Friday, November 25, 2005

Trying was easy

It's easy to sound smug and gloating when the conception happened so quickly and easily. But I never thought that the Tryingtm would be so much easier than the having. I thought that it would be a time of stress, inevitable disappointment and waiting. I imagined that once we'd got the positive result we would have a few weeks of anticipation and then months of foot-rubs and craving runs (for w2b, I know it would be a bit much for me to ask her to massage my feet and to track down my favourite foods). Then of course, the complete life-upside down, no sleep, emotional wreck new life to look after bit.

But this limbo time that we're going through at the moment has stresses that I just wasn't prepared for. W2b - so often the comfortably and predictably insane one - is waaaaay more volatile than she is normally (her being volatile is normally an absolute rarity). The lack of a concrete clarification from anyone remotely medical[1] has left us feeling not quite pregnant. We're just stuck in a kind of "almost pregnant waiting room".

W2b is knackered, both from the physical and the emotional changes going on with her. She's also struggling really hard to take it all in her stride. My admiration for her just grows and grows. I just hope I can do my bit.

I've done a little searching for info, but it's all pretty lacking from a dad-to-be perspective. This guy's blog provided some insight into things, but unfortunately he blogs less than I do. I have however ordered the following books from Amazon:

  • So You're Going to Be a Dad
  • She's Having a Baby
  • She's Had a Baby: And I'm Having a Meltdown

You've got to love the title of the last one. Reviews will follow.

In the meantime I'll keep looking for advice. I'll keep doing what I'm doing: being supportive, taking the dogs out for their endless toilet trips, maybe painting another room tomorrow, offering myself up as a sounding board/punch bag wherever I can, not pestering for sex ;). Keeping my fingers crossed that this will all stabilise and we can look forward to our potential new family. Before you say anything, no - I don't mean just so I can get some nookie.

On the plus side, the countdown to SA can begin in earnest. We fly out on the 2nd December. Wedding is on the 10th. Back home on Boxing Day. No work till 3rd January. Yay! Just a couple more days work to get through.

If we could just get the medical side of things and the house side of things sorted out, we could breathe easily.

[1] We finally got to see someone today but she was useless. Not only was she very new to the practice nurse position, but she had very little power or inclination to get anything sorted. She couldn't get w2b booked in to see anyone to confirm the pregnancy. She couldn't prescribe anything, or even advise on what kind of anti-malarials were suitable during pregnancy. All in all a complete wasted journey. In the end w2b had to use her legendary tenacity to sort out an appointment herself. There are some downsides to living this side of the border.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

As positive as you can be...

So the trying was fun while it lasted. My soldiers have performed their duty admirably and we were rewarded last week with a dim +. The + has grown stronger and stronger these past days.

Admittedly it's very early days but we're really happy. If a little stressed and nervous.

W2b has consulted all the websites and knows (at least in theory) what the next few months hold for us. This is all provided it all goes to plan of course. Hold thumbs as those foreigners say.

Only thing is - where does that leave me?

I'm trying to do my best in my usual ham fisted way. I'm working hard to navigate the slightly heightened emotion, whether these be hormone induced or just through the nervous, apprehensive excitement that we're going through at the moment. I'm trying wherever possible to make her life as easy and stress free as possible.

But it all seems a bit... inadequate.

Lets face it. My biological job was done over the course of a few minutes a couple of weeks ago. So it's no wonder I (no doubt like a lot of other dads-to-be out there) feel like a bit of a fifth wheel. I want to be useful, but what can I do?

Guess I'll just have to resolve to not make w2b's part in this any harder than it has to be. Oh, and to do what she's done already and scour the internet for as much information as I can find.

Monday, November 21, 2005

This tagging lark...

I've been tagged, apparently. Course it was by w2b so I'm not sure that qualifies as any kind of Blog notoriety.

Ten Years Ago:
I was still at University, studying (yawn) Software Engineering. Most of the time seemed to consist of *ahem* drinking myself into a stupor and trying to work out valid reasons for not going to lectures.

Five Years Ago:
If I've calculated it right I think I'd just bought my first house (not in a big shot property developer way, but in a "this is the first house that I've got a mortgage for and bought"). I think I was also starting to realise that something may be a bit wrong with my tummy.

One Year Ago:
We'd just got our two nightmare pups and were trying to transform the house from the bachelor pad/undecorated hovel that it had been for the four years that I'd lived there on my own. People suspected our relationship wouldn't last, but we were gradually turning them round...

5 Yummy Things
1) Spicy Pizza
2) Tea
3) J2O (Orange and Passion fruit, the nectar of the Gods - if this had been around thirty years ago George Best wouldn't be in intensive care right now)
4) Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Bagel
5) Roast Lamb, Yorkshire Pudding and Gravy

5 Songs I know by heart
1) Everybody Hurts - REM (actually, most of the REM back catalogue)
2) Basketcase - Green Day
3) Jesus Doesn't Want Me For A Sunbeam - Nirvana
4) Friday, I'm in Love - The Cure
5) A Day In The Life - The Beatles

(w2b forgot/neglected to mention that she knows all the words to Ice, Ice, Baby by Vanilla Ice)

5 Things I would do if I had a lot of money
1) Tell everyone at work what I really think of them.
2) Make life really comfortable for my friends and family.
3) Buy a house somewhere hot.
4) Buy a house somewhere cold and dramatic.
5) Start a completely pointless business.

5 Things I would never wear
1) Lycra.
2) Speedos.
3) White jeans.
4) Gold Jewellery.
5) Burberry.

5 Favourite TV Shows
1) The West Wing.
2) ER.
3) CSI.
4) Lost.
5) Star Trek (any of 'em).

5 Things I enjoy doing
1) Staying in bed longer than I should (ideally with w2b).
2) Talking/singing/babbling with w2b.
3) XBox.
4) "Posing" Will (just have to explain here that Will is our incredibly malleable, gay cat. He loves to lay on your knee and have is belly scratched. He also puts up with any amount of manipulation - no matter how stupid the position you put him in).
5) Practicing for what we have just (fingers crossed) accomplished - more in a bit.

I'd love to have Zinnia complete this but understand that it may interrupt the flow of the narrative a little.

Oh, and those of you who haven't been reading w2b's blog won't know our big news. We got our first "+" on Thursday last week. So we're hopeful that if all goes according to plan we may have more than just a wedding to announce next month.

Chuffed? You bet we are.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Just one more question...

This put to w2b by her friend BGA:

  • Q. If I was gay, would my bum still be useful? ("I" as in MyMateSid, not BGA - there's no "if" there)
  • A. I guess so. It would certainly be cleaner than the usual ones you come across. It's a little dented, but otherwise intact. Not sure whether it might fill up quicker than most though. Too much detail?

(Oh my God. Just realised I used the phrase "come across" in reference to my bottom. Ah, well. Too late now)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Your questions answered

Over the last couple of days, I've been answering more than my usual share of questions about my ileostomy. These have been from various sources (National Statistics, my osteopath and a friend I've met via w2b). So I guess it's worth sharing (some of these I've come up with myself as they are the kind of questions I might have asked myself)...

  • Q. Does the ileostomy hamper your work in any way?
  • A. Not in the slightest. It may affect the kind of work I could do (Nothing that requires me to dip in and out of water all day, to lie prone on my belly or rough physical contact - professional mud wrestler would be out then), but doesn't affect my current job.

  • Q. Do you require any long term medication?
  • A. The only medication I take on any kind of regular basis is Zoton which is used purely to keep my acid levels down.

  • Q. Where is the stoma?
  • A. It's lower than my navel (about an inch lower) and to the right by just over an inch.

  • Q. What does it look like?
  • A. Its around 25mm in diameter and just over an inch in length (do you like the seamless switch between metric and imperial - didn't know I was bi-lingual did you?). It's about the same colour as the inside of your mouth. It's shiny. The opening is quite small but can stretch - varying between about 5mm and well over 10mm.

  • Q. How is the bag stuck on?
  • A. It's stuck to my belly with a stronger version of the adhesive they use on plasters. Luckily I get supplied with a spray that allows you to remove the bag without too much pain - unless I forget to shave.

  • Q. How often do you have to change the bag?
  • A. Roughly every three days. I can tell when I'm pushing it as it starts to get itchy. This is due to the waste starting to eat away at the glue and getting underneath.

  • Q. Does everything go into it (meaning farts)?
  • A. Yes. Wind is actually the biggest reason for having to empty it. Especially at night. But w2b isn't complaining. Rather that than have me farting in bed. Best not to have an en-suite bathroom though.

  • Q. How often do you have to empty it?
  • A. Depends. I can't go more than about six hours usually. It all depends on when I eat, what I eat, what I've drank, how hydrated I am... all sorts really.

  • Q. It must make public toilets a more pleasant experience, not having to sit down?
  • A. Yes and no. I don't have to sit, granted. I do however have to kneel down, which can be unpleasant - light trousers can be a no-no. I'm also a bit closer to the business end of things.

  • Q. Is the other plumbing alright?
  • A. Yep. No problems there. There can be occasions of impotence with some people, but I've been thankfully spared. I do sometimes get unbearable urges to repeatedly go for a wee, but I think this might be a bit more to do with dehydration. Plus, I still need to build up the muscles around there a bit as they were pretty massacred by the surgery.

