Friday, 30 September 2011

Painful Pins

Agony.  Bloody aching and hurty ankles.  Painful shoulders and neck.  Still finding it difficult to move around after yesterday’s exertions.  “Crikey, Trev”, I hear you chorus, “What did you do?  Swim the Channel?  Run a marathon instead of eating one?  Cycle across England again (I’ve actually done this twice when I was younger and, consequently, more mobile and the sheer thought of such a thing didn’t reduce me to a gibbering mass)?  To which the answer is no, none of the above.  So, what was this Herculean task that I undertook that reduced me to this crawling, agonised, whimpering (that’s a good word) lump with bones in?

I walked to the shops.  I know, I know.  Walked to the bloody shops.  I can hear the laughter welling up, so stop it now.  It’s over a mile each way, you know.  Why is this such a big deal for me, then?  I shall tell you (after all, I’ve got to do something to shut you up).  I now weigh over 20 stone (131kg, I think).  This, coupled with my distinct lack of height, means I have a Body Mass Index similar to that of Jupiter and could, according to the many and varied healthcare professionals who drift into my orbit (and quite a few helpful, public-spirited passers-by) stand to lose the odd gram or two.  Quite.  How did you get in this parlous state, Trev, goes up the cry?  To which I reply “Apart from the pies, you mean”?  Well, gather round and I’ll tell ‘ee a tale.

To begin with, I was astonishingly sylph-like up until grammar school.  For some reason (probably not being too bothered about playing rugby, which seemed like legalised maiming to me – and still does, for that matter) I began to put on weight.  Add to that my passion for reading, especially science-fiction short stories and the works of Arthur Conan Doyle, and the compulsory doing of lots of homework, and now I think we’re all beginning to build up a picture.  This brings us to the pies.  I love pies so much that I might give them their own post – maybe not on here but on my other blog, going into the history and that.  When I say “pies”, I mean steak and kidney, pork, etc..  Not fruit pies.  A home-made apple pie is alright, I suppose, but it’s not really what floats my personal aquatic surface transport.  No, it has to be proper, meat-filled pies with absolutely none of this “pastry crust on a bowl of meat”, oh no.  That’s not a pie – it’s a lie, as I forget who said.  There’s even a Facebook group on the subject.  Mind you, there’s probably a Facebook group about that cat that looks like Hitler.  Anyway, I’m sure you comprehend the visual depiction.  If there’s any foodstuff that can be guaranteed to turn one into a turnover then it’s the pie.  Then there’s my thyroid.  The more faithful of you, my dear reader(s), may have read my post on this very blog about how hypothyroidism (the under-production of the thyroid hormone) adds to such a scenario as being able to work as a department store Father Christmas without padding.  These, of themselves, are bad enough.  “What about all this cycling, though?” I would shout if I were you (actually I wouldn’t be that rude, but we’ll let that pass for now).  That fell by the wayside when we moved to London.  My ex-wife and I used to cycle lots; the Essex countryside (yes, it exists.  It’s not just Romford connected to Southend-on-Sea, you know) the Isle of Wight, the Coast-to-Coast rides above and a few times in France.  One day we moved to the Smoke and, by some means or other, that was that.  Anyway, when I finally went solo from the marriage, I only ended up cycling a couple of times.  The traffic didn’t worry me unduly but I never regained my enthusiasm.  Then there is also depriving yourself ofvitamin D.  If you do not expose the body to small yet regular doses of sunlight (and we’re talking face and forearms here – not mankinis in the street) one’s body stops making vitamin D and the many enhancements it brings to one’s life – including less depression – are not present.  I hope you see a pattern forming.  The final step was the PC.  My PC is used, as I’m sure most of yours are, for lots of different functions; games, blogging, staying in touch with friends and family, music, films, finding out about local events, etc., etc..  Let’s recap, shall we?  I don’t cycle any more, I eat food which piles onto my midriff with no steady release of energy and I don’t feel up to going out thanks to those twin Dementors, Hypothyroidism and depression.  So, the inevitable happens.  I inflate.  I also become acclimatised to hiding in a corner and vicariously attempting to exist through the computer.  What happens next?  Well, what did happen next?  I spent most of the last fifteen years (!) or thereabouts as solidly glued to the wall of my flat as mould – only considerably less cheerful, decorative and fun to be with.  It still astonishes me that I managed to find and become engaged to the love of my life in that time.  Why, then, am I now starting to move around, attend dietician’s meetings, go up the shops and some such?  Why now, Trev?

