So, I feel I have to get some shit out of my system and this is, apparently, my outlet.
Thus far, 2013 and I haven’t exactly been on the best of terms.
2013 has so far dealt me a shitty hand. A super shitty-hand. I don’t want to write this with you, the reader, getting bored with a ‘woe is me’ story. This is more of a way for me to articulate the three months and twenty nine days (this is when I started to write this, procrastinator much?!) we’re into of 2013 without unleashing the ‘rage’ that seems to be bubbling on the inside. And let me tell you, buddy. I got some rage.
I’ve always been the kind of person that has coasted through life. My little 31 years of life not having a solid idea of my vocation or my ‘where I’m supposed to be’ plan. In fact, I’ve always been happy with this aspect of myself. I think it’s the hippy in me. I’m not saying that I lack the commitment or drive to follow a dream or do something that made me happy. Truth is, up until 2013 dealt me with what was to be it’s first smack down that it had in store for me, I was happy in my job, I was good at my job, I liked the people I worked with for the most part and I didn’t mind the company I worked for. It was my bread and butter, my home away from home and, all in all, the place that I met some of the people that I’m happy to say are my infinity friends that I have a genuine love for.
That was until January 16th when the bomb was dropped and the company I worked for, for just shy of 12 years, was going into administration and that redundancies were indefinite.
I’m not entirely sure that, at the time, I fully understood what was going on - I’m not even sure that I understand it now. So much information was thrown in our general direction that it was a lot to take in. So much so that the immortal British sensibility of “shall I make a cuppa?” was uttered within seconds of receiving the legal statement that was inevitably the statement that sealed our fate.
January 16th 2013 was probably the most surreal day ever. Beside the fact that random people were ringing me saying “eeee, have you seen the news?” before any kind of official announcement had actually been made, the realisation that my coasting was possibly about to come to an abrupt end was very much driving the train of thought in my head.
The following days of media shit-storm and the odd member of the general public stating the obvious when in contact with myself or colleagues - you know, the complete asinine questions without any kind of empathy for the 6 human beings that are on the brink of losing their jobs and for some, their livelihood - was an absolute ball ache. This was hard for me - if you’re reading this and you actually know me then you will understand this. How I didn’t drop kick a son’bitch is beyond me. Completely beyond me.
Anyway, thus commenced the obligatory conference calls with updates and the reassurances that everything possible will be done to save as many jobs as humanly possible and that “damage control” would be kept to a minimum.
I’m sorry, but I call BULLSHIT!
Friday of the same week came and, as I was on my way to work, I got a hurried phone call from one of my colleagues saying that we had received closure notice. Closure notice god-damn it. No actual date but it was definite that we were getting shot in the face, Ol’Yella style. Our closure notice had arrived in the form of 15 boxes of point of sale that had the likes of “closing down”, “liquidation” and “all stock must go” branded from arse-hole to breakfast time on it. Damage control at its very best, right? No phone call. No face to face conversation. Nothing. We were told of our demise with a box of POS. Bloody charming.
The following four weeks were a complete blur. All I really remember is taking charge and making sure that shit got done. And, let me tell you, shit got done. Even though I was weeks away from being an unemployed bum, I tried to make sure that my head was in the game. I made sure that my care of duty to my colleagues was in tact and dealt with the meltdowns and kick-offs accordingly - all while keeping my business going. Till the bitter end. My captain, my captain. End scene.
Roll on Valentine’s Day. Now Valentine’s Day is a day that I would expect to receive a card with a “roses are red” poem or “David you’re awesome, put a baby in me” message. Nope. Not this Valentine’s Day, David. For this Valentine’s Day you shall receive your 11 days of notice. BAM. It was done. My last day of employment was to be February 25th 2013.
Now for something dramatic.
For the very first time in my entire life I felt completely lost. And not the JJ Abrams kind of Lost (How was that for dramatic?).
For almost 12 years I had worked for this company. My whole twenties. I said at first that working for this company had nothing to do with my identity. Who was I kidding? It did. Working for this company and the experiences it had on offer for me have started to define who I am and I’m grateful for that. It had made me a super-bad-ass after all. It taught me about loyalty first and foremost. It taught me that people will take advantage of good nature. It also taught me that the customer isn’t always right and that, in most cases, the customer is in fact a total fuckwad.
