Schoolboy wins recording day with grime artist Tinchy Stryder

Tinchy Stryder and schoolboy Jake Waksman

A SCHOOLBOY from Barnet was waxing lyrical about his chance to rap with grime artist Tinchy Stryder.

Jake Waksman, 12, was put through his paces by the 24-year-old chart-topper, after winning a Disney XD Aim High mentorship.

Jake, who attends JFS School in Kingsbury, wants to be a rapper when he is older. He said: “Tinchy was really nice. We sat in the studio and he told me about when he was young and what he used to do.

“He gave me a lot of advice and even let me do a recording to one of his beats using my own lyrics. He said I was really good and that I have potential.

“I felt really lucky to be chosen. It was a really good day.”

Jake met the Number 1 singer at a recording studio in Brixton last month, and played him some recordings he had made with his band GAPZ.

He added: “I was nervous at first, but then I toughened up. He liked my music.”

The mentorship initiative, hosted by the Disney XD channel, is designed to inspire children to try new things and realise their true potential.

Jake applied for the mentorship in July and was one of three winners on the day.

Tinchy, real name Kwasi Danquah, said: “I hope that sharing my experiences in the music industry with the kids involved will help them in some way get ahead in this business.”

My original article can be viewed here

BOOK about locked-in syndrome: In the blink of an eye, by Hasso and Catherine Von Bredow

This uplifting memoir describes the struggles of a 42-year-old, family-orientated City banker, whose life is brought to a standstill after he suffers a major stroke.

He becomes a prisoner in his own body; paralysed, unable to speak or eat, but retains his ability to see and hear. Medically, this is called locked-in syndrome.

Yet, his lack of self-pity and his determination to improve his situation are strikingly evident as he combines his ability to open and close his eyes, with the only other movement he regained in his body, to record his account of his stroke.

A draining, painfully slow process; he recorded each and every letter in the book through a temperamental thumb movement, using a specially designed, ultra sensitive computer system with an on-screen talking keyboard. He did this from his wheelchair during the last few years of his life.

He strung letters into sentences with the help of his wife and full-time carer Catherine.

Even though he had lost his voice, he managed to find the strength to tell his story and communicate with the world. He passed away in 2004, four years after enduring his stroke, and this memoir was published in 2009 by Catherine.

At first she merely distributed 200 copies to friends, family and doctors who had been involved in Hasso’s care, but then she began receiving letters from people who had been moved by Hasso’s words and arranged for mass publication.

This is an inspiring, true story which takes you on an emotional rollercoaster. The narrative switches from Hasso to his wife, as their accounts of his life are interspersed between chapters.

Soon after my grandad suffered his stroke, I stumbled upon this book. It has been one of my many companions throughout the journey of his illness. Sadly though, my grandad took his last breath on Monday.

I can’t explain the amount of support and help I’ve had from friends and family, who have helped me get through this week. But I also can’t believe the strength, insight and optimism that this book filled in me.

It supplemented the information I received from the various leaflets on stroke care I found in the hospital. It gave me someone to identify with; Hasso’s wife speaks of her struggle and her difficulty coming to terms with her husband’s illness, as well as the way it has affected her.

The book explained about the day-to-day life of a stroke patient, what happens in speech therapy sessions, what occupational therapists try to do with patients, and the different equipment used to try to assist patients. For example the air mattresses, which Hasso described as uncomfortable; something my grandad also complained of.

It helps you understand a stroke patient’s pain; whether they are your relative, friend or neighbour.

Courage, love and determination are persistent themes in this book and it becomes difficult to put down.

In the Blink of an Eye by Hasso and Catherine von Bredow is published by Orion.

Royal China, a newcomer to Harrow

With its elegant decor and yummy food, this Chinese restaurant provides a fine dining experience.

As soon as you enter, you get the impression that you are eating out in a stylish central London restaurant. The place is peppered with rich golden hues, it is spacious and the lighting is dimmed.

Prices are, you could say, similar to central London dining, with a meal for two coming to just over £40.

I visited on a Thursday evening. Once seated, we were presented with a complimentary appetizer, of salted nuts and chilli-topped, crunchy cucumber slices. It had our mouths watering.

