Page 6 of 8

Get well soon Charlie!

PostPosted: Thu Jun 08, 2006 10:53 am
by Alex P
Dear Charlie,
Like others I am very shocked by the news, which I have only today learned of, and wish you a full and quick recovery.

It has always been clear much you loved doing the BBC London show and I'm sure you must feel frustrated at the moment.
You have changed my listening habits forever and have provided countless hours of enjoyment since I picked up on your show in 1999.

I sincerely hope you feel weel enough soon to continue broadcasting. Whether you do a podcast/digital-only or regular radio we'd love to have your friendly, informative voice and the best selection of music available back. I'll certainly miss your companionship over the waves/internet until then.

Best wishes
Alex P

Thanks Charlie - we love you

PostPosted: Thu Jun 08, 2006 12:30 pm
by insomnia320
You will be missed by everybody I know but I still have all the cd's you have recommended over the years and you will never be out of our thoughts, thank you so much for making my insomnia such a pleasure

PostPosted: Thu Jun 08, 2006 2:01 pm
by taiyo no otosan
Hey Charlie - you've been such a wonderful, informative and entertaining presence in my listening life ever since the Honky Tonk days. I sincerely hope that you make a complete recovery as soon as possible and - please - look after yourself.
Take care and thanks for all those Saturday nights...which were invariably Monday mornings for me!
Julian in Japan

PostPosted: Fri Jun 09, 2006 11:08 pm
by That Was Jonathan E. Then

I'm so sorry to hear about your illness and can only hope that you make a full recovery as soon as possible.

The pages of wellwishers above show that you are a truly and widely loved man and the recipient of massive positive vibrations — which can and will, I believe, help you regain your health.

I myself have had health problems in the past connected with my immune system, nothing as difficult sounding as yours, but I was in despair for a while. Thankfully, the human body has amazing powers and can heal itself when given the chance and a little help. Along with the positive vibrations, I suggest that a consultation with a naturopathic doctor to consider dietary issues may be very helpful. This, together with prescribed hydrotherapy and herbalism, was what finally got my body back into a healthily functioning state.

I am sure that you will feel better soon. You are too positive a person to stay down for long! My very best wishes to you in the meantime.

message from Gotan Project

PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2006 11:07 am
by Charlie
email from Gotan Project

Dear Charlie,

I’m very very sorry to read that you have to stop your show for health easons.

I would like to tell you that after traveling all over the world with the Gotan Project, I’ve really realized how people like you are –extremely- rare.

Thank you very much for your support on our music, for your open mind & ears, and for your “bon espritâ€

email from K'naan

PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2006 11:12 am
by Charlie
email from K'naan

Dear Charlie

I want you to know that, though I have been absent from your inbox, you have not been absent from my thoughts. I've been wanting to respond to you but have been meaning to find the proper moments. Occasion has beaten the moments to the punch. In the middle of some new inspiration from the Ethiopiques collections, writing some new material through some sample ideas, I wanted to thank you. For introducing me to something very pulling.

I spoke to a friend one evening, who's from the U.K.. and just in remembrance I mentioned that I was sad over your health situation, which I pray gets better, your soul purer for it and your patience endures... after some explanation she uttered the name of it.. which was what you had written on your email... her mother had just gone through it and is better after some time... I really do hope you get better...

I enjoyed my time in your studio... On your site, I read your reflections on that evening... which were filled with continents of compliments... most of which are not in my geographic comprehension... though i am a dreamer enough to appreciate them..

thank you again.

I'm looking forward to Womad... and also there is a short return to London before that it looks like, on the 11th of July with Damian Marley...

hope to meet again...


On the mend?

PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2006 2:08 pm
by Andrewq
Hi Charlie
I hope you are feeling better and enjoying these messages and tributes.
We don't need regular medical reports but it would be great to know that you are on the mend.

Re: On the mend?

PostPosted: Wed Jun 14, 2006 4:21 pm
by Charlie
Andrewq wrote:We don't need regular medical reports but it would be great to know that you are on the mend.

It's still not clear whether the pain in my feet signifies the nerves coming back to life, or if the attack on them is continuing. I'm in and out of hospital as the experts try to figure out what's going on, and what to do about it.

PostPosted: Thu Jun 15, 2006 12:36 am
by Busker Dave
Tuned into your show on and off over the last six or seven years. Invariably something or other would prick up my ears and cause me to investigate further. Much pleasure has ensued from your musical cues.

