The Super-Smile Stays

Christopher Fowler
One of the biggest challenges I've faced since my prognosis has been dealing with the loss of my super powers, like walking in a straight line, standing on one leg for more than three seconds and not tripping over a toothpick. My father, a short Norman Wisdom-like man, fell over his own feet all the time and would glance angrily back at the pavement after, looking to place the blame, which was hilarious to us kids. I, on the other hand, just kissed the concrete for the third time this month, spraining wrist and tearing up elbow, knee etc. It makes you wary - but not as wary as when I attempted to go into the sea earlier this year, and couldn't get back out. Soon avoidance becomes a natural response and you stop taking chances. So I was thrilled that, on the trusty husband's arm, I managed to dive into wild surf this week. As soon as you're buoyant all pain vanishes, even if you nearly drown trying to get out. Here in Barcelona, where we're belatedly spring cleaning, there are so many ways for the incapacitated to move about that people who would otherwise be prisoners in their homes are in town squares hanging out with their friends. Our own natures limit us; we avoid things that look too problematic. This year I was persuaded to adopt the opposite approach. I'm leaning into the stuff I avoided. I'm having to adapt my travel arrangements but that doesn't mean I'm not travelling. Next month I have to skip some long-planned events for practical reasons but I'll be having a week off in Turkey. Before that I'm launching 'Bryant & May's Peculiar London' at several London venues to be announced (including one at a fab limited-capacity venue which I really hope comes off). In between, I'm having some pretty serious hospital tests carried out. The problem for me is that if the results are bad again I still have to wear my public super-smile and act as if I'm invulnerable. What if I can't attend events? Just how far ahead dare I arrange stuff? Suddenly I'm turning down work all over the place. Can I remain super-powered for a little longer? (The super analogies are coming up because I'm binge-watching 'The Boys' and finding it surprisingly good.) It'll be interesting to see how I react to the month ahead. Wish me luck.


Cornelia Appleyard (not verified) Sat, 25/06/2022 - 09:36

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Good luck.
Of course you can cancel events if you want or need to.
May your superpowers persist as long as is possible, and I’m sure we’re all hoping for the best possible test results as well.

Mrs Terry Raynes (not verified) Sat, 25/06/2022 - 10:10

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

You’ll do what you do with humour a sprinkling of sarcasm, underpinned with passion and dedication.
Who could ask for more.

BarbaraBoucke (not verified) Sat, 25/06/2022 - 11:58

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Ditto Cornelia's words. I have diabetic neuropathy in my feet and hands - although not at the level of yours - as well as an inner ear balance issue - thankfully not Meniere's Disease. This past week I almost fell three times in my own yard trying to do some yardwork. I have learned to move with caution, but sometimes I forget. Best of luck with everything that lies ahead - especially the test results. And have a great time in Turkey with Pete.

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Sat, 25/06/2022 - 12:23

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@admin May the Force be with you. And do have a whisper in Erdoğan's ear about letting Sweden and Finland into NATO.

''Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.' – Vivian Greene

Colin (not verified) Sat, 25/06/2022 - 12:30

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Good luck Chris, thoughts are with you this month

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Sat, 25/06/2022 - 14:22

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

'The robbed that smiles, steals something from the thief.' William Shakespeare, 'Othello'

Jo W (not verified) Sat, 25/06/2022 - 15:00

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Ok I’ll try this again as my comment disappeared into a “ 500 Internal Server Error” whatever that is.

Chris, so sorry to read that you are having intimacy issues with pavements, would a walking stick help? I have a spare one I could bring on the 6th ( if you and me and ‘im make it).
As for arranging stuff, it’s surely up to you and Pete to decide and if those rotten tests give rotten results, please, don’t smile a supersmile, just go out on your balcony and shout b******s.

Alan R (not verified) Sat, 25/06/2022 - 16:26

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Your condition seems to be like being exposed to Kryptonite. You still feel like a superhero but now some things are beyond your usual power. The Kryptonite may be causing some struggles but it is obvious that Kryptonite does not take away your powers of humour. Thankfully. Or your courage. Obviously. Wishing you and your "trusty husband" good luck and hope that you can soon return to having the health and confidence to plan in advance again.

“A superhero is just an ordinary person who has found a better way to mask their human frailties.” - Quote from Superman.

Helen+Martin (not verified) Sun, 26/06/2022 - 00:16

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Keep your superhero in your heart and he'll come out when you really need him. Hope you get into the water a few more times; the flotation is wonderful, best pain killer ever and trust that you're able to get to the launch of launches in the best of conditions. My husband fell over in our den, no reason, no logic and now the doctor has him at physio. Know that when I do the public prayers tomorrow and pray for "those undergoing medical tests" it will be you I'm meaning.

Jo+e (not verified) Sun, 26/06/2022 - 08:53

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

'There is a superhero in all of us, we just need the courage to put on the cape' - Superman.

So put on the cape Christopher, sally forth and the very best of luck. Everyone here is rooting for you.

