Week 684

Sunday, 30th January, 2022

Bierre Cote d’Opale
Le Chemin de Wissant

It is the most lovely day of warm sunshine and blue skies. The air is calm. No strong winds here. Our walk was delightful. Having got back, I’ve sampled a bottle of beer I bought when we were last in France.

I never drink beer. I really prefer wine. I come from beer country – Burton on Trent. The home of WorthingtonBassMarstonInde Coop, etc.. I went to school where the smell of brewing drifted over the town like a drug. I did buy some specialist beers (lagers) in France last year as Christmas presents and I’ve still got them. Tried one today and quite enjoyed it. Hasn’t quite lifted the emptiness I’m feeling at the moment but it helped.

Our walk was quite delightful with warm, strong sun and nature convinced that Spring was upon the world. This approach to our local park will look very different in April when we return from Florida – if we are lucky enough to get there. Should know more in this next week one way or the other.

I’ve never been a fan of the Honours System. It is so open to abuse. However, I’ve spent the past couple of hours helping a friend to sharpen up their written recommendation of someone I’ve never met and never will. Reading the support material of the selfless acts of this individual quite changed my mind. What motivated these people? I don’t believe I could ever rise to it. As someone recently pointed out, I am far too selfish!

Monday, 31st January, 2022

The month is going out in Spring-like weather. We’ll see if February will be as kind. We have a central heating engineer here this morning doing our annual service. We have a space-age boiler and an even more space-age hot water system that come with new homes. I couldn’t fix anything on my own although we use internet-based, smart technology to control the heating, hot water and lights with its own hub and software on smartphones, iPads and PCs. That I can sort out myself. We have the windows and doors open and don’t need heating at all this morning.

Entrance to the internet – 25 years ago.

Pauline’s making bread and I’m dealing with my internet company who have tried to more than double my rental for my website and Blog site webspace. I have been involved in internet work since 1994 when we had the crash-bang-wallop of a dial-up modem connection. Young ones now would not believe what we had to go through or the poverty of the text-only screens we found when we got on line.

I can remember the excitement of uploading my first, basic website after hours of frustration at my inability to understand was conquered. My impetus was to provide my school with an early, onsite presence. I taught myself at home in my spare time, went on courses and then used my newly gained skills at work. I found that it was something that came naturally to me and gave me real enjoyment.

Circa 1994

Since 2008, I have rented webspace and maintained a couple of websites plus my Blog through a ‘Hosting’ service. I taught myself the then industry-standard web development software – Macromedia Dreamweaver – and have not needed to go much further than that. My Host is a company called IONOS which is German and I use an .eu domain which UK users have now lost since Brexit. IONOS offered me the chance to get round that by hosting mine in Germany for me. I was pleased with that.

German company, website hosted in Germany, who do I speak to when I phone to make an enquiry at 9.00 am …. a lad called Brex who is having his evening sandwiches in the sunny Philippines. I’m glad I did. He was a lovely, friendly lad who immediately recognised that I was not only a long standing customer but an old gentleman who is running small websites not some great conglomerate, multi-national business with a huge IT department of young tech graduates. Before I’d finished with him, he was apologising profusely to me, completely removing all increases and returning my charges to 2021 levels. He finished by extolling the joys of the Philippines and suggesting I visit to see for myself. Who knows!

Tuesday, 1st February, 2022

New day, new month, old challenge. Hope you enjoy February as we all get older. Hard to believe that it’s 50 years since my generation were 21. We are as far away from the time of our birth as our birth was from late Victorian England of the 1880s. On this day in 1880 – 71 years before we were born and 71 years after we were born – Britain managed the first successful import of frozen lamb from Australia. According to the Tories, we may see another shipment soon.

Age brings frailty and attacks upon our health. Strange day. Could be a decisive day. Going to see a private, Nuffield Health specialist consultant about potential bowel cancer and my inguinal hernia.

Did 3 hours of exercise before mid day in order to dedicate myself to health checks this afternoon. By 1.00 pm, we are driving to Chichester in lovely sunshine. The weather contrasts with my feelings. We arrive at the Nuffield Hospital and go in, Pauline is told she cannot stay. She goes back to the car. I sit and wait for my fate.

The consultant I’ve chosen, Dr Adam Stone, meets me and we go through my case. My inclination is to find more about him. I learn that he is from York. He went to St Peters School and knows Ripon and St Johns well. I relax. I tell him I am from Repton. He knows it and the school. He volunteers that he has accessed my medical records and says, Your blood test results are ‘fantastic’. This is the actual term he uses. I tell him that I’ve drunk a bottle of wine every day since my early 20s. He says, Your liver reports that it hasn’t done you any harm at all!

