Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Process of ageing

It's my birthday!

No longer, admittedly, the occasion for celebration and excitement that it once was.  In fact I can only once remember when I was at Junior school my mother offering to do me a birthday party, when she gave me the chance of having a party or an extra-special (i.e. expensive) present, and I somewhat anti-socially chose the present!  Needless to say I've long since forgotten what it was.

One thing I do remember, doing a bit of reminiscing, is how apprehensive we all all were back in the year 2000 being at the mercy of the so-called 'millennium bug'.  Would it mark the end of life as we knew it?  It didn't: life carried on just the same despite all the prophets of doom.

I don't know about anyone else, but the last seventeen years haven't been particularly eventful ones for me, not compared, say, to the first seventeen years of my life.  I survived my childhood, and free of the pervasive creeping influence of the nanny-state, those years were by and large happy, carefree ones - although I'm pretty sure I didn't think so at the time.  On the other hand despite the intrinsic curiosity value I certainly wouldn't want to back and relive them, or at least certainly not in a modern setting.  There's a well-known natural tendency to remember things from long ago as being better than they actually were, of course.

And what of the last seventeen?  They've been marked by the major event of leaving work and while I'm tempted to say that my retirement hasn't been anything like I thought it was going to be, I don't honestly think I'd given that much thought to what it was going to be like.  I've always tended to go for the make-it-up-as-you-go-along  approach.

One thing which has marked the last 17 years was my decision in the year 2000 to start an online diary, of which this this blog is the latest incarnation.  I've only very occasionally trawled back to see what I was thinking about and writing about - and most of it I suspect was fairly trivial.  But it is/was an insight into how I was feeling at the time, and I've never deleted or altered anything.  And while I don't blog as frequently or consistently as I did when I first started, I keep it going because I want to.  It's just for me, and not, God forbid, for future generations of schoolboys à la Pepys!   

Friday, 6 October 2017

All looking good

Seven weeks on from my hip replacements, I went to the Hospital this morning to get them checked over.  The physio looked at the scars, got me to do a few test exercises, and then invited me to have a look at my X-Rays.  I'm not really a connoisseur of X-Rays, but the 'before' ones definitely looked to me like a mass of solid bone which had seized up virtually solid, in contrast to the one they took the following day, with the metal joints showing up just like they do in a medical textbook.  What also showed up quite clearly and distinctly, being metal, were my PA and foreskin piercings!

Being the exhibitionist that I am, I couldn't resist saying, "Ooh look..." simply because it hadn't occurred to me they would be visible, but how you could take an X-Ray of the pelvic area without something like that showing visibly is of course almost impossible if you think about it.  Perhaps a bit strange that nobody wondered what they were, but then again I daresay radiographers at least must have seen them before.

I asked how long it would be before I could bend and tie my bootlaces myself, and he said it was just a matter of time and practice, and that it was as much a muscular exercise as anything else.

Pleased as Punch, I left my crutches behind for use of the next patient, and made my way home on the bus, no longer having to sit in the seats at the front specially reserved for those with 'impaired mobility'.  Get as much exercise as you can, he'd said, so I even toyed briefly with the idea of getting another dog. 

Sunday, 24 September 2017

And back for more!

Part One - last year...
Well, I survived the Hernia repair, and looking back on it now, and re-reading what I wrote in anticipation I have to say I worried totally unnecessarily: everything was fine.  The only hitch was that the surgeon couldn't do the laproscopy which he'd planned - he told me afterwards that when he put the little camera in, everything was so tightly compacted he couldn't see what he was doing and so had to go for for an open mesh job instead.

I had a slight panic a couple of days after the operation when an accumulation of fluid made my poor little boy equipment swell up to elephantine proportions, completely burying my PA and foreskin rings under a massive balloon.  I'd never seen anything like it and sat there wondering what was going to happen if it sealed up the urethra underneath this coccoon-like thing, blocking my ability to pee.  Fortunately I discovered it didn't, and in a couple of days it had subsided as suddenly as it had come: if only someone had forewarned me, as I found out afterwards it's not that uncommon as a side-effect.

The waterproof dressings came off after about twelve days, exposing two rows of stitches which were actually rows of metal staples called 'clips', looking a bit like teeth braces.  I wish now I'd taken a photo: thinking back to my body piercing days, my mates would surely have been insanely jealous of this pair of awesome metal contraptions adorning my pubic area!  But they had to come out, and a year on, I just have two faint scars as little souvenirs of it all.

Part two - this year...
But while that problem had been solved, another had developed in its place.  I was experiencing very troublesome arthritis in my hip joints culminating in my not being able to sit down to lace my boots up or pick anything up of the floor, and more significantly forcing me to give up my fortnightly trips to my Italian classes.  I was by this time walking painfully (or more accurately, hobbling) with the aid of a stick, and people who knew me were commenting on how much difficulty I was having: I was petrified of losing my balance and having a fall.  I really couldn't face the prospect of having to spend the rest of my life indoors, and so went on the waiting list for a hip replacement.  Despite hearing that something almost akin to rationing was in force in the NHS, I in fact got an appointment surprisingly quickly.  I was gobsmacked when the surgeon asked me, unusually, if I'd like to have both hips done at the same time, which I hadn't thought was actually technically possible, but I replied straightaway: "Yeah, I'd be up for that".

