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Monkey Mates

Posted by: David Shutts at 12:26, January 15 2016.

So anyway, there I am with a monkey on my back. A monkey, I might add, that seemed to appear from nowhere and for whom I have absolutely no idea why he chose to sit on me. From discussions with my monkey doctor it appears he’s here to stay.

It’s quite a talking point amongst people I know that I have a monkey on my back.

Fortunately, or maybe not depending on how you look at this issue, my lovely wife was with me when I was told about the monkey. A non specialist monkey doctor even showed us a picture which made us both quite shocked. He’s a lot bigger than we’d thought and I was very glad she was there to see it with me. He became our sole conversation for quite some time, especially about what he would do in the future. But it has been vital that we have shared these discussions. I wouldn’t want to have a monkey on my own.

Our son understood that the monkey on my back was an unwelcome guest and that we have to be patient while we try to get him to go away.

Most people we’ve told have reacted as I think we all hoped they would. Shock and disbelief followed quickly by appropriate levels of sympathy and support. Why, how and when were all questions that I’d rehearsed answers to so my monkey was very used to the attention. Perhaps the one question that everyone wanted to ask but no one did was how long would the monkey be around. Indeed, even after several months no one asks. Personally I think that upsets the monkey on my back as total victory to him is denied. I’m sure he wants me to know that there is only one result but I restrain from giving him the pleasure of acknowledging the future.

I suspect, without knowing, that many who have been told have consulted Dr Google where of course they will find a raft of misleading answers to many misleading questions. If that is the case, and they have done some research, then they haven’t confided in me, so my monkey remains in the dark which is a good thing. Similarly they haven’t told the world about my monkey for which I’m grateful. I’m not ashamed or embarrassed about having a monkey on my back but his ability to stifle all other conversation is very good. Very quickly he can be the only subject for discussion which I’m sure he loves but which, frankly, bores me and my wife to the core now.

It has also caused some friends to say nothing. Their silence speaks volumes. They are clearly either very uncomfortable or uninterested in my monkey and so there has been no conversation at all, although I make sure to include them in my routine note about how my monkey is being treated. I figure that if they don’t want to hear about my monkey then I’ll be placed in a junk folder – something I’d very much like to do with the monkey on my back.

Interestingly as soon as I became aware of the monkey on my back a whole bunch of new friends were made. People with monkeys of all types it seems belong to a large, primate owning community – a troop of apes combine with a cartload of monkeys to produce a scourge of simian scallywags whose owners share a common and complete hatred for all things monkey.

I fit right in and am welcomed with open arms, wise words and expert advice. The different breeds of monkey all have different groups and I very quickly find a cadre of people who have the same breed as me. We are all at different stages of caring for our monkeys. Some, like me, are new owners, others have been around for ages, only had a small monkey which was removed quickly, are very keen to help those whose monkey still needs attention. Some other owners of monkeys are at the other end of their journey. Their monkey has spread his claws far and wide and the monkey doctor has advised that their monkey is now largely untouchable. Those brave souls pass on their knowledge and experience and take comfort from the virtual and actual warmth and love that surrounds them. It makes me want to smash my monkey’s face in when I see the damage and harm he does to such good people.

There is another group of friends who know a lot about monkeys without actually owning one. They are terrific people, generous with their time and love and because they have such a large experience of so many different types of primate they are able to offer support and highlight things that perhaps haven’t been thought of yet. They have soft voices, sincere words and provide a conduit to talk freely about the troubles and challenges of living with a monkey.

Ultimately of course it’s my monkey. And it’s me that has to look after it. But, as with every great team that works well together, I have massive support and we share successes and challenges and that makes dealing with my monkey easier.

Stand by monkey. I’ve got loads of mates and you have a fight on your hands.

The Monkey on My Back - Monkeys Are Better Than Ants!

Posted by:  David Shutts at 18:33, November 30 2016.

You’ll remember I’m sure that I have a monkey on my back. He’s well set, lodged firmly in and not going anywhere. He likes me, enjoys my lifestyle and relaxes while I try relentlessly to get him to go away.

Of course I can’t. He knows that and even though for the last year he seems to have dozed off and not got any bigger or more aggressive, he knows it’s only a matter of time before he’s on the move again.