Probably don't wear your pants over your trousers though. Well, not for the book launch anyway.

Roger (not verified) Sun, 26/06/2022 - 15:49

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

My own sense of balance is appalling after a fractured skull and my ankles fold up easily since breakages. I have to plan and manouevre like a super-tanker when I turn, but I find it very useful to wear ankle-high heavy-duty walking boots laced around the top for extra stability. Even if I trip, my feet remain flat so I stumble rather than fall and a walking stick means I usually recover well.

Hope your book-launch trip goes well, though I can't turn up to buy signed copies.

SteveB (not verified) Sun, 26/06/2022 - 19:29

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

All I can do is wish you every luck. And I do.

Jo+e (not verified) Sun, 26/06/2022 - 21:55

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

So here's an idea Christopher, sort of germinated by Roger's comment....

Why not a private launch for us lot? Your Comments Team. All these people that you know, that know you, that know one another but have never met. Mostly I would imagine anyway. Wouldn't it be great for everyone to meet? A really lovely bunch of people.
Travel might be some distance for many and it's a long way from Canada and USA, but perhaps some would come? Lifts could be offered for those who might find the journey difficult. It'd be the best launch ever I reckon.

Good idea Admin?

And Roger - your determination is quite amazing - you are a true Superhero.

Joel (not verified) Mon, 27/06/2022 - 19:21

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

the boys...i enjoyed the first season...and i have heard that this third season, with the exploding penis, is quite the shock...i imagine the show is for those who have a macabre and twisted sense of humour...of which i am one...my mom taught herself how to fall, as she always has...seems to have saved her any broken bones, and she will be 80 in august...glad you have someone to hang onto in the waves...that's nice.

Helen+Martin (not verified) Tue, 28/06/2022 - 00:39

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

There was one attempt at a joint meeting when we were in London but I guess there wasn't enough leadup time; that and the fact that Chris was not going to be there. We had a nice time with Jo W, though. It would be a great idea, even if the overseas people aren't able. I would suggest a Zoom meetup for the distant people but that would mean someone handling tech services and makes it too hard.

Paul C (not verified) Tue, 28/06/2022 - 10:51

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Really sorry to hear about the falls. My elderly neighbour wears his grandson's skateboard kneepads and elbowpads under baggy trousers and shirts which he finds a mental reassurance as well as good protection. May be an idea....

Best wishes

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Tue, 28/06/2022 - 16:18

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

A strange time for you. The joy of birth tempered with postpartum concerns. For what it's worth, know that we are behind you --- there, just over your left shoulder, everytime you feel yourself falling.

If you're lost you can look and you will find us
Time after time
If you fall, we will catch you,we'll be waiting
Time after time
If you're lost, you can look and you will find us
Time after time
If you fall, we will catch you,we will be waiting
Time after time

(With apologies to Cyndi Lauper and Robert Hyman)

Debra Jacobs (not verified) Tue, 28/06/2022 - 19:27

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I finally found a way to follow you and your journey. I am now reading the final PCU book and trying to make it last as long as I can. Your writing skill, characters, sense of humor and story lines have kept me uplifted over the year and a half since my husband died. I wish you good results and strength to keep on walking (as carefully as you can) and writing when the spirit moves you.

Peter+T (not verified) Tue, 28/06/2022 - 19:47

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I'm sure Snowy could organise a Zoom launch (incl. bring your own lunch). Could even have a guess what they are wearing below the waist competition or perhaps better not. Arthur might attend and either forget his trousers or blow up all the computers (and other devices).

andrea yang (not verified) Thu, 30/06/2022 - 13:06

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

So glad you are managing to have some fun and travel! Wish you the very best. I will be watching your posts to see if I can pop in to one of book launch events during my vacation in your wonderful city!

Jacki Mitchell (not verified) Fri, 01/07/2022 - 07:30

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

My dear Christopher, first time I have logged into your website but fanatical devotee of your Bryant & May series. So sorry to hear you are unwell but there is always hope. I am over 75 & have Meniere's but have just flown again for the first time in 10 years since diagnosis. Still upright & moderately sane & have your wonderful Paper Boy bio ready to re-read for the 20th? time. Keep your spirits high & I wish you & Pete the very very best of enjoyment as you go forward.

Les Bowen (not verified) Mon, 04/07/2022 - 16:26

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I saw on Twitter that you were struggling, and I felt compelled to come here and tell you that discovering Bryant & May has been one of the greatest pleasures of my reading life.
I so hope you rally and turn the tables, as your Peculiar Crimes Unit heroes have often done.
I am an American who has only been to London once, but I have this improbable fantasy of traveling there, somehow bumping into you, and getting insights into places from which to view the ancient bones of the city.
Thanks for everything, and please feel better!

Hazel Jackson (not verified) Mon, 04/07/2022 - 23:05

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Is a regal style walking stick likely to be any use? Maybe you could adorn it with streamers like a mummer?