And so that's what I had done.  All pretty hardcore: everyone I've told about it has been amazed!  But it's gone like a dream and five weeks later I've almost dispensed with the crutches and with just a few residual aches (and plenty of rest), I'm otherwise recovering fast and will soon be up and running.

A very nice touch, incidentally, was the chance to pay for a private room for the duration of my hospital stay.  With a price tag of several grand, there's no way I could've afforded to have the whole operation done privately - and fortunately I didn't need to.  But it was a nice 'extra' touch of individual care and the staff couldn't have been more attentive - just like staying in a hotel, in fact.  So all in all,,props to Warwick Hospital for a grand job!

Tuesday, 5 July 2016


So... somewhere around a year after they were first diagnosed, I'm due to have my hernias operated on later today.  Having had to pop out yesterday and get a couple of spare front door keys cut and in the process experiencing a groin pain almost at times akin to bing stabbed, I don't need much more convincing of the necessity of getting it done.

The Hospital have done their best to cover all the angles to ensure I'm physically prepared, and friends have all rallied round offering emotional support.  And I've been making myself busy trying to make sure I've got everything in place to make things easy to manage on my return - which I guess is some sort of psychological testament to my confidence there there will in fact be a return!  So for the moment at least, I'm somewhat calmer and don't think I shall panic and run at the last minute. 

And just to reinforce all that, I'm going to finish with a quote from an online novel I've been reading and re-reading recently.  Although I've taken it out of context, It nevertheless strikes a chord with me in my present situation.  It goes like this:
"She also said without words that worrying would do no good, that the universe would do what was right, that all I had to do was trust it. She told me that no one is ever in total control and sometimes you need to give others the gift of allowing them to care for you." 

[from "All in a Row (the Boys of Sunset)" - a novel by T.S.]

Saturday, 2 July 2016


The date for my hernia repair operation approaches, and re-reading what I wrote on here in the entry-before-last I'm just as unsettled about it all now as I was then. Maybe it's just the feeling of being trapped - coerced into doing something I don't really want to because there's no realistic alternative.  No, it's not quite that simple: irt's more a case of constantly weighing up unknowns and trying to predict the likely outcomes.  And that's something I've never been very good at: I think I'd say I've always been more of a suck-it-and-see person, content to accept whatever result materializes.

And maybe that's the problem.  I'm pretty sure, trying to analyse my feelings now, that I'm overthinking what might go wrong.  I'm concentrating on the risks and possible problems of what is a very common routinely performed operation and speaking as one who rarely reads the little leaflets inserterd into packets of tablets detailing all the possible side-effects I'm somehow become fixated with the idea that I'm going to be the one in ten, one in a hundred or whatever.

The worst part is that I don't know why I'm doing it.  Everyone else in the family had to have an operation: my mother had what I didn't know at the time and only found out after she died was a hysterectomy, and my father had a prostate operation when he was younger than I am now.  And they both lived to tell the tale without as far as I remember making too much of it.

I think back to my childhood, which I once described in one word in one of those idiotic online survey-things as "carefree".  Because that's how I remember it.  On the other hand I'm sure there were an endless number of things that seemed a big deal at the time but which I just no longer have any recollection of because they ceased to have any importance after the event: life went on.  My mother was a worryer, and would spend endless nights awake, tossing and turning, unlike my father who seemed unfazed and slept soundly - or maybe he didn't show it.  On the other hand my mother was always 'there' for me and while I wasn't really in the habit of confiding all my innermost dark worries in her, I just felt her presence was reassuring: nothing bad was going to happen while she was around.  Maybe she would just worry about whatever it was it for both of us, so I didn't have to.  

I wonder what she'd make of all this now?  She'd probably tell me to pull myself together and stop being so silly.  Maybe she'd be more fatalistic and take the "Que sera sera" line: she often had this idea that things were or weren't "meant to be/happen".  She'd be right, of course: she always was.  So maybe I just need to cling on to the idea that my innate Libran optimism will see me though, come what may.


Monday, 27 June 2016

The die is cast

And so - the fall-out from surprise result of last Thursday's referendum continues in the wake of the vote for "Brexit".  17.4 million Britons, or 51.9%  voted that they no longer want to remain in the EU.  Six weeks of campaigning produced a close result, which was expected, but an overall vote to leave, which wasn't.  There is apparently a petition currently attracting signatories - many of them allegedly fraudulent - demanding a re-run.  But seriously: the question was simple enough: in or out and it produced a majority in a free vote.  That's how democracy works in action.  You can't have endless re-runs using slightly different rules until you get the result you want.