Phew! I think that will do for now. If anyone has any further questions please post them as comments. I know I would have loads - whether I was facing the surgery myself or if I had just been introduced to someone who'd had it.

Brief round-up of other stories in our area:

  • W2b is back, but doesn't seem to be with child at the moment. So yay and boo.
  • The book on Humanist Weddings arrived in the post and it's ace. I'm more and more sure that I could legitimately class myself as a Humanist. Thankyou Zinnia, it's exactly what we were looking for.
  • We got the phone lines fixed and have now had Sky installed. Woo-hoo!

Bye for now - remember, post the comments. You know how much I love talking about myself.

Monday, November 14, 2005

I'm crap without her

So w2b has gone off to Manchester for a few days (she's learning how to project manage - don't know if it's for work or so she can tell our builder how to get his shit together) leaving me to the inept bachelor life style I was used to before she came along.

So you know what I've realised...?

Without her - I'm useless.

Problem no. 1: Food

Don't get me wrong, I can cook. Plus, now that Sid's come along I like to eat. But without w2b's guidance I forget to eat. Then, when I remember (or am prompted) I can't decide on what to eat. Luckily, before she left w2b popped along to Nando's and got some extra chicken. I can at least have toasted chicken and mayo sarnies. Which leads me to Problem no. 2...

Problem no. 2: I can't find anything

So I went into the kitchen to revel in my culinary expertise and couldn't find the sandwich toaster ("snackwich" machine in SA parlance). Bear in mind that we have exactly 10 cupboards in our compact kitchen. Luckily w2b phoned just as I was beginning my third circuit and let me in on the secret of where she had "hidden" it. Yeah, yeah it was in one of the cupboards (one day I will do an entire entry on what has now been termed "man-looking" in our household).

NB This is also the reason why I haven't posted any pictures, even though there's been some nice progress

Problem no. 3: I second guess the things I say

When w2b and I are together we are disturbingly frank with each other. We speak our minds and never have to worry about putting things across properly - it's kind of second nature. It's also one of the reasons why we never argue (I know, sickening isn't it?). But when we're apart and chatting either on the phone or over MSN I'm always worried about how things come across. I tread a fine line between expressing how much I'd like to be with her and sounding like an obsessive stalker who doesn't want her out of my sight. It makes me wonder how we ever got together when we were going through the Long Distance Relationshiptm stage.

I guess what I'm trying to say is I miss her. Horribly. And can't wait for her to be back.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Food that doesn't digest #1

One of the interesting side effects of having an ileostomy is that you learn pretty quickly which foods do and which foods don't digest. I'm currently experiencing the surreal joy of one of the latter.

Last night I decided (read: was told by w2b) to show my culinary expertise by cooking a stir fry. So I proceeded in Ken Hom fashion to put pre-chopped (i.e. chopped before they arrived in the supermarket) food into a big pan in exactly the correct order followed by covering them in shop-bought black bean sauce. Gordon Ramsey would be proud.

Unfortunately, one of the ingredients was mushrooms. So I am now spending my Sunday morning wishing I'd chewed more, like my mother told me I should. Thanks to the bag I am at least spared the sight of mushrooms emerging like a new born out of Sid's mouth. I am however greeted by the experience of having my bag fill up at an alarming rate and then watching as totally undigested food is pored into the toilet bowl, complete with a dark brown stir-fry sauce. If the noodles and beansprouts hadn't digested I think I'd have arrived at a disturbing new theory on how Pot Noodles are produced.

On an educational level (for those reading this blog in the vain hope that it will give you some tips on living with an ileostomy) mushrooms aren't particularly bad. They seem flexible enough to pass through the stoma without causing a blockage. The food you really need to look out for is sweetcorn. This is the one food almost guaranteed to cause a blockage.

If you learn only one thing from this Blog it is this:

Sweetcorn - Just Say No!

(I promise a less distasteful entry next time - just wanted to share this time)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

You lot are weird

W2b recently did a post about the strange routes that have led people to her site. In this spirit, I thought I'd show you some of the weirdness that has led to the torrent (well trickle) of traffic to my site:

  • lets bitch (from New Jersey)
  • she likes it big (from Texas)
  • get her pregnant (from Colorado)
  • enema (from Washington)
  • bloody women (from California)
  • sid going (from Auckland)
  • she's just a devil woman (from California)
  • bloody women (from Ontario this time)
  • overcome fear of colonoscopy sedation (from Virginia, not so much weird as just very, very specific)
  • decorate my aim profile (from Massachusetts, how did this lead to my blog?)
  • how to be nice to a bitch (from Oklahoma)

All I can say is that the quality of search engines seems to have gone down hill a lot. Oh, and that I had no idea Cliff Richard's fan base extended to California.

Back's a lot better, by the way.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Dangerous profession

Coal miners get dodgy lungs. Carpet fitters get dodgy knees. Brick layers get arthritic fingers (according to our builder anyway).

We geeks get bad backs.

After the weekend's exersion (painting, remember) and the aches and pains yesterday I woke up this morning with much soreness. The whole top of my back, along the shoulders was stiff as a board. So I went into work but it just kept getting worse. My back felt like it was seizing up with tight muscles all down.

So here I am, lying in bed.

Has given me a chance to catch up on "Extras". All the disruption around moving house meant that we missed it first time round. So we popped out and bought it on Sunday.

On to the third episode now and while it's not "The Office", it is good. Glad I'm watching it on my own though. W2b finds Ricky Gervais' stuff excrutiating. She likes it and thinks it's funny, but insists on doing other stuff while it's on. Think it's so she can hide her face whenever it gets too painful.

So anyway, back to the deev. Will try and find a position to lie in that means that my back will sort itself out.

Thanks for the comment Zinnia. You do realise you've opened a whole can of stalking related worms now?

Monday, November 07, 2005

Military Maneuvers

So as anyone who's been reading w2b's blog will know, we're officially trying (and no, that isn't the reason that I've not posted for almost a week).

"Trying" - it's such a cheesy term, but then again this whole baby making thing is a bit of an odd thing to embark on.

Setting aside the fact that my beloved has planned this thing with military precision (requiring us to embark on what we've come to refer to as "binge sex"), it does seem to have turned our sex life upside down. No, I don't mean that we're experimenting with new positions requiring pulleys and hoists. It's just that after all this time of being careful, taking precautions and just having sex for the fun of it we're now doing it for the reason that the non-existent deity designed it for.

So my soldiers now have a mission. They've completed their basic training and now they're finally seeing some action. Confidence is high, but I can't help worrying about the little fellers. They've had plenty of war games to get their tactics right. But they're still untested in the field.

The hopes of a nation are with you.

In other news, we still haven't come up with our vows yet. Thankyou though to Zinnia for your kind offer of help and advice. I may well take you up on the book suggestion. But if that fails I may also be knocking on your door (figuratively speaking) and asking for help.

Oh, and Zin... I've finally caught up with your Blog and can get my head round the style - and it's a very enjoyable read too. I get the feeling that you're in the process of changing it though. Cheeky monkey! Don't you realise how simple my tiny little man-brain is?

In the next exciting episode - pictures of our dining room. Lots of painting over the weekend. Can barely move shoulders. Purely from the painting, you must understand - not for any other reasons ;)

(Note to self, must get cushioned straps for hoist)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Do you vow to make it your aim to take this woman in secular matrimony into the foreseeable future?

We've been talking wedding vows today. It's so difficult for people like us who are (a) atheists (or at least a-religious) and (b) keen to make a public commitment to each other that matches our realistic views.

So all of the "God willings", "holy matrimonies" and "in the eyes of God" are out (come to think of it, I don't think anyone would put God willing in their vows - kind of non-committal really). Also out are "for all eternity" and "till death do us part". Don't get me wrong, w2b are heavily committed to each other (at least I hope we are... quick get a refund on the rings). But - and I'm struggling to put this into the right words without devaluing our love and commitment for each other - we're also keen not to make the same hollow promises that everyone else does.

We want to show that where we are at the moment and where we've been for as long as we've been properly together is a position where we can't imagine not being together. But we're not arrogant or deluded enough to think that we know precisely what the future holds. There - you see how negative that sounds? Do you see why we're struggling to find the right vows?

We don't want this to turn in to some kind of legal text, e.g.

I <Insert Name> (from here on in referred to as "The Groom") undertake to carry out duties and tasks as laid out in section 8a for <Insert Name> (from here on in referred to as "The Bride").
The Groom also undertakes to have feelings for The Bride as laid out in section 8b. This shall be carried out in perpetuity unless terminated in accordance with clauses 10a to 10e (inclusive).

We want this to be a celebration of the love we have for each other and of the commitment we are making towards each other. So it needs to be quite short, joyful and overwhelmingly optimistic about the future. But it can't be hollow, overly sentimental or sugary-sweet.

The closest I've found so far is this:

"(Name), I promise to love you, to be your best friend, to respect and support you, to be patient with you, to work together with you to achieve our goals, to accept you unconditionally, and to share life with you throughout the years."

It's good, but I'm not sure it's quite there. If only we knew someone who was used to carrying out non-religious ceremonies... ;)

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Crohn's Disease, Ileostomy, Stoma...

