I had this dream – no, come back, it was only a short dream, or maybe just a fragment – and I’m not going to yap on about the dream itself, just some of the things in it, which are interesting, perhaps.

I thought I’d do you a favour and tell you up front that it was a dream. I don’t like it in TV dramas and films when a scene’s presented as just, you know, a scene, and then something surreal or scary or silly happens and whoa! He’s awake! It was a just a dream…and then they do it again, because he wasn’t really awake, it was another dream! Whoa! “He” is probably Nate Fisher from Six Feet Under, which I think is the only series of which I’ve seen every episode. OK, Firefly, but there are only fourteen of those. I loved Six Feet Under but those dream bits really annoyed me. Actually, I’m keeping up with Dexter, which stars Michael C Hall, who was Nate’s brother David Fisher in Six Feet Under, and I thoroughly dig the show, apart from the not-quite-a-dream sequences where Dexter’s dead dad appears, and the colour becomes saturated and everything looks Vaseliney. Ugh. Stop it.

I’ll make an exception for the film of High Fidelity – you know, when Tim Robbins’ atrocious hippy Ian visits Champion Vinyl and Rob (John Cusack) fantasises about verbally, then physically, abusing him. I’m letting that one go because it’s in the Billy Liar tradition of machine gunning your antagonists – and because when the little Moby bloke grabs the old bakelite desk phone and belts Ian with it, I laugh so much I can’t breathe. Every time. I’m laughing now, just thinking about it. Well, earlier – I laughed, then typed.

For some reason, although the thump and the flying teeth are sublime, the thing that nails that sequence for me is the brief rattle as Moby grabs the phone. Why? I don’t know, but it reaches my Special Place, along with “Stop saying that Withnail, of course he’s the fucking farmer!”, “And I…am the Duke of Ted!” and “Hey! Where the white women at?”

Name those films (Difficulty level: Easy).

Just thought, the Moby character’s name is Dick.

Speaking of John Lithgow – what? He’s in season four of Dexter – when I read The Shipping News I always pictured the protagonist Quoyle as Lithgow. At the time I’d only seen him in 2010, but he made an impression. I liked him, and he lumbered amiably into my head as soon as I read Annie Proulx’s description of her leading man. It wasn’t even one of those “Who would you cast?” things, that’s how I saw him from the off. He’s a big, awkward, uncertain man. John Lithgow. Not Kevin Spacey.

I’m dropping names like some sort of dropping simile. Like Galileo dropped tha orange? Did he? That doesn’t sound right, I’ll have to look it up. I don’t know these people, I just know their names.

Speaking of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, I was going to tell you about this dream, wasn’t I? It was just a standard dream, not a dream within a dream, and as I said, I’m being upfront about its nature, and it’s only short.

It begins in Vauxhall. Actually it takes place entirely in Vauxhall, which is…I have to think…it’s in South London. I had to think because it’s very much not my part of town. It’s a place I’ve been through many times, on my way to Brixton or the South Coast, but I’ve only walked along the road there once that I can remember. I think this was probably the same night. Spring, warm, the remains of a rainstorm still puddled here and there. Evening, almost dark, orange sodium lights, reflections and that. It’s a wide, busy, tree-lined road, one of London’s green arteries; lots of tall terraced houses, possibly Georgian (I don’t know, I’m not very good at dating buildings. That doesn’t sound right – I’m not very good at determining the ages and corresponding architectural periods of buildings).

The Oval (which is a cricket ground) is in this area. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? It is, especially at that time of day. In case you’re wondering, Vauxhall is pronounced, simply, “Vox-haul”. Vauxhall is also the name used by General Motors in the UK. On the Continent it’s Opel.

So it’s a little odd that I was walking along this particular road (which, now I think about it, is called Kennington Park Road), at that particular time of day and year. Oddly specific. Were the events (the real events) of that night especially significant or traumatic? No. I was going to an art thing, a house where the ground floor was a gallery. The work was by a woman called Helen, who made clever landscapes by projecting light through layers of coloured glass. A bit like those piles of rubbish whose shadow has the form of somebody reading a newspaper, but more considered.

There was a piece in the back garden too, hanging from a tree: A red neon swing. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? It was. Like an album cover, maybe one of the Late Night Tales/Another Late Night compilations (on the Late Night Tales label, 2001-present).

Don’t worry about the swing (don’t get hung up on it, haha!), it’s just a thing that was there. I think I made it look more portentous than it was by introducing it with a colon, giving it a little sentence of its own. Although, is it a sentence? There’s no verb, unless you count swing. And it wasn’t portentous at all. Anyway, don’t worry about the swing.

I hope you appreciate the fact that I’m not misleading you, scattering red herrings all over the shop; rather, I’m telling you “This isn’t real” or “This isn’t important.” I totally respect you and I’m a big fan of honesty. I like to fact shit up.

The thing that’s rather more significant than the road I was walking along or the time or reason is the fact that I was walking, because, in reality, I can’t walk.

You might have read my author profile here at The Nervous Breakdown: “Formerly a professional modelmaker, STEVE SPARSHOTT turned to writing after brain damage sustained in a 2003 road accident removed much of his physical function.”

(“Turned to writing”, that’s a bit heavy. As though I turned to drink. Or stone.)

I was involved in a rather complicated situation which resulted in a Suzuki GSX-R600 (which is a motorbike) running over my head (which was in a helmet, otherwise I’d be much more dead than I am now). My cerebellum, the rear brain where the motor functions (both voluntary and involuntary) live, took a hit and I spent the next thirteen months in hospital. I didn’t make much of a recovery; overall, my body works at about one quarter normal capacity, head to toe, inside and out, with an imbalance between left and right. The left is better, or rather, less shit. In my hands, that one quarter capacity is all to the left, so that hand – the one I’m using to type these here words – has about 50% function, while the right has almost none.

In fact I can walk, a little bit, although I am to walking what Peter Dinklage is to the NBA. Do you know Dinklage? Actor. Small chap. He played the same role in both British and American versions of Death at a Funeral, he’s been in 30 Rock, and stars in a splendid little indie film called The Station Agent, in which he plays the station agent. He’s a good face actor; he has about twenty expressions just for various types of disdain, probably as a result of being a small chap, which undoubtedly brings out the dickhead in people.

Apparently I have just one particular expression that serves the same purpose. My friend Ali once told me about this time she came to see me in hospital, not long after the accident, when I was almost totally paralysed and couldn’t make any sound at all. “And I said something, I dunno, something a bit stupid, and you did That Face, and I thought Yep, that’s Steve all right.”

Almost all my walking is done indoors. Outside there are too many other people, walls, kerbs, cars, bikes, children, dogs, dogs’ eggs, pavement irregularities and sudden gusts of wind, so I buzz around in a powered wheelchair. Make up your own “That’s how I roll” gag.

In this instance, though, I was walking outdoors. The gallery house looked like all the others, but with more light and noise. In I went. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting. It was a bookshop; a long, narrow bookshop with a bar at the far end. Down I went.

Craig Ferguson was perched on a high stool at the bar, wearing a brown tweed jacket. Unless you’re British and over 35 you probably don’t know who Craig Ferguson is; he’s a stand-up comedian from Glasgow. He came out of the “alternative” comedy boom, at first assuming a dishevelled look and the name Bing Hitler, occasionally using what my mate Duncan calls (in a loud whisper) “THE FUCK WORD”. He wasn’t quite a household name, but he did well on the circuit in the late eighties, filling some big venues; I remember him on television talking about his dad, who had the same reaction to anything that appeared even slightly unfamiliar: “Looks like something off Doctor Who!”