A low key and self effacing style is a rare trait in a DJ - you are a rare presenter in that you let the music speak loudest. When you speak it informs and enlightens about the music.

The music you play ain't bad either.

Hope you get well soon.



PostPosted: Sat Jun 17, 2006 10:07 pm
by Martin_Edney

I'm too late to add anything original, except to say that your radio shows have been part of the soundtrack of my life on and off since my pre-teen days listening to "Undercurrents" on Capital Radio.

Apart from the obvious musical input, I've always drawn encouragement from you (and from Boff of Chumbawamba) for being musical people who are also runners, as I continue to persevere with mixing these two passions. Add to this your modesty and humanity, and you'll see what an inspiration you have been over the years.

I hope your health will soon be recovering, and I'm glad you've listened to your body and taken the wise choice for you (devastating for us selfish listeners) of stepping down from Radio London.

At least this will finally force me back to enjoying listening to you on the World Service, as I did when living in Nigeria. The sound quality always put me off compared to the luxury of your Radio London show, but now I'll have to ignore that minor detail in order to be able to continue to enjoy your company.

Get well soon, and take it easy. You deserve the very best!

PostPosted: Mon Jun 26, 2006 9:51 am
by Charlie
Martin_Edney wrote:At least this will finally force me back to enjoying listening to you on the World Service, as I did when living in Nigeria. The sound quality always put me off compared to the luxury of your Radio London show, but now I'll have to ignore that minor detail in order to be able to continue to enjoy your company.

Get well soon, and take it easy.

The sound of the World Service has improved dramatically since they went off short wave and into digital, online and FM broadcasts. With a DAB radio in the UK, you can hear the show four times during the day on Saturdays, in addition to the 3.30 am relay Monday mornings on BBC Radio 4 FM.

As for getting well soon, it seems I am in this for the long haul. Churg Strauss Syndrome can take at least a year to recover from. Pain killers keep it under control most of the time, and at the moment my day is a cycle of relative comfort, with a bout of more intense pain around tea-time.

It's impossible to convey what pleasure the messages in this forum have brought me - 'thank you' seems like a pitifully small phrase to express my appreciation.

PostPosted: Mon Jun 26, 2006 1:23 pm
by Ian M

I just want to add my best wishes for your health and future recovery. Your programme and this forum has been a source of pleasure and discovery for some time now (even if I have to go away for long periods and miss announcements such as yours), and I would miss either of them horribly if they were to disappear.

I was very tickled by your kind remarks about the Tom Ze piece and your wish that I could have been at the Camille gig, so thanks for that. Yours is the only programme I know that can comfortably accomodate artists like these alongside blacktronica, blues, and whatever the wind blows your way. As such it is the best illustration of what world music should mean: a generous and inclusive view of whatever interesting is in the world, and not a narrow marketing term relegating non-English speaking music into a bin marked 'exotic other stuff for beardy geography teachers'.

There is an attitude there which would benefit the rest of media to emulate, and which is why I value the show and the music.

Looking forward to your return to full health and and the microphone once again ..


How's Charlie

PostPosted: Thu Jun 29, 2006 12:34 pm
by Outerglobe Debbie Golt
Charlie - I don't know if you read this still or not ,however I'm writing to post you soem best wishes from various people who have emailed me in response to news I sent out -

Mick Freed - who does stuff @ 100 club and sound engineering, Ashley Maher, Haji Mike, Hari K and others


Hope you are feeling a lot better?

Do take care. All the best

PostPosted: Thu Jun 29, 2006 8:03 pm
by Paul Reddick
Just come to the site to listen to a show as I do when I've got a couple of hours spare at the internet and was sorry to hear of Charlie's health problems and the end of the BBC London show.

It is a shame that one can be so blase with radio shows - I often don't listen every week but only when it has gone do you realise how you'll miss it.

I really used to enjoy listening to the show and for being the one to introduce me to Hope by Fat Freddy's Drop I will be eternally grateful.

All the best

Ben Watt and Churg Strauss

PostPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2006 5:03 pm
by Charlie
Most people start their emails, 'I hope you're well'.

Except for those who know I've been ill, who write, 'I hope you're getting better'.

How to tell them, Churg Strauss doesn't work that way, it can take many months before there's any sign of improvement.