Recently though I’ve realised that, hideous though my monkey is, perhaps he’s better than some invasions that get their kicks out of making us suffer. Take the soldier ants for example that have been a part of my friend’s life for two years.

She’s a lovely lady, enjoys life, likes to socialise and of course is always very good company. She has her foibles but who doesn’t? To me she’s always been harmless, benign and even a bit of pushover. She’s lovely.

Which makes the invasion of the soldier ants particularly distressing. Soldier ants you see come from nowhere. There is evidence to suggest that some ants will be likely to find you if your own relatives have hosted the irritating little insects in the past, but for many it seems that one day you’re free and the next you’re infested.

Despite their vast numbers their impact at first is slight. Even though their behaviours place them at the highest level of organised social animals, and they are coordinated in their attacks, the sheer volume of the human nervous system makes for hard work.

But they are relentless. They must use their strong mandibles to scythe through the connections between the top and the bottom of the body. Breaking the links so that the mind that is telling the body what to do is no longer heard. They have a cumulative effect on the body they affect – initially on the extremities like fingers, hands and feet but moving on to those muscles that control talking, breathing, chewing and laughing.

Having broken the connections between mind and muscle they allow the muscle to wither, although ironically, despite no instruction, they can cause some muscles to move without control. It’s as if the dormant muscles have been invaded by the ants and like a giant Chinese dragon wending its way down the street inhabited by agitated party goers, the same effect is found in the muscles full of ants. Spontaneous, jerky movements, muscles pulsing for no reason while the hapless host watches their body take on a life of its own.

There is no sudden point at which the ants finish off their host. It’s a slow, gradual process, expertly coordinated it seems to cause maximum distress not just to the host but to those around who watch with horror at the dwindling control the victim has over their own body.

The soldier ants are clinical and enjoy the discomfort they cause, even more so because they leave the mind alone. A particularly cruel twist for any invasion is to attack the body but leave the intellect fully intact, so that the decline and the appreciation of the future decline is fully understood by the victim.

Finally of course the ants win. Having cut through so many links it’s inevitable that the victim will die.

My friend died last week. The ants attacked her for 24 months. It appeared to be a military operation in its coordinated effectiveness. But my friend fought back. Her spirit and joy of life far more sophisticated when compared to the simple butchery of her attackers. Their blunt approach was no match for the clever, witty lady they attacked.

But it was inevitable in the end. One woman against a million ants – but her defiance and single minded, dogged attitude proved far harder than they ever imagined. Perhaps if they’d known at the start what they were taking on they wouldn’t have bothered. But if they hadn’t attacked my friend then they would have attacked someone else’s friend. Someone else’s mother, father, loved one.

My friend was dignified to the end. She held her head up as high as possible as the vicious, attacking little bastards took away her body piece by piece.

Unlike my monkey, it appears that ants never give up and go to sleep for a while. Which means she fought for every day of the last two years to make their job so much more challenging than they could have anticipated.

Monkeys like to eat ants. If only we could somehow find the right monkey to gorge on these little devils that indiscriminately cause so much pain we might have a real chance of fighting back. The search will continue I’m sure and my friend provides yet more evidence of the compelling need to find the solution.

Having a monkey is rubbish. But maybe, just maybe, it’s better than having ants.

RIP Dawnie – you deserve to enjoy your sleep.

The Monkey on My back - Vivisectionists rule OK

Posted by: David Shutts at 10:14, February 3 2017.

Anyone who knows me will testify that I am an animal lover and opposed to animal testing – the idea of making a beagle smoke 20 a day or putting pink lipstick on a rabbit is cruel and unnecessary. Besides, everyone knows beagles prefer a pipe and pink lipstick is sooo last year.

However there is of course one animal that deserves all the testing you can give it – my monkey.

Just in case you’re unaware of my monkey, I summarise him thus. He came out of the blue, fully formed it seems and lodged firmly on my lower left back. He’s proved to be an egotistical, self-indulgent, belligerent simian, initially very active but it appears has now dozed off and done nothing for about 15 months. A hibernating monkey – who knew?

The specialist monkey doctor who looks after me is terrific and I see him regularly. Indeed nothing should change now until the blasted thing wakes up (that’s the monkey wakes up, not the doctor), stretches out (monkey not doctor) and makes himself known once more (m not d). At that point it would appear there are a lot more avenues available to go and explore than I was first aware.