He (Craig Ferguson) looked at his mic stand and quietly chuckled, almost to himself, “Looks like something off Doctor Who!” Then he rotated it, making it look around like a sentient being, and, in a loud wheezing, rasping voice, declared “DOC-TOR! We are from the planet of skinny bastards!”

That didn’t really touch my Special Place, but for some reason it stuck with me. That’s who Craig Ferguson is. The bloke whose dad said “Looks like something off Doctor Who!”

Or that’s who Craig Ferguson was, until some time in early 2009, when his name appeared in Twitter’s list of trending topics. In amongst that day’s hashtag games, rabid Bieber/Jonas fandom, college football and senators caught with their pants down was:

Craig Ferguson

Really? I thought. Craig Ferguson? He’s the bloke whose dad said “Looks like something off Doctor Who!”

I looked again. It still said:

Craig Ferguson

So, assuming it was probably a coincidence, and I’d find out that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had bought a nineteen-year-old linebacker called Craig Ferguson, I clicked it.

Well. It turned out – you know who Craig Ferguson is. He’s a big league chat show host; is he in the Letterman-Leno-Conan gang? I don’t know, but he’s got his own desk and skyline. He’s American on Purpose. I had no idea! It was quite a leap. It was a bit like finding out that Tiffany had just been voted in as Prime Minister of Australia.

And in fact that’s the Craig Ferguson who was sitting at the bar, with a tall glass of something clear and fizzy. As nobody seemed to be paying him any attention, I thought I’d go and say hello.

Again, odd.

First off, in the course of my disbelieving investigation into his new US sleb status, I discovered that Ferguson is an ex-drinker. He received (rightly so) plaudits for a monologue in which he addressed his boozy history; describing one of his last drinks, he said “He poured me the type of glass of sherry that only an alcoholic would pour you…a venti sherry, they’d call it in Starbucks.”

Now that touched my Special Place. Not just the words venti sherry, good though they are, and not just the way they sounded in Ferguson’s accent, with the neat spit of the -ti and the rolled Rs of “sherry”. Not just his gleeful mime of a huge cup, either; no, I think the clincher was the idea of a hardened Glaswegian drinker supping sherry like Miss Marple.

Perhaps that accounts for the brown tweed jacket.

Rather odd, then, that he’d be sitting at the bar. The tall, clear drink in front of him, was it a G and T without the G? No. I’ll tell you exactly what it was, it was the glass of lemonade I had at my local Turkish restaurant earlier that night. This was a dream, remember? That sort of thing happens. So not particularly odd, then; the peculiar thing is that I thought I’d go and say hello when, in reality, I can’t speak.

Yes I can. A little bit, although again the Peter Dinklage/NBA comparison applies. Actually I can (and do) talk a lot, just not very well. Very slowly and quietly, slurring, and pausing every few words to take a shallow breath. What people don’t necessarily realise is that I’m SHOUTING as LOUDLY and e-nun-ci-a-ting as clearly as possible at all times. I think it’s pretty impressive that I can hold a conversation for two or three hours.

Nevertheless, I went up to Craig Ferguson and, in a normal, clearly audible voice, said “Hello, how’s it going?”

This is a constant in my dreams: I’m not disabled. At the time of writing it’s seven years, six months and four days since “my” accident, yet I’ve never had a dream in which I don’t have normal physical ability. Occasionally the subject comes up; I’ve said to a few people “In reality I can’t do this” as we clatter down some stairs or pedal bicycles along muddy lanes. Very occasionally – I can only think of three instances – I have a lucid dream, and I make the most of the opportunity to run around and climb things. A while ago I found myself on my 1993 Funk Pro-Comp mountain bike, with its wide Flite Controls Longhorn bars, ODI mushroom grips and RockShox RS-1 fork – I was even wearing my leather-palmed stringback mitts. All details were period correct, except that gravity and geology had conspired to make a landscape that was downhill in every direction.

Not bad.

Ferguson was effusive. It turned out that yes, it was his bar (and shop), but it was also the hospitality bar of the studio where his programme was recorded. Although that made no sense whatsoever, it explained the line of people shuffling through a door into the back of the shop. Also making no sense: Ferguson was in charge of his own audience list. “D’you want to go in?” he asked.

I did, yes.

“Of course,” he continued, waving a finger up and down the audience list, “this is just a simigary-”

And now, for the first time since I was, what, fourteen? I shall write the sentence:


Just a what? What’s a simigary? It sounded like “filigree” but simigary seemed like the right spelling. I really, really wanted to know. I had to get the word written down before I fell asleep again. I pulled my phone out from under my pillow and typed “simigary” into a memo. Actually, because it’s a few years old, it’s not a smartphone, so I actually typed

77774446444 (pause) 4277799.

By then, what with all the wriggling and squirming required to get to my phone and my eagerness to find out what the arse a simigary was, I was properly awake. So I fired up the phone’s rotten little web browser and typed

77774446444 (pause) 42777999

into Google.

Other than the name of an eBay user, simigary turned up nothing. Simigre took me to Indian actress Simi Garewal. And so on; the nearest I got was a cracknel seller, a cracknel being a pork scratching or rind. Something you might find in an old man pub or redneck bar, or maybe being peddled “ironically” in a hipster joint.

Damn it. I’d hoped to find that a simigary was a list of names, or a representation of a group of people, or something, but it isn’t.

So that’s a good story.

Let me explain what I’ve done here. I’ve typed 2,714 words, of which approximately 2,040 were waffle. In the remaining 674, however, I addressed my disability, which is something I haven’t really done before. Even though I “turned to writing” (I must change that) years ago, I’ve never really tackled the subject, not for public consumption. I’ve been writing a book about the thirteen months I spent in hospital – 65,261 words of zany hilarity so far – and I’ve released a few bits here and there, but nothing dealing with the effects of losing my dignity, independence, job, social life and the ability to enjoy anything at all.

And in fact I haven’t really touched on any of that here. Those 674 words were, you might have noticed, rather more flippant than the surrounding flannel. “I’d be much more dead than I am now”, for instance. One part cautious revelation to three parts emotional insulation. Small steps.

My first lucid dream was a surprise; it took place in a landscape that was an amalgam of childhood locations: School, and the south coast of Cornwall, where my parents and I spent a week or two every Summer. That explains why the school was empty and there was building work in progress.

(I recently visited the school for the first time in over twenty years, and only a few slivers of the original buildings were visible through gaps in the new growth. Coincidence? Yes.)

I walked along the main corridor and out into the front yard, vaguely registering that I was strolling casually, not even using a stick. Through the building site and on to a hard-packed dirt path leading up a hill between tall gorse hedges; at first I continued to stroll, then began to run towards the top, where a drystone wall crossed the path, interrupted by a wooden stile.

I stepped up, put one leg over the stile, and paused on the platform. Straightened up and looked at what was ahead of me: The path curved through a clean green field, parallel with the edge of a cliff, beyond which was, of course, the sea. Doing all the usual sea things; stretching to the horizon, glittering, and being about as beautiful and (in both current and old-fashioned senses) awesome as possible.