W2b's recent post got me thinking. I go to all the trouble of pouring out all the crap (no pun intended) that I went through with this stinking disease thinking that no matter how hard it was to rake over the coals again, at least other people going through similar things might stumble across my blog and realise that they're not alone.

So I do a Blog search on Crohn's Disease... no sign of my blog. On Ileostomy... nothing. On Stoma... nada. All I get are the same blogs that led me to signing on to Planetostomy.

W2b does a couple of posts in which she mentions that she used to get a bit of a spanking by her Stepdad (who's a lovely guy by the way, I don't recognise him from the man that w2b describes to me of the past) and suddenly she's Madam Whiplash.

So I've tried to go a bit more blatant and put the search words in the title. That'll teach them.

By the way, if you have happened to find yourself here and you were hoping for some tips on living with Crohn's Disease or an Ileostomy, please feel free to read the archives. Truly though, the best things I can tell you are what I've found out:

  1. You're not weird for having this bewildering array of feelings about yourself. It's natural even long after your diagnosis to go through strange feelings of guilt at the worry that you've brought on those people who care about you, to have a crushingly low opinion of your worth, to feel like you're somehow different to everyone around you and so on. You're mind's got a big shock to deal with and it'll deal with it in some odd ways sometimes.
  2. You may not believe it, but if you meet someone who genuinely loves you they are not going to give two shits (there I go again) about whether or not you have different plumbing to them. Hell, if you're heterosexual then that would have been the case anyway. At least if you fart in bed they won't smell it.
  3. Get used to talking about shit. It's gonna form quite a big part of your life from now on. Plus, get used to your shitting habits being the topic of conversation in all kinds of company that you wouldn't have expected.
  4. Grow yourself a sense of humour. There's a lot of "there-there" websites and support groups out there. But they can often perpetuate the feelings of you being a patient and not a full member of society. The best thing you can do is grow some balls, try (no matter how hard it seems) to find the humour in what you're going through and if it gets really bad for God's sake get help. Camp out on your GP's doorstep if need be.
  5. Don't compare your pain or suffering to other peoples'. Yes, knowing other people are having a hard time can help put things into perspective. But you need to know that other people's pain does not in some way make yours any less or more important.
  6. It's not what happens to people that is important, it's how they react to it. Everything we go through helps shape the people we are. If you're lucky, one day you may even feel glad for (or at least have no regrets about) what you've been through as it has made you into who you are.

So anyway, let's see if that works. Come all ye Crohn's sufferers and people who poo out of their bellies.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Kind of another anniversary

I always get a bit soppy when w2b is away, even if it's for a relatively short period. Tonight she's taking advantage of our company's box at Old Trafford and watching Man Utd play Barnet. So in the mood of soppiness, I started to reminisce and realised that it's kind of another one of our anniversaries.

So when we left our story, w2b and I had passed like ships in the night. We'd got on well and there was the tiniest undercurrent of mutual attraction, but we returned to our daily lives unaware of there being any more.

For the month of October we had a bit of correspondence, but just the usual support-client stuff - nothing more. Then (and yes, this is a very innocuous and dry way for a relationship to start) I sent a Company Satisfaction survey out to all the users of the product that w2b was working with. The survey was all handled anonymously, so I had no idea who was saying what in the responses and a week after sending it out I sent a blanket email out to all potential respondents saying that the survey would only run for a short while longer... here's how the conversation progressed (thankyou to our CRM database here):


The on-line survey has proved very popular so far, with results coming in thick and fast. If you have already responded to the survey, then many thanks. If you have not yet had the chance, then please be aware that the survey will be shut down at 5:30pm on Monday 3rd November.

Note that the survey has been run on a strictly anonymous basis, so if there are any issues raised in the survey that you need to discuss with us in person please contact us directly.



Hi mms,

I have completed the survey, I was probably one of the first :-) I have a couple of things that I need to discuss with you but I'll give you a call later... what is the best number to get hold of you on?



Thanks w2b. Hopefully you said nice things. Ring me on #### ######.

I said ALL nice things about you ;-) and I even mentioned you by name (I hope my cheque is in the post :-)

I'll put you on the Christmas card list. Rumours about the kind of money we IT types make are vastly exaggerated.

I'll look forward to the card, as long as your number's on the back.

Such a smooth talker... such a minx.

So we talked. We started flirting. The calls got more frequent and more intense. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before. I went into this thinking that it would be a bit of fun - I'd been single for way too long and the attention was exactly what I needed. But I was starting to get really strong feelings for this girl.

We would talk first thing in the morning. We would email each other all through the day. We would talk and IM all through the evening and night. It got to the point where I knew w2b better than most of my friends.

But we always steered clear of the habitual "I love you" at the end of the call. Despite the feelings that we admitted to each other neither of us were naive enough to believe that we could fall in love with someone who we'd only met once and had only shared time with in a completely platonic way. I think we also had too much respect for the word and for each other to just throw it away in conversation.

So we started to feel like we should meet up. Whatever this relationship was, it couldn't go any further without some kind of physical connection. I started to get a bit scared. This was only around six months after Sid had come along and I wasn't particularly comfortable with myself. How could someone else accept him when I wasn't sure I had yet?

Luckily help came in the fact that when I had originally met w2b I had told one of her colleagues all about Sid. So I hinted and hinted and then finally told her to ask the colleague why I might be reticent about meeting up. She said she would and I waited.

She was fantastic. She didn't pretend it wasn't a big deal. But on the other hand she didn't act like it was some kind of terrible discovery. She was understanding and she asked questions. She said that if anything her feelings for me were stronger because I had disclosed this to her (admittedly in a cowardly way).

So we arranged for w2b to come up to Chester and visit. It would be a Friday night and she cunningly arranged to have to be back in London on the Saturday night - you've got to admire a girl for putting in place a pre-emptive exit strategy that would minimise embarrassment all round.

I needn't have worried. In spite of my inability to get food from plate to mouth without half of it going down my front at dinner and my misgivings about the prospect of being seen naked - bag and all - by a girl who wasn't a nurse it went fantastically well. We spent an amazing night together. There was passion, there was talking, there was comfort in being with someone who I'd grown to care so deeply about and being able to reach over and touch that person whenever I wanted. We spent a great day together, proving to ourselves that this wasn't just a correspondence thing and neither was it just a passion thing. When Saturday evening came and w2b had to head back I was both sad that she was going and wonderfully happy that she was even more than I'd hoped.

I could admit it now. I was completely, absolutely in love.

The following months were spent in feverish correspondence. Our phone bills were astronomical. Virtually every weekend was spent together (mainly her coming to see me, but also vice versa).

The more I got to know her the more utterly, bewilderingly blown away I was by her. She could hold her own in any company (she went to our Christmas dinner at work and I never once had to worry about whether she would be comfortable with my colleagues or what she might say to them). She was refreshingly, almost painfully honest. I never had to second guess what she was thinking or worry about what she was doing when I wasn't with her. Plus, she was one of the most beautiful girls I had ever met - with massive green eyes, a voice that could make my heart skip and... God I could go on for hours, but I'll only bore you and make w2b horribly embarrassed when she inevitably comes to read this.

Somehow we had become committed to each other wholly and unequivocally, without any discussion. We knew that this was something special. It was just after Christmas and already we could talk matter of factual about spending the rest of our lives together. I jokingly mentioned marriage and somehow it sounded right. From then on, without a proper proposal (that would come later) we simply assumed that marriage would be a logical next step for us. It was testament to a modern take on the old fashioned way that people used to get together - an extended, non-physical courtship followed only after getting to know someone truly intimately by a physical relationship. With the physical relationship merely supplementing a love that was already there but not fully accepted until then.

We had the odd bump along the way (which I or w2b may fill you in on at some point). But somehow everything seemed to find it's own way of fitting into place.

In May 2004, w2b packed all her belongings (a surprisingly large amount of belongings actually, when you think she'd arrived in London less than a year earlier with just one bag) into her little Clio that she'd just bought and we drove up to Chester to start our lives together.

Two dogs and a wrecked house that may never be finished later and I am still blissfully happy. I am also unbelievably thankful of the hand that fate dealt me.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Hi folks

Hi, long time no see. I seem to be saying that a lot recently. Need to either:

a) Improve my commitment to my blog.
b) Get over the fact that I don't update it every day.

So what's been going on since last week?

Well we finished the West Wing. Darned good it was too. We did kind of OD though. Was having strange West Wing style dreams. Normal situations, people I know, but all paced and acted out in a West Wing fashion. Most bizarre.

We got the cats back. They haven't changed a bit. Still as endearingly affectionate as before. They have kept us awake a bit (we've been crammed in one room a lot of the time as only the bedroom - which I'm sure you're familiar with by now - is even close to finished).

Deliberately didn't post anything on Friday night as I was feeling a little down about work. Won't go into it in much detail except to say it was a poorly handled pay negotiation that left me feeling pretty under valued and pissed off. Had another talk with my boss today and at least had a chance to vent my spleen. Don't think it'll change anything, but it at least left me feeling like I'd had my say.

So tata for now. I won't commit to being back tomorrow, but I will at least express an intent to get back to updating this in a more regular fashion.

