had (made?) the time to smell the roses.  ABA (After Brain Attack), I can not only smell them, I can see them grow, bloom and blossom.  Actually, there are days when I think can hear them growing!  This is a good thing.  No, it’s a great thing, actually.  I realise now, looking back, that I missed so much.  The universe passed me by.  Inevitably, life slows down when you can’t move as you were once able, but I have learnt that is good.  It does take some adjusting to, and I now see that I left hospital at the same speed I entered it and somehow carried on at 100mph, only to collapse in a big heap about 18 months later.  I do get it now (I think).  I appreciate the passing of the seasons, the colour of nature, the changing moods, the sights and the sounds.  I can now tell if there is a cat nearby due to the alarm calls of the blackbirds and sparrows.  I never noticed this BBA.  We now have a bird feeder outside our patio doors and I will sit and watch the birds.  I have the time.  As well as the usual suspects (robins, wrens, blackbirds, sparrows, starlings, wood pigeons, collared doves, blue tits, great tits, etc) I have seen siskins, long tailed tits, coal tits, jackdaws, goldfinches and even a great spotted woodpecker).

In general, I am learning to commune with nature for the first time in my life, aged 59.  Quite sad, really, that it’s taken this long.  As well as the bird watching, I adore sitting beside the river (the Tweed or the Teviot – a choice of two where I live) with a cup of coffee just watching the swans, ducks, moorhens, coots, herons, the fisherman in their waders, the dog walkers, and being able to listen to the water and the sounds of nature.  All this has enabled me to become much calmer, more centred, more appreciative.  We’re a bit spoilt here in the Scottish Borders as we also have beautiful rolling hills, with splashes of colour from gorse or heather or fields of rapeseed or snow or frost depending on the time of year.  And every other field you pass has either animals grazing (sheep, cattle, horses, goats) or crops growing.

Another favourite spot is Scott’s View.  Allegedly, this was where the Scottish novelist and poet Sir Walter Scott (Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, The Lady Of The Lake, amongst many others) would come to ponder, be inspired and get ideas for his work.  It overlooks the River Tweed and the Eildon Hills and is a truly gorgeous spot just to sit, enjoy nature, breathe in lungfuls of clean, fresh air and just drift . . . .

My brain attack initially took away my love of music as I couldn’t bear to listen to any (it just hurt my brain too much) but it has now given music new meaning for me by inspiring this Brain Attack project.  I am under no time pressures, no deadlines, no commitments.  I can just do what I can, when I can – no less, no more.  No songs to learn, no set lists to laminate (!), no lessons to prepare.  I will finish when I do.  If I don’t, then I don’t.  I am free to be creative, I have no-one to please but myself.

Without my brain attack I would still be rushing around at 100mph, getting impatient, getting frustrated, getting stressed and generally not being aware that life was passing me by.  So, out of all the crap that goes with being a stroke survivor there is, for me, a reasonable amount of benefit.  And I intend to make the most of it.

Until next time,

“Immerse in that one moment”