This then brings me onto vivisection and why I loved meeting a team of vivisectionists over the last few days. You see they want to destroy my monkey as much as I do - in fact they belong to a huge community all of whom want to destroy my monkey – well not just mine, I mean everyone’s monkey.

Attacking my monkey in my experience has consisted of using a daily dose of spraying the little git in the face. Not great for the first spray gun - it seemed to hurt me more than the monkey. Then I had a month of the doctor’s big stick. Targeted specifically at the middle of the monkey I was walloped every day for 4 weeks. End result, the monkey stopped bleeding which was good but I felt someone had opened a tap in my ankle and drained every bit of energy and life that I had left.

Then I started on the daily spray gun that I’m still using. Result - mojo returned, work returned, social life picked up, renewed spirits in all things living – Hooray. But at the back of mind I do have a small concern – having got on so well with this spray gun, when it stops working, what then? I understood that I’d get another and then have to negotiate the effects that might have on the rest of me. But no, there are vivisectionists who are working tirelessly to design new weapons of monkey destruction.

This was the reason why I met with the anatomical experts. It wasn’t just me though, we were a collective of monkey carers in the same room – all with the same monkey as mine. It was great to meet so many like-minded people. Some no longer had their monkey, some had only just started caring for theirs, others like me who has a monkey that’s well set but asleep and one or two further down the line for whom the vivisectionists provide huge hope.

Over the course of a couple of hours (that’s about 6 hours in the life of a monkey) we discovered that there is an armoury available to attack our monkeys - poisons that are drip fed, more subtle big sticks, another 4 possibly 5 more types of spray gun and then the best one of all – the simian scoffing cells that are already present but just need to be kick-started into action. Talk about lifting the spirits. But it doesn’t stop there – there are new weapons being developed that need testing and that’s why we were all together.

The vivisectionists are looking for guinea pigs – not actual guinea pigs of course as they’re fighting the rabbits over the next lipstick. No, it’s people with their monkeys that are wanted. Where do I sign I said – I could almost feel my monkey raise an enquiring eye brow to see what might be coming down the line in the future. I do hope so, the idea that he somehow knows he’s going to get a right kicking when he wakes up is very good for morale.

We were presided over by our Alpha female. What a force of nature she is; Attenborough-esque and the voice of our troop. We also had another monkey doctor who is running a vivisection programme and the vivisection nurse who stands strong, metaphorical sword in one hand and flame thrower in the other - ready to slash and burn any monkey that dares try to resist.

How reassuring to see and hear from such dedicated and well equipped monkey haters – channelling all their efforts into the extermination of this loathsome creature. Makes me proud just to know them.

Obviously I want my monkey to sleep for as long as possible – ideally for the next thirty years or so but I guess that’s unlikely. However, just knowing that not far away are the caped crusaders, or aproned allies to be more accurate, is very reassuring.

Keep sleeping monkey but let me tell you something. When you wake up – I’ve got people who are locked and loaded and not afraid to use it.

So stick that in the beagle’s pipe and smoke it.

Monkey Business

Posted by: David Shutts at 14:23, December 16 2015.


I’m not sure I told you but I have a monkey on my back. No idea who put it there or why they chose me but they did. And now I have to live and work with a monkey on my back.

However, living with a monkey on my back has stopped me going to work. Not only is there the physical presence of his relentless, breath-catching pain deep inside my flank but also there is the mental distraction of knowing that there is a monkey on my back and what he will do in the future. I try to concentrate but find I have to read and re-read the same paragraph time and time again – in one ear and out the other my father used to say when I was younger and not paying attention. Every time I try to capture the information I’ve just read my monkey distracts me. He makes me think of other things and even when I try to block him out he crawls into my mind making sure that everything I read or talk about somehow relates to him. He is a selfish, egotistical monkey who seems to enjoy the attention. All trains of thought, it seems, lead to the station called ‘monkey on my back’.

The doctor up the road writes me a note so that I can concentrate on fighting with the monkey and my employer understands my need. My close colleagues are angry with my monkey and urge me to get rid of him. I am trying I reassure them. My employer is in contact a few times in the first few weeks but then all goes quiet. I may have a monkey on my back but I suspect they have many crocodiles near their canoe and their minds are busy elsewhere. I don’t mind at all. We are all very important people with very busy and important lives.

