Thursday, 22 March 2018

Reviewing the Void.

I’ve just been taking solace again in the re-reading of old blog posts. Some of them were very good, you know, and for me to say that is most unusual because I’d usually be the last person to say it. So maybe I’m right this time and a selection of them really would make a good book. (Or maybe they wouldn't. Maybe I’m just seeking a reason to have an operation so as to carry on living the life I don’t have. Irony sometimes appeals and sometimes it doesn’t.)

It’s just that I’m feeling quite frustrated at being unable to make proper posts instead of spewing forth an endless succession of entries in a whinge journal. It’s all to do with the looming iceberg, as you might imagine, and with that visitation I had early in the winter long before I knew there was anything wrong with me. It spoke out of deep darkness and intense cold one night, and gave me a chilling message which I chose to assume was nothing more than my imagination at work. It probably was, but it still happened and it was still chilling and it’s part of the reason why I fear the iceberg so much. Apart from that, I don’t want to talk about it.

And the interesting thing about my present situation is that, for the first time in my life, I feel the desperate need of a hand to hold (physically speaking.) There are none, of course, because anybody who ever tried to hold my hand (metaphorically speaking) was rapidly consigned to the wasteland. I was born fiercely independent and remained so right up until about two months ago. But I was intrigued to find a quotation from Mr Wallander Senior in one of the old posts I read:

You never stop and look at life, do you? You just drive straight through it. You should stop and sit, but find somebody to sit with you. You can’t do it on your own. Nobody can.

Well, it would be pointless to say that I was wrong to be so independent. If one of your rare virtues is the need to be authentic, you just have to be whatever you are and accept the consequences when they happen.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Being the Titanic on Hiatus.

The day after I made my last blog post, and an optimistic one at that, I got a letter calling me to the hospital for a pre-op assessment. At that point the operation took on a chilling reality; it loomed like the peak of an iceberg set firmly on the course of the ship that is me and my life, and it was headed inexorably in my direction. I knew that it couldn’t be avoided and it scared me witless because I knew that it was capable of sinking me with a mere nudge of its broad shoulder.

But why so scared? I’ve had three operations under general anaesthetic in my life and none of them troubled me at all, so why this one?

I decided it was all due to the reclusive mindset which has grown in me over the past ten or so years, and that the reaction was essentially phobic in nature. It scares me because I’m scared of being incarcerated in a strange place and placing myself under the direct control of strangers possessed of sharp knives and other clinical paraphernalia. I’m scared of being at their mercy and having to do their bidding, however good their intentions. It makes me feel like a trapped squirrel thrown in with the lab rats, and how I do sympathise with lab rats. And suppose the man with the sharpest knife makes a mistake…

And so the iceberg, forged in the frigid polar wasteland over millennia and dispassionate in its attitude to collision, filled my sight line and my consciousness to the exclusion of almost everything else. It continues so to do, looming higher and more silently menacing day by day as the fateful meeting draws ever closer. I wake every morning in fear and spend the day in depression. I wait to find out whether I shall sink or survive to sail on.

I hope to be back eventually. Please excuse the mixed metaphors.

Friday, 9 March 2018

The Curtain is Lifting.

I had a phone call today from the consultant to tell me that the second CT scan (the one tasked with checking whether the cancer in my kidney had spread to my lungs) was clear. ‘There’s nothing there,’ he said. I liked the sound of that. So then we confirmed that the provisional date of 26th was now writ in stone and I’d better turn up or else.

So, as long as the surgeon and anaesthetist know what they’re doing, and as long as nobody knocks anybody’s arm at an inopportune moment, and as long as Hippo - the aptly named theatre cat - doesn’t go to sleep on one of the flexible pipes supplying me with something essential, there’s a good chance that the road beyond the curtain will head off in a reasonably substantial direction after all.

There are, however, a couple of issues causing me some disquiet. For a start, they want me to book in at 7am. 7am is, to me, a hideously ungodly time even to be getting out of bed, let alone reporting to a hospital twenty miles away. I’ve tried telling myself to imagine that I’m going on holiday and have to catch an early flight. It isn’t working very well.

And then there’s the prospect of lying in a strange bed in a strange building surrounded by strangers for between two and seven days, acting entirely on the direction of authority figures who aren’t even a bit ill, and being unable to have a cigarette and a few scotches, watch YouTube videos, or write blog posts. I’ve tried telling myself to imagine that I’m lost in the Amazonian jungle and it’s really exciting, but that isn’t working very well either. The only two prospects showing any promise at all are:

1. That I might get some decent blogging material out of it, which I suppose would make the whole thing seem worthwhile in retrospect.

