Thursday, 28 August 2008

Fit for the knackers' yard?

Fit for the knacker's yard
Finally, yesterday, after around 11 years of having no access to medical services, I saw a doctor and to my utter surprise and enormous relief, he appeared perfectly happy to accept that the symptoms I've been experiencing for the last 13+ years are those of fibromyalgia ... to the point that he asked if I minded if he put that on my notes.

Frankly, I don't mind what he puts, as long as he accepts that there's something to investigate, because, in the exceedingly long story that ensued during all this time, as I explained to him, the worst part (above the considerable physical pain I've endured) is having been doubted and treated as a liar by my own family.

Better yet is that he gave me a piece of paper with the word fibromyalgia printed on it that I was able to wave under my mother's nose. She sniffed at the paper with an air of suspicion then denied ever doubting me - like once before, when she said, "Oh I believe you, but I want backup."

I'm sure you get the irony / contradiction. She still doesn't, but lets see if that's enough to satisfy her and if she's capable of treating me any better now.

Anyway, the doctor wanted to get some basic information about me on that first visit yesterday - none of my notes have materialized yet (if they ever do) - and he's sending me for some blood tests; cholesterol, sugar, etc., but his intention is that we take a holistic approach (how I LOVE to hear that word from a mainstream medic), work out a management strategy between us and then tick off the issues one by one (as I'd made it clear that I have a list.)

Nothing is simple, of course, because I have to go to Lymington Hospital for the tests (on Monday), on an empty stomach. It will take two buses and a taxi, the least it will cost is around £20.00 return (for the approx. 5 mile journey) yet, because of the bus times (the first from here is 10 a.m.), the earliest I can be there is 11.30 in the morning. A bit late to be still starving as the nice lady at the hospital, who made the appointment, kindly pointed out!

The way she asked "Fasting or non-fasting?" sounded funny too, like "smoking or non-smoking" used to sound, when you had a choice on flights! :)

Still, it should represent a step forward, provided I don't faint on the way.

One step forward, two steps back?

If people with health books had to be wary of misprints in Mark Twain's day, then someone with internet access to Wikipedia should be doubly careful that they don't kill themselves off twice as fast with misinformation today, but ....

The doctor also took my blood pressure (when I was younger, this had always been on the low side of normal), but yesterday, he said was a bit high.

Yes, I know that one relatively high result does not indicate hypertension, but unfortunately, both my father and grandmother had high blood pressure, so the chances it might also mean that in my case are probably increased.

'Spose I could save the health service money and shoot myself first!

Friday, 22 August 2008

Put your feet up and walk

Taraxacum officinale

Conundrums and contradictions; puzzles and paradoxes, I haz dem ...

To say that the English climate doesn't agree with me is the understatement of the century and I don't just mean that I'm a wimp, start to feel cold at anything under 25C and just don't like it, although I'll admit that all of those are true as well.

No, I am genuinely in serious pain every time it's humid. The obvious difference is that, whereas that was one day in a 100 in Tenerife, here in the UK it has been the other 99 days too. On the roughly 99 out of every 100 days when it's too wet, too cold or threatening to be either or both, I'm in too much pain to move.

And we're not just talking about some minor ache, it's creaking joint and searing muscle pain, alternately both dull and sharp, in my shoulders, arms, wrists, hands, back, neck, hips, legs, knees, ankles, feet ... often severe enough to make me cry, nauseous and prevent me from sleeping.

This is the same pain I've been suffering (and had previously been managing with combination of benign climate, a special mattress, a heat pad and careful balancing of effort versus rest; none of which tools I have available now) since 1995, but as I suspected and said repeatedly it would, has been severely increased in frequency and severity in the British climate. And this is why I've spent the last 7 years begging my mother to make some sort of compromise to avoid it.

Even if she doesn't give a shit about me and the amount of pain I am in, logic ought to tell her that I cannot look after her if I'm reduced to being an invalid. 

Of course, she doesn't do logic.

Anyway, you get some idea why it's so difficult to cope, with the pain and with her. And this is supposed to be summer. I will not be able to cope with winter.  