Mary Ann Kennedy, presenter of Global Gathering (formerly Celtic Connections) on BBC Scotland, pointed me towards Patient, a book by Ben Watt (of Everything But the Girl) about his experience with Churg Strauss syndrome.

I've ordered the book, and meanwhile found this interview at Student Life, the website of Student British Medical Journal.

Ben' s case was so much worse than mine, I feel I've been let off lightly. In his case, organs throughout his body were attacked, whereas in mine, only my feet have suffered. But for anybody unlucky enough to have Churg Strauss enter your body, it'll be there, lurking, for the rest of your lives, waiting to strike again.

Talking wounded

In 1992 Ben Watt, half of Everything But The Girl, had most of his small intestine removed and was given a 25% chance of survival. Four years on, the band have gone on to huge success with their single 'Missing' and the critically acclaimed album, "Walking Wounded." Now Watt has written a book, "Patient: a true story of a rare illness," about his hospital experience.

It's January 1992. Ben Watt, a "mild asthmatic," has become increasingly short of breath. By June he's had one course of antibiotics and two of oral steroids but then suffers "40 minutes of chest pain." He's told he's either "in the middle of a long, slow heart attack," or "about to have a massive one." But it's not a heart attack. The doctors are puzzled. His eosinophile count [white blood cells] is raised and the pain changes to abdominal cramps. The HIV test result is negative. Is it a parasitic infection? Eosinophilic gastroenteritis? His doctor opens him up to investigate but sees "something so bad" he simply staples Watt back together. His "small bowel had virtually rotted away.

Watt was eventually diagnosed as having Churg-Strauss syndrome - a rare autoimmune condition, usually affecting the lungs, characterised by hypereosinophilia, vasculitis, and a history of asthma. He was 29 years old at the time. Now, having had over 10 feet of his small intestine removed and at one point been given only a 25% chance of survival, he sits in front of me in a cafe: legs crossed, leaning forward, and slowly rubbing his brow. His shoulders are hunched forwards and he looks even thinner than he really is-quite an achievement seeing as he weighs only 9 stone (57 kg).

I imagine myself pulling the curtains around his bed. "How are you?"

"I'm fine," he replies.

Watt has literally lived to tell the tale. His new book, Patient the true story of a rare illness, was published earlier this month to almost unanimous critical praise. Watt's book succeeds in not only being excellent prose but also being an invaluable insight into patients and the way in which they view the health care system. He describes the British health service as a "free and brilliant shambles" where the house officer is "rushed off his feet" and takes blood from his arm "hamfistedly," and where intensive care doctors glide "from flickering monitor to flickering monitor gauging, estimating, quiet, serious."

"I only described what I saw. I suppose in retrospect we can piece them together as a little community of archetypes," he says.

Of course, I don't believe Watt's "fine." Towards the end of the book he describes how he still regularly has stomach pains.

"These days I'm much better at my diet management than I was before; that was really the thing that was bringing on all the pain. I'm much better at second guessing when my gut is being over stressed and I kind of ease back on my food. That seems to be all I need to do. But I still get it wrong sometimes."

I ask if he's ever needed to be admitted.

"I was taken into the Leicester Infirmary in May after a concert. That was the first time in about two years." He laughs.

Living with illness

He comes across as being very blase about his illness but it becomes apparent that this is not through ignorance but through a rationalised understanding of the syndrome. I ask him how it feels knowing that his current five year survival is put at 90%.

"I don't worry too much about the prognosis. I know that they can only think ahead in five year chunks. I'm pretty much at the cutting edge of knowledge on how to treat this. All I do know is that I'm responding pretty well to the drugs. And if it comes back in the future then it will come back."

Quite philosophical about it all then.

"Well you have to be. What else am I supposed to do? Burst in to tears?"

Writing the book was Watt's way of "dealing with it." It helped him to explain the emotional trauma he was going through and found that turning his thoughts into words was crucial to his recovery. "It actually became a driving creative force within the book. I tried to be really precise. Saying, 'I felt like this. No I didn't. I felt like this.' And I would refine a lot of stuff along those lines to make it as accurate as I could."

Watt structured the book around notes made by his girlfriend and band member, Tracey Thorn. The sheet of A4 on which Tracey recorded entries such as "Ben went to theatre today" also gave Ben an insight into the week of events of which he has no memory - lost through having general anaesthetic four times.