Before I go though, don't worry, Zinnia - I'm quite prepared for others to admire w2b ;) If I think she's the most incredible person in the world, it stands to reason that others may think she's a little more than ok too. You can look, but don't touch - ok?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Just popping in...

Been away for a bit. This has been for two reasons. One was that we had a team building event yesterday followed by a meal (read: piss-up) and the other is that w2b and I have become hooked once again to West Wing.

Since we last spoke our bed has arrived. So we have (drum roll please....)

Moved In!

The new bed is lovely as you can see. Its big and chunky and wood. More than anything though, its not a caravan.

It does draw attention to the fact that the old bit of the house is very, very wonky. But we like to think that it's all part of the charm of the place.

Thankyou, by the way Zinnia for the comment. I have to disagree with you though. I think that w2b's butt is rather lovely. But then I think all of w2b is rather lovely.

Back to the team building then. It was actually pretty good. I think it went about as well as it could given the natural British reserve and the developers' lack of enthusiasm for anything that involves sunlight.

Sid made it through the day well, although he's a little bruised. One part of the day required our group to construct a platform out of logs and rope and dangle this above a "mine field". Although people in my group new of my condition, they seemed to forget about it and decided that I should be the one to lie prone on the platform and "clear the mine field" - due primarily to the fact that I was the lightest. Subtle hints about the kind of explosion that might ensue (yes, I'm referring to poo here rather than imaginary mines) were lost on them. My natural disinclination regarding backing out of anything due to my ileostomy meant that I just dived straight in. It was only afterwards when I said that maybe picking the guy who poo'd out of his belly wasn't the best idea in the world did the penny drop.

So he was feeling a little sorry for himself today. But I've changed him and he seems a lot happier now.

So anyway, where was that West Wing DVD.

(see you once we've sated ourselves)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Taking shape

It was another one of those back breaking painting days, but at least now it's starting to feel worthwhile.

The walls weren't in the best of states so we had to use a really thick paint that contains polyfila (and that's the spelling I'm keeping, so there). This means that each dip of the paint brush covers roughly a square foot of wall and a dip of the roller covers twice that if you're lucky. You've also got to be careful that the each stroke doesn't take off almost as much plaster as the paint covers.

But at least now that we've finished one coat, the room is starting to take shape and look like we intend it to. What you can't probably make it from the images is that we really need to do a second coat - which might be tricky considering that our bed arrives tomorrow.

By the way, the blur in the bottom right of this one is w2b bending over to collect another dollop of paint on her roller. Before you ask, yes I did do my fair share (I've realised when looking through these entries over time they tend to sound like "w2b did this and that hard work while I sat around on my arse and played XBox").

This last image is only included because we're really chuffed with our new windows - probably out of all relation to how chuffed we should be, but we've been starved of this kind of thing for a while now. If you look closely you can see the beginnings of w2b's butt cheeks in the bottom right of the image.

Such a tease ;)

Saturday, October 15, 2005

We got to decorate!

Another one of those "unaccustomed as I am to physical labour" days.

Finally got a chance to start decorating our bedroom today, in preparation for... wait for it...

Our New Bed!

Yes, after over six months of living in the caravan we might be about to sleep in a real bed. Who knows what that might lead to... ;p

So today was spent sanding walls with an electric sander, wiping them down with sugar soap and then making a start on the painting (with thick, thick paint cos there's no way to make those walls smooth).

It's all very rewarding, but has left me feeling very achey. If only the bed had arrived already and I could look forward to sleeping in it. Roll on Tuesday.

Before I go, I've just got to add that the guy on that Jack Osbourne thing - I think his name is Mike - is an absolute dick. Wish someone would cut his rope.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Hey, long time no see


Yes, I know I've been away. I can assure you that it wasn't anything personal. There's no excuse really, I'm just a lazy git.

So what's been going on? Well something and nothing really. House is still continuing it's glacier-like progress towards being finished. We've got some windows in. We've got doors upstairs (you've got to see the door for the bedroom - it's so cute). This weekend will be spent sanding walls and if we're lucky painting them.

Yesterday one of w2b's friends and his boyfriend came over to visit. Admittedly, we couldn't be particularly hospitable (not having much of a house to have them stay) but luckily there's a rather nice, charming (well... kind of twee, but hey we were catering for foreigners) hotel down a little footpath from our house.

So last night we went out for a meal and once again I was blown away by just how great w2b's friends are. I always feel a little worried when meeting one for the first time. I am after all the one who is keeping her away from them in this dreary little country. So I'd better pass muster. This worry instantly fades when I realise that her friends are some of the warmest, most caring people you could ever meet. I have yet to meet one that has not impressed me with how quickly they feel like they are my friends too.

Anyway, I'm rambling as usual and The West Wing starts soon. God I love that show. One day I'll tell you just how obsessively in love with it we are and the DVD binges that we've had.

LoveYaBye (as my beloved so charmingly put it)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

We're getting a house...

Its happening very, very slowly but out of the debris a house is emerging. Today was door and window day. The windows for the old part of the house arrived and Paul (builder) got to work staining them. We're so glad we went for hard wood windows. I never thought I could get excited about window frames, but these are beautiful. They're hand crafted out of gorgeous wood that's now been stained a rich brown that brings out the grain. They're stunning and currently hanging from the ceiling in our dining room as they dry.

While this was going on, Ted (weird, old carpenter dude) got to work on the interior doors upstairs. He's making a great job of them. They too are really well crafted. They are perfectly balanced, so no matter what level of ajarness (it's a word, honest) you leave them at they just stay there.


You can tell there hasn't been much noticeable progress for a while.

The TV and Amp arrived today too. The TV is *Fucking Huge*. It's staying in it's box for a while to avoid being damaged, which means we can't really walk around the kitchen. I'm hoping it acts as another spur for the builders - as in, please finish the room so we can watch this thing.

Still reading that Terry Goodkind book, still playing Morrowind. Now listening to a CD that my brother sent through. Sounds good so far, although w2b seemed to think that one of the hip-hop tracks sounded like something out of a musical and then proceeded to regale me with how she could write a musical, she really could. Apparently it would be set in Brixton and would be a hip-hop version of West Side Story... or something.

Monday, October 10, 2005

... tired of waiting...

Now that we've got through the initial going backwards period and things are going in the right direction, I'm starting to get itchy. It's just all going soooo slowly.

  • The kitchen still has to be finished off. All the delays caused by our electricians being so useless meant that the fitter could only do so much before he went on holiday. He did a damn fine job, but now we want it to be finished.
  • The bathroom... now yes, I know I raved about how well the Dolphin guy did. But we've got a bit of a leak when we have a shower. A leak that drips through the ceiling into the ground floor. Dolphin don't, as yet seem to give a shit.
  • No other rooms are finished!!! Just please, give us one room. Just one. That's all I ask for.

A lot of this down to the date. Its October now. That's about seven months since we started this escapade. We started in summer so that we wouldn't freeze our nuts off in the caravan. Nut freezing time is approaching. But we have no bedroom to sleep in.

Not only that, but it is exactly two months now to our wedding. This puts me in a really difficult position psychologically. I want the day to approach really badly. I really can't wait. I'm sure w2b's mother would like a little more time [1], but hell - I want it to happen now! But on the other hand there just seems to be a mountain to climb with the house before we go. I just can't face the prospect of coming back from South Africa to a half finished house.

Last but not least, our tv arrives tomorrow. Where the hell are we gonna put it? The builders can't walk past a piece of furniture without getting plaster on it. What damage could they do to a 42" tv?

So pardon me for ranting. I just want this all done...


Thankyou for your time.

[1] Just re-read that and I think I might have given the wrong impression. Mil2b (Mother-in-law to be, may have to rethink that - sounds like something out of American Pie) is really enthusiastic about our wedding. It's just what with her being in SA, she's been saddled with a lot of the wedding planning.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Stiff as a board

I'm really not accustomed to physical labour. Today was spent stripping the walls of the room that is going to be our bedroom. This took us from about 11:00am to about 3:00pm. Boy was it tiring.

This was followed by cleaning the bathroom. Its seemed like a bit of a fruitless task until now, what with the amount of dust and dirt blowing around the house. But after a bath last night where I wasn't sure if I came out cleaner or dirtier I decided to bite the bullet.

All in all quite a successful day. In spite of the aches and pains in my body, it being accustomed to work of a more cerebral nature (read sitting behind a desk), its good to have days like this. Not only does it make you feel more justified in slobbing out for the remainder, but it also feels like we are contributing in some small way towards turning this place into a home.

Off for a bath again in a second - as much to ease my muscles as to get clean. Hardly any XBox[1] today thanks to being too tired. So yes, w2b has done her magic once again in curbing my addiction. If you'll allow me to be sloppy for a moment, I'd just like to say that I would never have the inclination to do this kind of thing if it wasn't for her and I also wouldn't enjoy doing it so much if I didn't have her as a workmate. So no matter how frustrated I may seem while doing it, it all seems more than worthwhile at the thought of the home we are creating together and the many happy times we'll have in it.

So tired... so, so tired.