2. That I might get to enjoy the ministrations of a whole regiment of attractive young female nurses called Abigail. One or more of them might even be Chinese and called something a bit more exotic like Tang Su-Min - which would be pretty damn splendid - and I might finally get to learn how 'guzheng' and 'ruan' are pronounced.

But then there’s the question of visitors. Will I get any? Why would I?

Thursday, 8 March 2018

A Couple of Revelations.

I rang the consultant’s secretary today in response her attempts to ‘sort out an appointment.’ She explained the reason for using the misleading term ‘appointment’ (it’s to do with patient confidentiality rules, apparently) and now the pendulum of speculation has swung slightly back to the positive side. There remains an issue to be settled, however, and she undertook to address it. At the moment I’m provisionally booked in for the kidney op in a couple of weeks.

Today’s more telling revelation was finally discovering what the word ‘jumbuck’ means. I’ve always known that it was an Aussie colloquialism for something, probably an animal, but never got around to finding out what. Today – spurred by the possibility that I might soon have urgent cause to want to die happy – I did. It’s a sheep.

How on earth am I going to cope with being incarcerated in a hospital bed unable to write nuggets like this?

Beware the Ides of March.

OK, I’m reminiscing again. It’s what you’re supposed to do when you reach that age where people say ‘Poor old thing. He can’t help it, you know.’ And being led to seriously wonder whether your days might be tightly numbered is even more of an excuse, so…

It was the night of March 15th 1995. There was a girl called Sue, a big snow storm, a magical full moon when the sky cleared after the blizzard, and a ready supply of beer, whisky and marijuana. Then there was the raging jealousy, the sense of having been dropped like an abandoned puppy, the curious case of having the girl I was holding in my arms mysteriously vanish, and the four subsequent hours which simply disappeared into a black hole somewhere.

This song by Enya was the backdrop to the whole event, just because a young woman twenty years my junior wanted to teach me how to waltz and Caribbean Blue was the only music I had which was written in waltz time. She failed; I failed; the whole night was ultimately a failure (the anger and depression lasted six weeks; the dreams kept coming for ten years.) But the memory of it remains clear and strong as such memories do.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

For Whose Benefit Forgiveness?

I’ve been haunted a lot lately by something I did many years ago which caused an innocent person to suffer pain and maybe even lasting damage. I’ve asked myself whether I would feel better if that person were to come to me and say ‘I forgive you.’ Frankly, I don’t think I would. I did what I did, and what I did cannot be undone whether I be forgiven or not. I’m sure that to forgive is better than not to forgive, but ultimately it seems beneficial only to the victim, not the guilty.

It seems to me that the important thing is to feel the shame of realising that you caused suffering by the exercise of self-interest. Out of shame grows guilt, out of guilt reflection, out of reflection a new attitude, and from a new attitude comes growth. Growth doesn’t make you feel any better about what you did back then, but it does make you feel better about who you are now. Taking succour from forgiveness is surely too easy.

And on the subject of life in general, I would like to get to my end feeling that I have become a better being through the exercise of the time allowed. Simply being let off the hook won’t do.

On Water and Worry.

After more than two days of suffering dry taps our water is now running freely again, so there is every reason to suppose that I will go to bed duly cleansed tonight. The pile of dishes I have to wash up looks like the remains of a banquet, but at least I’ll probably sleep easier for being decently clean.

All the conversation I heard in Ashbourne today centered on the waterless days and the near-devastating impact occasioned to the modern, advanced lifestyle when the usually trusty taps cease to function for more than a few hours (it was fifty three where I live.) And all the growls of complaint aimed at the water company were directed not at their response to the problem on the ground, but their lamentable lack of comprehensive and accurate information. I gather the company has announced that it will compensate us to the tune of £30. That’s OK, then; money placates us mightily, doesn’t it?

In other news, I had a voicemail message today from the consultant’s secretary with regard to my health issue. She asked that I call her back ‘to sort out an appointment.’ This has come out of the blue and after seventeen days of eerie silence on their part, so what might this appointment involve? I was led to believe that if the second CT scan showed nothing I would simply get a letter calling me to go in for the removal of a kidney. Now it appears that the consultant has something else to say to me. I wonder what it is. I’ll make the phone call tomorrow, and maybe I won’t sleep easier tonight after all.