The curse of fatigue by treating my monkey with the initial spray gun is added to by incessant nausea and my new svelte shape is a clear demonstration to all others that I am locked into combat against the monkey on my back. With emotions at a peak my employer stops paying me. Not a surprise as I knew that was the deal but an unwelcome, if understandable, consequence of having a monkey on my back. Sadly even this distraction doesn’t stop my monkey dominating my thoughts for too long.

I am lucky though. My employer has provided special access to the monkey doctor and his specialist zoo so I whip past the queues of people who are also fighting with their monkeys. It means I’m able to understand much quicker the behaviour of my monkey and attack him effectively. I should be able to come back to work soon I tell my employer. But my employer seems unenthusiastic. I am told that I must first visit with someone else, not a monkey doctor, but some form of behaviourist who will judge me and my fitness to return to my role. She is sincere and sympathetic and makes sure I don’t underestimate the monkey on my back.

My employer reads what she has written and we agree a compromise where I will work for just one day a week. It seems the monkey has a fearsome reputation and they are very cautious. I sense, without it being said, that they wished I would find something else to do. Employing someone with a monkey on their back is an unnecessary and unwanted burden but they know they have to be careful not to act rashly. The treatment of monkeys is widely recognised and monkey abuse will not be tolerated. But I am grateful to my employer. They are supportive and I appreciate all that they provide.

It would appear then that I have reached my new normal.

But things have changed.

My physical battle with my monkey will continue until he eventually wins. However my mind is more settled and ready for something other than fighting monkeys. In my life there are things that matter, there are necessary things that must be done and there are things as yet incomplete and they need action. Very important people with very important and busy lives no longer command my total interest. I loathe my monkey and everything he does now and is yet to do in the future, and I resent him for putting a ticking clock into my world.

Yet the monkey on my back has brought a new clarity to my thinking. The business that seemed so vital yesterday is less important today. And the things that have always been there and weren’t appreciated enough have become renewed and cherished beyond measure.

There’s a monkey on my back and he affects every piece of business in my life. But business is about making judgements and priorities. So I say out loud,

‘Get stuffed monkey. I judge that there are more important things than you in my life. From now on they will be the priority and not you.’

I do know that he will once again dominate my life but right now he is nothing but a monkey on my back...…

The Monkey on My Back

Posted by:
David Shutts at 18:21, November 30 2015.

So, one day I got up and there’s a pain inside. Someone has put a monkey on my back. I don’t know who it was or why they chose me. I just know that I have a monkey on my back.

It’s hurting me. He’s digging in. He’s got surprisingly sharp claws which he presses relentlessly into my skin and he likes to nibble. Not pleasant, playful, gentle nibbling. I mean painful, relentless clamping between the teeth, incessant pain that seems to go on and on without release.

I can’t sleep because there’s a monkey on my back. I can’t eat because the monkey eats my food for me and the pain he causes me whilst stealing my nutrition takes away my appetite and makes me very, very tired. He demands food it seems and keeps eating my reserves. My trousers suddenly fit a lot easier but I’ve run out of holes on my belt.

My wife sits there and looks helplessly on. She can’t see the monkey at all but she hears me wincing, whining and swearing at normal activities. She understands that people with monkeys on their backs behave irrationally sometimes and can vent their frustration and anger over the most innocent and loved of bystanders. It doesn’t make it easier to hear and she tries to understand something she cannot see or feel. My son wants to know when the monkey will go away so we can holiday as we’d planned to do. My son can’t see the monkey either and doesn’t understand why his Mum is so upset and crying all the time. It strikes me that it might be my monkey but he’s got a knack of reaching out and talking to the whole family. If only he had something nice to say.

I go to the specialist zoo where the monkey doctor examines the monkey and tells me that, in my case, he’s got a pretty good grip but we should be able to get him to release. He gives me a spray gun. Keep spraying the monkey he says. Every day, spray him first thing in the morning. He’ll let go, I’m sure he will.

Everyone around me has advice: send him to sleep with meditation one says, smack him with these natural herbs, another chips in. They hate that apparently. I am constantly told stories by people telling me of relatives and friends who had monkeys on their backs and how doing this thing or eating that thing made the monkey disappear. They are sincere, concerned people who don’t like my monkey at all. But then they go on with their lives and leave my monkey to me.