I'm old enough to remember Britain's first attempts to join what was then known as the 'Common Market', twice frustrated in the 1960s by the veto of French President de Gaulle.  Over the years since then the face of Europe has changed beyond recognition with the virtual end of the Cold War, the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe and the enlargement of the EU into a sprawling union encompassing virtually every country in Europe.  The character of the union has changed too, from a simple trading area to a more of a political union raising in turn questions of national sovereignty.  So the pressure which gave rise to the demand for the referendum in the first place I think was inevitable.  What has tipped the balance seems to have been the migration/refugee crisis, Europe's collective failure to deal with it, and the resulting pressure on the UK public services and facilities.  A relevant question to my mind is why, with open borders and 25 other countries to choose from, do so many migrants want to come here?

Much of the scaremongering which marked the campaigning was just that - scaremongering.  The plain fact is that no-one actually knows what's going to happen to jobs, prices, and trading in the future.  Gone will be the loathsome petty diktats which regulated amongst other things the curvature of bananas.  Perhaps too we shall see the end of the 5% VAT on gas and electricity which was a Brussels imposition.  But I've no doubt whatever happens we shall survive.  Better off in some respects and worse off in others.  However the feeling of having chosen to do something as opposed to having it imposed against your wishes is in my view a price worth paying.



Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Running out of options

It must now be getting on for twelve months since I noticed in the shower one morning a small bulge on the right-hand side of my ballsac.  I wasn't unduly bothered: it didn't seem to hurt or anything but conscious of the thought that it might be cancerous or something I booked an appointment at the doctor's.

The doc examined me and her diagnosis from this initial consultation was that I had an inguinal scrotal hernia.  She checked and seemed rather pleased when she announced that she was able to do a referral for me to see a specialist and when a week later I got a letter through the post I booked an appointment using the NHS 'choose and book' online.  I believe that theoretically a patient can elect to go more or less anywhere in England, but I was offered a choice of four local venues and since the waiting time (about six weeks I think) was much of a muchness I just picked the nearest - University Hospital Coventry.  

The first hitch was that the Hospital rang me up the day before the appointment to say that I'd been referred to the wrong specialist and I would need to see a urologist instead.  Quite why they waited until the last minute before checking and discovering this has never been properly explained to me.  The guy they now wanted me to see I discovered is a specialist in female bladder incontinence!  While he may have a nice sideline in doing hernias as well, I wasn't filled with confidence and went back asked the doc whether I could pick one of the other choices instead.  The NHS being what it is, it wasn't that simple: a fresh referral was apparently needed with the result that I'd go back to the beginning of the 18-week "guarantee" of treatment which is supposed to be afforded to patients these days.  

Come the late autumn, I saw a very pleasant urologist by the name of Mr Strachan at Warwick Hospital, who checked me over and said he thought I had in fact got a bilateral hernia (one on each side).  I looked and saw what he meant: the groin area on my left did look as if it had a bit of a bulge, whereas the original bulge on the sac had got noticeably bigger.  He said he'd arrange for me to have a consultation with a surgeon there with a view to having a hernia repair operation done on it/them.

It seemed likely that nothing much was going to happen until after Christmas so I I took advantage of the lull to find out a bit more about what all this might entail.  I was quite minded to let well enough alone: I wasn't in any pain or particular discomfort and most of the time I was hardly aware I'd got them.  So when February came and I got to see the surgeon I was given the distinct impression that an operation was a 'done deal' and perhaps rather foolishly went along with it to the extent of actually getting a date booked.

I can't really describe the turmoil I went through except to say that I really didn't want to have it done.  Although everything I read up on told me it was a routine procedure carried out with a high success rate I was just haunted by the prospect of something going wrong and either ending up a vegetable or swapping what by this time had become mild discomfort for constant agonizing pain.  I would burst into tears at the slightest provocation and eventually went back to ask my doctor for a second opinion: was an operation really the only answer?  She persuaded me to simply cancel the date I had booked and fix up another consultation with the surgeon which would give me a chance to ask all the questions I should've asked the first time round and didn't.  It was a huge weight off my mind.  The guy was very nice and seemed to understand my dilemma: I didn't want to end up a statistic but on the other hand neither of us can predict the future.  He agreed that I should go away and think about it and he said he'd be happy to see me again if I changed my mind.

However, letting nature take its course turned out not to be as straightforward as I'd thought.  The hernia has now become massively enlarged to the point where my groin is very noticeably and obviously swollen, and a bit tender, with occasional background abdominal aches and pains.  Standing about for any length of time is becoming virtually impossible and I have to take such frequent rest breaks to sit down or even lie down that it's impinging on my ability to lead anything like a normal life.  Tight jeans are out of the question, even loose-fitting clothes seem to reveal a visible bulge, and it's now got to the point where I've had to start using a dressing pad to protect my scrotum from rubbing a sore patch against my thigh.  And I'm very much aware of the possibility of the hernia becoming strangulated.

The inescapable conclusion from all this was that the balance of the equation was tipping the other way and I was just storing up trouble for myself: consequently I bowed to the inevitable and re-booked to have it operated on I feel I just can't go on as I am.  I'm already having days when I really don't feel much like doing anything, which isn't fair on the people depending on me, nor on myself either for that matter.  So, three weeks tonight, I shall hopefully be starting to recover from keyhole surgery, and with a bit of luck perhaps even wondering what on earth I was making all the fuss about!