And this is where it gets tricky. I intended to describe the sudden hollow despair of returning to a dark, permanent reality, sunk in the middle of the mattress, fixed in a lead suit. A lead suit? Really? Yes. (Well no. It’s a metaphor.) You see, that slow, slow, awkward, aching movement I described earlier, the stumbling, mumbling, fumbling business? Well that’s me at the top of my game. That’s me a few hours into the day, fully awake, fed and watered, perhaps lightly caffeinated. Warmed up and ticking over smoothly.

This is me, suddenly awake at night. You know how stiff and creaky you are just after you wake up? Imagine what I’m like. The slightest movement produces spasms and seizures; I have to get those out of the way, trigger them deliberately then wait for them to subside, before I can even consider, say, rolling over. It was somewhere in the wee small hours, so at least I didn’t have to contemplate getting out of the bed.

The thing is, though, I can’t describe it. OK, I can describe it, but I can’t convey it, the sudden appalling horror of being snatched from sunny freedom into pinioned immobility, the immediate, overwhelming knowledge that This is your reality son. For the rest of your life. Better get used to it. It’s been more than seven years now and I haven’t got used to it and I probably never will. Even at my best, I’m trying to pilot an adult body through an adult life with the strength and co-ordination of an infant.

But yeah, as I said, I can describe it but I can’t convey it without coming across as a total hyperbolist (or, if you prefer, bullshitter). I’d probably start using words that have become trivialised by overuse, words that, when you try to use them sincerely, become impossible to swallow.

So when I realised I could never get the feeling across, only relate the events, I thought I’d go straight from AND THEN I WOKE UP to the last line. But then I thought about you – you’ve come this far and I appreciate that a great deal. You’ve weathered my bluster and flannel and borne with me as I wandered along the scenic route, so it seemed inappropriate to sell you short, just ‘cause I couldn’t quite make the words work for me. So I thought I could at least tell you what was going on, and show you that I at least tried.

Hello. My name’s Steve, and I’m disabled.

TAGS: , , , , , , , , , ,

Formerly a professional modelmaker, STEVE SPARSHOTT turned to writing after brain damage sustained in a 2003 road accident removed much of his physical function. Typing with the three middle fingers of his left hand at a blistering fifteen words per minute, he has had work printed in London literary magazine Smoke, and various academic publications have featured his design-related social criticism. He has reviewed films for Screenjabber.com and Nude Magazine, and because his life just isn't difficult enough, he's writing a memoir called Get Well Soon. He is well chuffed to have an essay called Fin in the Nervous Breakdown compilation The Beautiful Anthology.

83 responses to “Just a Simigary”

  1. Ah, Steve, I am devastated for you, reading your description of waking from a dream to a reality in which you have to struggle with and endure so much. That accident sounds horrific. It’s funny you mention how you have to provide that emotional distance for yourself as you slowly reveal some of this because it all seems so completely bold and soul baring in ways I don’t think I could manage. I’ve commented before on others’ works that I regret that I’m not a gutsy writer, because those of you who do it and do it right create something more meaningful and profound than maybe you even realize. Like this. Amazing work, here, Steve. Truly.

    And of course you couch all of this in your trademark humor and meandering narrative. What’s even harder than writing about tragedy? Writing it in juxtaposition with comedy and having it all gel the way it does in this essay.

    Oh, oh, and: Withnail and I, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and Blazing Saddles! You’re right. Easy. But let me enjoy my victory nonetheless, damn it!

    • It’s odd that you say you’re “not a gutsy writer”, because this comment right here is more direct and sincere than anything I could manage. I think Americans are better at sincerity than Brits (or maybe it’s just me); we (I) tend to skirt around the subject and cover it in protective layers of sarcasm and/or humour, something I’ve just done on a monumental scale.

      Is meandering narrative a trademark of mine? I certainly used it recently, talking about drunken wandering, but I was playing with matching style and content there. Generally I like to keep things a bit tighter…having said that, the looser stuff has been received more favourably. Maybe I should relax and freestyle more…

      Films, full marks of course. I love the Bill and Ted line because it encapsulates their characters so well. Bill may not be a genius but he has his moments (“How’s it goin’ royal ugly dudes? I am the Earl of Preston!”), while Ted’s just a muppet.

      Stop saying that!

      • You know, “meandering” might not be the right word. What I was thinking of was how your works seem to effortlessly, or organically, unfold, if that makes sense. I wouldn’t quite call it stream of consciousness because that’s not exactly right either. Maybe I’d call it simigary. Whatever it is, man, I like being swept along for the ride. The drinking/getting-lost story did come to mind as I commented.

        I once met the cousin of Bill S. Preston, Esq. Or the actor who plays him, rather. He was in a band called … wait for it … The Lost Boys.

  2. Greg Olear says:

    As a piece of writing, this is excellent…funny, sad, and impeccably constructed…you use what I call the “Sophie’s Choice” technique…keep ’em laughing until they’re in too far to stop, then break the news. Very sophisticated. And it gave me chills at the end.

    On a personal note, of course, it’s heartbreaking. I’m really glad you decided to share your story…I’ve been curious about it, and I’m sure I’m not alone…and if there can be a silver lining from such a dark cloud, it’s that the accident (and the thirteen months in hospital! Good Lord!) “turned” you to writing, where you very clearly belong, and from which we, your readers, selfishly benefit.

    “‘scuse me, while I whip this out…”

    • I wouldn’t call it “technique” – I was really working my way up to dropping the heavier stuff, via the kind of material I’m more comfortable with (flannel, bluster, waffle etc.). And too many not-very-obscure film references.

      I get the impression that a few people have been wondering about my condition; I think the reason I’ve been unwilling to address it is a fear that I’d descend into an endless moanfest (“…and I can’t do THIS and THAT and it takes SO LONG just to…” etc) and, well, the world doesn’t need another Prozac Nation.

      I will, at some point, have to list everything that’s wrong with me, “head to toe, inside and out”. That’s for The Book, although it could also be a rather strange TNB piece. I’ve got more than a mere 99 problems…

  3. This was a tremendous piece, Steve.
    Writing can save one’s life.
    It feels trite and ridiculous to say how sorry I am for what you’ve endured
    and what you continue to endure, like you had said: it describes but can’t convey.
    But, I am sorry just the same.

    You’re such a brilliant writer. Echo-ing above here, so glad you wrote this
    and I look forward to more.

    • Thank you, and thank you. “Writing can save one’s life.” – indeed yes, it can. And so can talking – communicating, basically. When I’m down (I mean, really down) I tend to forget the value and effectiveness of phoning a friend, although thankfully I’ve become quite good at forcing myself to go out – which always results in, yes, talking to someone.

      I’m a bit embarrassed that it’s taken this long to write about my situation; it’s a longer term, bigger picture version of forgetting to phone a friend. I really should have done it sooner, and now that I have, guess what? I feel pretty good.

  4. Matt says:

    This is great. And by “great” I mean, heartbreaking, hilarious, engaging, and tragic all at once. And compelling; deeply, deeply compelling. I’m glad you took the time to lasso this beast.

    Since you first appeared here on the scene, I’ve had a thousand questions about your disability, but I’ve refrained from asking, because, well…all things in their time. But I can’t resist this one: is there no hope of further recovery, of you regaining any more mobility?