For starters we opted for the crispy aromatic duck. This was a very generous portion; served with about 10 pancakes, and great value for money (quarter duck: £12). It was crunchy and flavoursome. By the time we had demolished the duck, I was already feeling full!

Next up, for mains, we ordered sautéed prawns with cashew nuts, sweet and sour chicken and egg-fried rice. Again, the portions were fairly large. The prawns were succulent, although a little bland, and the sweet and sour chicken was tasty although the chunks were quite big. Peas were sprinkled into the egg-fried rice; something I’ve never come across. They gave the rice a strange, sweet kick.

The service throughout the evening was polite and prompt. It was a Thursday night and three quarters of the tables in the restaurant were full, which suggests that it must get very busy at weekends.

The warm, relaxed ambience of the restaurant made me feel relaxed and comfortable.

The restaurant is part of a chain called the Royal China Group. The other restaurants are located in Baker Street, Bayswater, Fulham and Canary Wharf.

Royal China, 148-150 Station Road, Harrow, London, HA1 2RH. Tel: 020 8863 8359

Letting nature take its course

Further to my last post about my granddad, he has since taken another turn for the worst.

His lungs, the nurses said, are beginning to fill up with water and any fluid or food which is fed to him isn’t going anywhere, and is simply getting stuck down his food pipe. A decision has been taken to stop all intake of food, and only medicine and fluid from a drip is entering his body. He’s half the size he was before he went into hospital over two months ago and an oxygen mask must constantly be strapped to his face. He’s sick of it.

We think these could be his last few days with us. The nurses are doing all they can to keep him comfortable, and out of pain, but other than that, they say that they’ve exhausted all other options to help him get back to life before his stroke.

My granddad is still attempting to convince us that he can walk, and has managed to muster the energy to try and lift a leg out of bed. A part of me believes that he can do it; he has the ambition to want to do it, but then again, we have to take the hospital’s word that he can’t. Unfortunately it’s got back to that stage where we cannot understand a word he says, and he’s getting frustrated by it.

Adding to the frustration is his inability to be allowed to visit the toilet. I can totally empathise with him. It must be self-depreciating having other people clean up after you and not being able to do anything for yourself.

Every time the phone rings I worry that it could be the call to say we’ve lost him. Somehow he’s still fighting, and each day we visit, we have to make the false promise that we’ll try to get him out of bed the day after, even though we know it isn’t possible to even try. He could do himself more damage than good if he tries to get up on his feet. Still, to be fair, he has been bed-ridden for over two months and that would be super frustrating for a man who could barely sit still and hated having to depend on others prior to his stroke.

He was restless when I saw him last night, but he was calm as he held my hand and managed to stay in one position for about ten minutes before fidgeting and trying to escape from his bed.

I’m really upset, but I’m also a little relieved that he won’t have to put up with all this pain, discomfort and frustration for any longer. As much as my tears flow, I’ve convinced myself that he’ll be in a better place soon, and I hope he leaves us knowing how much we all love and respect him.

To be continued…

No amount of explaining, leaflet-reading or support could’ve prepared me for the moment I saw him.

He looked pale against the white walls of the hospital ward. The left side of his face appeared to have drooped, and his left arm and leg were basically foreign to him. He tried to speak – the sounds which managed to escape his mouth were familiar – but his speech was incomprehensible and slurred. It took him a lot of effort to utter a single word, not that it meant anything to us at the time. In return, he would only hear us if our voices were raised, and this would be predominantly through his right ear. It was like someone had gone in and tampered with certain functions in his body, and hit the ‘off’ switch. Many other problems would soon arise for my 87-year-old granddad – this was only the beginning.

It was hard to digest. He’d had a massive stroke, he was paralysed down his left side, and his life had crumbled within a few minutes.

The first time I saw him, I quickly averted my eyes to the floor, hoping that he couldn’t see the tears streaming down my face. I looked back at him every few seconds, to check that this was actually reality; that it was actually him sitting there before me. I shook and shivered and hoped he couldn’t sense the quiver in my voice as I tried to make bland conversation to fill the silence. “How are you?” I asked dumbly.