Things sometimes have to get worse before they get better.  Last year I told my GP that I felt a tad down yet again and they put me on to a new initiative known as the Wandsworth Psychological Therapies and Wellbeing Service.  They are fairly new, having been formed within the last two or three years.  The psychologist assesses one, treats one then suggests other bits and bobs to help.  Whilst it’s true that my GP also recommended some of the same treatments it is completely different when someone expects you to actually – say - walk to a meeting as opposed to suggesting that it might be a good idea at one time or another.  It was as a direct result of this intervention that I started to move around and to schedule meetings with other medical folk to get my physical health looked at some more.    These folk include Wandsworth Council’s own physical activity scheme and the NHS Dietician, to whose tender mercies I have subjected my diet.

It’s astonishingly early days, yet.  I still haven’t got the gym sessions (which were supposed to have started this Monday just gone) sorted out as my feet are retaining water and currently look like a pair of novelty foam slippers on my normal feet and, if I may refer you to the top of this post, hurt even if I go down the shops.  I’ll e-mail them (thy gym; not my feet) when I’ve finished this.  The diet, though, is (if I say so myself) starting off okay, with veg outnumbering everything except bread (which is wholemeal, at least).  Please may I ask you, then, to cross your fingers, pray to your gods and wish me well in my quest for happiness AND fitness.  I thank you and although you haven’t asked I’ll keep you informed as to my progress.  No, no, don’t thank me – oh…

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Mixed Baggage

It’s another murky Sunday morning, and I’m up and about – although not in a meaningful, energetic way.  It’s more of a stumbling, lurching way, to be precise.  To mitigate myself (is that English?  Too early to tell) I am waiting for my tea to brew.  Being completely and utterly up myself (no, I’m not a contortionist) the tea is Lapsang Souchong.  It’s a black Chinese tea smoked, originally, over pine needles, apparently to dry it faster as it was very popular.  It tastes quite a lot of the smoke, so (uh-oh – ponce alert) it complements the English autumn’s wood smoke notes perfectly in my ‘umble opinion, guv’nor.  Now, one should partake of this fragrant, oriental infusion after letting it brew for a short while and one should drink it au naturel – without such vile and disgusting adjuncts as semi-skimmed cow’s milk and sugar.  Guess what?  Both of the previous and I used a teabag.  No wonder my life is so execrable – I’ve made powerful enemies of the Gods of Tea.  Maybe I can make amends by sacrificing a Tory MP, possibly over a… covered in… smelling of… – nope – the Gods of Tea are right, as always.  There’s no beating a basic good idea.  It would be gilding the lily.

To fill in (I must stop these puerile innuendoes – and at 52, it’s going to be hard (did you see what I did there?)) those of you remember me more than half my lifetime ago may recall that I collected different teas.  Collecting lots of the same one would just be weird.  Not tisanes, I hasten to add.  Tisanes – fruit teas with no tea in them - are kind of okay (and in some circumstances, positively habit-forming – ginger “tea” - lovely), but they are the country wine to the Château Lafite of actual, proper teas – entertaining, but ultimately irrelevant.  I possessed such arcane paraphernalia as a strainer (back to the oo-ers), a cosy and (hushed expectancy) – a teapot.  I took the pot to the kettle, added one for the pot and I timed the brewing process for five minutes before “being mother” – and by the end of that lot it was emotionally (not physically I am most grateful to add) like giving birth.  That’s why the British say “Shall I be mother” when they serve tea.  That, and the transvestism.  They love it.