[1] For anyone who doesn't know ;) an XBox is a really nice, but getting quite old games console. I've had mine for quite a while now and am looking forward to the next generation one which comes out at the end of November. I'm looking forward more of course to having a decent living room to enjoy it in. Oh, and you need a tv to play it with Zinnia.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

The obsessive/completist gene

I'm not one for sweeping generalisations about the difference between men and women. Maybe its something to do with the fact that I've got quite a few female qualities and w2b has quite a few male ones.

Woooah there! Let me just expand on that a little. What I mean by that is not that I walk around in a dress or am in any way camp. I certainly don't mean that w2b is some kind of hod carrying, short haired, comfortable shoe wearer. But the way we divide things between ourselves and the way we react to things is often against type. W2b throws herself into manual labour with a passion and has a disturbing love of power tools. I get choked up at sentimental reality tv shows and am very good at cleaning kitchens and bathrooms.

But there is one personality trait that is very, very male. Most men seem to have it to a greater or lesser extent and it only presents itself in small amounts in women. This trait is what I like to think of as the obsessive/completist gene.

We collect things almost purely for the sake of completeness. Its what leads men I think into things such as train spotting and the twitching type of bird spotting. When we find something we like doing we do it obsessively and repetitively, to the exclusion of everything else and almost to the point of not actually enjoying it anymore - just as long as we're still doing it.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think these tendencies are wholly negative. When channeled correctly and with a useful outlet, men with these tendencies can still be productive members of society. Its one of the reasons (coupled with a love of abstractions and a world dependent on logic) that leads so many men to working in IT. It also allows us to overcome our lack of ability when confronting household tasks like DIY and get the job done no matter what (and no matter how frustrated we get when doing it).

But when channeled wrongly they can turn us into rather stupid, unproductive animals. Take Games Consoles for example.

Usually my XBox playing is cleverly controlled by w2b. Either she will suggest things that we can do together or she will ensure that I have a set number of tasks to complete prior to switching it on. Unfortunately, with no real value to be gained from cleaning the kitchen or bathroom, no decent environment for us to watch a movie, no dogs to look after, no handy, small jobs for me to do and crappy weather outside the safeties were off today. So I ended up getting sucked in and the gene took over. To the extent that by half past two, when w2b returned from her horse riding lesson I had only just got properly dressed, had skipped lunch and by consequence had a headache developing.

It was time for an intervention. A haircut, furniture shopping and Nando's later I was back in the land of the living. But it was touch and go for a while.

W2b has seen the error of her ways - tomorrow we are stripping wallpaper.

My name is MyMateSid and I'm a Morrowind-aholic.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

From a support manager's perspective

I know work related posts are a bit risky, but I just wanted to share this one with you...

A small group of our users have been having persistent, intermittent problems. These have been difficult to track down as we're supporting an internet system. So it was decided that the best way to resolve the problems was to create a series of standard questions that would aid us and the wonderful technical guys to track down what was causing the problem (they're IT infrastructure, our servers or something in between).

Here's an example of one of the responses we got to one of the requests for more information (bear in mind that these users are getting incredibly frustrated and want the problem solved NOW!):

Can you provide details of the exact error message that is shown - ideally a screenshot?

You can see why sometimes I just want to stay in bed?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Time flies

Time's going by pretty quickly now.

With so much going on, the wedding has kind of crept up on us. Now its getting close and its a little scary.

The funny thing is, I'm in no way nervous about the act of getting married. I could honestly state that I've never been more sure of anything than I am of wanting to marry w2b. Plus, everything seems to be ticking along quite nicely for the big event. I think its just that everyone is so sure its a big deal and something that you should be nervous about that you can't help having some of that rub off on you. You have to struggle quite forcibly to not get sucked up in the group hysteria that surrounds weddings.

So this weekend I think we'll be off to see BM (Best Man). As well as being a great friend he's also an oasis of calm who can cut through a lot of the crap. We'll get a second opinion on what we might have forgotten and what we might like to bear in mind. Plus, I'll enforce on him yet again that I don't want a stag do (mutter, mutter).

Can't wait till we can just fly over to SA and get this show on the road. What with builders, electricians, work and family disputes over the wedding we'll need a break.

All we need now is w2b to find out she's pregnant and I think we'll have got the full set of stressful events ;)

Currently Reading: Wizards First Rule by Terry Goodkind
Currently Playing: Morrowind (got to complete before Oblivion - at least I've stopped starting new games now)
Currently Listening To: Radio 1, still. Please God let us finish a room so that we can get a decent Hi-Fi in.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Becoming what you hate

Back when I was a bachelor I was endlessly annoyed by those couples.

You know the ones. They're so smug about how great their relationships. They spend so much time together that they are like one, single, two-headed entity.

Well, you know what?

We've become one.

We finish each other's sentences. We have this strangely amalgamated language that is a mixture of w2b's strange South Africanisms (well, her slightly odd babble anyway) and my northernness and unintelligible mumbled english.

At work, things that should be said to both of us are said to just one. People seem to accept a kind of symbiotic, telepathic link between the two of us. Half the time we're kind of interchangeable.

At home, we descend into a strange kind of babble. We'll turn to each other and make the same half-arsed comment about something we hear on the radio or see on tv.

The other day I caught myself nodding in time to some random humming that the w2b was getting up to. It wasn't even a real tune for Christ's sake.

Thing is, I kind of like it. I like to think of it as a sign of how easy life is with the two of us.

Have to say though, I pity our kids.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Its our anniversary

Well one of them, anyway...

Its exactly two years to the day since w2b and I first met. So I guess its story time again.

W2b was a newly appointed administrator for one our clients. Back in those days it was part of my responsibility to train administrators. She was in London and I was in Chester. So off I toddled with The Bitch That No Longer Works For Us (oh, now there's a story for another blog) the afternoon before for her training. We started drinking on the train. We then had a meal at a restaurant run by TBTNLWFU's friend in Covent Garden. She was getting drunk and becoming quite boring company so I phoned up my best friend from Uni, who lives and works in London to see if he wanted to meet up for a couple.

TBTNLWFU turned in around ten but I had quite a few months of catching up to do (remember this was the year that Sid was born). My mate and I eventually stopped some time after midnight in the hotel bar.

Then it was up at around seven to find our way to w2b's place of work. We struggled our way through breakfast and then stumbled into her office around nine. TBTNLWFU was so hung over she could barely focus on the monitor screen. I mumbled my way through the training, which luckily passed by pretty quickly (w2b's pretty bright, you know).

We got on. Conversation wasn't forced at all. TBTNLWFU commented afterwards that w2b and I chatted about things that she couldn't follow. Maybe it was just her hangover. Or the fact that she was thick as pig shit. I remember thinking vaguely that w2b was quite attractive, but had to admit to not being focused enough to think much more. TBTNLWFU was feeling pretty ill by the afternoon and had to go back to lie down. I got roped into some additional work by w2b's kind of boss. Somehow I ended up telling him about Sid.

After that, I went back to Chester on my own. Tired, feeling the usual sense of satisfaction from a successful day with a client.

Romantic, eh?

Little did I know that the hour or so I spent with w2b would change my life. But that's for a later date.

Suffice to say that the random nature of our meeting almost made me - Mr logical, atheist, rationalist - start to believe in fate.

It probably ranks as the most important day of my life.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

I love the smell of pine trees in the morning

It might just be me, but it seems that things are progressing at hyperspeed now.

Not only do we have full electrics and a first coat of render on the house, but today we started to reclaim the garden. Or rather the nice heavy duty garden service did. Its incredible to see workers actually working. Especially when they do so at such high speed.

Within the space of just a few hours, we had done our bit for global warming and lost two massive trees. It makes a massive difference. We now have light flooding into the tv room and can see all the way from the bottom of the drive to the top of the house.

All of this must have made us a bit giddy. Over the course of about quarter of an hour I had bought a home cinema mag, found an article on a really nice sounding tv and then w2b (its important that its noted that w2b did this - just in case their are future repercussions) was onto the internet and we'd bought a Plasma tv. Must give a bit of a plug for Sound and Vision here. Damn good price, quick turnaround and no delivery fee - even across the border from Bolton to North Wales.

So the checklist for what we've ordered for sheer geekish couch-potato-dom now goes as follows:

Comfy Sofa - Check
XBox 360 - Check
Plasma TV - Check

The amp and speakers may well be bought tomorrow - cos I can't go back to the old ones with all this nice kit.


You see what a geek I am. I've been trying so hard to keep it all in check, but once I let it loose it just gets out of control. Ah well, my secrets out.

In the same spirit:

Currently Reading: Wizards First Rule by Terry Goodkind

Currently Playing: Morrowind

Currently Listening To: Happy Mondays on the TV. God that was surreal. Not a bad track though.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

We bought the shop

If you've been reading w2b's blog (and yes, the reason for there only being one blog entry from sid and the pig yesterday is because I was earning the pennies while w2b followed the workers round with a crowbar and I therefore needed some escapism in the form of XBox) you'll know that our building site of a home has been transformed into a palatial picture of luxury due to the addition of a kitchen with working appliances.

So last night we tried and failed to grocery shop. We failed. Miserably.

It was just so difficult. We've not done this for ages and therefore just stumbled around the supermarket like those dazed students you see at the start of term.