Around me at the zoo are other people with monkeys on their backs. Some of these other people’s monkeys are tiny, sitting high on the shoulder, hardly gripping at all. Some seem to have monkeys hanging around their tummies. One or two have huge gorillas smothering their torso, suffocating them and demanding more and more attention. Their monkeys must be really heavy because you can see the tiredness in their eyes. People who had very small monkeys don’t need a spray gun. The monkey doctor is able to prize their claws out of the skin and it’s gone. But they have to be careful. Monkeys are clever devils and they may find a way to return.

I spray every day. Nothing seems to be happening to the monkey but the spray is hurting me. My body aches from carrying this monkey, my hands and feet are sore and the spray gets into my mouth making me constantly nauseous and causing a sensitivity that makes everything unpleasant to eat.

The monkey sits, untouchable it seems and laughs at me. I keep on spraying, trying more spray to see whether the monkey will go away. It doesn’t and it causes me to bleed. The monkey doctor brings out his big stick. He whacks the monkey really hard, right square, centrally on his back. Take that you monkey. With every hit it seems the monkey gets heavier. Heavier and heavier until I sit like a zombie with a monkey on my back.

And here I am.

The monkey is still there. He’s not getting bigger and the monkey doctor is happy with that. He gives me a new spray that doesn’t seem to hurt me as much – but I have no idea whether it’s hurting the monkey. I have to wait until the monkey doctor can check again.

There’s a monkey on my back. He’s there, a part of me, and I wish he was gone.



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The Monkey on My Back

Author’s note:

This whole piece was inspired by the writing of a lady called Caitlin Feeley who wrote a touching and funny article likening her experience of cancer treatment to fighting a mountain lion. A copy of the original post can be found at this link:

It is truly brilliant but, as is always the case in cancer, everyone’s experiences are slightly different and my cancer treatment and experience has been very different to hers. But I wish to acknowledge in full that it was her original idea that was the inspiration behind my monkey.

The Monkey on My Back - Up Close and Personal

Posted by: David Shutts at 18:29, May 15 2016.

He's one year old now, my monkey. This primate who came from nowhere, found a home on my back and I've now been carrying him around for 12 months. He's a freeloading, irritating, good for nothing pain in the arse.....well, back.

Initially of course, everything about him is huge. He dominates every aspect of my life and he is the black cloud full of dire portent, an uninvited harbinger of doom that hangs above mine and family’s head. I wait for the deluge at any moment and I can’t see beyond the black.

I don’t want to look after a monkey. I want him gone, destroyed, exterminated, made extinct and I'd like the black cloud to disappear. I soon realise though that he is in fact here to stay so it's up to me to reduce the blackness of the cloud to as near white as possible.

Treating the parasitic simian was painful to begin with, not to the monkey but to me. Even when he was walloped with a huge stick it somehow affected me more than him but then, suddenly, there was a breakthrough.

Oh no, he's still here before you get too excited. I wish.

No, my succour is in the word 'stable'.

Stable. A word pre monkey that could almost be an insult when used to describe an individual. He’s a stable kind of chap – means he’s a dullard, uninteresting, unadventurous. Frankly, a bit boring.

But with a monkey clinging to my back I’m beginning to love the word ‘stable’. Not bigger, not smaller, not moving, nothing new and just as it was. Immovable, inoperable, in curable, invasive and in your face stable. But the cloud is no longer jet black – definitely dark grey with perhaps a glimmer of white peeping through.

Stability has meant that I've stayed on the daily treatment of spraying the monkey in the face with my spray gun. This spray gun is far kinder to me than the previous one although ironically I now scratch like a chimpanzee as my skin is so itchy and I dump like King Kong. Am I becoming a monkey I wonder?

My King Kong impersonation has been a surprise - I'm not supposed to be plugged up and have clogged pipes. Every recognised side effect of this spray gun suggests I’m more likely to have the weeping drizzlies than to respond by imprisoning the mahogany hostages. But not my monkey - no way. He keeps hold of everything and needs to be bribed with an array of treats to relinquish his grip. And when he does, he makes sure that I shout about it to the world. A mixture of a Tarzan yell coupled with King Kong stubbing his toe. And not voluntarily I might add.

