What Did I Do Over My MS Holiday? Stand-up!

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by John Connor |

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So, yes, I’ve been away for four weeks. Anybody miss me?

Well not away as such. There are places with hoists — even a specialist camper van you can hire here in the United Kingdom — but matching that with a profiling bed makes for quite the elusive Venn diagram.

That said, we did stay at one in Bournemouth last year, right at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, where we observed that the noise from airplane traffic dropped so much you could actually hear birds singing. It’s what I refer to as our science fiction moment. (No need for the exotic Martians of H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds.” Just the same critters that did them in!) Not surprisingly, it looks like that specialist hotel has disappeared as a result of the pandemic.

What I did do was take a holiday from multiple sclerosis (MS) and from writing about it constantly — not just in this column for the last four years, but also as a moderator of our MS News Today Forums. The journo in me is always scouring for stories. I’ve even occasionally gotten to a medical one before our highly efficient news team! That’s rare, though. Usually, I find I’m several years late.

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Still, taking time off from MS info-trawling has been a real break. I didn’t peek at this site or have anything else to do with MS.

Methinks I now have some catching up to do.

I have, rather prosaically, also caught up with some bureaucracy. But like the pile of books I’ve got and want to read, I now accept I’ll never finish either. The trouble with a to-do list is that it fills up as soon as you empty it. If only that were true of malt scotch!

I didn’t not work, though. My stand-up show was invited yet again (our fourth glorious year) to a comedy festival set up in a marquee on the massive village green opposite a pub in the countryside. It’s outside of London, but not that far.

British comedy | Multiple Sclerosis News Today | Six members of "The Edge" comedy troupe perform at a festival held in a marquee in the countryside outside London.

From left, “The Edge” team’s Paul Thorne, Jarred Christmas, Ian Stone, Ria Lena, Steve Gribbin, and Tiff Stephenson sing their comedy blues goodbye. (Photo by Sarah Davies)

Richard, who created the festival and owns the pub, is a lifelong live comedy aficionado. He’s been a fan of my show “The Edge” for so long that he even saw it when we had a short (read: unsuccessful) run in Manchester some 10 years ago.

Booking the show took me five minutes — unheard of in the old days. We were getting the same fee as before, and everyone was aware this might well be our last one. Our Tuesday night residency at The Comedy Store in the heart of London was no longer feasible.

“The Edge” is an amalgam of topical comedy, stand-ups doing original games together, and improvisation, which usually entails heckling each other. A comic’s heckle is far more devastating than anything the audience can ever come up with. Woe betide the temerity of an actual heckler — six comics can turn as one and unload comedy fire upon them. We had become, as they say in our trade, bulletproof.

Researching the week’s news was like riding a powered wheelchair. The running order had been in that old brain of mine from the start. For a change, I wasn’t likely to have to deal with last-minute pullouts. Hurrah. Except the regular stage technician from the Store, and now the co-producer of “The Edge,” had to suddenly cover a show there. It was now imperative that I went in order to pull the show together with a new tech. It was no longer just my romantic goodbye.

For me, and especially my family, it was perhaps (ahem) a step too far.

We didn’t have caregivers on the weekends to get me out of the shower, rub in all the various lotions my feet and legs now require, and put my lymphedema bindings on before placing me into my wheelchair.

Instead, my wife, Jane, and eldest son, George, did all that. Then Jane had to drive to Amersham, which is a 100-mile round trip. Thankfully, my sister-in-law and brother-in-law came with us. They shared some of the caring load and made it far more of an evening for my wife.

The show went long because of an interval and the audience being 15 minutes late. And they just kept laughing. And laughing.

After all that driving, Jane and George then had to put me to bed — at 1 in the morning! They were even more exhausted than I was.

Still, “The Edge” was immediately asked to come back to next year’s festival. When I set up this madcap idea 31 years ago, my goal was always to be a big hit in a big tent in a countryside village.


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Jenny Orlov avatar

Jenny Orlov

Yay, you’re back! ?

Amy Knight avatar

Amy Knight

Welcome back! I was beginning to be concerned about your absence…..glad it was a vacay of sorts. I always read your column, even if I can’t exactly relate to all of the subject matter.

Wendy Hovey avatar

Wendy Hovey

Heck yeah, we missed you, and silence is always a little nerve wracking. So, even better to hear that you had an uproarious ordeal.


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