    Re: Ferguson. He pretty much came on the American scene with his long-running roll as Mr Wick on The Drew Carey Show in the 90’s, if I remember correctly. Which he parlayed into a successful career as a late-night talk-show host. He’s not quite Leno/Letterman, more in that middle ground that Conan O’Brien used to occupy once upon a time.

    • (Several days late) Thanks Matt! The bugger just grew and grew.

      “As I always say” is usually the precursor to some irritatingly smug little statement, and I’m not about to buck the trend. As I always say, I’d rather people asked questions than made assumptions. Actually, I really do say that, usually to curious cab drivers who say “If you don’t mind my asking, what happened?”, and then we have a good chat.

      To actually answer your question: The usual model for brain injury (whether it’s due to a stroke, aneurysm, something mechanical like mine, or whatever) is that most recovery happens in the first six months. It then slows for the next six months or so, and then any automatic recovery stops. However, yes, there is potential for more, but it requires constant, repeated effort, and even then there’s no guarantee. For instance my voice, which I use a lot, every day, hasn’t improved at all.

      In late 2005 I went to Cuba for a month of extremely intensive physio. It had short-term results – increased flexibility and strength and better balance. The hot weather helped too, although the food didn’t; you can read about it here.

      For a permanent result (they reckoned) I’d have to keep it up for a year, something I couldn’t manage physically, financially or emotionally But I came back convinced that regular steady exercise could make a difference. Unfortunately I then broke my femur (sneezed, fell against a doorframe, ow), which scuppered my plans for the next year.

      Eventually I tracked down a mythical thing called the Ability Gym which, according to rumour, was constantly running out of money, closing, or moving, or never existed in the first place. But it fetched up under the roof of a church, so I joined.

      I went twice a week for a year, and hated every minute. It took a long time to climb onto each machine and persuade my right hand to grip the handle – then I’d do a few weedy reps and my muscles would seize up. My strength and range improved for the first couple of months, then – no change. I only realised much later that I’d been working all my muscles but should have concentrated on the extensors, as the flexors are in constant tension and much stronger. A positive result, though, is that my cardio-vascular fitness improved noticeably, just from using the stationary bike and treadmill to warm up. So now I have a big girl’s bike (that’s a girl’s bike that’s big, not a…no, it is a bike for big girls!) on a trainer at home – let’s see if I can reduce my pod enough to wear my too-tight Rush t-shirt for Canada Day – and I’m toying with the idea of going back to the gym and tailoring my own programme. Small steps.

      OK, it’s sunny outside. I’m off.

  5. Quenby Moone says:

    My god, I want to share this with the universe. This is perfection, and it had me absolutely gobsmacked up until the bitter last. (Look! You brought out British colloquialisms in me, just like that!) I found this piece funny and mesmerizing and beautiful and raw. I wish I had something other than just gushing praise for it, because that seems all sing-songy and sycophantic and lame.

    But really, I am in awe of this piece. This might be in the top tier of anything I’ve read…well. I can’t remember when.

    A very, very long time. Thank you so, so much.

    • OK, that’s just crazily complimentary. Thank you very much indeed! As I’ve said, I really had no idea how this would be received. It’s so long…I wasn’t sure anyone would stick with it.

      I don’t know what else to say – just thank you again!

  6. Gloria says:

    Steve – thank you so much for facting this shit up so beautifully. I’ve been reading your stuff for a few months and I’m sorry. I’m ashamed to admit – I’ve never read your biography. (But, hey! Have you ever read mine? See?) I usually read TNB pieces in between other tasks, so I’m speedy about it. The bios are hit or miss. So, anyway, I’m super familiar with you and your (hilarious) writing (which I look forward to.) But I never knew you were disabled. This piece presents this information in such a peculiarly good humored way. My heart broke, but I laughed, too. That’s skill, man. You have amazing skill with the written word.

    Thank you so much for writing this, Steve. I love it and am sharing it with friends.

    For the record, I’ve finally read your bio. “…a blistering fifteen words per minute…” Hilarious.

    On a side note, I frickin’ love Craig Ferguson. I have a mad crush on him. Which isn’t too surprising, as I have a mad crush on many people. But he’s special, that guy…


    • Ha! I’m not sure I’ve read anyone’s Nervous Breakdown biography. No, actually I’m sure I have, just haven’t remembered much.

      I haven’t really written much about my disability, although one of my early TNB posts, Access Small Areas, was about the difficulty of getting around in my powered wheelchair. It could just as well have been about riding a bike or pushing a pram, though.

      That fifteen WPM is my flat-out “quick brown fox” typing speed, so the reality’s even slower.

      Craig Ferguson has aged very well, in fact he looks better now than he did back in the day. He was a bit jowly – I think being off the pop and on the wagon agrees with him.

      Cheers yourself!

  7. Becky Palapala says:


    I’m not sure how I feel like I already knew much of this. If we’ve talked about it or I just gathered it or what. Did we talk about it?

    It is a brand of despair that is familiar to people, I think. I mean, be careful not to feel too alone in it, but at the same time, don’t let me be too presumptuous, since it’s a feeling most of us only experience in snippets and glimpses, a flash of struggle from behind the veil of our subconscious when waking from a particularly pleasant dream to the reality that THIS is what really awaits us, having no real physical or actual manifestation. We’re not forced to contend with it nightly or as a matter of memory–that is, the feeling fades quickly, not accompanied by any knowledge of actual loss.

    You’ve succeeded in giving me that reference point from which to extrapolate or to amplify in order to try to understand, so I think you should give yourself more credit for your ability to convey something that’s really elusive.

    James Wright is one of my favorite poets. And one of my favorite things about him is this sort of thematic tic he has about escaping his body. It crops up everywhere. I think he may have been blind in one eye, but I’m not sure.

    At any rate, it’s a beautiful, transcendent kind of imagery, and really soaring and liberating, but always, also, bittersweet. Because of course, we’re all bound to, as he called it, the “body’s work of twisted iron.”

    You’ve managed to create a really similar tone and mood here. Sad and lovely and true.

    • I think you’ve probably gathered bits here and there. I always take a looong time to reply to comments, and occasionally I’ll explain why. Come to think of it, the reason I got a bee in my bonnet about hipsters last year was that they were getting in my way as I wheeled along the street.

      It’s true, everybody knows that “instant comedown” feeling, being rudely awoken from Sunday night’s Technicolor flying dream by Monday morning’s alarm clock. That sudden transition from a very good place to The Bad Place. But…no, I was going to say “It’s always Monday morning in my life”, but that would be, frankly, emo. However, if, as you say, I’ve at least provided a reference point, that’s a good thing. I mean, I didn’t want to hector everyone, yelling LOOK AT MY LIFE IT’S TERRIBLE YOU HAVE NO IDEA and so on.

      (Maybe later)

      Argh. I just found a link to a recording of James Wright reading some of his work, and clicked it, but my internet provider’s doing a bit of maintenance and it won’t connect. Later. I’m actually writing this reply in TextEdit in case I lose my Nervous Breakdown connection.

      We are indeed all bound to the “body’s work of twisted iron”. I like that expression, it suits me well.

      Thank you for this very thoughtful comment. I’ll ask you about Calvino later…

      • Becky Palapala says:

        I most certainly meant it as a compliment, not a presumption. Admittedly, it has more to do with my ideas about writing than your specific circumstances.