Of course I know that if I don't move enough, I'll just stiffen up like some creaky old relic (and do), but it would make matters much worse if I was to get caught in rain, so balancing it to move far enough, often enough to keep myself mobile, is proving beyond impossible.

Whenever I can on a day when it's dry enough, I get out and walk (can't afford anything else) the 2-3 miles to the village and back, despite the fact that it half kills me to do it and takes another few days before I can move again. But I do it, because already, when too many wet days passed and I wasn't able to go out my feet and ankles became so swollen that I could hardly get shoes on - never happened before - which was painful and quite scary.

It took a couple of days with my feet in the air to get the swelling down and, ironically, the only way I can keep it under control is by walking more and, when I'm at home keeping my feet up. The other contradictory thing I was recommended to reduce water retention, is to drink more water.

Now I can walk short distances, or I can lie down with my feet up, but I dare not sit in a chair for more than a few minutes, because my feet go to sleep and / or swell up like balloons. I already couldn't stand for long: that's now reduced to not at all, unless I keep moving.

It's difficult to manage, but how I managed it before was considerably better than taking some prescription drug with "... a monstrous list of side effects that includes diarrhoea, constipation, drowsiness, sleeplessness, hunger pangs, loss of appetite, euphoria, depression...", as The Grumpy Goat so aptly describes it

More contradictions: 

A dry skin problem on my forearms, wrists and hands that I only used to suffer in winter in Tenerife, has flared up painfully already. At the other extreme, oily skin and a plague of "teenage spots" have returned to my back and face and, one or other has me constantly itching and scratching like a flea-ridden moggie.

Oh, why the pic of the dandelions? Dandelion root, is a powerful and safe diuretic for reducing fluid retention, dandelion root promotes liver detoxification and dandelion leaves support kidney function. May have to try that. 

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Walls Come Tumbling Down

Makeshift fix to prevent loose tiles falling on me in the bath

The tiles were finally fixed last week, but what a bloody fiasco it took to get it done. Not to mention the fact that I came from that super-mega plumbing hell in Tenerife to ... Well, more of the same crap, basically.

This is something I really wasn't expecting. I had no clue or any reason not to believe my friend Andy's consolatory statement, when I'd had to come back to the UK, when she said, at least I would have the chance "to live in a house where everything works" for a while. How wrong we both were to assume that!

Exhibit A: the bathroom, as you see, is a "nice" 1970s style "avocado green" and, even on that, mother had to call me a liar publicly - I was explaining the general nature of the job to the tiler on the phone - when she insisted (excessively defensively) the house was built in 1980!

The whole thing is a convoluted and surrealistic tale of denial and fantasy, but if one wanted to be really pedantic, one could argue that there's only a day (or mere fleeting moment) between December 31st, 1979 and January 1st, 1980, but when I casually and lightly said, "So call me a liar for a year", I got a shouted diatribe of arrogant assertion back that it was 10 years.

Anyway, when I'd arrived in June, I'd noticed immediately that half a dozen tiles (two columns of 3) had blown and were standing proud from the wall.

When a friend came to visit he also immediately noticed it and asked my mother when she was going to fix it. She was kinda dismissive about it with him, but when I'd mentioned it, she'd displayed forceful denial: adamant that there was nothing wrong and that she couldn't do anything about it, in that (illogical and totally contradictory order), followed by the now classic ...

She hadn't seen this before, until I got here.

Oh, like I arrived, waved my evil magic wand and the tiles came loose?

That could technically be true. What she fails to grasp is that by insisting that she had not seen the problem, she pretty much PROVES she hasn't had a bath or shower for however long it is that those tiles were unhinged. And, if you need a clue, they certainly didn't become detached overnight!

Well, clearly, the tiles are not the only things unhinged in this house and, I gladly include myself in that category after all the many frustrations.

Meanwhile, the tiles urgently needed fixing before they fell and broke the plastic bath or smashed (not a good idea, since they're a size that can't be replaced now). The alternative, or consequence of ignoring the problem, could have been to have had to re-tile the entire bathroom. She should be thanking me for avoiding this, but no, as usual, she didn't want me touching them.

