Nylon Kid of the North - Memoir
Available in paperback and ebook. Signed copies can be supplied direct from the author! Just drop me an email.
For Philip Paris, growing up in a block of flats in Gateshead in the 1960s/70s, life consists of fish fingers, beating the washing on a Monday morning with a poss-stick and screaming at Big Daddy on a Saturday afternoon. Money is tight and Mam buys everything.
‘The Co-Op, bless them, sold a wide variety of items made of nylon. Never mind the Milky Bar Kid, I was the Nylon Kid of the North: socks, shirts, jumpers, my raincoat. Even my underpants were nylon and when, at night, I slid between those nylon sheets on the bed ... I did so with extreme caution and trepidation.’
A visit to the GP is rare; disagreeing with one unthinkable. During 1981 recurring pain and weight loss forces him to the local surgery and so begins a journey where hardship and humour are entwined, from the Irish priest livid at discovering him pretending to sleep during his round of the traction ward, to the old man convinced Philip has had both legs removed.
For nearly two years Philip agrees to undergo all the increasingly inaccurate treatments, until the diagnoses ‘This is caused by your imagination. I’m going to put you on a course of Valium’. Then he rebels. But how do you get medical help once you’ve turned down your GP?
Here is a little extract to give you a flavour of the book ...
On the Sunday after my brief return to college I woke with a great desire to play the pipes, which may be difficult for those less inclined towards the instrument to understand. The Jesmond flat was a walk of only a few minutes from the Great North Road and on the other side of this was the Town Moor, a massive expanse of grassland well-known throughout the area for hosting the annual ‘Hoppings’, which was said to be Europe’s largest travelling fair.
After breakfast I picked up my sturdy black case and set off for what I assumed would be a good morning’s piping. No hysterical shopkeepers to bother me here. Instead, there was the usual assortment of joggers and people walking dogs. In the distance a couple of men were flying a model aeroplane and beyond them a small herd of cattle grazed quietly. I chose my spot well away from everyone.
The air was fresh (well, relatively speaking) the sky was clear and I felt there was nothing more on earth I would rather do than play a few jigs, reels and slow airs in the open. It was a great day to be alive and an even better one to be a piper.
It didn’t take long to tune the instrument and I was soon into the first of four slow airs. I played for about ten minutes, drawing out the music by constantly swapping between tunes then stopped for a rest. You don’t really know silence until someone nearby stops playing the pipes. Wanting to enjoy the moment to its full, and also in need of a breather, I tucked the pipes under my arm and stood quite still, feeling rather pleased with myself and at peace with the world.
However, just as I was being so harmonious with my surroundings, a strange, uncomfortable sensation began to creep over me; the sort of thing you experience when you’ve seen something move in the corner of a darkened room, which is meant to be empty. And there wasn’t quite the silence there should have been.
Yes, there was definitely something ... breathing. I could hear heavy breathing. On the back of my left hand, which was hanging down by my side, I felt warm, moist air blow across the skin and heard a deep rasping inhuman noise that made the hairs on the back of my neck rise. Had my playing disturbed the hideous Lampton Worm?
With a thumping heart I turned around slowly ... to face seven cows, which were quickly gathering around. Now I’m sure they are very nice animals, but there weren’t many of them in Gateshead so this encounter wasn’t something I was used to. And they’re rather large. The nearest one rubbed a dripping nose against the end of my bass drone.
I was forced backwards and only managed with some difficulty to rescue my case before I was separated from it completely. The cows were forming a circle, with me in the middle. It perhaps wasn’t General Custer’s last stand, but I wasn’t at all comfortable at this turn of events. With the pipes still under my arm and the case in the other hand, I started to walk away, thinking to leave them behind.
My newly-found bovine friends fell into an orderly line and followed. I walked faster. They walked faster. I broke into a slight jog and the cows simply trotted along, easily keeping pace. This was ludicrous. I had heard of the Pied Piper. At this moment I caught sight of a jogger who had stopped dead in his tracks and was standing about ten yards away, watching the spectacle before him with one of the most astonished expressions I’ve ever seen. I called over, partly in jest but half hoping he might be able to help.
‘Have you any suggestions on how to get rid of these?’
The jogger didn’t even shake his head in reply. We passed him by. I was running now, the pipes bouncing around dangerously and the case banging uncomfortably against my leg. For anyone who has never raced a cow, take my word for it, you cannot outpace them. I pressed on, wondering what Val would say when I returned to the flat with a small herd of Friesians.
After a while I glanced behind and saw that two of the cows had lost interest and stood, watching. We carried on and another animal bowed out, then another. I was bloody knackered. Eventually, there remained one cow, whose bogeys were still hanging from the end of my bass drone. It had obviously fallen helplessly in love with the pipes, but at that moment we passed a very succulent patch of grass and she gave up the chase as well.
I quickly left them behind and eventually stopped, threw my case on the ground and bent over, gasping. My urge to play had, not surprisingly, gone. When I had finally caught my breath, I put the pipes away and headed sadly back to the flat for a cup of tea and a sit down. There had to be an easier instrument to play.
A few of the comments on Amazon ...
‘Excellent! Great read, took it on holiday and couldn't put it down until the last page! Many genuine laughs, evoking some of my own memories of growing up.’
‘A highly recommended read. Paris's memoirs have been written with wit and had me laughing out loud despite the serious topic of misdiagnosis and lack of compassion from doctors and hospital staff. At the same time, the book is a wonderful portrait of Britain in the 1970s when the author was growing up.’
‘I heartily recommend this fascinating and well-written book from the author of The Italian Chapel. It was most entertaining and a compelling read - I simply couldn't put it down!’
‘A really good story. Once I'd started reading I had to keep going to finish the book all in one session. The author tells a quite appalling story of how it was possible to be misdiagnosed by so many doctors, over several years. Eventually the author's perseverance paid off and a correct diagnosis was discovered. Despite being a serious subject the author brings plenty of humour to the story and it is a pleasure to read. Highly recommended.’