        The ability to take something personal (especially when it is genuinely unique and/or uniquely emotional) and make it relevant to something universal is, in my opinion, a large part of the difference between an unimpressive writer and a good one.

        The poem “body’s work of twisted iron” comes from is about…I think…an extramarital affair. Not at all related, even, to his blindness and certainly not your accident.

        But less literally, in the greater scheme, it comes back to the notion that the disagreement between what the soul/mind/heart knows or wants and what the physical, practical circumstances of existence (individually or in general) will allow can frequently be deeply painful and defiant of consolation, resistant to any comfort reality has to offer.

        You have unique perspective on it, and–intentionally or not–you’ve made the connection beautifully.

        From another James Wright poem with a somewhat more positive spin that I also like to trot out: “Suddenly I realize/ That if I stepped out of my body I would break/ Into blossom.”

        The poems are called “Sappho” and “A Blessing,” in order of mention. I suppose that would help you find them.

  8. Joe Daly says:


    I read this on my phone before I even got out of bed this morning. While one of my dogs snored next to me, I pulled out my phone to see what was new on TNB and there was your piece. While I originally planned to add it so my “Read After the Morning Coffee” list, I found myself unable to stop reading. Engaging style and liberal doses of self-awareness and sincerity make this one of those pieces that stick with me.

    I joined TNB about 13 months ago, and had seen your name here and there, including one of the earlier videos where a spectrum of authors give their name and say “this is TNB” or something. It seemed as if you had carved out a place on here, yet I only saw your writing sporadically, enjoying it when I did. This fills a whole shitload of context into the background.

    Thanks for writing this from the heart. The last sentence is harsh and beautiful. But while your body is dealing with some unimaginable challenges, this piece makes it clear that your heart and your mind are anything but disabled. Rock on, Steve.

    • Hey Joe – sorry if I caused a bit of a late start, but I’m glad you liked the story. As I’ve probably said elsewhere, I really wasn’t sure how it would be received. People’s reactions are actually making me re-assess how I write – I might be loosening up a little from here on.

      Ah yes, the “This is The Nervous Breakdown” video. So you see why I didn’t speak – here’s my original contribution.


  9. angela says:

    steve, to echo everyone, this is all those good things – moving, hilarious, devastating. i would totally read your memoir.

  10. Well, gosh. This is just a placeholder to say thank you to you all; I’ll do proper individual replies eventually – as you understand, it takes a while.

    I wasn’t nervous or apprehensive about writing or posting this, more intrigued, both by how it would turn out and how people would respond to it. I really had no expectations, although if pushed for a prediction I’d have guessed at either blank faces or tentative “Interesting…”-style neutral comments.

    But no! I realise we’re a friendly bunch here at TNB, with a bit of an “If you can’t think of anything nice to say, STFU” approach, but I’m startled and delighted by the positive reactions to this (by my standards) experimental and self-indulgent exercise. Also getting plenty of promotion on Twitter and, according to Cynthia, Facebook.

    As I say, it was an experiment; I just started with the dream and the word “simigary” as a jumping-off point and then deliberately let myself wander.

    I recently tackled Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller, and although I didn’t get on with it* I think it was an influence here – indulge yourself, write what you want, go where you want. But that’s not really my style (obviously, it’s not my style), and as usual I enjoyed talking to the reader (“You”)…it never felt like a balancing act. It was fun!

    I’m rambling again, which I can’t afford to do because my battery’s running out. So I’ll just say thanks again, and sort out some proper responses later.

    *hated it. Really, I-Cal? “Perhaps it is this story that is a bridge over the void, and as it
    advances it flings forward news and sensations and emotions to create a
    ground of upsets both collective and individual in the midst of which a
    path can be opened while we remain in the dark about many circumstances
    both historical and geographical.”


    • Becky Palapala says:

      I recently tackled Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller, and although I didn’t get on with it*

      That’s my favorite book ever.

      Of all time.

      I retract my earlier comment with all that nice stuff in it.

      • Haha! Well, you probably don’t like 2001. OK, then, I’m genuinely interested: What is it about Travel(l)er that you love? I liked its playfulness, but ultimately I found it too self-indulgent, and when I ran into the ghastly sentence I quoted earlier I filed the whole book under “Life’s Too Short”.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Its playfulness, yes. That’s part of it. And the handiwork necessary to pull off 2nd person in a way that doesn’t come off as presumptuous or just plain untrue.

          But the playfulness masks some really complex/serious literary/perceptual theoretical exploration. It’s challenging and super-complex and good mental exercise to try to peel back all the layers of identity/persona/audience at work there.

          I can see how some people wouldn’t have the patience for it. I think it depends on what you go in looking for. I’m not a big fan of standard narrative at all. I can’t finish most regular works of fiction. I lose interest and make it maybe halfway through IF the story’s gripping.

          Calvino’s work tends toward the nakedly allegorical, in the sense that in most cases, the story is not the ACTUAL story. Traveler is about ideas, as most of his books tend to be.

          I can see how people would find that intellectually masturbatory, but I have no problem whatsoever with intellectual masturbation. I’m very much a fan.

        • I also liked the 1st/2nd/3rd person perspective changes. It was just that after the fourth introduction of a new set of circumstances (around page 65) I didn’t really feel like sticking around for the next.

          (i meant the film 2001, not the book.)

  11. Then I get to a piece like this that’s humming with so much vitality, I don’t know where to begin, or if I even should try.

    “One part cautious revelation to three parts emotional insulation.” If you say so, but you make the revelation that much more astounding when it’s surrounded by writing that swerves and switches back over a storyline so expertly.

    Thank you, Steve, for this.

    • Thanks, Nathaniel! I like “…swerves and switches back over a storyline so expertly.” but I can’t really take credit for any structure the piece might have. The writing process was almost entirely linear, occasionally jumping ahead to leave a note about Craig Ferguson or Peter Dinklage or my lack of a smartphone; it just sort of rolled out steadily. I got stuck right at the end, and eventually found a way out – by saying “Er…I’m stuck!”

      A few folks who’ve known me for a long time have said that this is very close to the way I think and talk – wandering hither and yon, getting sidetracked, occasionally going “Where was I?”, and eventually getting to the point. I’m honestly surprised it hasn’t put people off!

  12. Reno Romero says:


    nice. well-balanced, funny, a bit sad, great details. i’ll be keeping an eye for you, sir. thanks for making my thursday night. i’ll be emailing this link to some of my peeps so they can giver her a read. thanks for the solid write.

  13. […] This frankly awesome piece on disability by Steve Sparshott. Make a cup of coffee and sit and read it properly, it is that good [The Nervous Breakdown]. […]

  14. Don Mitchell says:

    I’m late to this, Steve, but I’ll add my voice to the chorus of pleasure and approval.

    There’s a great deal to admire, much of it witty, sophisticated, elegant.

    But for me, “as I wandered along the scenic route” was a great find. I hope doesn’t seem a find only because I’m so out of it I never heard it used that way. I thought it was fucking perfect.

    • Thanks Don!

      “The Scenic Route” was the title of my last TNB piece which was about (literally, physically) taking the long way round. In this instance I was doing the same thing but with storytelling rather than walking, so the same expression seemed to fit.

  15. Brad Listi says:

    Holy mercy. This is some kind of post, Steve.

    A salute.

    Send me that memoir when you’re done. TNB Books wants to look at it! 😉

    • Hey Brad – well, in light of the reception this piece has had, the memoir might be in line for a bit of a rewrite; just a little loosening up.