"I do wonder whether somewhere deep in your psyche that experience is locked away. Buried so deep, like some nuclear reactor that's been covered over. Like Chernobyl. Someone's poured all this cement over the top of it. Perhaps you never felt it. Perhaps anaesthetic obliterates it."

His uncertainty towards this time in hospital is obvious. He tries to explain it and is unable to construct a complete sentence - continually digressing and being uncharacteristically animated. He describes "strange little sections of nightmares" that remind him of "childish monsters" that he occasionally has and wonders whether these are the leftovers of anaesthetic.

Some of the most powerful images of the book are in the descriptions of how his family and friends deal with the illness. While his father initially avoided the hospital, his mother spent most of the time staying in a relative's room. Their different approaches created a rift in their relationship. As Watt writes:

"I'm sure their inability to share their fears was miserable for both of them - my dad deep in a world of denial, speechless and unhappy, drinking heavily; my mum willing to confront it all head on, desperate to understand and to talk to someone."

His relationship with Tracey also suffered. As he told the Sunday Telegraph, "They say that serious illness is supposed to bring people together, but in a strange way it had driven us apart." I ask him how things are now.

"I think the process of writing it and showing Tracey how far I'd got opened up the debate between us, which was for our benefit. It has been therapeutic in that sense."

However, Watt realises that the book, and language in general, can only go so far. With his father, who he describes as a "non talker," Watt felt that it was better to "just hang out and do other things; go to the football." As a result he feels there is a "real sense of resolution" in their relationship and that his father is "deeply proud" of him for having come through so much. As for his mother, we're told how she keeps two pictures in her handbag; one of a normal intestine and the other of Ben's - to help her explain what has happened. "She's not good with words," explains Watt, "She's constantly trying to re-explain it to herself."

Glamorous to be ill

Watt's desire to understand the disease began early during his time in hospital. He began by memorising words, such as "eosinophiles", and then asking questions every time he saw the doctors. He maintained a high level of debate with them, trying to prize out as much information as possible and felt that he was kept well informed. In the end his relationship with the medical staff became more of a team fighting an illness rather than doctors helping a patient. He is also quite defensive of the profession in general.

"They did their best. For all the terrible criticisms levelled at doctors and the medical profession, in the end I believe all doctors and nurses are just people. They don't deliberately try to wreck people's chances of survival. Everybody is working really hard to keep people alive. Yes, there were weeks of misdiagnosis but they just went through the logical process. They're not going to think of Churg-Strauss syndrome on day one because it's incredibly rare."

Watt is also thankful for having been on a NHS ward. He spent his first two weeks in a side room and found the solitude unbearable. When he was finally moved to a ward, although he enjoyed the camaraderie, it was the attention he enjoyed the most.

"I did think it was incredibly glamorous to be that ill. I just felt like a top draw patient. If you're in intensive care, you're really ill. It was kind of groovy. If you're going to be unwell, be really unwell. I did feel as though I pulled it off somehow. It wasn't such a big deal really." This is perhaps one of the most affecting, if not disturbing, parts of the book. Watt appears to taunt death like a child teasing a bully, confident that he'll be able to get away. His casual thoughts towards death, although troubling, are strangely inspiring.

"I had the scoop on life and death and everyone else was still running around after it. And should death come nearby again, as it did in intensive care, I would have felt I had slipped under its net once, and perhaps I would do so again. Nonchalantly. With a degree of flair"

To try to mention all the interesting parts of the book would be impossible, maybe even an injustice. For those of us in the medical profession it provides a revealing insight into patients, relatives, and ward etiquette, to mention but a few. Perhaps the strength of the book is that by the end, you don't so much as feel sorry for Watt but become interested in what he has to say. It's almost like being invited to empathise without having to do any of the work - everything you need to understand is clearly laid out in front of you. The imagery is clear, the situations precisely recollected, and his feelings made as crystal as they are in his mind.

It's getting late and Watt has become increasingly conscious of the time. One last question. Having lost more than 3 stone, what do you think when you look in the mirror?

"You scrawny git," he says, and smiles.

Ben Watt's book, Patient: the true story of a rare illness, is published by Viking and costs £12.50.

Pritpal S Tamber, student editor

BRitish Medical Journal
BMA House,
London WC1H 9JR