Wednesday, 21 August 2019

More use of NHS resources

My follow-up cystoscopy was done this morning. Today three women stood round me to push and probe inside the bladder. They attempt to anaesthetise the urethra with an anaesthetic gel, but the pain of the gel is as great as the subsequent pain of the cystoscope: an intensely sharp needle being thrust deep inside. To say it is uncomfortable is an understatement, but the view on the screen is astounding - a huge magnification of the intimate passage through my penis and into the bladder. Every muscle of the bladder wall is enlarged ten-fold, and exposes vast areas of redness impregnated with raw blood vessels. All the inflammation I see is explained as the after-effects of the searing radiation I received over eight months ago from the radiotherapy, which literally burnt away at the original site to obliterate any residual rogue cells. But thankfully, no recurrence of the tumour which led to all this poking around, so the news is good. They give me a tissue to wipe myself, and I get dressed then go out to Ann to break the glad news.

However, continuing the theme of my good health and its maintainance, I still get very breathless and tired on any exertion, and tonight saw my GP to discuss the incidental findings of scar tissue and bronchiectasis in the lungs. I notice that GPs never perform physical examinations any more - no one has actually auscultated my chest for years. In the old days, I would have been tapping for resonance, looking for any glands or deviations of the trachea (in laymen's terms, changes in the lungs give difference resonances on the chest wall, or can displace the windpipe). He didn't check my BP or heart for any signs of failure, which can also lead to breathlessness; or my veins for raised venous pressure or ankles for oedema for other signs of heart failure. In fact, the whole consultation took about two minutes, but he did refer me to the respiratory clinic for investigations, so that shall be sufficient judgement on his methods. Once again, I am thankful that the NHS provide all this, for I have no private insurance and I could certainly never afford these multiple treatments.

Monday, 19 August 2019

Good health and haute cuisine

Good news on the health front today. I need not give my notice yet at work. The oncologist gave me the results of the scan which shows no recurrence, and blood tests which show no further deterioration in my anaemia or renal failure. I can consider future plans for a bit further ahead and put my will back in its envelope. I still get very tired in the evening and walk slowly and breathlessly, but he explained that by saying that my lungs have some scarring and bronchiectasis, but could not tell me how I had acquired the damage or if I can do anything about it, except to make an appointment with the GP and see if he can sort it out. Back to normal, in other words. Happily our GPs are not so unavailable as in some areas; Ann made an appointment tonight and I get to be seen on Thursday.

Edwin cooked for us tonight, a feast of stuffed marrows using the veggies that Rosie and Matthew had grown on their allotment (see Adding colour to life). He made the stuffing from rice flavoured with garlic and herbs and covered in cheese, with a special sauce he had created. They were delicious and were a full and worthy tribute to the glorious veggies. Edwin does a lot of original cooking now with his friend in Cambridge, and is considering putting together a recipe book about converting an ardent meat eater to the delights of delicate vegetarian cuisine.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Adding colour to life

Selection of veggies from Rosie and Matthew's allotment
Rosie and Matthew have a huge allotment between them, and have successfully grown a wide variety of vegetables that are just coming into fruition. They seem to specialise in rare or exotic items such as golden beetroot, or yellow cucumbers, which are amazing. Yesterday they brought round a wonderful, plump, ripe tasty selection of their produce, and Edwin is going to stuff the marrow and cook it for us. They also brought the added gift of a rare black cheese that we first sampled at their house. It is delicious, but very expensive. They are so generous, and always seem to bring something welcome but unusual.

The wonderful variety of the colours and the roundness of the veggies put me in mind of my Damien Hirst coaster mat. I found it in Clare and immediately put it to use next to my chair in the living room. Bright and cheery, I loved it and thought it added colour and modernity to the room. It didn't stay long. Ann pounced, saying it didn't match her decor and would have to go! It has now been relegated to my desk, where it sits before me and holds my tea in glorious Technicolor spots. Perhaps I should add that, when I say I found it in Clare, it had been dropped on the pavement, not in the art shop. Now Ann keeps sending me photos of other spotty things as she says I like them so much, including Damian Hirst covering a nude model in spots. I find all sorts of things on my walks, but I've yet to find one of those.

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Up to the Nines

Waiting in the sun
Nines Global Buffet is an amazing all-you-can-eat diner in Cambridge serving top class food from a wide variety of cuisines, at modest prices. We visited for the first time with Matthew and Rosie, who'd come to us for the day, bringing the fruits of their allotment. Unhappily, Rosie was struck with severe nausea after her main courses and before she could start her dessert, so we had to leave for some fresh air to allow her to recover. Matthew walked her over to some bushes by the carpark, whilst Ann and I waited in the sun for her recovery. We had intended to go on to do some bowling, or perhaps to sit in the garden at Grantchester, but in the event we had to drive them at a sedate pace back home. She lay on the couch and slowly the colour came back to her cheeks, until she was well enough to face the journey back to King's Lynne.