Stability has allowed me to go back to work which is great. It's not like it used to be though. The monkey has made sure that there are several trees to climb before being allowed to represent my employer once again. But I’m grateful and my colleagues treat my monkey with the same level of loathing as I do and largely ignore his impact on my world for which I’m grateful. If there’s one thing I’ve learned to hate but monkey adores, it’s when he’s the centre of attention.

Work has meant that the cloud is a lighter grey now as the value of my contribution to being on this planet increases. Lighter again as I pick up more work, go out more, enjoy life again more with the only thing that really matters: the family, dear friends and the barking dogs.

Interestingly the monkey doesn’t like the thought of me monkeying around with my wife. He makes things hard, well actually, quite the opposite. Infiltrating my mind, playing with my waterworks, sending blood out of places where blood shouldn’t be. The result is akin to trying to push cooked spaghetti into a key hole. It’s not a constant burden thankfully and occasionally I catch him out, seizing the moment before he wakes once more to try to turn my increasingly lighter cloud back to black. Fifty shades of monkey perhaps?

So, one year on and my cloud isn’t white but it’s probably as white as I can expect and certainly whiter than I thought it was going to be a year ago. I work, sleep, eat and play. I ignore people who want to compete with my monkey by telling me all about their own ailments and instead concentrate on those who just get on with life and forget I carry a monkey on my back.

My monkey still makes himself known occasionally and every 3 months he comes into sharp focus when the monkey doctor takes obscure pictures. But he is no longer the driving force behind my every thought and action. He’s just a monkey on my back, something to be endured and ignored.

My black cloud presently has a very large silver lining – now that’s something I’d very much like to keep stable.

The Monkey on my Back – He’s back and he’s not happy.

Posted by: David Shutts at 19:39, August 8 2017.

Oh, alright then I agree – it was a dumb ass thing to say.  Hindsight is 20:20.

It’s clear to me now that saying in my last note, when he was fast asleep and I’d just come back home from hob-knobbing with the clever people who are developing new ways to kick his snoozing backside, the following ….

“I could almost feel my monkey raise an enquiring eye brow to see what might be coming down the line in the future.  I do hope so, the idea that he somehow knows he’s going to get a right kicking when he wakes up is very good for morale.”

…..  was tantamount to sticking a firecracker up his hoop and then, when he leaps up, walloping him round the side of the head with a blunt instrument labelled ‘With love, Dave’.  Whatever it was it worked because since about March he’s gone Ape Shit. (See what I did there)

Recently I was trying to explain to a chum how I felt the journey of coping with a monkey was playing out.  I concluded that I felt there were three phases:

My Phase 2 started a while ago now and since then it seems every week my monkey has built up more momentum.  He’d spread his claws a bit further, a bit deeper so more walloping with a big stick was required. Then he played his most recent trump card and put a brand-new claw into a hitherto untouched part of my anatomy - my liver is now firmly in his grasp. On top of that he’s played merry hell with my digestive system, sent little feelers into key joints such that I now have the hips of a not so sprightly 95 year old and he’s made everyone very excited about blood clots and lungs although not actually delivered one – just all the indications of one.

He’s really on form I must say and is showing absolutely no sign of slowing down.  His latest antic is to encourage my body to grow a very fetching red-topped lump from my top lip.  It looks like I’m balancing an angry gob-stopper on my face - luckily of course that no one notices it when they are talking to me.   Oh no, why would their eyes stare, completely mesmerised at this large spherical button that at any moment looks like it might explode. I’m sure I’ve put at least two people into a trance while talking to them and moving my head from side to side……..Look into my lump…..deep into my lump…….you are gently falling asl….. zzzzzz.  

You’ve got to admire Monkey’s spirit – he’s a mischievous little simian that’s for sure just adding enough every few days to keep him front and centre of my thoughts – something we know of course he likes.  Nothing gives him more pleasure than knowing he’s in charge and making me look and feel like a right pillock.

Which is why he’s currently making me walk like I’m holding a tuppence piece between the cheeks of my bum – odd, but that somehow eases the pain in my hip whilst making me look ridiculous.  Maybe that’s why he’s given me right lung pain, breathlessness, really sore lower left leg - all the classic symptoms apparently of a potential blood clot on the lung.  But of course, when clever doctors look at me with clever machines, what do they see?  Nada.  No clot, no indication there was a clot. Just me – maybe I’m the clot as that’s certainly how I feel.