So, here I am, now sipping my ruined tea and enjoying it immensely, I might add.  I also have to make the toast in a combination microwave, oven and grill, as our old toaster decided it wasn’t warm enough and set light to the bread.  It might have been a protest for all I know, as I was shamefully unaware of its politics and/or grievances.  I’d be a tyrannical employer, me.  It’s quite good way to make toast in a lot of ways but it takes 10 minutes.  “Go out and get another” I hear you massed(!) readers shout “they’re dirt-cheap these days!  Bloody hell, they even do them in Sainsbury’s, near the laptops and flat-screen TVs”.  Have I informed you of how utterly, massively under organised we are?  Have I mentioned how our living quarters are living proof of chaos theory?  Of any chaos, come to that?  Making some toast and a cuppa, then writing this missive has conspired to make my head ache already.  I should be running around exercising or some such.  Nipping up to the building that, in modern Britain, replaces the cathedral for our Sabbath genuflection – the DIY store – and purchasing job lots of Magnolia paint and some more dining-room chairs and stuff.  I won’t, however, and (I suspect) it will come as no surprise to you.  For data about my inactivity, please let me refer you to my previous blog.  These, you will find most of the information you will need about why I do not whizz about in the fashion of that most proverbial of entomological entities, the blue-arsed fly.

Right.  Here we are, then.  Tea.  Toast (two slices smeared with low-fat olivey spread and Brussels pâté).  Starting to flag already.  The quacks have been very busy on my behalf, lately, however.  I have appointments with dieticians, the gym (yes, even that’s prescribed) and a let’s-choose-something-you-want-to-improve/do-in-your-life-and-support-you group.  Now, this may surprise some of you, but I (despite my tone) am an optimist.  I reckon that, if I keep going to stuff like this, then, one fine day, it’s bound to have a positive effect on my life and get me running hither and yon.  I have even sought out my own counselling in the past rather than wait for the NHS, bless them, to catch up.  Bit of a non-sequitur here.  I rate the NHS very highly indeed and think that we’re incredibly lucky to have it.  I have an astonishingly limited amount of patience for the “experts” who think they can change it for the better and absolutely none for the shameful and disgraceful shenanigans being currently perpetrated by this mistake of a “government” under the umbrella of change.  They need an umbrella, or cover of some kind, for their illicit and wicked co-opting of NHS budgets for their fat-walleted friends.  However, I digress (moi?).  Lately they have an approachable and multi-faceted approach to mental healthcare, which is (in your scribe’s ultra-nano-humble opinion) to be lauded.  It really is about time.  It is also extremely encouraging that such luminaries as Ruby Wax are putting in lots of planning and energy into encouraging scrutiny of the nation’s mental health.  It could just be a clever way of seeing which way the wind is blowing and taking advantage of it, but I honestly doubt it.  We went to one of the last “Losing It” talks at the Menier Chocolate Factory (quirky place in Borough – it’s got an art gallery attached, too.  I went into the gallery and completely alienated the lovely assistant by saying that the paintings all looked the same.  I’m a charmer).  The key speaker was Professor Mark Williams.  His talk about mindfulness in the treatment of mental illness was quite an eye-opener in a good way, along with his opinions about young, single mothers.  The charity SANE is very involved and provide plenty of support.  It’s probably the best time to look for treatment and support of the middle range of mental health issues in a long time, this “government” and the Dailies Mail and Express notwithstanding.

Crumbs (toast-related pun there).  I swerved right off breakfast there, didn’t I?  I suppose because, unless you’re on the International Space Station or [insert disliked politician’s or media character’s name here]’s brain, nothing exists in a vacuum.  There we have it – breakfast to depression.  Let’s hope the next stop has something more positive for us to alight to (it’s alright, Trev, you can stop with the eye-watering metaphors – they’ve gone).

Monday, 19 September 2011

My First Post on This Blog by Me aged 52

Okayyyyy.  I've finally bitten the bullet and started to write.  Mind you, in keeping with the title of this web log (remember that?) it's biographical and candid or, if you so prefer, self-indulgent and whiny.  Oh no, I hear you cry, another Liz Jones!  Well, quite possibly.  I will let posterity judge this one.

First things first.  Why now?  Why not earlier, Trev, you old lazybones?  It's just a keyboard, after all.  No heavy lifting or strenuous manual labour (although I might be using a modified version of Babbage's Difference Engine with brass keys and a cast-iron chassis - doubtful, though, as Argos have stopped stocking them).  Where's the challenge, you cry?  It's just: sit down; start PC; open relevant software; sip delicately from mug full of tea and write.  We'd have finished our one novel that everyone has in them by now.  Get a grip.  Cuh.

