Unreliable and possibly off-topic


Monday, June 30, 2008


I'm preparing 3 hrs of teaching tomorrow, delivering this in Bristol on Weds, back for last meetings at the Slug Factory on Thursday, before two glorious weeks of holiday! Kiddos, Big Wan's friend Chimily, I and my friend will spend the first week at a farm cottage in North Yorks. An open fire, an outdoor hot-tub and three goats on site!

Goats are perhaps my favourite domesticate (excepting dogs) so am looking forward enormously to making their acquaintance. I picked the location to re-visit some sites from a holiday as a pre-teen with mum and dear departed dad, walking the Cleveland Way. With my wee car (should it pass its MOT) we're in range of beaches, cliffs, moors, hills and dales. The kiddos will hopefully find self-organised amusement on the farm while I, the Queen of Sheba, eat, drink, smoke, read and sleep to excess. Hooray! Second week will be at home, but we'll do day trips inc. hopefully a visit to Samye Ling. It doesn't get better than this! This is the life!


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Bollox Redux

The Bollocks is back! Discharged from the hospital yesterday after 5 days, equipped with and educated to use his new naso-gastric tube, a genuinely portable liquid food pump and 2 weeks worth of food bags.

When I visited last night he was only an hour out of hospital, and you would think he'd been reprieved from the electric chair. Quite manic, energetic and rewardingly euphoric compared to the desperately thirsty, hungry and weak man of last weekend. They finally got the tube past his tumour and into his stomach during his general anaesthetic for laparoscopy on Monday, so he's had food and fluid since then.

What a difference a few days make, and thank God for the NHS! Last night, Il Bollocks slagged the book I brought as a gift (of a genre he likes) as too thick, established to his satisfaction that he knows more about everything than anyone else, and liberally criticised his saintly hostess H.etc. while she looked after him. He's back on form, and it makes me very happy!



Prague trip for three days was quite nice, considering it was on a jobbie. US-style timetabling (8am-5.30pm) is becoming increasingly pervasive, and when you get to be a big cheese you're rewarded with pre-meeting meetings from 6.30 am. I can't wait to be promoted!

As usual you don't have time to see the city, but a native friend's shown me around before. Prague boasts geographical interest (the meander of the Vlatava, the hills), exciting history (both ancient and modern) and a well-preserved mediaeval centre. Crossroads of Europe. In the taxi to and from the airport, even the suburban estate highrises have the architectural quirks and human utility (e.g. balconies) of Bauhaus.

Of social interactions, the notables were a political fight with a colleague-peer and a professional one with my boss.

The colleague is a medical doctor in his 30's; westernised Syrian, recently separated, exploited in a technical job far below his qualifications and drunk. Not drunk all the time- just when we had our row. In the afternoon he'd confessed he was homophobic, for which I ripped the piss out of him, pointing out that gay men lessened his competition to snag girls. We talked some about middle eastern culture, philosophy and politics, which was interesting and educative for me. But in the evening he got steamboats and tried to tell me some Africans are cannibals and not really human, which made me talk over him and raise my voice. Very later (him steamboats +++) he started on about 'the Jews' and, despite my warning shots, proved incapable of discriminating Jewish individuals from the State of Israel. He left to hunt girls after an earful from me.

The fight with the boss is currently redacted, but no steamboats- just some honest interchange. It started with mutual discomforts about some dodgy practice at the Slug Factories, progressed to pay discussions and ended with me asking, "What does that mean? Are you trying to threaten me?", and terminating the discussion. He was still trying inanely to switch tack from menacing to supplicative mode as I walked off.

It was lovely to get home to Embra airport, comfortingly raining stair-rods even though it's late June. Boss rapidly sent damage-limitation email and wants an off-site meeting next week to discuss 'shared goals'. That's fine. I'll attend, but Slug Factories talk is ten-a-penny but written commitments scanty.

Regardless, I'm the Daddy now.


Saturday, June 21, 2008


It's been such a pleasure to spend time with him the last few days. The first shot is in H.-etc's garden (unfortunately blurring her fine cabbages and lettuce behind our boy) and the latter two my Reekie-laddie down the Braidburn. What a fine figure of a dug!