So today, we tried again. This time we got it right. Oh boy, did we get it right. We started at one end and worked our way through buying up the place. If they'd made bigger trolleys we'd still be there now.

Ah, food that you can put in the freezer. Food that you can put in the fridge. Food that needs more than one gas ring. Food that you can cook in the oven. I think our bodies are going to go into shock.

As if that wasn't enough, we returned to a fully wired (well except for one spot light in the bedroom, but this is our electrician remember - you can't have everything). So I promptly went round and switched all the lights on. Even let Sid in on the fun by changing him, including a shave in our electrically lit bathroom.

I really don't know how we're going to cope when this place is finished. Maybe as with everything, you have to experience the bad before you can fully appreciate the good.

Continuing my habit of making a half arsed attempt at a regular theme, I'll now include a bit of info about my tastes at the moment:

Currently Reading: Wizards First Rule by Terry Goodkind
Currently Playing: Morrowind
Currently Listening To: The Radio (sadly no decent hi-fi yet)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Gonna have to get her pregnant

W2b is menstrual again.

I'm sure it used to be pre-menstrual. Probably still is with most women. But not with her. Not only does she get pre-menstrual, but also mid- and post-menstrual.

Admittedly, bullshitting, wank-stain electricians who don't even follow through on the things that they've promised to get done over a month behind schedule don't help. Hell, they make me feel menstrual. But still, surely her own personal painters shouldn't take more than a week to finish their disruption.

So there's nothing else for it. I'm gonna have to misplace the contraception and get her up the duff. Her complaints about morning sickness, swellings here there and everywhere and the worry about what kind of weird cross breed we'll get from the meeting of English and South African genes can't be any worse than this... can it?

Before I go I've got to say thanks to Zinnia for popping by. Not sure I fully understand your blog yet, but w2b assures me that it'll all become clear if I start reading through from the beginning. But how will I manage to fit in the mandatory XBox time if I'm doing that? Didn't think of that did you, eh?

Thanks also to FL Voter. Your site is marvelously full of venom - a trait you've got to admire. I would have left a message, but your site seemed to be a bit elusive last night. I'll be sure to pop round again soon.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Things what I hate


Another frustrating day. Electrician didn't turn up. Tough day at work. So its time, in a not-at-all-ripping-off-Room-101 way to list the things I hate today:

  1. Senior Managers that justify their existence by disagreeing with you for no apparent reason.
  2. Senior Managers that justify their existence by agreeing with you fervently they manage to make your idea sound like their own.
  3. Technical Staff that are completely non-committal when you bring problems to them.
  4. Technical Staff that become the picture of cooperation when those same problems are brought to them in the presence of Senior Management.
  5. Tradesmen who prefer to promise what they can't deliver because they think it'll keep you happy rather than simply giving you a realistic estimate.
  6. Needing to empty your ileostomy bag at five in the morning, in a caravan with no heating.
  7. People who act as if your wedding has been arranged in such a way to be the most inconvenience to them.
  8. British weather in September.
  9. Sales staff that believe all that is involved in selling software is invoicing the client rather than actually following through and telling the people delivering the software what the client has bought.
  10. Cock-sucking, cocky, little wanker, shit-faced electricians who don't come in and finish our electrics over a month after they should have been finished.

There. I'm done. Almost worth being fired over this just so I could get it out of my system.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Two steps forward...

Now that I've got my lengthy story out of the way, I've finally got a chance to talk about what's going on now rather than just what's gone before.

Guess what... its a struggle. Kind of got out of the habit for a while. So bear with me.

Been a good day today.

Work was interesting, a day where I could actually focus on what I'm in the job for rather than documenting procedures and policy. Tough, frustrating and stressful but rewarding and quite fun when you look back on it.

The real news though is that we've actually seen signs of progress. Most obvious of all is that we have heat. Glorious 21st century heat. According to the dinky thermostat that comes with the huge heater we're now up to a balmy 17 degrees in new money.

Managed to spend over a grand in an hour, which was fun. We've invested in a really gorgeous hand made bed (if I plug them, do you think they'll give me a discount? Worth a try, we got it from a lovely shop called Langhorns). Problem with me, once I start spending I can't stop. So it was onto the net to buy an XBox 360... and a game for it... and then a game for w2b's lappy to keep her away from my new purchase (joke!).

Hopefully, by the time all these things arrive we'll have something a bit more resembling a home to put them in.

Don't think the bed will fit in the caravan...

Monday, September 26, 2005

Bit of backstory (5) - Enter Sid

Back to the old story then. Apologies for the delay, yada, yada (give me a break haven't I apologised enough, jesus - you people. God, I'll be so glad when this is over and I can get back to the fascinating discussion of what I've done at work but can't talk about and how little work has been done on the house).

So there I was, back at my parents.

It was the perfect place to recuperate. Very quiet, loving parents to look after me, Sky+, I could go on...

My days were punctuated by visits from the district nurse. She'd come round and then unpack and then repack my wound. Oh, the joy. Luckily, by this point I had very little dignity left. That just left the pain of having an open wound on my bum that was being constantly cleaned and poked around.

So that should have been that. A few works of TLC coupled with a gradual healing of my weeping bottom.

Only thing was, I wasn't feeling much better. I was feeling worse. My appetite completely deserted me. I was weak as a kitten but a lot more decrepit. My ability to reach the toilet in time was starting to desert me more and more frequently.

Strangely, I had a pain at the top of my leg when I walked. The nurse reckoned that this was likely to be from the surgery to remove the abscess - maybe they'd bruised the bone or something.

But surely that kind of pain would recede over time? This was increasing.

Finally, I was starting to get into a bit of a bad state and my Mum took me to the GP. I had to prop myself up on the counter while the receptionist booked me in. I could barely stand unaided. When she took a look, she diagnosed that I had another abscess - on the opposite side of the bum crease to the first. So I was scheduled in to go to hospital again.

Enter the glory of Hull Royal Infirmary. HRI has been described as Beirut General and with good reason. Its a run down, filthy disgrace of a hospital. Don't get me wrong, the staff are fantastic. But the place is depressing, dirty, under maintained and under staffed. In total, I spent a week there and it was hellish. I had my abscess removed and that went fine. As I started to recover from the operation, I noticed a problem.

I was incontinent.

Incontinence might seem like a bit of a joke if you've not experienced it. But I can tell you its a horrible, self-esteem-destroying experience. Mine wasn't helped by the fact that I now had two open wounds on my backside. Both on the bum-cleft. Think of the soreness you get when you've had a bit of diarrhea. Then throw in almost constant, infected seeming diarrhea and two open wounds around the size of a plum straight in its path. It huuuurts.

So they discharged me.

Does that seem a little odd to anyone? It did to me. I struggled through an evening and a sleepless night. I heard my Mum going to the loo at about three in the morning and I called to her. She came in and I broke down. I just couldn't handle this anymore. I'd been off work now for months. My abscesses didn't seem to be getting any better. I had no prospect of any kind of life. I was prepared for anything the doctors could do, no matter how drastic. Anything to get me out of the limbo and gradual decline.

So the next day I phoned my GP and told him I needed to go back in. He arranged it and I my Dad took me off to HRI again. Luckily I was only in for one night and then it was off to a more specialist hospital - Castle Hill.

If HRI was Beirut, Castle Hill was Paradise. A rural setting. Clean. Lots of staff. Fantastic specialists.

There now followed endless tests. The surgery I had in prospect was very drastic and likely to be irreversible. So they needed to make sure that they'd got the diagnosis right and that it really was the best option.

So I had an IUA [1], a barium enema [2], a small bowel enema [3] and an MRI [4] (I'm sure I've missed a few out).

The result of all this was that they found that my colon was in a bit of a bad way. Riddled with infected rawness. Plus, my rectal sphincter had all but rotted away. Hence my inability to hold my poo in.

So they gave me the option of trying to treat it with drugs. No new drugs offered, just ones I'd tried before. I told them no.

It was surgery. Radical surgery.

Total Colectomy and End Ileostomy. In layman's terms this is removal of the colon, with the end of the ileum passed through the belly to make an opening called a stoma.

So, on 24th March I was marked up for the stoma site and sent off for the operation. After the surgery it was a night in the ICU [5], lots of tubes sticking out of everywhere (central line in my kneck, another central line in my arm, a canular, a catheter, a drain in my backside, a drain in my groin, intravenous morphine directly into my spine and of course the stoma itself). This was followed by a day or so in the HDU [6], then transfer back to the ward. Over the next week or so the pipes were gradually removed. I was introduced to my stoma and its changing routine (no name for it yet, it was all a little alien). Less than two weeks after the surgery, the staples were removed and I was sent home.

A week more with my parents and I was almost ready to look after myself. So my parents brought me back to my house in Chester. They stayed with me a couple of days to make sure I was ok and then left. It was bliss. I was eating. I was gradually getting stronger. I was an independent person again.

About a month later I was back in work.

I'd had six months off in total. My weight had plummeted to seven and a half stone when I was at my lowest but I was back on the mend. I'd been to the depths of myself and used all the resources available to me. I'd found out who my most loyal friends were and the value of your family. I'd spent a birthday in hospital. I'd been stripped of my dignity. I'd met amazing patients (I haven't even told you about the mad greek, have I?) and incredibly caring staff. I'd been aware of six deaths while in hospital (one a week - hope that's not average) and witnessed people astound you with their resilience and others give up on life and decide to die.