Well, I have to admit that these are all good points.  Very relevant and so forth.  Excellent.  Yes.  Except for several things...  Firstly, it's the old-fashioned Black Dog.  Famously (that is, famously in mental health circles; I've can never remember seeing it quoted outside of a depressive illness context) Winston Churchill wrote of being bedevilled by depression, which he referred to as his "black dog".  It's the main one of the things that can slow me down.  "Hang on a minute, Trev" I hear you cry, (as we're on first-name terms already;  doesn't time fly) "Great Britain's beloved ex-leader was quite well-known for whizzing around and, well, for doing lots.  Why aren't you"?  To which I can only reply that it affects different people in different ways.  But, unless the General Medical Council have been playing a little bit of a jape at my expense for the last (oops - goes into finger-ticking mode as tries to work out just when it was that I stooped being a person and became a condition) fourteen years then it's the main factor.  Although they hadn't diagnosed my thyroid deficiency at that stage.  Indeed, it wasn't even considered as a possibility until (off the top of my head, which isn't an instruction to hairdressers - it'll fall out unaided, thanks) two-and-a-half to three years ago.  I dare say at this time even the readers who have stayed this far out of politeness (which is nice; not enough of it these days) or friendship (ditto) are frothing at the mouth and shouting at their monitors "Oh, come on!  No-one knows what the thyroid is ANYWAY!  You're just making this up now".  I wish that I were, good people.  I wish that I were.  I never knew myself that the thyroid is responsible for how energetic we are.  It turns out (for those of you too idle to check out the link - and to think you criticise me) that it's very, very, VERY important indeed in this role.  Let's put it this way.  I was collecting my prescribed medication at a friendly local chemists, you know, just lining up the fork-lift so as I could get it all home, when the pleasant chap who dishes out the drugs pointed out to me that I can get my Levothyroxine (as it's known) that does the work of the missing thyroid-generated stuff for nothing, even if I work.  My blood ran cold.  Not only had I suddenly remembered that maddening song by the J. Geils Band, whose lead singer's sensibilities were shattered into a thousand pieces when he saw the girl he fancied at - oh, I don't know, was it school - flaunting it all in a gentlemen's periodical, but also I realised that the government don't tend (despite what readers of the Daily Mail think) to give stuff away.  Why such altruism from such people, I fretted.  When I finally stumbled indoors, frantic with worry, I lurched over to my trusty PC  and fired it up (these Babbages are made to last, I'll give them that).  I found this.  "Once the thyroid gland becomes unable to produce thyroxine, it will generally not return to normal function. This means that once thyroxine replacement is started, it usually needs to be taken for the rest of a person’s life".  Great.  What happens if you take too much?  Hopefully, won't I be Captain Energy, known throughout Christendom as the man who Makes It Happen?  Won't I?  Ah.  Apparently not.  It's not outside of the boundaries of possibility that I could be known as Captain Dead.  So, let it be known that I, officially, walk a fine line.  I can only do stuff, pretty much at all, with a mixture of manufactured chemicals in my body.  The worst part is that, when I was having the initial dose adjusted, I suddenly found this "energy" that the earth people spoke so much of (presumably 'cos they had  - well, you know - energy).  It was fantastic, but only tended to last three to five days, then I was back in bed again until the next adjustment.  Confusing, and not fun.

So there we are.  My General Medical Council-endorsed reasons for not being a literary powerhouse.  This is without going on about my gout, which I shall save for you lucky readers for another time.  For those with thyroid-related issues then please click this link.  I feel for you if you don't feel up to it.

Thank you all for making it this far.  As a reward, feel free to print out the attached coupon for a free Rolls-Royce Phantom Drop-Head Coupe.  They might not honour it as I haven't been in touch with them yet, but they seem like very nice people (when I was a design student at Coventry University - Lanchester Polytechnic, as it was then - we went along as a class on a Press Day to the very first NEC Motor Show.  Probably the nicest treatment I received, as a penniless student and with only a vastly outside chance at being a designer for them, was from the avuncular chap on Rolls-Royce's stand.  He not only chatted in a friendly and encouraging fashion about their expensive and well-built cars but he also insisted I sit in their most expensive models at the time.  They were the Camargue and the Phantom V.  Fantastic.) so it might be worth a try.

Ciao, people.  It's been real.  Who knows, I might even write something else here at some stage...