Despite her protestations, I was going to take down the loose tiles for safety and for the bloody obvious reason that I quite like to get clean once in a while, so I asked for some old towels or blankets to put in the bath to protect it and the tiles from damage. To ensure that I could proceed no further with that idea, mother told me, curtly, that she had nothing at all suitable. Full stop.

She also proclaimed that she didn't want me to remove the loose tiles, because, she said "it wouldn't look nice." Hardly the issue, I think!

Going to hospital with a broken tile sticking out of my bleeding foot wouldn't look very nice either! I was trying to get my mother to see that it was urgent, but the prospect of such danger just did not provoke any reaction whatsoever. No, simply because, to her, the solution is to not have showers.

Unfortunately, I tend to stink if I don't. Maybe it's just me, eh?

Fortunately, the tiles stayed up by a wish and prayer until my boxes and a thick double duvet arrived from Tenerife. By then one of the tiles was almost flapping in the breeze, so one morning when mother was out, I used the duvet to line the bath and set to "work." Well, all I did was place my finger lightly on the loosest tile and all six fell straight into my safety-net. Another three were in imminent danger, so I took those down too, then I fixed the bin bag over the space to keep the water out until it was fixed properly.

Which it was, finally, last week, but only because I made several phone calls to get it arranged, because she still wasn't about to do anything about it. 

And, believe it or not, this is not even half the story yet!

To a normal, sane person, it wouldn't be a surprise that some maintenance is required in a house almost 30 years old, alright 28, but we're not dealing with normal, sane reasonable folk, we're talking about my mother.

Wherever I look, I'm finding things 30 years old (and often much older), that haven't been maintained or are simply at the end of their useful lives.

And having wilfully ignored them for so long, the situation has escalated, but reality not even being a casual visitor to this house, mother has convinced herself that the considerable inconveniences to put up with it all are how it always was and is what's normal. It never occurred to me that "willfully not seeing" was what she'd trained herself to do for this reason. All it does is depreciate the value.

It does explain why she could come to the house I was renting in Tenerife once a year and, seemingly, not even notice the absolute shit hole I had to put up with.

Walls Come Tumbling Down, by Style Council. "You don't have to take this crap ..."

Do not feed the troll

Some people are never happy until they have something to complain about. I'm sure it seems like I'm never without a reason for a good moan either, but this seemingly contradictory statement appears to have found the ultimate proof in my mother. 

(She wants me to believe that I'm at fault all the time. Well, I don't claim to be perfect, but I'm also sure I'm not always wrong.)

In the meantime, I just don't know how anyone else puts up with her either ...

The other day I overheard her spouting an ignorant opinion as fact, words measured, but her tone was superior and haughty, to someone who definitely knew the topic under discussion FAR better than her. It was fleeting, but the tone of the replies she got suggested that this person found her tiresome.

And, yesterday, a friend of hers called to collect her to go out shopping. Mother answered the door, merely tells the poor woman that she has to shut the door and does so, right in her face. And my mother didn't even attempt to explain why, until after she'd collected her things and went out again and, even then, was just rattling on nonsensically and incoherently about "we're not really sure" of something to do with not letting the cats out.

Only minutes earlier she'd left the back door wide open. And there's nothing whatsoever unsure about it. The cats are not behaving in any way settled enough to be allowed out alone safely. On the contrary, they're behaving scared and skittish, therefore I'M ABSOLUTELY SURE they cannot go.

When the friend had phoned earlier to ask her to go shopping - and bear in mind that shopping is my mother's absolute favourite pastime - I'd have thought she'd have been more than happy to receive the invitation and go. No. She tells me she's going, sighing as if reluctantly resigned to some dreadful fate, then asked, with a slightly snarky tone, if that would be alright with me.

And I resisted (that'll shock a few people, since it's not my usual nature to demonstrate restraint) the rhetorical question in response, because I already knew it would make no sodding difference whether it was OK with me or not. And nor was I going to profess an opinion that she would use against me later. And I couldn't care less anyway. Well, the peace would be nice.

So I treated her question with all the respect it deserved and said absolutely nothing and, of course, there's nothing more irritating to a self-absorbed person than being ignored, is there? So then she had to find something else to say and waffled on about how she normally turns down these invitations. 