Friday, June 20, 2008

Black spots IIII

Tired and somewhat emotional, so may delete what I write later, but it's been a hell of a day. Peter Ballocks and I saw a quite lovely GI surgeon this morning, who gently asked what PB understood of his diagnosis and laid out a contingent care plan.

The tumour is huge and may have infiltrated his stomach. They need to do a laparoscopy on Monday to better assess this, the results of which will determine whether he's still a candidate for chemo and/or surgery. And before this, they need to admit him- now- in order to get some fluids and nutrition into him.

Hearing this was an enormous relief, that finally the patient and not just the tumour is the focus. And Peter Bollocks consented and said 'whatever you think is best, doc'. I picked up a lot of other info between the lines, but am too tired to explain these. They're all bad prognostic indicators. Peter shouted at me at least twice during the consultation when I added more real history or asked practical questions. "Shut the fuck up! You're not my wife!", but it didn't stop me getting across some important information, like his absence of support in the Borders. Luckily, any treatment will now occur in Edinburgh. As we left the consultation the surgeon whispered in my ear that I had the patience of a saint. I wish it were true!

The surgeon wanted to admit PB there and then, but we talked him into letting us away for a half hour, ostensibly to pick up toiletries but really so Peter could have a last joint and see his Reekie-dog. He'd wanted to get pissed that afternoon, but in truth the alcohol wouldn't have gotten past the obstruction. While we packed, he swore furiously and continuously, and I made light of the situation.

When I dropped Peter back at the hossie for admission, I teased him that he must be nice to the nurses, and he teased me back that because nurses are nice, unlike me, he'll be nice. Then he gave me a kiss and told Reekie he hoped he's see him again. I think I held off crying until I pulled away to take Reekie for a long walk, as Peter had asked. After the walk I spent 3 hrs with H-etc. In the 4 years I've known her, I think it was the first time I've seen her cry. I am the worst cry-baby ever but I stayed dry-eyed for H.etc until I left.

It was the poor bloke in the offie who got it, by asking innocently how I was doing. I was trying for yer usual "Fine" but some other TMI stuff came out. "So he's on amicable terms with his ex?" he asks. I think he later regretted that question.

I'm sometimes good at practical stuff, and made some family calls for H-etc. I'll take the dug up to see his master tomorrow, which I hope will cheer them both up.

What else can you do?


Thursday, June 19, 2008

More black spot II

How wonderful that the weekend started tonight! Jobby business books me to be at the airport at 4.30 am on Sunday, so I get tomorrow off in lieu. Hooray! At least till 3am Sunday morning.

Thus I am free to accompany Peter Ballocks to his Edinburgh hospital appt tomorrow. Things are not good. The docs are fixated on his tumour (a huge oesophageal adenocarcinoma) while spectacularly neglecting the person surrounding it. He can't even keep down his milkshake-type meal replacements now, and in the last few days even clear lemonade comes back up. If this goes on, he will die of thirst and hunger before they even get to play with the chemo and surgery to the tumour, as is their plan.

In fairness to the docs, I know PB is not his own best advocate- not least because he comes across as a jakie, minimises symptoms and fails to listen. Thus I am grateful that he's allowing me to attend his appt with him tomorrow. I talked him into it by offering a lift there and back, and squeezed in the request to accompany him for the consultation before he knew what he'd agreed to.

Peter is not a good historian and needs a less-obtunded advocate to point out the basics to his medical team. Palliative care was mentioned by one doc 2 weeks ago, but he wasn't and isn't able to process the import of the information. Don't know for sure if he's failed to take in prognosis through cognitive dissonance or whether he's just too cognitively fucked to understand. Doesn't really matter. He's paid his stamp and is entitled to all the NHS can offer. Depending, this might include an oesophageal stent so he can eat and drink, some parenteral nutrition/hydration or perhaps as little as hefty doses of morphine and fentanyl to satiate his hunger and thirst.

H-etc. (his ex-wife) is the angel in this picture. Now that she knows he's gravely ill, she wants to nurse him here in Edinburgh. Knowing how hungry he is, she can't eat in front of him now, and will be losing weight she can't spare before we know it.