Warm tears pricked the corners of my eyes as I realised I was asking him questions, the replies to which, I could not understand because of his deep slur. I’d been used our a language barrier; he spoke and understood Gujarati, and a little English, and despite my GCSE in Gujarati, I still had some issues when communicating with him – often I’d forget a specific word or phrase and its Gujarati translation, and had to discard the conversation topic or think of an alternative way of explaining it, which didn’t require the use of the troublesome word! Having trouble understanding what he was saying reminded me of those instances.

From the world’s most active granddad, who couldn’t sit still for more than half an hour, he had become bedridden and incapable of doing anything for himself – all of this happened overnight. He was unable to do anything for himself at all, and became dependent on the nurses in the ward. A lot of his time was spent waiting for them to do things for him – whether he wanted to have a sip of water, have his clothes changed, or simply have his bed covers pulled up over him.

Within two days, the frustration was evident – he desperately wanted to get out of his bed so he could go to the toilet, he wanted to come home, he wanted things to go back to the way they once had been, and kept asking why this happened to him. He couldn’t accept what had happened to him – he wouldn’t accept that he’d lost his ability to use one side of his body, his coordination, or that his back was weak and that was why he could barely sit up straight. He insisted that he could walk and claimed to walk around the ward and do allsorts when we’d all gone home! I wished that was true.

Day in, day out, he sat or lay in his bed, which he’d called his ‘prison’. He found it hard, sometimes, to ignore the need screaming out from inside him to get up and run from his imprisonment, and would shout in Gujarati, “Get me out”. He’d been robbed of his independence, his dignity (as the nurses forced a new nappy around him every few hours), and he was robbed of his mobility. We still don’t know if any of these will be restored.

He developed bed sores and various other rashes from the constant sitting and lying down. He was often in pain, complaining that his muscles were aching, and complained about his lack of sleep and restlessness. He developed a chest infection and MRSA during his 8 weeks in hospital. Bouts of diarrhoea complicated things further as he was often uncomfortable and needed constant changing by the nurses. There were days where his blood pressure and haemoglobin levels were worryingly low and he was being pumped blood through a drip. As a result, he was often angry, tired and in agony during visiting hours, I couldn’t blame him. He could barely swallow, and any food had to be mushed to liquid.

He had his good and bad days. Some days he would sit there silently, not wanting to make any conversation, seemingly consumed by his own thoughts. Other days he would ask some questions, about what I did during the day, how I was feeling, where the family was. And on the worse days he’d be spouting all kinds of unpleasant things about wanting this to end and wanting to leave this world. But what he never said or accepted was that he’d lost his ability to walk and do things for himself.

His great resilience was admirable but conflicted with his ability to accept the consequences of his stroke. This made some days difficult – he would want to climb out of bed, and sometimes make a failed attempt, but there was no way we could let him out as the physiotherapists had already said that he’d be unlikely to walk again and his recovery, if any, would be small. Nevertheless, he still put up a great fight, asking each time I visited, to get me to help him out of bed. Each time I had to politely refuse, and could sense that this wasn’t going down too well with him. It didn’t stop him from trying each time he saw me! How much I admired his strength and determination.

Rather than a necessity, showering and having a clean shaven face became a luxury for my granddad. He was weak and couldn’t support himself, so the nurses decided it was a risk to give him regular showers.

Last week my granddad was discharged and admitted to a nursing home. The hospital claimed that bringing him home wasn’t really a possibility as care at own home would be impossible. They said that needed my granddad’s hospital bed for another patient, so he had to be moved, even though he wasn’t completely better – he had a cough and chest pains. He was still bed-ridden, and showed few signs of any full recovery. But he was still adamant that he’d walk again, that he’d show the nursing home staff that he could do it.

This week, he’s back in hospital. He was readmitted after experiencing breathing difficulties and has developed a nasty chest infection. I visited him today – he lay there, with an oxygen mask strapped around his head. He drifted in and out of sleep and barely acknowledged I was there. I can’t help but feel sorry for my poor granddad, and it breaks my heart to see him like this.

Each day presents a new turn – we can only wait until tomorrow to see what will happen next.

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