Now, I’m not for one second implying that every customer that I came into contact with was “a total fuckwad” - in fact, a lot of the customers were really nice people. Just every now and then you would get one customer, that one customer that I probably wouldn’t have minded locking in the boot of my car and then leaving them there forever. Yes, David Paul Denham, if you’re reading this then you’re the fuckwad I would lock in the boot of my car and then leave you there forever. FOREVER!
So our last weekend soon arrived, it was a peculiar weekend to say the least. Everyone was pensive about our next steps and how we were going to move on as it were. And then came the next blow.
Two days before we were due to close, our ‘fearless leader’ decided, in what I can only assume was in a bout of extreme wisdom and expert managerial skill that after a minor incident - I’m saying minor because that’s precisely what it was; an incident that was placed into a mixing pot and then stirred to within an inch of its life. Anyway, I digress - one of our colleagues was to be sacked. Shown the door. YOU’RE FIRED. Two days before we closed. Seriously?! About one hundred justifications of why this was pushed forward followed (side note: If you ever have to justify yourself to me for something that you have done then you obviously doubt it was the right thing to do), but the fact of the matter was that one of my friends had just been sacked for something completely stupid that, in hindsight, wasn’t even worth the effort. I will add that an appeal was launched shortly after and the colleague in question was reinstated after closure with redundancy benefits and wages in lieu, due to insufficient evidence and lack of investigation. BAM! You see my frustration with this? All was completely unnecessary. We had enough stress to deal with. Dumbass.
So, one man down we steamed towards closing our business. Bit by bit it was disappearing before our eyes. Fixtures were removed, vendor appliances were removed. All of the product was removed. All that was left was the shell. A shell that housed almost twelve years of my life.
25th February arrived and I’m not entirely sure what I expected to be perfectly honest, but one of my colleagues that I’d worked with for the longest, 9 years in fact, was on my final shift with me. Now, I wasn’t expecting floods of tears or a heartfelt goodbye or one of them dramatic scenes from the movies that has a LeAnn Rimes song playing in the background. Truth is this colleague had been an absolute pain in the arse. If an award existed for being THE WORLD’S GREATEST PAIN IN THE ARSE, they’d have surely won it. Every year. For the rest of time and creation.
Our 9 years was literally summed up with “Okay, see you around I guess?” That was it. I locked the door behind myself, posted my keys and then walked home. Done.
Okay, so I mentioned “smack downs” at the start of this. Here’s the biggie. Here’s a moment in my life that is pretty defining. I hope, if anything, that it will impart some kind of awareness maybe?! I don’t know, you be the judge of that.
About a week before I was an unemployed bum, I was experiencing horrendous pain in my balls. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the subject is now my balls. You’re welcome.
This had happened before, way back in 2009 but after a couple of tests and a brief treatment it disappeared. Diagnosis: cyst.
This however, was worse. If you own a set of balls, imagine getting Hadoken punched in the peanuts. Holy shit.
Now, I’m comfortable with checking myself. I’m not embarrassed by things like this, in fact I don’t understand why people are embarrassed with things like this. It’s your junk. You know it better than anyone. If something doesn’t feel right. Get it checked out. Which is precisely what I did.
"Oh, Well hello there, Mr lump. I didn’t expect to find you down there."
If anyone reading has found themselves in a similar situation then you can imagine the feeling. It’s the absolute WORST. I perhaps made a schoolboy error and tried to educate myself on the possibilities. Don’t do it. It makes you paranoid and it makes you stress the fuck out!
I immediately booked myself an appointment to see a GP and no sooner had I pulled my pants down for a doctor to touch my no-no’s that a nurse was taking three tubes of blood and I was being whisked off to the hospital for an ultrasound on my back, groin and abdomen. It’s safe for you to assume that at this point, I was freaking out like an absolute pro. Some of my best work in fact.