Like bloody hell she does! Presumably, she thinks I haven't noticed all the other shopping trips she's been on in the last couple of months, that she's told me about before and spoken about after then, or assumes that I've forgotten about her telling me - several times over the phone over the years - that she particularly likes shopping with this woman because she has good taste.

This was just rattling, merely for effect, nervously and to draw attention to herself, which likewise deserved and got absolutely no verbal response from me. And, where's the grateful for this woman bothering to phone her up and ask, drive over here to pick her up, take her out, bring her back?

Remind me always: do not feed the trolls!

A Real Crap and Bull Story

Style Council might have sung, "You don’t have to take this crap", the reality, however …

In a previous post, I detailed how we finally got the tiles on the bathroom wall fixed - which, when they were loose made taking a shower into a "dangerous sport" - but if you think that was the end of the matter, you'd be seriously wrong.

Amongst many other things, this still leaves the problem of the impossibly low water pressure ...

Warning: whilst I often talk a load of crap, this post actually does talk about poo (human waste), so you might want to avoid reading it over your lunch!

Anyway, the water pressure is so pathetic that, in the shower, you can't get wet all at once and rinsing off soap or shampoo takes f-o-r-e-v-e-r. At this time of year it's a pain, but in winter ... (With fibromyalgia pain? I don't think so!)

Unless there's some miraculous improvement in the meantime, I face not being able to shower or wash my hair at all then. Mother doesn't take showers, gets her hair done outside (or washes it in the kitchen sink) and claims that the water pressure is perfectly normal. It's not. I can piss harder. 

And apart from the cold, I simply can't stand long enough.

Now, if at this stage, you're thinking that you've heard this one before, you'd be absolutely right, because this was exactly the same problem with poor water pressure (and poor maintenance, poor quality, etc) - and the landlady claiming otherwise - I had in Tenerife, but at least in Tenerife, I had the option of calling someone to fix things. Here I'm not allowed to do that.

The cause, in both cases is the same: extreme meanness, coupled with the fact that it's not them suffering so they could care less about it.

This same crap (pun intended) water pressure also refuses to sink er, "solid human effluent" down the loo. It generally takes 2-3 flushes to kill, which is definitely not nice to live with when there is always someone else's poop in the loo.

Most of the time it won't even cope with half a dozen sheets of bog roll, which doesn't bother me, because I'm used to putting it in the bin in Tenerife, except she will NOT permit a bin in the toilet (presumably, it wouldn't look nice).

Beware of mad cows

Notwithstanding that the paper issue alone proves otherwise, do you want to know what my mother's answer to this is? It's because I eat too fast. Maybe compared to a cow chewing the cud, or the excessive amount of time it takes my mother to eat nearly nothing (as it is with lots of old people), of course, it may seem as if I eat fast, but it's only relatively fast and, even if I do eat fast, I'm sure that isn't the reason, because in all my years, I've NEVER experienced this "personal" problem anywhere in the world before and, I think I'd have noticed, don't you?

The mad cow version is that there can be nothing wrong with the water pressure, the toilet can't be too old and in need of replacement either and, of course it's never happened to her (I can assure you that is not true), so it must be me.

She who defies all known logic, has  decided that, because (according to her) I eat too fast, somehow this has made my poo "unsinkable." I'd love to ask a qualified expert (what would you call them, a crapologist?) if eating speed can affect poo "sinkability", but it's not the point, is it?

While eating speed might influence weight control, stools that are firm, well-formed and floating generally indicate a healthy, balanced condition, according to doctors, so I'm in no doubt it's just a total load of crap (of course, pun intended) that she's made up to suit her own purposes. Ah, but she can prove it, she argues, because my dad had this "problem" too (very comforting to hear that, since he had cancer of the colon). All that tells me is that the toilet cistern has been less than efficient for years, because he died in 2001, but I just gave up before saying that.

I've considered suicide, but maybe I should just get a shit box! :)

So, as the tiler was also a plumber, I'd wanted to casually mention the water pressure, but it proved impossible to do so without mother jumping in and derailing me. What did she tell him? Believe this: That the pressure is MUCH higher than it was when I first came here (not so I'd noticed when I last showered) and, now it's SO HIGH (she tells him) that the "water goes everywhere."