Mr Ballocks has no transport (he's too weak to handle his big motorbike now) and has zero social support in his Borders village, where the hospital is 30 miles distant. His cousin lives 2 mins walk over the road but has declined to visit or collect liquid meal prescriptions from Kelso because of his own overwhelming personal problems (which do not include illness or threat of death). Cousin took £30 off Peter to run him to the Borders hospital for his last endoscopy, without a trace of shame. Tomorrow, part of my advocacy will be to make Peter's social circumstances clear and ask for his care to be transferred up here, as is H.-etc's wish.

What can you do?


Sunday, June 15, 2008

More black spots

They just keep coming. Now my best friend's sister has an early but aggressive breast cancer at age 37, with twin 8 yr old boys to raise. That's pure wrong.

There is no god, I tell her and H-etc and Peter Ballocks. No white-bearded masculine patriarch we were taught from Christian churches. Neither the punishing god of the early Old Testament nor the benevolent, kindness-rewarding briber of the New. In everyday life, the black spot is too randomly scattered to be a product of judgement. But the absence of god doesn't preclude a hereafter.

So you think about mitzvot and do the best you can for comfort and practical help. Seek and frame breast cancer survival statistics in light of the medical advances of the last 10 years. Undertake to accompany H-etc. when she collects Peter Ballocks from the Borders for more diagnostic tests in Edinburgh.

And mitzvot you receive back. Peter Ballock's friend (bowel and liver cancer) talks about his recent stay at Samye Ling. Walking Reekie-dog by the banks of the Bowmont you can't miss the buzz of natural life. I sat by the banks listening to the church quarterly chimes, hearing the water babble, watching the bumblebees work, picking some marguerites to take home.


Friday, June 13, 2008

#2 Disgrace

... was rather minor compared to #1. I met up with my old schoolfriend D., mother of my 'miracle-baby' godson (now approaching his second birthday). D. has been very good to me over many years. She moved up with me for the first 3 months of my divorce in 2000, and together we selected my current abode with the benefit of MDMA, and it was a good choice! Life was rather different for us both then, but then we've been through many life changes both before and after then while preserving mutual regard.

So we met at Liverpool St station with the full intent of catching some capital culture- maybe the Cranach exhibition or the Xian statues. Went to a local hostelry to assemble our plans and were still there 4 hrs later. While I have kept my liver enzymes on high-alert for this time through regular challenges, for the last 3 years D. has been pregnant or mothering, while her previously polypharmaceutical partner has been through detox and successful abstention.

Thus when I was just getting loosened up, she'd reached her limit and required my assistance to make it home. This makes me what is termed by the AA 'an enabler', and was previously known as a 'bad influence'. But a loving one.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What I did on my holidays

Away last week for a short sojourn Daan Sowf, during which I had the pleasure to admire a burgeoning home garden, eat its home-grown French Breakfast radishes (crisp, peppery pink & cream delights) and visit my godson. A lovely break. I only disgraced myself twice!

#1 Though normally abstemious, an atypical day-long ingestion of white wine, super-loaded spliffs and then a hypnotic (since I wasn't yet sleepy) brought on the first whitey I've had for years and years. Suddenly the room span, nausea gripped my guts and probably (though there were no witnesess) all colour drained from my face. Realising I might have over-egged the pudding, I took the physiological hints that I needed bed badly and now.

This was the cognitive aim when I purposefully stood up, but apparently autonomic physiology took over.

What my friend experienced:
A big percussive noise and an unconscious person lying on the floor. Initially rousable, but when lifted to the vertical passed out again. ?Stroke ?Fit ?Head injury

What I experienced (every point as if the first)
1. Need to get to bed- get up, stand up and move.
2. Fuck me- I'm lying on the floor, can see around but have no idea where I am. What have I done now?
3. Oh, here's friend coming to sort me out! Hi! Sorry I'm accidentally totalled! Thanks for lifting me up to get me to bed!
4. Fuck me- I'm lying on the floor, can see around but have no idea where I am. What have I done now? Uh-oh, this seems strangely familiar.

Of course there was no harm done, except to my dignity and my friend's blood pressure- and it has been literally 10 years since I last had such a proper whitey. No bad!

I'm knackered, so #2 will have to wait till later.