And that’s why I’m sure after months of trying to get the balance right of flow through my digestive system, such that the term regular refers to frequency of movement as opposed to the number of sides on the geometric, multi cornered turd that is produced after the usual drought, my monkey’s carefully placed claws require more and more morphine to dull the pain.  What’s a key side effect of morphine? To turn my stomach into a ‘lazy tube’ as one clever chap put it so that food is not processed and instead becomes a hardened lump, removable only by some nuclear laxative.  But even then not until I’ve suffered the unpleasantness of enemas, suppositories, bigger enemas and many people’s rubber clad finger searching for some long lost treasure -  my dignity perhaps?  No, that’s not there - that went a long while back.

Taking all this into consideration then I suppose I should doff my cap, tug on my non-existent forelock and say ‘sorry sir’ to my Monkey. Sorry for daring to be insolent whilst you were snoozing.  Sorry for being a little too irreverent and not paying you enough respect.  Sorry for even doubting that you will win and sorry for making life more difficult than you would like.

On the other hand I can just say ‘Sod off you irritating, self-promoting thug.’  My coma inducing lump has now been removed, my morphine levels increased so I can’t feel your claws digging in all over the place, I now have a set of wheels meaning I don’t actually need to rely on my hip for any journeys and my nuclear laxative is still capable of blowing open the gastric equivalent of the Hoover Dam.

And on top of that my family still love me, my friends are there whenever I need them and you remain the most loathed and hated object in my world.  

Life goes on my little irritant - and will continue to do so irrespective of what you do.  I suggest you and I play a game of ‘Hide and Seek’.  You go hide first - I’ll count to a gazillion in Swahili and then come and find you.

The Monkey on my Back – Is he in the driving seat?

Posted by: David Shutts at 07:47, February 12 2018.

I think when I last spoke to you I’d been forthright in my view that whilst clearly my monkey was a bit cheesed off and making himself felt again, I wasn’t going to let him dominate my life too much and certainly wasn’t going to defer to him.

Hmmm.  As my American friend occasionally says to me, ‘And how’s that workin’ out for ya?’

In truth not great.  If you remember one of the things he did was to grow a lump on my face – just on my top lip by the left hand corner of my mouth. It was removed and then took on something from a horror movie as it grew, stuck out and spread.  At one point I looked like I was balancing a large piece of pepperoni on my cheek  - a great, oval shaped, angry, weeping, crusty, scabby mass that just sat there in all defiance.

Hideous, horrific, sore, totally dominating my visage and almost unbelievable if it wasn’t for the fact that I could touch it……..well actually I couldn’t leave it alone.  It became my best friend, and still is 6 months later although after 3 weeks of direct whacking with a precision stick, my monkey doctor has managed to reduce the thing to the size of a finger nail. Although it still sits, right in the crease of my face, touching the corner of  my mouth, cracking, bleeding and crusting over as I live my normal life.  Oddly, it’s part of me – no one really does notice anymore although please don’t think I like or accept it.  I had hoped for another specialist doc to do wondrous things with his clever knife, scoop out the bad, stick in a graft of some good but alas no.  Phrases like ‘radio necrosis’ are now part of my common lexicon !

In other movements he also invaded my throat providing a chance for a very robust thinking surgeon to dig away for a few minutes before pulling out two lumps – things that looked like those nobbly jobs you put in tumble dryers to beat up the towels, although only a fraction of the size.  Very odd says my monkey doctor.

My normal body defect, my hernia, also blew up in the last 6 months. Except of course it wasn’t normal, although it wasn’t or isn’t part of my monkey, but it couldn’t just be routine – somehow it had to be different.  Another stay with the nice people in a tall building  - although my weight disappeared once again meaning I now look like the scrawniest of monkeys in the tree.  A long limbed, grey haired, early creation of man with a hollow stomach, legs and arms no wider than their bones and a pelvis that sticks out both sides.  Ectomorph meets famine victim – not a good look.

All in time for Autumn and the cold – OMG the cold.  I’d forgotten how to be properly cold.  When you’re a big lad and packed with a bit of the globular stuff all around then you clearly don’t feel it.  Remove the fat suit and strip back to the basics and I feel like I’m in ice.  Cold to the core.  Ends of feet, fingers, ears….everywhere ………    just bloody cold.  