      I’ve been (sort of) blogging its progress, and putting out some first draft samples. Here you go.

  16. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    This is awesome. And if there weren’t a million reasons to adore the narrator already, this would’ve sealed the deal regardless: I totally respect you and I’m a big fan of honesty. I like to fact shit up.

    Six Feet Under is, was and might ever be the best thing that happens on television.

    I would read your story, at length, probably without the ability to stop myself. If your story ends and you choose to carry on about pop culture and people-watching and what goes on in your head as you take yourself from point A to point B in the most banal moment you could possibly cultivate, I’d stick around for that too. Killer voice here, Steve. I love it.

    • Hello, Lisa, and thank you! The respect bit was one of the few times I restrained myself – I was going to go off on one about still respecting you in the morning and making you breakfast and so on. But I decided that I’d be asking a bit much of the reader, and…well, it was knackering, physically and mentally, to type all this out. So I probably thought Please, not another several-hundred word deviation…

      Six Feet Under was rather special, wasn’t it? Probably my favourite drama, although I’ve yet to check out a few other acclaimed series like Deadwood and, would you believe it, The Wire.

      Here are some bits and bobs you might like.

  17. D.R. Haney says:

    You write: “I’d probably start using words that have become trivialised by overuse, words that, when you try to use them sincerely, become impossible to swallow.” That’s my struggle at the moment: how to praise this piece (which, alongside everyone else, I admire) without resorting to trite phrases and glib encouragement.

    I remember when you arrived at TNB, with your inaugural post about a thwarted suicide, and afterward I read your bio, in which mention was made of the accident and its consequences. I think I expected to learn more in the weeks ahead, but I recall very few allusions or references, so that it became, for me at least, the elephant in the room.

    But by writing what I just did — “the elephant in the room” — I’ve already resorted to a trite phrase, and before I do so again, I’ll sign off, though I want to add that singular pieces like this one are, for me, the raison d’etre of TNB. Oh, and a question: How far along are you with the MS?

    • Thanks Duke! You know what I mean, the way words that should carry a lot of weight have been trivialised by casual use. Depressed meaning a bit sad, that sort of thing. I nearly ended that passage with “George Lucas did not rape your childhood, or anything, or anyone.” – but while I like talking to the reader, I don’t want to hector s/him.

      Trotting out another cliché, I don’t want to let my disability define who I am. Unfortunately it does influence what I do, and I have to give every action 100% attention and effort – I am literally unable to walk and chew gum. So that’s one reason for not writing about it; it controls my typing, but not my writing.

      Still, as I said to Matt earlier, I’d rather people asked questions than made assumptions. So, if you ever want to know anything, just ask.

      Now then, the manuscript. Well, I’m somewhere around 65,000 words, of which about 60% is compiled. I think the eventual total will be around 80,000, and then it’ll be edited back from there. In terms of time, I really can’t say, but I’d like to have a (probably very) rough first draft by the end of July. It’s about time I wrote a progress report and tidied my blog.

  18. Judy Prince says:

    “One part cautious revelation to three parts emotional insulation.”

    Love the conciseness, the poetry of that, Steve.

    Also, this really clicked—-all of it:

    “And this is where it gets tricky. I intended to describe the sudden hollow despair of returning to a dark, permanent reality, sunk in the middle of the mattress, fixed in a lead suit. A lead suit? Really? Yes. (Well no. It’s a metaphor.) You see, that slow, slow, awkward, aching movement I described earlier, the stumbling, mumbling, fumbling business? Well that’s me at the top of my game. That’s me a few hours into the day, fully awake, fed and watered, perhaps lightly caffeinated. Warmed up and ticking over smoothly.”

    You seem to be describing your physical self as a separate person from yourself, an objectivity that comes from having to attend so carefully and constantly to your body, yet that struggles to figure out what it all means, how to react to it, what to think about it, how you feel about it.

    The compelling centre of your post is the recurring non-disabled Steven in your dreams, and the word that Craig Ferguson left you with: simigary.

    I’ve always felt that “wish fulfillment” is too facile an interpretation of dreams’ purposes. Rather, I think dreams are speaking to us in symbols which only we will understand, in order to explain to us what we may have missed consciously. In short, a dream’s symbols and story, decoded, aim to help us understand ourselves. Like symbols in literature, each thing in a dream stands for something else in order to convey a truth or a feeling. Edgar Cayce, a USAmerican psychic who died at the end of WWII, often said (in his unconscious state) that it helps to take note of one’s feelings, one’s emotional reaction, to a dream, and then proceed to translate each person and object and knit them into a unified narrative.

    Might at least part of the word “simigary”—–the “simi” part—–mean “the same” as in “similar”?

    • I nearly called it “emotional fibreglass insulation” but that stuff’s nasty. Hm…I think that’s the third time I’ve mentioned something I nearly wrote; looks like I exercised a bit more control over this than I realised.

      “You seem to be describing your physical self as a separate person from yourself, an objectivity that comes from having to attend so carefully and constantly to your body, yet that struggles to figure out what it all means, how to react to it, what to think about it, how you feel about it.” – yes, that’s how it often seems, when I’m waiting for my hand, arm, legs or whatever to perform what should be a simple task. I realise you’re talking more about a psychological scenario than a physical one, but the two are quite similar.

      I’d really hoped “simigary” would turn out to be a real word that was squirrelled away somewhere in the back of my brain, although I don’t think the story would have been fundamentally different.

      (I also wish I’d called it something other than Just a Simigary, because it’s been difficult trying to tell people what to look for. Maybe Looks Like Something off Doctor Who! would have been easier.)

      I’ve never looked into interpretation/analysis of dreams (Sigmund Frood etc) but I’m always intrigued when very specific things (like the glass of lemonade from the Turkish restaurant) and people (old classmates who weren’t in my social circle, for instance) put in an appearance.

      Anyway. Wahey! Thanks for reading and commenting!

      • Judy Prince says:

        “Apparently I have just one particular expression that serves the same purpose.” HAHAHAHA!

        You know, Steve, I actually forgot to say I LOVE THIS POST!! Hence, I must disagree with all of your responses that some such thing here and there should be changed because because because—–well, phooey with all that! As it stands, this post is LITERATURE, yes.

        Let me mention that which makes this LITERATURE: 1) YOU are the key—-your personality, brilliance, WIT, self-deprecation, and even though I am deliriously happily married to dear Rodent I can say that you are SEXY (this is always overlooked in discussions of the qualities of authors of LITERATURE). To summarise number one, then, it’s YOUR “voice,” as Proper Literature Critics would have it, that makes this a great post. 2) You’ve accurately ridden the jokes, the blokes, the hoots and the contemporary references, whilst dancing toward The Issue of your disability; any other way would’ve been trite, maudlin, boring and dip-shit. 3) You’ve let us in on your perplexities, galloping us through the dream and Craig Ferguson and his bookshop-studio, his looking at his audience list and saying, “ . . .this is just a simigary-”—–all which apparently makes little if any sense to you but which intrigues *us* (after all, who doesn’t want to dabble a bit in dream interpretation, oh the power it confers). 4) It is endearing (one of the most beautiful words in our lexicon) that you have found it difficult to tell us about your disability, not to mention how to navigate around the pitfalls of the ways to tell it.

