I recently had the incredible experience of having my first ever film screened on television. As a child of the 1970's, actual terrestrial broadcasting somehow retains its excitement for me, despite the fact that I now consider most of too lousy to actually watch. Despite all the catch-up online possibilities, there is something almost magical about the idea that the BBC has your film and has pressed play out NOW. For everyone to watch.
I was one of those kids that hankered after a personal connection to TV to an almost psychotic degree - I think it's the same for lots of people who grew up in provincial towns that felt as far from 'Broadcasting House' as Mars did. I tried to get my drawings onto Take Hart almost weekly, I was continuously writing into Jim'll Fix It, Swap Shop and the like. The zenith of this phase of my life was when I was runner-up in a Blue Peter competition to design a theme park, meaning I received the much coveted Blue Peter badge. A close second was having Noel Edmunds read out my letter live on air, suggesting improvements for litter bin design. (Well, I did grow up in a seaside town where beachside bins were big news).
So it was a huge delight to sit on a sofa in Paisley month ago with my siblings, nieces and nephew to watch 'The Closer We Get' go out to the nation on BBC2 Scotland. We were in high spirits, my sister had even baked the same cake that appears in the film, and though mass viewings of the film have happened often, we were still excited to be together on and off film. This was in many ways the culmination of over a year touring this 'family project', in cinemas, church halls and film festivals all over the world - talking to each new audience and sharing our story for so long has become second nature to me, so the surrealism of watching myself on TV felt only fleetingly like a weird dream. I think I did squeal when the serious - sounding BBC announcer read out my name though, and even the youngest in the room joined in the collective delight at each new on-screen appearance, whether it was a dog, a family member or a cake.
But someone important wasn't in that living room: my dad, Ian - arguably the star of the film, and a man who against all expectations has become as proud of the film as we all are, turning up at screenings and taking film critics' sterner judgements on his character squarely on the chin.
Dad was nearby though, in the big new hospital, having suffered what we now know to have been a stroke.
Like my mum Ann, he managed to walk into the hospital, and like her, it seems unlikely he will walk out. Also like her, a cascade of 'minor' NHS oversights came to tragic fruition in the stroke, perhaps this time round we will chase answers more vigorously, but it's too raw to think of all that yet.
Although a very different stroke from Mum's (affecting the opposite side of his body, and also his cognitive capacity) I find myself wishing I could un-know her five last years, return to the state of blind optimism I felt once, to encounter this vicious foe as if for the first time.
I attend a session of physiotherapy with Dad, a dogged and determined patient. I sit in front of him, bowed towards him at an encouraging distance - like a parent watching a toddler making its first staggering steps. His expression reminds me vividly of Mum's immediately after her stroke - they seemed to both age and become childlike at once. There is an open-ness in the face, a stare so penetrating you would feel it through walls. Two therapists support his lower body, a bench allows his one good side to balance. Instead of the stooped old man he was a few months ago (dreadful knees, despite the replacements) he is taller than he has been in years, his chin up, reminding me of his proud, knowing handsomeness in those black and white rugby team photographs from the '50s. But there is nothing of him in this stance, the women bear all his weight, and they shunt each foot in front of the other with a great effort, interspersing each 'step' with encouraging words.
The trio debrief, and when Dad's asked how much of the walking was 'down to him', he says 'Oh, probably most of it'. The therapists look down and say nothing.
In the 'team meeting' we are invited to later, various nurses join the physios, perched on desks in a tiny office, to summarise what is called, with a little embarrassment, 'progress'. There are no surprises. I look across at my sister and notice how young and old her fearful face looks.
There are no surprises.