Before that I'd had around two years of wasted life to a debilitating disease. There are all sorts of things that I went through that I've barely touched on here (Elemental Diets for one).

But now I was better than I could ever remember being. It was time to start living again. I haven't looked back since (well apart from times like now, obviously).

Incidentally, my stoma wouldn't be christened for some time to come. It was w2b that came up with the name Sid and it has seemed wholly appropriate ever since.

[1] An IUA is an Investigation Under Anaesthetic. Its pretty uneventful and can be made quite amusing if you get to see your notes afterwards where they often include a diagram of the position you were in. Mine was a kind of on all fours but rolled onto back like a stuffed dog position. I managed to make it more entertaining by popping out for a cigarette shortly after I came round and then fainting in the corridor on the way back in.

[2] A barium enema is quite uncomfortable and for anyone that had any dignity left would be an embarrassing experience. Luckily I didn't have any and by this time had developed a fuck-you attitude that meant that when the barium inevitably poured straight out due to my incontinence I felt no need to apologise but merely shrugged my shoulders in a "what do you expect" way.

[3] A small bowel enema is unpleasant. In fact its bloody horrible. It involves a tube being passed up your nose, down the back of your throat straight down into your gut. This is then used to pump barium right to where they want it. Makes you feel like you do when you laugh after drinking a fizzy drink. Only it goes on for about quarter of an hour. Won't be having one of those again.

[4] An MRI is just dull. You lay in a tunnel as clanks and whirrs go on around you. I fell asleep.

[5] ICU (Intensive Care) is fantastic. You're doped on morphine, so - yes - most things seem fantastic. But they have this amazing way of propping you up in a kind of reclined armchair made of pillows. Its bliss.

[6] HDU (High Dependency) is pretty similar to a normal ward, except there are thousands of staff around you. Makes you realise what it must be like when you're important and go into hospital.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

If they could see me now...

Been a busy and satisfying day.

We painted the kitchen this weekend. Taking inspiration from Pride and Prejudice, which we saw last night - pretty damn good and funny too - we painted it a really nice rich blue. Looks fantastic. All we need is a kitchen to go with it. Should follow next week if all goes to plan. Yeah, I know - believe it when I see it and all that.

Had a lovely night last night. Movie followed by a curry. Meant some psychedelic experiences in the bathroom today, but it shows how far I've come.

Can't talk for long as Lost has started and we have so few pleasures left to us (don't get me started on the electricians) there's no chance I'm gonna miss it.

Yeah, yeah I know I promised the next exciting part in the story of me. But its been a long, tiring day and I haven't got time. Oh, and I never want to paint a ceiling ever again.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

An Apology

So sorry I missed you yesterday.

Had my day off as promised. Mainly consisted of staying in the caravan playing XBox while the builders and electricians did there stuff - and they actually did stuff.

Lunchtime was spent buying lights. Lots and lots and lots of lights. Then searching around for something called "Fire Caps". Sure this is the kind of thing that electricians are supposed to bring to the party, but what the hell.

This meant that I had a late lunch (yes, another pot noodle). This coupled with the XBox and the cigarettes - I smoke a lot of cigarettes when I'm being idle - led to a headache that hung around till about two seconds before I fell asleep at night.

So a bit of a non-day. Fun in that I could do nothing without feeling obliged to do anything else. Little guilty due to w2b having to work, but then its not my fault that I've managed to stick it out at the same company for eight years (I get more holidays than her).

Now time to paint the kitchen. Hope to catch up with you tonight.

Must remember to eat, must remember to eat...

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Honestly, the house really is falling down

Broken down house
Originally uploaded by Sid and the pig.
See, I bet you didn't believe me. All these weeks I've been going on about the state of the house and how we live in a building site.

Now I've got proof.

This is the view we were greeted with when we popped back to see the builder at lunch time. Seems underneath the render the lack of lintels and the shoddy brickwork was a little worse than we first suspected.

The pile of bricks on the scaffolding is what used to be wall in between the ground floor window and the first floor window.

You've got to love old buildings.

Tip for anyone thinking of buying an old house:

Don't get one with render on it!

The backstory will be completed tomorrow (I hope). I've actually got a day off. W2b isn't happy. She's got to work. Will try not to rub it in too much.

I've got a day o-off... I've got a day o-off. La La La

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

W2b kicks ass

She finally blew today.

We popped back to the building site (home) at lunch and lo and behold there were workmen there. Yes, real live workmen in the flesh. One of them was the electrician's sidekick. This was an opportunity not to be missed...

W2b saw him on the stairs putting plasterboard up and asked when second fix would be done. His answer was his usual feckless shrug of the shoulders as he said it wouldn't be done for a while yet - there were loads of other things that needed to be done first. Bear in mind that the electrics should have been completely finished by the end of last week. W2b was not happy and set about verbally destroying him. I went outside to talk to the builder in charge.

To give her credit, she did bring him outside so that he didn't need to be embarrassed in front of his little chums. So as I was talking to the builder (more rambling chat about various different subjects, including his bad back - boy can that guy talk) with one ear out for the tongue lashing that w2b was giving the sidekick. But it didn't stop there. The builder didn't escape entirely scott free as one of the sidekick's excuses for not finishing was that the builder hadn't finished his side of things.

I played good cop a little, keeping the builder on our side. While doing this we left him in no doubt that the more people let us down (obviously emphasizing that we were just talking about the electrician at the moment... obviously) the less money they would get. While we were doing this, he proceeded to talk about how unhappy he was about how the electrician had left us. I don't think it was lost on anyone that he was also creating a rod for his own back - he couldn't let us down now either.

So we went back to work. Still slightly fuming and frustrated but at least having said our piece. At least we'd seen the "workers" face to face for once.

We returned to signs of progress. Sorry, didn't give that the emphasis it deserved:

We've had some work done on our house!!

Now this may be a false dawn, but we've got new ceilings and plastering and a lintel and everything. I think I might cry.

Back in the world of Crohn's, I've had some very nice responses so far to my story. Rest assured poo fans that this will be completed in due course.

I'm keen to get it finished for a couple of reasons. One is that it was never really my intention to make this a Crohn's diary, I had originally hoped that my story would gradually reveal itself over the course of the blog. The other is that I'm very concerned to not give the wrong impression about my disease. It in no way defines who I am and it has become a very small part of life. All it is now is something that has informed the person that I am now.

My only intentions in telling the story is to provide a bit of background for some of the things I might want to talk about in the future and to hopefully (and only as a bi-product) provide a little hope to people going through similar things and show that in my case the dark days ended and things are very good now.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Bit of backstory (4) - A turn for the worse

So I was cured, right?

Well, not really. That was summer 2001. I took around a month recovering enough to be able to go back to work. I reveled in the fact that I did actually feel quite a bit better. I was eating and what's more I was enjoying what I was eating. I put on a bit of weight and the daily walks into town were helping no end (although they weren't improving my bank balance - no-one told me that being off work costs you about twice as much as being in work).

It was only in the coming months that I realised that I hadn't made a full recovery. Mornings were still difficult. Plus, my energy levels weren't great. A working day would be followed by a massive slump in the evenings. My enthusiasm for life was waning.

One of the hardest things about chronic, progressive illnesses is that the deterioration creeps up on you. I was gradually weakening. I was anemic and frustratingly, the GP was treating me for the symptoms of this rather than looking for a cause. I began to withdraw from life and simply get by.

My pet cat, my loyal companion for all this time, disappeared between Halloween and Bonfire Night and I was so numb I barely mourned her.

This numbness continued through till December 2002. I was utterly, deeply exhausted. The heating was failing in my house and I'd lost a lot of weight (down to seven and a half stone, which even for me at 5'6" was very, very light). I would wash the dishes (after most of the food had been scraped off into the bin) and stand for minutes afterwards with my hands in the dishwater trying to get the cold from my bones. There was a feeling in my joints as if all the lubrication had gone and bone was grinding against bone. My backside was sore, with a pain like toothache that would throb in the cold. Whenever I walked into a room I would prop my bum on the radiator to try and get rid of the pain.

I muddled through Christmas with my parents, barely contributing. I told my friends in Chester (where I lived) that I was spending New Year with my parents and told my parents that I was spending it in Chester with my friends. Instead I drove back to Chester and lay on the sofa to watch a DVD on my own.

By the time I returned to work, the pain in my backside had increased and I booked myself in to see my GP. I saw him on Friday, 11th January and he judged that it looked like an abscess. He gave me antibiotics which he said might get rid of it but that if they didn't by Monday I was to see him. I phoned in sick and went home.

That weekend was horrendous. My weakened system reacted badly to the antibiotics. I couldn't always reach the toilet and there were dribbles of diarrhea from my bed to the toilet. I hardly cared. I phoned NHS Direct and they told me to persevere.

The Monday arrived and I phoned the doctor to explain the situation. Thankfully, without hesitation he booked me in to the Hospital there and then. A couple of my work colleagues collected me and took me there. I could tell by the looks on their faces that I looked exactly as I felt. Triage in A&E took seconds and I was wheeled up to the gastro ward.