        A quick thought: A few years ago, I went to a several-weeks small group series of dream-interpretations in which one of us told a dream and the others interpreted it. I eventually realised, contrary to what I’d expected, that ALL of the interpretations were true!

        A last thought: You nailed the feelings I get when arising from bed or a chair or walking. Yours are light years more difficult, and doubtless more painful, than my feelings, but you accurately convey the frustration of yet once more facing the inevitable, which after sleeping or sitting for awhile I’d forgotten….and then have to face again. Things that help me are things that help anybody deal with “the human condition”: feeling worthwhile, having laughs, talking to folks, getting out and about, creating things, being open to different ways of getting on, and ironically, feeling that bits of the situation are not inevitable.

        • Judy, you rule at comments. I’m sorry I don’t have the energy for a full and considered response; the essay’s 3,500 words but I’ve written about 7,000 words of commentary! And I’m knackered. But a super special thank you to you for being a mega commenter.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Steve, you’re a dear. I tend to leave loooong comments, but don’t tend to expect any replies to them. It’s like I need to clear my writing “throat,” no matter the needs of the reader. 😉

          You wrote “knackered” and I had to ask dear Rodent its meaning. He said it means exhausted, totally tired out, and it comes from (he said this, self-admittedly without checking any sources) “knackers” who are/were people that took old horses and slaughtered them for dog meat. Yuk. Now, at least, I won’t get the word confused with “chuffed”—-another word that has no close-sounding synonym in USAmerican English.

        • “Knackered”, in slang form, originally meant tired – specifically tired due to sexual activity. These days it’s just generally used to mean exhausted or, for an inanimate object, broken. I like Alexei Sayle’s version of Monty Python’s cheese shop sketch:

          Sayle: ‘Scuse me, is this a cheese shop?

          Proprietor: No, sir.

          Sayle: Well that’s that sketch knackered then innit?

          One of the best taglines I’ve seen on a dating site was “It’s this or the knacker’s yard.”

        • Sorry, yes, originally originally it was the horse slaughtering thing.

        • Judy Prince says:

          ‘Sayle: Well that’s that sketch knackered then innit?’

          ‘One of the best taglines I’ve seen on a dating site was “It’s this or the knacker’s yard.” ‘


  19. Judy Prince says:

    “(‘Turned to writing’, that’s a bit heavy. As though I turned to drink. Or stone.)”

    And: “I’m not very good at dating buildings.”

    Just wanted to say I did a Cheshire cat grin at those, Steve. (Did the cat really live in Cheshire?)

    I’ve dated lotsa buildings, even married a couple—-and the last one I married is a keeper.

    • I’ve no idea why it was a Cheshire cat. I’m from Cheshire and I’m pretty sure we don’t grin any more than anyone else.

      • Judy Prince says:

        I’ll ask Rodent to research the Cheshire cat bit; he never fails.

        You could take a survey of other Cheshire-ites, just to find out their take on the Cheshire cat—–while recording their grins in videos. I see a TNB post!!!

        • Judy Prince says:

          Rodent comes through, as always, Steve! He asked me to pass this along to you:

          “Steve, oddly enough I’d just been thinking about the Cheshire Cat in connection with cheeses, Cheshire and Cheddar, and Sage Derby (which is closer to Cheddar in taste and composition than to Cheshire) which might be the cheese the moon is made from.

          Where you could almost certainly get the skinny on the Cheshire Cat is in Martin Gardner’s The Annotated Alice. I’d look it up for you, but the book hasn’t surfaced yet in The Mammoth Unpacking currently taking place in The Manse (and that’s before a large container pod with all Judy’s American furniture, and my complete collection of Pogo books, 14 volumes of the Complete Melville, and more editions of Noctes Ambrosianae than you could shake a Cheshire Cat at, arrives). Best, Robin.”

  20. Dana says:

    Simigary: Brilliant, jarring, superhuman imagery Steve Sparshott introduced to the world via his memoir.

    I was aware that you were disabled, but it hadn’t occurred to me that your speech was affected too. This really is an amazing piece. So honest, funny, heartbreaking, vivid and ultimately enlightening.

    I’ve enjoyed every thing of yours I’ve read Steve, but this really feels like a breakthrough.

    • Or “simian imagery”?

      Yes, the usual interpretation of “disabled” is “legs don’t work”. It can be tricky explaining why I can or can’t do certain things, and why things have to be positioned or ordered just so, because my condition’s so in-betweeny. I can’t tie my shoelaces, cut up my food or use a pen, but I can give myself an immaculate wet shave without Chien Andalouing myself. Actually I’m glad you mentioned my voice because I’d forgotten about some of the speech/swallowing therapy I had in 2004. Now added to my bulging Notes folder.

      A breakthrough? Well thank you. It certainly feels like progress. Big thanks to you and everyone for taking the time to read it and for all the encouragement!

  21. Simon Smithson says:

    Christ, I wish I knew what a simigary was. It sounds like it should be a word, a synecdoche, or something.

    A strong piece, Steve, and to concur with Dana above me, it does feel like a breakthrough. What a moment, to wake from those dreams. And guts, too, to talk about them so honestly, and with such self-awareness.

    And you’re right; Dinklage does have a wonderful repertoire of expressions for contempt.

    (I’m with you, halfway, on Winter’s Night/. I got three quarters in and was like, ‘Shut up, Calvino, we get it.

    • Hello Simon! Maybe Craig Ferguson knows what a simigary is. Maybe it’s a skinny bastard off Doctor Who, or a Scottish term for a poofy English soft drink.

      Thank you for saying “guts” but I can’t make any such claims. I’ve avoided tackling the subject for so many years, and now I’ve finally got round to it I’ve approached it cautiously. Although I could justify all the padding by saying I didn’t want to assail everyone with a load of WOE IS ME grimness.

      Winter’s Night…I was torn between enjoyment and irritation, but when the fourth instance of “…it soon becomes clear that this is a different book entirely…” occurred, I thought “Oh REALLY? I wasn’t expecting that AT ALL.” I stuck with it, though, until about page 70 and that heinous sentence (which I shall now copy and paste) –

      “Perhaps it is this story that is a bridge over the void, and as it advances it flings forward news and sensations and emotions to create a ground of upsets both collective and individual in the midst of which a path can be opened while we remain in the dark about many circumstances both historical and geographical.”

      Maybe it was the translation. But really.

  22. Erika Rae says:

    Wow, Steve. Amazing writing. Thank you for writing this.

  23. I love how you touch every emotion with this piece, and the only way to write about tragedy is exactly the way you did it…

    I love that you have lucid dreams! I can’t run anymore (oh poor me, I know–not that big of a deal), but now I dream all the time about the flying type of running I used to do, down dark, pine-needle covered trails. I will never do that again, but at least I can still dream about it.

    You also captured Ferguson really well…and then I had to get a glass of seltzer.

    • Why can’t you run any more? Do you enjoy the dreams or do they make you sad? I’ve found that with the lucid dreams, although waking from the first was a horrible shock, the subsequent ones have left me feeling quite content. I think that’s probably because I relaxed too far into the first, to the point where I assumed it was all real, whereas with the later ones I’ve understood what was going on.

      Your dark, pine-needle covered trails sound lovely.

  24. Meghan says:

    God, you’re good at this, Steve.

    • Well, gosh, thank you Meghan! As you take such care over your writing, designing and distilling it down to its purest* essence, I’m honoured that you took the time to look at this big vat of stew**.

