Gone but never forgotten

It was 14 years ago today that my best friend of 16 years, Pete Barnes, was hit by the first of several strokes and then tragically died a few days later.  He was aged just 30, in great health and no one saw it coming.  I’ve written many times of how important he was to me, what a massive hole his passing left in me, and how the pain and loss have never lessened or left me.  I still miss him every day and I still feel intense guilt over the whole affair.  14 years on and I still hate this time of year and find my mind taking me back to that day…what I should have done…how maybe I could have saved him. The darkness swallows me for a few days. Yet, as I have said many times, since he left us, he has in one way or another inspired me to greater things and remains my best friend, constant companion and wisest advisor.

This year I wanted to mark the 14th anniversary of his death with some bare facts…because strokes can affect anyone of any age, yet so many of us, including health professionals, still think of it as an affliction for the over 60s.  So please, take a moment to read the information below from the Stroke Association, and make sure your friends and family know this stuff.  With early intervention many strokes can be survived, we just need to know what to look for, and not be afraid to tell our health professionals of our fears.  Don’t be a passive bystander, step up and be heard.

***If you can, in these hard times, please donate what you can to the Stroke Association – every penny gets us a step closer to saving more lives – just CLICK HERE***

You can recognise a stroke using the FAST test

FACIAL weakness: Can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?

ARM weakness: Can the person raise both arms?

SPEECH problems: Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?

TIME to call 999.

If a person fails any one of these tests, get help immediately by dialling 999

A speedy response can help reduce the damage to a person’s brain and improve their chances of a full recovery. A delay in getting help can result in death or long-term disabilities.

Please click the link below for an explanation of the FAST test in an audio format.

FAST test audio file (331 kb)

Don’t ignore temporary symptoms

If symptoms disappear within 24 hours, the person may have had a Transient ischaemic attack (TIA), which is also called a mini-stroke. A TIA is still a medical emergency, because it can lead to a major stroke.


***For a lot more information of strokes please visit the Stroke Association website – CLICK HERE***

Somewhere Between Fact & Fiction You Will Find…FICTS! #9

Can you believe it, it’s the final FICT of week 2!!  So here it is, FICT #9:

(c) Neil Gardner @ Robert Rankin, 2009

(c) Neil Gardner @ Robert Rankin, 2009

Blog Cover 2

In my time as a radio presenter and producer I have written many short-form comedy items, but the one that was the most popular by far, and kept popping back at every station and on every show I worked on was something called ‘101 Interesting But Blatantly Untrue Facts’.  Over the years I have thought about trying to get these surreal and ridiculous little non-facts published as one of those little books you see by the tills in bookstores.  And then in early 2008 a publisher friend suggested I add illustrations to the book, to make it more appealing.  Who did I know who was an ace illustrator?  Who other than best-selling author of far fetched fiction Robert Rankin!  I sent the full list of 200+ non-facts to Robert and asked if he would illustrate a few IF he found the idea funny enough.  Well, he did, and so far he has produced 20 sample illustrations, all of which are, frankly, superb.

Blog Cover 1_5I have put together a sample book and have been taking it around various publishers and agents for the past 6 months.  I am also trying to get the now retitled FICTS (part fact part fiction…Robert’s very good idea) into a national newspaper as a weekly cartoon.  Whatever happens, I thought you might enjoy seeing a few of them here first.

So, every weekday, for the next 4 weeks, there will be a DAILY FICT for you to feast your eyes upon!  If you enjoy them, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE recommend this blog to friends and family, mention it on Twitter and Facebook, and if you know anyone who might be interested in publishing the book or use FICTS in a magazine, do send them our way.

Do please leave comments and feedback, links to other interesting blogs, and do also please vote on whether you like the FICTS or not using the 5-star ratings at the top of the page!

RIP MJ – news-ageddon

What is there to say when a legend of music dies so suddenly? Already his death is a merry-go-round of 24 hour news coverage, talking heads spouting hastily researched information, emergency obituary tapes being rolled out, and an incredible lack of sincerity from everyone in the news community!

Pop across to Twitter or Facebook and it is a very different matter. People sharing memories and thoughts, the most memorable messages of love and support, famous names chatting with Joe Bloggs about what has happened…it is all very real. No ratings chasing, no trying to find the biggest name to comment, no pointless phone interviews with so-called experts…just honest, open response.

I’ll be honest and say that I was never a big MJ fan…I was more a Prince kind of guy. But the music was mostly superb, the showmanship was second to none and the legend was, and will remain, unique. I’ll not miss his soap-opera later years, but I will miss the musicianship.

But now we will have to put up with a newsgathering war, in the same way we did with Diana and Jade. TV channels trying to outdo each other with helicopter shots of the crowds, the hospital, the cars, etc… Newspapers trying to fill the most number of pages, run the biggest special pull out editions, etc… It will be ghastly, demeaning, in poor taste, and the sort of thing that really gets journalists excited.

My advice is that if you want to really learn about the man, his music, his history, his fans and the real-world reaction to his death…pop over to Twitter, head across to Facebook, and see what REAL people are saying, and switch off the self-serving, ratings-chasing news channels and newspapers.

MJ – thanks for all the incredible music, now go be at peace and enjoy eternity. Peace and love.

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