After painful prods from junior doctors and - finally- an examination from the Consultant, I was scheduled for surgery. I spent a surreal night, lying in an overly warm hospital ward with my arse hanging out of my gown - embarrassingly facing the world but at least free of contact with covers or clothes. The surgery [1] was brief and uneventful, removing a mass the size of an orange from my emaciated backside.

Once I was well enough I went for a bath (one thing you can't get across to people who haven't had this kind of condition is the hallowed reverence you develop for finally getting yourself clean). After getting out I promptly fainted and then recovered enough to pull the emergency cord - the one and only time I've ever had to do this in hospital.

Not long later I was well enough to be discharged. My friends promptly made up a bed for me in my living room, cooked me shepherd's pie and left. Don't get me wrong, this wasn't any kind of abandonment - I simply couldn't bare the pitying looks and the feeling that I just wanted them to go so that I could just get on with things. Going to the bathroom was hideous. Painful and messy. My guts had not settled and this is not the kind of thing that you want to be going on with an open wound that goes right into the bum crease. This became terrifying when I noticed a mass hanging out of the wound - difficult to distinguish between poo and packing. NHS Direct reassured me that this was probably just packing and I showered and slumped into bed.

It was obvious I couldn't cope and I decided, at the age of 28 - after pretty much leaving home at 18 - that I needed my parents to look after me. I rang and they arrived the next day to take me home...

[1] Surgery for abscesses is very minor but has to be conducted in a very specific kind of way. The human body abhors a vacuum so the wound has to be left open to heal from the inside out - otherwise you end up with a hollowed that is covered over the surface with flesh, not good particularly as it is prone to infection. The wound is then packed with that weird kind of seaweed derivative and gauss to keep it from knitting together incorrectly.

God, she can rant...

The backstory will continue shortly. Just wanted to give you a little window into the psyche of w2b. Now I may have said this before, but she's a very... forthright person. Another way of saying it is that she's very opinionated. Yet another way would be to say that she's goddamn scary.

Yesterday was one of those days when she was angry at the world.

First it was her work colleagues. Then it was her boss. Then it was the embryonic plans for the company.

Lastly, believe it or not it was the British attitude to light switches. We were in our almost finished bathroom cleaning our teeth by gas light when she turned to a cable hanging from the ceiling...

w2b: "What's that?"
mms: "What's what?"
w2b: "That cable, what's that?"
mms: "Its for the light switch."
w2b: "Why've they not plastered it in like the others?"
mms: "Its a pull switch."
w2b: "A pull switch?"
mms: "Yeah, for a cord to hang from the ceiling."
w2b: "Why?"
mms: "Why what?"
w2b: "We didn't ask for a cord, why isn't it a flicky switch?"
mms: "All bathrooms have cords."
w2b: "Why?"
mms: "I think its so you don't electrocute yourself."
w2b: "Thats stupid."
mms: "I think its cos if you touch a flicky switch with wet hands you could cause a circuit and electrocute yourself... in theory."
w2b: "Thats stupid. I'd prefer a flicky switch."
mms: "I think its probably building regs or something."
w2b: "Thats stupid."
mms: "Well..."
w2b: "I bet no-one's ever been electrocuted by flicking a light switch."
mms: "Ermmmm..."
w2b: "In South Africa all bathrooms have flicky switches."
mms: "Well they don't here."
w2b: "Thats so crap. There's something wrong with the British psyche."
mms: "What?"
w2b: "I think its genetic."
mms: "Eh?"
w2b: "You all used to warriors. Its all been lost in the genes."
mms: "Can we go to bed please?"

Now don't get me wrong. W2b has been a great influence on me. She's helped me overcome my natural English reticence and stand up for myself a bit more. But you have to draw the line somewhere.

Sometimes she's just insane.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Bit of backstory (3) - Who's for a bit of surgery?

Work was... well, work. Not much progress on the house, electricians haven't pitched up but we do seem to have acquired some new ceilings.

So its on with the story.

Now before I start, I'd like to explain my reasons behind documenting this. Its not (I hope) just a way for me to tell the world what a hard life I've had and to allow you all to share my pain. Sure, bad things have happened, but hopefully what you'll see as I get closer to the present is that I'm very happy with my life now. Also, what I want to get across is that through confronting these things I've changed as a person. This change, whether for the better or otherwise has made me who I am and in that respect I have no regrets or resentment. We are all a product of our experiences and the weird twists and turns our lives have taken and it is totally pointless to live a life of regret. Maybe that's just easy for me to say as my life is so good at the moment.

So anyway, I was diagnosed with Crohn's...

What followed was a weird kind of life in limbo. Whether as a weird result of having been diagnosed or (as I choose to believe) simply because I was diagnosed just before my disease got really bad, I seemed to deteriorate quite sharply from the diagnosis (Autumn 2000 I think) through the months that followed (Spring 2001).

After diagnosis, my Consultant, GP and I experimented with a whole cocktail of different drugs. Prednisolone [1] seemed the most popular choice, but I also had a go with drugs that I can only barely remember the names of: Azathioprine, Sulphasalazine, Imuran, all sorts. In addition to these were the various other drugs I took to counteract the side effects: Anti-indigestion remedies, antibiotics, iron tablets, calcium and so forth.

None of these actually seemed to help much. If anything, I was feeling much, much worse. In particular the prednisolone seemed to offer temporary relief but then exacerbate the symptoms in the long run.

I was spending more and more time off work and taking every opportunity I could to work from home. Mornings in particular were the worst - there were countless occasions when I would lock the door and be about to step into my car when I'd have to rush back inside and station myself on the toilet. The evenings usually consisted of me moving randomly around the room in an effort to keep comfortable and the placement of hot-water bottles on the most painful areas. In the end I usually retired to bed where I could wrap up warm in a duvet and be close to the toilet. I seemed to be living primarily on tea and cigarettes.

So it in 2001 I was sent along for a colonoscopy [2]. This meant more bowel-prep, but was made up for through the fact that the investigation was carried out under the influence of pethadine [3].

The result of the colonoscopy was that the Consultant recommended that I had surgery. A right-hemicolectomy [4] to be precise. The pains I'd been having were due to strictures in my bowel. These were caused by build-ups of scarring that in turn narrowed the bowel and led to blockages, pain and discomfort.

So I made the preparations and toddled off to hospital when the time came. Now I'm not someone who has any kind of morbid fear of hospitals, I actually quite like them - particularly the staff. But life as a hospital patient is mind-numbingly, joy-sappingly boring.

My operation went well. The pain killers wired directly into my spine helped. The only problem was that I developed hiccups. Now, hiccups for an hour or so are annoying and either irritating or funny to those around you (depends on your friends). But hiccups for ten days mean that you can't eat properly and can't sleep. It also means that the medical staff will try whatever they can to get rid of them. This ranged from drinking fizzy drinks and back massage, through to spoonfuls of sugar and then through to a drug called metoclopromide. Unfortunately, it was then I realised that I was allergic to the drug. This happened coincidentally when my parents were visiting. It started with a feeling that I was drooling. This progressed to numbness and twitches along one side of my face. Eventually my whole body was spasming. Cue parents being led away and confused medical staff being paraded in front of me before they eventually gave me potassium (I think) and I stopped twitching around like I was in my death throws.

The hiccups were eventually cured by having a radiologist syringe the air bubble out from around my diaphragm. Not easy when he has to navigate between your ribs and has to be careful to only do this in between hiccups.

So anyway, I was discharged and over the next few weeks and months I seemed to improve. Not entirely, but I wasn't sure what my point of reference was to say that I was 100%. As far as I was concerned better was better.

So that was me cured, right? Tune in for the next exciting episode...

[1] Prednisolone is a weird drug to be taking. Its a steroid that seems primarily designed to mimic the effects of going through puberty. It has its more medical type side effects (pressure on the eye ball, thinning of the bones, etc) but the ones that are most noticeable that I had were anxiety, acne and massive doses of frustrated snappiness and moodiness. Driving was a dangerous experience.

[2] A colonoscopy is very similar to the flexible sigmoidoscopy described before, but is carried out under sedation rather than anaesthetic. Its a surreal experience. Its uncomfortable but not really painful. Once you've overcome the embarrassment of being surrounded by medical staff while you have your arse exposed to the air and a doctor pushing a fiber optic camera up there, it can be quite interesting as you get a full colour view of the insides of your bowel. This is not to be sniffed at (sorry, had to put that in there) as its not the kind of thing that many people get to see.

[3] Pethadine is probably the best drug I've ever given. As well as making medical investigations a lot more bearable - it destroys your short term memory, so you alternate between thinking "oh dear, this is quite uncomfortable" and "what was I thinking again?" - it also has some hilarious effects on your cognitive processes. After I'd had my investigation, for example I watched the most surreal football match on tv that I've ever experienced. I felt like Ozzy Osbourne must for the majority of his life.

[4] A right-hemicolectomy is a bowel resection, in this case a removal of the ascending colon. This means that the offending part is removed and then you are re-plumbed back together again. It requires a careful weaning back onto solid food to avoid shocking your system, but after this you should return back to normal.


My ugly mug and my beautiful family Geek Stuff