It takes approximately four days to get a blood result back and I was asked to ring the surgery to get the results as this is general practice now. You can just ring and they’ll tell you what’s what so to speak. I didn’t however expect the woman on the other end of the phone to say to me “I’m sorry Mr Payne but I’m unable to give your results out over the phone, you need to speak to the attending physician”. Hold on, WHAT??
I should have won a fucking Oscar or, at the very least, an Academy Award for the meltdown that ensued. And the winner is…
"Mr Payne". A woman gestured me to follow her into a consultation room and then asked me to just wait and the doctor would be in momentarily. He soon arrived and then did whatever it was he needed to do with regards to my information and then proceeded to tell me; "So, what we’re looking at is a tumour. And what we need to determine now is if it’s cancerous or not". Before I processed any of what he had just said to me, my initial reaction was "OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD. I’M GOING TO DIE. WHO’S GOING TO DELETE MY BROWSER HISTORY?!" Which I’m sure is a natural response, right? No?
This lump, this tumour that had taken up residence in my nethers had just literally handed my arse to me. The little mother-fucker.
The next phase was a biopsy and a round of blood tests to determine what kind of tumour we were dealing with. Was I going to be kicking some cancer ass or was this benign?
It took about a week or so to get a referral back to the hospital - this to me was far to long to wait. Your mind naturally spins yarn on what outcomes are possible. And waiting to be referred back was enough time for me to spiral.
So I got the call and I soon found myself sat in the same doctors office waiting for the same doctor. I can barely remember the whole conversation. All I remember is “benign”and that I might have dropped the “F” bomb couple of times. What?
No cancer. Cancer didn’t have it’s filthy grip on ma peanuts. To say that was the freshest form of relief is an understatement. I did still however have a tumour. Now because of where this tumour is situated an operation was needed to remove it and then once it had been removed I would have to have some kind of fertility treatment to make sure that it hadn’t damaged anything. As soon as “fertility” was mentioned my heart sank. If I’m completely honest, I’d have probably taken a cancer diagnosis over being infertile. You can’t fix firing blanks. I want to be a Dad. I don’t know if it’s because I’m one of the oldest in my family and I’ve always been around kids or if it’s because, for some bizarre reason, kids just like me. I must look funny or have the same general intellect, I don’t know. I can’t see myself not being a Dad. I refuse to accept a possibility that I might never be a Dad.
Deep, right? So, meanwhile, the doctor I was seeing recommended that I speak to some kind of counsellor or therapist type person. They do this now to make sure that you’re mentally prepared for any eventual outcome, whatever it may be. I was okay with this, I hadn’t really articulated myself in regards to the effect this was having and this was maybe a good way for me to understand what the fuck was happening. Thus far I had, for some bizarre reason, decided to keep this whole thing to myself. So nobody knew what was going on. Major error. The first person I spoke about it with was my most awesome friend, Ian. Probably ‘cause he noticed the erratic behaviour or maybe a change in my demeanour? Or just because he’s known me for so long that I guess you kind of know when something isn’t right? Either that or he has some kind of mutant ability and Professor X is due to extend him an invitation to join the X-Men. I don’t know.
A couple of nights before I was due to find out if I was on cancer’s short list, I was at his house, playing PS3, eating pizza (BBQ chicken, pepperoni, sweetcorn and jalapeños from Pizza Cottage in Newton Aycliffe. The best) and drinking the obligatory warm Corona (they start off cold but cause I’m a crap alcohol drinker it takes me about an hour and a half to drink one bottle) and, after about the third warm Corona, blurted out “so, I have a tumour and I don’t know if it’s cancer. Also, the weather, right?”. That’s how you give out important pieces of information, isn’t it?
One of the good things about Ian is that he’s pretty good at dissolving tension with some weird little quip or random one-liner. Also, he skips over all the questions and just let’s you talk about it if you want to. I have several friends like this and I am completely grateful to each and every single one of them. Carl, Paul, Donna, Johna, Kelly. Seriously, you guys don’t even know.
Wow, how was that for a tangent. Where was I, oh, right, therapy.