What planet is she on for Pete's sake?  

This is the correct way! Toilet roll debate finally settled. A patent dating back to 15 September 1891 helpfully included a detailed diagram which was explicit in showing the paper over the roll.

And, just to add even more surrealism to an already totally bizarre situation, there's the matter of the toilet roll. What the image above shows is what I had always understood, that the "right" way to hang a toilet roll is with the flappy bit over the front. This is how chamber maids - not that I've even done the job - are taught to do it in hotels, with the little pointy bit to make it look pretty. 

Truthfully, I don't think it's THAT big an issue, although I would counter that if it's under, the nice clean paper can make contact with a potentially not very clean wall, so I don't feel that is comfortably hygienic, nevertheless ...

Oh no, that isn't right! If I hang a toilet roll "the right way," the next time I go to the loo, I'll find it turned around with the loose bit hanging down the back and I get yet another lecture on why I am wrong and why wrong is right. So one day, just to see what she'd do, I made a point of constantly correcting it and, every time I put it "right", she put it back "wrong" again. Every single time throughout the day ... which has to be the most pathetically petty deliberate belligerently pedantic, obsessive-compulsive, control-freaky contrariness evar!

I'm Going Slightly Mad ...

"There's nothing more sadistic than making someone believe he's slowly going insane."

Whether it's caused by a debilitating illness, or someone trying to convince you that it's you, not them, who is in need of psychiatric help (mother couldn't remember the words psychiatrist or psychologist during her last outburst of madness, so she screamed at me that I need "a brain doctor"), I truly get the full sentiments of that statement and the hell it is to endure.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

The oldest operating pier railway in Britain

FreeFoto.com - Hythe, Hampshire In the unlikely event that I can actually be arsed on that hypothetical day when (if) the weather turns fine again here, I'm filing an idea for a theoretical day out. If you'll be in the area, you can beat me to it ...

Anorak required for this trip, BTW, not just for train spotting and cold weather (it's August, but there's a biting wind), but as Wikipedia tell us, Hythe's position makes it one of the best vantage points for viewing liners arriving at the port of Southampton, which attracts many ship-watchers to the area. The pub is called the Lord Nelson and I keep being reminded of his local connections every time I go into the local newsagents to be greeted by his picture on a tourist map.

In fact, Nelson keeps appearing everywhere I look lately: First there was the re-enactment of the Battle of Santa Cruz, in Tenerife, I bumped into him again readying his fleet in the bay of Marmaris in Turkey, then he turns up for a last time (getting fatally shot on the deck of HMS Victory) in Alexandre Dumas' lost, last book, The Last Cavalier. Is the seeming coincidence trying to tell me something and, should follow the trail to discover what it is? :)

FreeFoto.com - Hythe Pier and Railway, Hampshire - The oldest operating pier railway in Britain Amongst other famous British folk who've passed through this area was T. E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia (someone perhaps less welcomed by the Turks.) Then known as T. E. Shaw, he turned up in Hythe in 1931, seconded by the RAF to the British Power Boats factory in Shore Road. He lodged in Myrtle Cottage (pic) at the junction of St John Street and Shore Road and left in 1932.

Since he only lodged there for a short while, it really does seem like stretching the point a bit to put up a blue plaque or call this the "Home of British legend", but I saw in the local paper that "his" cottage was on sale for £350k.

FreeFoto.com - Hythe Ferry, Solent, Hampshire Browsing the charity shops (always better quality cast-offs in richer areas) and just enjoying the seaside village scenery will do me nicely, but the cute little Hythe Pier Railway looks like the real scene stealer. Opened in 1881 and electrified in 1922, it still uses Word War I locos. Catch the train to catch the ferry across to Southampton (for ship-spotting, a bit of shopping and more), from where I could catch the train directly home.

Bus #112 (PDF) plies the route from Lymington to Hythe, via Beaulieu and the National Motor Museum gates for a triple helping of local sightseeing.


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Pictures by: Ian Britton - FreeFoto.com