Looks more like a Care Home than a Private Hospital.

I’m shocked how busy this private hospital is and I’m told it is because of the NHS backlog. I’ve had to wait for 2 weeks for a consultation. I have immediately formed a rapport with my chosen consultant, Dr Adam Stone. He says I require an urgent colonoscopy which he will perform next week. It has some serious risks for me whatever they find because of my atrial fibrillation and warfarin use. I have to take those risks. Do you care? I don’t blame you if you don’t but I have to take the risk anyway. Not looking forward to the enema substance that I will have to take next week. 

I have a strange and threatening process to go through if anyone is interested or cares. An enema is not a pretty sight for a man of my age. I will struggle with it over the days of next week. Happiness will be an empty bowel. I will keep you informed. You lucky people!

Wednesday, 2nd February, 2022

Lovely morning with wonderful skies. Still processing the events of yesterday and you may want to leave now because there is going to be quite a bit of this over the next few days. I hope it will be over by the end of next week but that is just hope.

It all starts on Monday when I have to stop taking Warfarin until after the procedure. I have never done this since I started taking it daily in January 2009. If they find something and need to remove it, I cannot risk a prolonged internal bleed which anticoagulant would encourage so I do have to take a risk and stop taking it for a week. The day before the procedure, I am confined to a liquid intake which will also include a ‘bowel cleansing’ solution. (Too much information?) I asked if I could mix it with a bottle of Rioja but was told red wine wasn’t advisable – stick to white!

The morning has started with an early delivery of fresh fish. The bill is £220.00 on this special date of 02.02.2022. Pauline is portioning Cod, Hake, Salmon, Tuna and Tiger Prawns prior to freezing. Assuming we set off for America at the start of next month, this fish will get us through February. You will notice that the refrigerated box our fish was delivered in originated in Shetland which is closer to Bergen in Norway than the Sussex coast.

Although I still can’t believe I’m actually writing this and I’m almost embarrassed to admit it but I am increasingly retreating from a painful reality by escaping into a fictional alternative and exercise. I actually look forward to going in the Gym and punishing myself. It feels good to be occupying body and mind fully and, if I can watch some more ‘difficult’ material, then I am pushing both parts of me to improve. What a saint!

Currently, I’m watching a Period, Norwegian Drama based on novels written by the Nobel Prize winning author, Henrik Pontoppidan. In it, a gifted engineer university graduate flees his austere roots to pursue wealth and success among Copenhagen’s elites but the pride propelling him threatens to be his ruin. I haven’t finished it yet but I do know he dies of cancer.

Thursday, 3rd February, 2022

A dull start to the day. After the most delicious, sunny and warm end to yesterday. Had a great walk, another bottle of French beer – two in a week – after none for years and picked out the timeline for next week.

Biere Griz Nez
  • Saturday – Stop taking Warfarin
  • Monday – PCR Test taken and delivered to Nuffield by 10.00 am
  • Wednesday – No solids after 4.00 pm / Take laxative at 7.00 pm
  • Thursday – Take second bottle of laxative at 7.00 am / Drive to Nuffield for 3.00 pm

With all that liquid sloshing around and mixing with liquid laxative, I have got to fit in my 10 miles walking before I leave. Could be an interesting/embarrassing morning. We’ve decided to keep it really ‘local’ so I am never far from the house in emergency. I am preparing to receive a phone call from my local, NHS Colorectal Consultant this morning but my inclination is to stick with the Nuffield initially. It is a full month since my abnormal FIT (Faecal Immunochemical Test) result and the sooner I get the brutal truth the better. I can at least plan for the future – long or short.

The beer has reminded me of all the lovely times we have had in France and, particularly, near Wissant and Cap NezGriz Nez, of course, is Grey Nose which is the anglicised version of the jutting out cliffs. I’d rather be there!

Griz Nez

I have had lovely support from my wife, her family and a number of friends in the North. I am largely self-contained and retreat in to myself in defence but this outside help has been very much appreciated even if I find it hard to demonstrate that.

You may think it madness to carry on the exercise routine in this situation but I am absolutely committed. Some say I should be committed … to an institution but I can’t let go of anything that is really important to me. In the past 12 months, I have only missed my target once and I am furious about that. I have increased my target to a minimum of 10 miles a day since my 70th birthday – 303 days ago – and I haven’t missed a single day since then. I am proud of that and I won’t relinquish it easily. 