The first session was pretty much “..and how does that make you feel?” I think I pretty much Chandler Bing’d my way through the first session if I’m being completely honest. A lot of ball jokes. What? It was a defence mechanism.
I always thought that I’d been completely in check when it comes to my mental health. I’m not for one second suggesting that I’m loco, but I’m also not suggesting that I’m Superman (although, that would be frigging awesome).
When it comes down to it I’m glad that I had outside eyes telling me that it was okay to be angry at my situation and also have a different perspective of my situation.
A couple of weeks of check ups and waiting for an operation date flew by when, at last, I received a bit of good news; my job hunt (see above) was seemingly at an end. I’d been offered a job. As a joiner?! Can I just add that, before I started working at a joiners workshop, I hadn’t so much as sanded a piece of wood in about 15 years, let alone used a drill or a saw. I have delicate retail hands. Shut up.
Albeit a million miles away from what I’m trained to do, it was a positive that was long overdue. I think my Dad is still over the moon that I’m “learning a trade”. God bless him.
Back to my balls.
After about six weeks of not hearing anything about an operation date, I’d had a 2 millimetre growth (on my ball, filthy beggar), horrendous aches and pains in my crotch/stomach and an absolute lack of appetite. I’d had enough. I was sick to death of waiting to feel normal again. I was sick to death of the squatter in my pants.
I made the very wise choice of getting life insurance when I was 18. Probably the most responsible decision in my entire adult life. Part of my life insurance covers private health care. I’m not at all knocking the NHS, these people do an amazing job and don’t get half of the recognition they deserve. Maybe because I was sitting with a benign tumour I perhaps wasn’t a major priority? I get that. Anyway, I did a bit of research and after about an hour’s worth of phone calls and e-mails I’d booked myself an appointment at a private health care facility and, at 7:45am on the 28th May 2013, I had my demon exorcised.
Now, I want you to picture Gonzo the Great from the Muppets. Now go buy some eye bleach and wash your eyes out because that’s what my peanut and spuds looked like. A laser cut and two stitches did that to my junk. That and what I can only describe as being thunder punched in the dick and balls were what I was left with. Ow.
Swollen, bruised and bandaged up in what looked like one of them weird nappies the business men from a Channel 4 documentary wear, I was sent home to rest. My rest consisted of a couple of pints of Ben & Jerry’s and a Parks And Recreation marathon. Seriously, Amy Poehler is a god-damned comedic revelation. If I was a doctor, this is what I would recommend.
This is almost bringing us up to date.
We’re now almost out of June and I’m still sporting a limp. A couple of Saturdays ago I received my confirmation letter to start the fertility process. Bummer. I wrote earlier about fertility and this is maybe what I’m still struggling with. Just ask Ian. The night I got it I was a wreck. I knew it was coming and I know the implications. It still didn’t stop the complete emotional breakdown in his kitchen. When someone asks you if you’re “fine”, when you’re clearly fighting the fact that you’re not, it’s maybe best to not stand there and lie to yourself. After a pat on the arse and wiping my snotty, teary face on my hoodie, the breakdown was contained and then I sat down with three of my favourite people to watch the BGT final which, ironically, wasn’t won by a British act.
Now, 8th July 2013 is going to be a day that I will not forget in a hurry. I do not yet know the fate of my ‘guys’ as it’s a couple of weeks away. I do know that I will probably cry like a little bitch. Whatever my outcome. I’m fine with that. If I’ve learnt anything about myself over the last six months is that I’m okay. Some people don’t make it out so lightly. This is a big deal to me and if I need to be emotional then I need to be emotional. Like Ron Burgundy in his “glass case of emotion” I will let it out.
I wanted to write this because, like I wrote at the very beginning, I needed to articulate what was happening. I needed to understand and - like anyone, I guess - if you’re given too much information all at once it’s extremely hard to process if you can’t even make sense of it. I’ve probably missed bits out, which is fine. I’m not writing a book, I’m writing an experience.
Now, I feel I should “Jerry’s final thought” something.
If you feel something isn’t right down in your pants then do something. If you feel that you’re struggling then do something. Plenty of people on this planet give a fuck, of that I can attest for.
2014, don’t fuck with me.