Hoping to go Unnoticed.

Still no water supply which means a second night of going to bed unwashed. It also seems likely that I will go Ashbourne unwashed tomorrow. Normally that would be a pretty awful prospect, but at least I have my customary remoteness to rely on. Just as in space no one can hear you scream, so in my space no one can smell my presence.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Jeffrey's Waterless World.

It’s gone midnight and the water supply is not yet restored. Dirty dishes are soiling my kitchen and poor old Jeffrey will have to go to bed unwashed tonight. I find the latter more disturbing than the former, even though I had a shower 24 hours ago and when I was a kid people commonly had only one bath a week. Going to bed unwashed doesn’t feel right in these more enlightened times.

I think the last time I did it was in February 1988. I was staying at youth hostel on the Pembrokeshire coast. The building was perched on top of a cliff overlooking the sea and there was a raging gale coming off the heaving, foamy swell that night. It was all very atmospheric in a Daphne du Maurier sort of way, but the wash house was unheated and I couldn’t face taking my clothes off. I chickened out and made do with changing my socks and underwear instead. There was nobody else staying there except a rather beefy German woman with big hands, so I got away with it. And I’m expecting no visitor tonight, so I expect I’ll get away with it again.

I have enough bottled tap water for a cup of tea and a cup of coffee in the morning, should we still be waterless. After that, who knows? I suppose I’ll drive to Ashbourne in the hope of buying more bottles of water, but I doubt I’ll be successful. I should imagine that all the places which sell bottled water probably became waterless themselves by about 8pm tonight. Fortunately, I have plenty of beer in – probably enough to keep me from dying of thirst for at least a week (and I doubt you can die of dirt.) And what a pity the old school well isn’t still working. What a shame that we dispensed with all those useful things when we submitted to technology and centralised systems.

Monday, 5 March 2018

King Whinge.

Here’s a list of Monday’s little woes:

I woke up this morning to the delights of a chest infection. You know what chest infections are like – your chest is sore, your throat is sore, you’re running a bit of a temperature, you cough frequently and with some discomfort, and you feel low as an empty crisp packet in a Rochdale gutter. I assumed it was probably something to do with germs breeding like rabbits now that the temperature has risen quite a bit, while my defences are at rock bottom courtesy of having been almost perpetually chilled for the past couple of weeks. Hey, ho; move on.

At around 10.30 the water pressure in the house dropped dramatically and then ceased altogether. No water. I soon learned from the supplier’s website that there were major issues the length and breadth of the kingdom occasioned by the sudden rise in temperature following very cold conditions. I needed to go out, so I decided to let that one lie for the time being.

When I got to the car I discovered a crack in the windscreen. It was about two inches long. By the time I’d done my shopping in Uttoxeter it had grown to nine inches. This will have to be dealt with.

The water was still off when I got back and I spent two and a half hours (with the chest infection raging, you understand) trying to get a simple answer to a simple question from Severn Trent Water: Do you have an estimated time for the water supply to be resumed? After two and a half hours I finally received an answer: ‘No. We have teams working on the problem but they haven’t reported back yet.’ It seems amusing in retrospect; it didn’t at the time.

Then I took my courage in both hands and rang my GP to see whether they’d had the results from my last CT scan. It was done seventeen days ago and they should have had the results by now. The woman I spoke to seemed evasive. Her voice had that edge to it which suggested that she knew something but didn’t want to tell me. I assumed I was being paranoid. She told me that she couldn’t find any tests results and would have to consult with her colleague. Six minutes later she came back and said I would have to ring the hospital. ‘But the hospital said I should call you for the results,’ I protested. ‘No, you’ll have to ring the hospital yourself.’ She gave me the general number and I called it. The recorded announcements gave me several options, the most appropriate of which was ‘switchboard.’ I selected it and waited… and waited… and waited. Eventually I rang off and am still none the wiser.

That’s how my life has been for a long time now. I’m not living any more, just coping with problem after problem. And it all seems too much to be mere coincidence. I wonder whether my stars are badly aligned, or somebody is sticking pins in a wax effigy, or maybe I’m paying off karmic debt. If I had the choice I would go for the latter. It seems the most rational and acceptable.

I'm still coughing and still lack the facility to wash my dishes or myself.