Just had a telephone conversation with a lovely, young doctor who told me her name was Eyre “As in Jane Eyre if you’ve read it”. Everything I said to her was responded to with, “Cool” which is a sign of her age. She told me she was 33 and already looking forward to Retirement! I reassured her that she would be allowed that luxury by the time she was 75. She offered me a colonoscopy but a week after the Nuffield so I told her I will stick with that at this time. Jane Eyre apologised profusely for making me wait so long. She had tried so hard to help me and to offer me treatment that I felt a burning sense of betrayal by opting for private treatment. When I put the phone down, I was utterly overwhelmed with a sense of shame and I wept. 

Friday, 4th February, 2022

Friday already. By this time next week I should know my fate. Couldn’t sleep. Up at 5.00 am for a cup of tea. Listening to the news of Johnson’s hold on power weakening by the day. I expect to live to see him gone at least. It really can’t be that long now. The economy and inflation is, as I predicted, becoming the primary concern. I didn’t see inflation reaching 7% which is where it is now expected to peak. Anyone with any reasonable pot of savings will have to think very carefully about how to protect and invest it. Anyone who is poor and without a cushion of substantial savings will really have major choices of cutting back their lifestyles with some even making the terrible and unacceptable choice between eating and heating.

How lucky are we? I regularly reflect on that. When I say it out loud, Pauline responds that it is not luck but hard work and saving in earlier years. I’m not so sure. I never worked that hard nor denied myself that much and I was lucky to be born into a middle-class family who valued education and instilled the value of money and saving for the future. Many are not that fortunate.

I was quite shocked to find yesterday that, when the government set out who would get help with Council Tax, they restricted it to Bands A – D which we were told covers 80% of households. We are Band F. Bands F & G represent the top 8% of households. We are certainly not wealthy so it tells you how much under financial pressure large swathes of the population are. The poorer you are, of course, the older and less well insulated your home is likely to be – the more it will cost to keep warm and the harder you will be hit by the ensuing energy crisis.

BA Business Lounge – Gatwick

These thoughts were swirling round my head but mixing with thought of getting away. I was struck by the obscenity of the luxury we’d bought … just because we can …. in our Business Class flights across the Atlantic next month. Actually, I was thinking about whether I would need to pre-book an Executive Lounge at the airport but checked the British Airways Business Class benefits.

In summary here are some of the amazing benefits awaiting BA Business Class passengers (their advert says):

  • BA Lounge access offering comfortable surroundings as well as free food and drink
  • Faster check-in through the dedicated Business Class desks, as well as being the one of the first people to board the plane
  • Your seat is in its own personal space and gives you a 6ft lay-flat bed
  • Order food and drink whenever you choose
  • Your ticket entitles you to take 2 suitcases of up to 32kg
  • A dedicated a-la-carte meal offering on board, just for Business Class flyers

Meanwhile, back in the real world, I’ve driven Pauline to the hairdressers – not that she couldn’t drive herself but parking isn’t easy or guaranteed so it’s useful to have a chauffeur. It is 12C/54F but feels colder in the breeze. I walk the streets for an hour while Pauline is coiffured. We will do another 90 minute walk later in the morning followed by a Gym session for me. Will it be worth it. I’ve got to believe it will.

Saturday, 5th February, 2022

Birth, and copulation, and death.
That’s all the facts when you come to brass tacks:
Birth, and copulation, and death.
I’ve been born, and once is enough.
You don’t remember, but I remember,
Once is enough.

Sweeney Agonistes – T.S.Eliot (1924)

Nihilism in a nutshell! I have never moved beyond it over the past 50 years and I am unlikely to recant now … whatever happens to me.

As we move through our Aquarian phase and on into Piscean, we are having fish for tea. We had the most wonderful sushi- quality fresh Tuna delivered on Thursday and some will be grilled in the garden this afternoon. We will eat it with one of my current obsessions – garlic green beans.

Preparing for my date with destiny on Thursday. This morning, I didn’t take Warfarin for the first time since 15th January, 2008. A bit scary! Also done a lateral flow test this morning because Covid would stop my investigation. It was negative … again.

The post has come early today for the first time in years and brought this. Is it a sign? What do they know? Pure Cremation quite appeals to me as a concept. It is cheap, efficient and unassuming. The body of the deceased is collected, turned into ashes and then returned in a container to significant other(s) without ceremony.

The demand on the living is minimal. The cost is much cheaper than a full cremation/funeral and it doesn’t involve religion. In my case, I don’t want to be a burden on my wife or anybody else. When I’m dead, there is nothing.

We had gone down to the beach on this glorious morning. It was quite quiet and bathed in sunshine.

The tide was going out and revealing cleanly washed sand. A breeze was coming off the sea and reduced the temperature a bit but the experience was lovely and refreshing.

We drove home and did a 90 mins walk. Contact from Julie in Bridlington wishing me well which is nice. Amazing how important friendship can feel at times!

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