My lovely wife sits on the settee next to me in a puddle of her own making while I adjust my 4th thermal top to try and ensure every part of my torso is the same temperature as the log burner next to me.  It’s a ridiculous state of affairs and I just hope the monkey inside is also doing an impression of his brass cousin and losing his balls to the freezing temperatures.

In mid Autumn, having endured a new treatment which was actually quite pleasant for 3 months it was concluded that once again the little bastard had grown – this time in particular to my bones and lungs.  This was particularly irritating as the treatment, instead of a daily spray gun was instead a two weekly visit to the monkey zoo to get plugged in, enjoy some tea and biscuits, a nice lunch and general chit chat with all the clever people that work there.  So very pleasant and yet, as it turned out, so very pointless.

So, once again, a return to a new spray gun.  Recent pictures show that the new spray has taken charge  well – boney things  have reduced in size, lungy things have reduced in size and all other things it seems have stayed the same or reduced in size.  Result!  I can see monkey’s face, clear disdain on his ugly mug as he realises, once again, that there is a temporary glitch in his journey to ultimate victory.

But actually, the last few months the monkey has also been part of something else.  Something quite good and potentially remarkable.

As my readers know, I have a view on a lot of things, and it seemed that caring for my monkey with all the ups and downs and impact on my daily life that it has had could be used to some effect.  And so I have.  Used my experience to some effect I mean.

I’ve created something very special – well not just me of course.  I’m not that clever.  No, with my best friend from navy times, my remarkable brother, some amazing technical volunteers and a bunch of supporters from across the family and friends spectrum, I have something astonishing beginning to grow that I hope will help monkey carers, and indeed other carers of animals that cause them daily strife, to rediscover their ambitions and put to good use the talents that they have.  The aim is simple – to provide these lovely people with something positive to concentrate on rather than looking after their blasted visitor.

And who’s to blame for all this? My monkey of course.  Without him, there would never have been this idea. Without his brutal assault on my person, no one would listen to me and see the difference it can make to have something positive to concentrate on.

Who would have thought it ?  My monkey, in the driving seat and causing daily problems has driven me down a path where, with the support of some extraordinary people, positive things may grow.

And the best bit?  The monkey hasn’t got a clue.  He’s such a dumb ass ape he just does what he does – tries to get bigger and reach into new bits of my body.  What a fool.  Because all the time he’s providing the drive and inspiration for something far better than all of us could think.  With the added bonus that if he does ever realise then it’s something that will piss him off, along with all his simian and non simian chums, that have invaded others.  Brilliant.

If he wasn’t a monkey he’d be a Muppet!

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The Monkey on David’s Back - It may have won the battle, but ASTRiiD will win the war

Posted by: Anon at 18:05, May 24 2018.

So David’s monkey was three years’ old when it finally won the battle that had been raging between them.  It’s not been pretty to watch as that F’in monkey dug it’s claws wider and deeper into our shipmate’s body.

David wrote ‘I’ve created something very special – well not just me of course.’ And indeed he did create something very special. His commitment to finding a solution to help those with chronic illness access employment opportunities was unwavering and nothing short of inspirational.

He chose to turn his condition into a positive tool to effect change – and what a difference he made in a short space of time, with ASTRiiD named the recruitment industry’s 2018 Charity of the Year and connections forged with hundreds of employers and prospective candidates.

David was extremely proud that ASTRiiD has already initiated successful placements and crucially, he felt that this was just the beginning. His aim was always to ‘change people’s lives’ and this is evidently being achieved.

His legacy, to enable businesses to tap in the ‘invisible talent pool’ will survive, thrive and will expand internationally in time. David’s brother Stephen, the chairman of ASTRiiD, will be working with the fantastic team of Volunteers; Trustees; Technology, Corporate and Charity Partners to make that happen.

David has led the team from the front, his inspirational leadership and self dedication have moved the project a long way from that seed of an idea. He has ensured that we have built our ASTRiiD community from the ground up.

There is more work to be done if ASTRiiD is going to truly disrupt the recruitment industry and give the tens of thousands of people in the UK, like David, a life-changing step into meaningful work. Together, the team can and will keep his legacy alive and do his vision justice.

Rest in Peace David, your work is done.  The monkey may have won the battle, but we are here to take your work forward in winning the war.

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