Friday, 16 August 2019

How to make a bad impression

A few weeks ago, I lost half of an upper molar when it cracked off and I spat it out. I thought a small stone had weaselled its way into my meal until I felt the jagged edge, so today I finally got to the dentist for a crown to be fitted. This procedure is carried out in two halves, the first being the longest and hardest when he injects the gum then proceeds to drill out the cavity to prepare for the fitting. I will not describe in any detail the incredibly noisy, high-pitched whining and sensation of torture as I felt my skull being excavated, for this is well known to anyone who has had a filling, but I suffered it bravely without incident. The trouble came when he prepared the mould for me to bite into for the tooth impression. Every time I bit down, my teeth started an uncontrollable chattering, so that the jelly in the mould was pushed in all directions, and left not a single bite imprint, but a huge impression of someone chewing his last meal.

Each time the dentist tried it, the same thing happened. I wasn't nervous, and the rest of my body was calm and still - only the teeth were chattering. He asked if I was cold and offered a blanket, but I was not cold. Finally he asked about my food intake, and I admitted to having only a light breakfast of cereal (unsugared) many hours earlier. I had deliberately missed any lunch or snacks to keep my mouth clean. "Ah," he said, "I think you're hypoglycaemic!" and asked the nurse to bring me a drink of sugar water. Sure enough, this did seem to do the trick and my mouth remained its normal steady self after this. "Well done," he said, as though it was my accomplishment that had achieved success. "We'll see you in two weeks when the crown is ready. It will be much easier next time - we just glue it in."

Coming out I was greeted by Ann's smile. She had waited knowing I would be somewhat distressed, as I always am at the dentist. She took my hand and led me to a garden centre to buy me a big slice of Lemon Victoria Drizzle cake, with lashings of lemon icing on the top. My serenity and my blood sugar were soon fully restored.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

One of our sheep is missing

Caring for the sheep
Clare park has installed a number of wooden sheep as part of their revamping operation. Unfortunately, the rustlers have been at work and one has disappeared. Farmers beware – not even wooden sheep are safe anymore from predators.

I received an encouraging though unexpected email today from a Professor at Washington University in the USA, who is editing a special edition of a journal called Galaxy, and has requested a new paper. I wrote back to say I was interested and outlined a topic suggestion, and she replied saying that will be ideal and she looks forward to getting it!

The first of our bikes has sold to a man called Dan from Clare. He only moved here two weeks ago from Gran Canaria, where he worked privately in "currency exchange" whatever that is. He wants the bike to cycle to the shops, and  also brought his 14 year old daughter, Ananda, so she can take her GCSEs in England. She too wants a bike, but didn't like the look of any of our rusty wrecks.

Ann meanwhile has gone to Lakeside Ikea with Mary-Anne and the grandchildren. They love going there, and always manage to persuade Ann to go with them. They then convince her that she must need whatever attracts them at the moment, so I never know what she will bring back! Last time it was two enormous circular trays, large enough to carry the dinner for a family of six. But they are always such fun to be with that it is time well spent (though strangely, I am never invited to these shopping jaunts).

Ann returned late, with the two girls helping to bring in her shopping. I told her about the bike, but her comment was "I didn't want to sell that one. Now I'm going to have to buy a new one!" Oops.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Perseid Meteors

Tonight was peak viewing time for the annual display of celestial pyrotechnics that is the Perseid Meteor Shower. Edwin is away again for a few days, so Ann and I took the dogs to the top of our local hill, which is also the highest point in East Anglia and lightless on the farm track. The moon was nearly full and there was some cloud cover, so it was far from a dark night, but still clear enough to see the brightest meteors in their final fall. Come midnight, we drove into Clare park, me still in pyjamas and slippers though Ann was diligent enough to dress first. It is a creepy place at night - a couple of camper vans sneaking a cheap night, a few cars, the old castle outlined in the moonlight, and strange noises in the creepy shadows, though not a soul was about nor another vehicle on the road at that time. Just us and the dogs, shadowed in the bright moon, but we did see some spectacular meteor trails.

£15 anyone?
We have found five old bikes in the garage and side-shed, collected over the years from the days when we were energetic enough to do such things. Now, we need to get rid of them, so I've started to place them on Gumtree. I posted Ann's old shopper at £25, but following her advice (i.e. "You should give them £25 to take it away"), I've reduced it to £15. Someone actually phoned today, so perhaps it will sell!