      *Is that a word?


  25. PaisleyPajamas says:

    Loved this piece. Thank you, Steve, for letting us crawl inside your head for a bit.

  26. PaisleyPajamas says:


    I thought you would enjoy the fact that my Facebook link to your wonderful piece ended up being surf fan central for the semis and finals of the Quicksilver Gold Coast competition in Australia this evening.

    Dreaming…surfing…a beautiful connection.


    • Not entirely sure what you said there, but it sounds good! I’m not on Facebook; I realise I’m probably missing a big chance to flog my wares, but I already have a debilitating Twitter addiction, and I don’t need any more time suck.

  27. Jim says:


    I don’t hang around here as much as I used to, but after reading this maybe I should. Someone recommended this to me as a “must read” so I found it hard to refuse. Must read? Well, I’ll be the judge of that, I thought. I have to admit you almost lost me at the very start, but “no, come back…” made me laugh, so I stuck around. Again, you almost lost me with the first mention of Craig Ferguson — I thought he was sort of funny as Mr. Wick on the Drew Carey show, but I find his chat show patter verbally mincing and his standup even worse; maybe it’s better in the British Isles, different context and all) — but I digress (in the way of the great Duke Haney,the similarities between us ending there). You totally pulled me in and made me stay up later than I’d planned to. I thought about this all day today. I won’t rehash all the previous commenters’ praise, yet I echo them.

    This must have been tough for you to finally come to terms with, even in writing. And, as you put it, turning to writing is one classically double-edged line. Maybe writing turns to us in a sense, too. Thanks for sharing this (oh, damn, I swore I wouldn’t use a cliche!) with us.

    • Hello Jim, thanks for dropping in. I tend to look askance at anything advertised as “must read (see/listen etc.)” but I’m glad you clicked through.

      All I’ve seen of Ferguson’s modern incarnation is the “15 years sober” monologue, which genuinely impressed and amused me.

      Honestly, ultimately, it wasn’t too tricky to address The Issue. The hardest part was typing out the seemingly endless succession of diversions, digressions, observations and asides that my brain kept coming up with. Thanks for taking the time to read them!

  28. pixy says:

    there are a lot of comments to read. after a lot of reading. i have just two things to say:

    1. this is totally “winning” (duh), to use the parlance of Charlie Sheen’s times.

    2. i’m more than on board with a brit who knows and loves blazing saddles, aka: the greatest movie ever made.

    ps – i think you should make more “silent movie” videos. the black and white suits you.

    • 1. Thanks! I mean, I hope I’m not going about things in the style of Charlie Sheen…

      2. It’s an incredibly quotable film. And every time I watch the campfire scene I think I’m an adult I won’t laugh farts aren’t funny oh what the Hell and crack up. Every time. Actually I’m just having a BLT in the café and when I squeezed some ketchup out of the tomato-shaped plastic container it made a tremendous wet flatulent sound. Did I laugh? Are these questions rhetorical?

      PS – I think my favourite video is the one in which I do a special dance.

      • pixy says:

        dude: farts are TOTALLY funny. and blazing saddles is perfect because farts are funny and the movie plays to the 13-year-old boy in all of us. adultiness is overrated.

        and i like your special dance. but the “bzzzzzz” is the one that speaks to me.

  29. Ashley Menchaca (N.O.Lady) says:

    Everyone has said most of what I was thinking so I just wanted you to know that I read this and, like everyone else, I enjoyed every word. I’m very ADD and you write the way I think. Love that. I could follow your train of thought effortlessly. You just got a new fan.

    • Hello, hi; the jumping-hither-and-yon style, which you say sits well with your ADD, was a bit of an experiment. I’ve always claimed to be “All about the story”, but in this case there wasn’t really a story, so I filled in a lot of detail and added plenty of asides. I think it went well, and in fact I’ve started to apply the same technique to most of my writing – to varying degrees, depending on the subject matter, the situation or whatever.

      Anyway. I’m glad you liked it, and thanks! I’ll be putting something new up pretty soon.

  30. Irene Zion says:

    I don’t know how I missed this, Steve, unless it was written when I was away, which I am a lot.
    This is really well-written and very real and very, very scary.
    Thank you for writing this.

    • Hello again! Sorry if I scared you, that was never my intention. Although if that means you felt some of the horror of waking into an immobile, vulnerable state…I suppose that was my intention!

      In other news, thank you so much for the letter in the long, slim dark green envelope. A real, physical, handwritten letter! It was really cool of Matt to put the word out that I damaged myself; I think he did so just a couple of days after it happened, and I was in a terrible state. Getting better, slowly but surely.

      And then, two days later, a postcard from Bruges. No, I haven’t been there – in fact all I know of it is the film In Bruges, which involves Colin Farrel saying “Fockin’ Brewges!” a lot. It looks beautiful and I hope you’re having a grand trip. Cheers!

  31. […] Simigary, thy name is STEVE SPARSHOTT. […]

  32. Richard Cox says:


    What a great piece of writing. I’m here because of the mentions you’ve received recently as we recognize TNB’s best posts of the year, and I’m sorry I didn’t see this sooner.

    My praise is the same is what you’ve received already: Your post is touching, funny, poignant, honest, painful. Beyond that, I appreciate the sequences about dreams for personal reasons, fascinated as I am with the brain’s ability to manufacture alternate realities that we are sometimes aware of and sometimes not.

    I was vaguely aware you suffered from a disability, but this post really takes the reader into your mind. As Becky said much more eloquently than I will, you make a subject truly known by a few familiar to many. It’s one of the qualities I admire most in a great writer.

    That you are, sir.

    • Hello Richard – sorry for the late reply, there was a Christmas. Dreams are quite a thing aren’t they? I’ve never looked into interpretation (although I’ve obviously heard all the best-known knives/teeth fall out/naked in an exam examples). But I’m always intrigued when an unlikely figure pops up, maybe someone from school or university with whom I barely interacted. “What’s s/he doing here?” I wonder.

      Anyway, thank you. It was…here I usually say something like “It was fun to write!” but it wasn’t. I’m glad – and, to be honest, quite surprised – some folks have found it fun to read. I appreciate your patience and tenacity!

  33. In re-reading this amongst all the much deserved award nods this piece has been getting, it has come to my attention that I have not actually commented on it.

    I was sure that I had. I can assure that I have at the very least been saying nice things about it in the comments sections of other posts. I suppose it’s sort of like when you see a very pretty girl at a party, and you go around telling all your friends how beautiful you think she is, but can’t quite bring yourself to tell the girl herself…

    I suppose what I’m really trying to say is that I’m in love with Emm— No! What I am trying to do is to construct a metaphor in which TNB is a house party, I am a slightly drunk and possibly unwelcome guest, and this essay is the attractive girl who is just perfect.

    I think I may have failed in the metaphor attempt. Hopefully at least some of the sentiment is there… this is heartbreaking, funny, scary, and moving and so many other things that single adjectives don’t really do justice to…

  34. I really enjoy overloading metaphors until they fail, or I forget what the subject was in the first place. I don’t get the bit about you being an unwelcome guest, though.


    I knew “Just a Simigary” was an awful title, but I posted it and gave it no more thought. Sixteen months later, sitting (of course) on the toilet, my brain went Duh, and there it was. Craig’s List.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *