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.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

I wonder if Emulsion is bio-degradable?

Don't worry, I'll continue the backstory in a bit. Its been a tiring day and that kind of writing is best done when you're at least partially corpus mentis. Otherwise, I'll end up sounding jaded and give it a negative spin that I don't intend to.

We finally got the chance to do some decorating today. So w2b and I crammed ourselves into the bathroom and got to work (no smutty thoughts there dear reader).

Strange, the bathroom is the smallest room in the house and yet it seems to take just as long to paint as any other room. Admittedly we were painting the ceiling too, but it still only left about three square meters to paint. Yet it seemed to take forever. Maybe its all the things you've got to navigate around.

Still, we've done the first coat now and I must admit it looks pretty good. W2b and I are now completely knackered of course. Still, the pooches are away on holiday so they won't be tiring us out.

Time for another quality dinner of spaghetti on toast and then some mindless tv - Malcolm in the Middle followed by Lost. Come on, admit it - you're jealous!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Bit of backstory (2) - And the diagnosis is...

Another uneventful day, so on with the story.

Now, where was I? Oh, yes waiting for an appointment at the hospital.

** Disclaimer - I'm going to be putting some medical info in here. I am in no way a medical expert, so please be aware that what is related below are just my experiences and my understanding of the facts. If you have any of the symptoms, are undergoing any of the tests or have been diagnosed with any of the things shown below don't just take what I say as fact. There are many, many people who know a lot more about these things than I do **

While I waited for an appointment my doctor booked me in for some blood tests. These were taken without any problems - luckily I have no problems with needles at all - and I waited for the results from those too.

The results of the blood test came back. My ESR levels were very high. No idea what that means? Me neither. Luckily one of my best friends at the time was a pharmacist. So I dug out her little medical book and found that it was an indicator of inflammation. Judging by the level they had read out to me, quite severe inflammation.

So I looked up, in the same handy-dandy little medical book, what sore guts and high inflammation usually indicated. It came back with two culprits:

Ulcerative Colitis
Crohn's Disease

Both were Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, whose symptoms were blood in the stool, loss of weight, abdominal pain, diarrhea (do you realize how hard that word is to spell - you'd think I'd know how to by now), vomiting, etc. In other words - what I had.

From what I could see, UC was the milder of the two. In a way though it was equally severe as while the symptoms were locallised to just the colon, the pain was no less and the chances of requiring surgery were roughly the same. Plus, the surgery that was referred to looked very, very scary.

CD was rarer and described as being the more severe. However, the surgical options seemed a little more open - with a few different things that could be tried in addition to what could be done for UC.

So armed with these pretty scary insights into what I might have, I awaited my appointment with the consultant.

The letter arrived and I went along for my consultation. I'd not been to the hospital a lot up till then, so even the act of going there was all a bit new for me. I checked in with the receptionist and sat nervously in the waiting room to be called in. Then my name was called and I had my consultation with the disturbingly burly consultant. He began with a rectal examination [1].

After the examination, he said that he would book me in for more tests in the coming week. He wasn't prepared to give me any kind of diagnosis until the results of those came back.

The tests consisted of a barium meal and follow-through [2] and a flexible sigmoidoscopy [3] under anaesthetic. Both of these would require my taking bowel-prep beforehand [4].

So I had my tests and went back to see the consultant. He was now certain enough to give me a diagnosis. I had Crohn's Disease.

Surprisingly, my first reaction was relief. I was relieved that I had something tangible to attribute all my symptoms to. I was relieved that I had something that, although not curable was at least treatable. I was also relieved that I didn't have UC as I didn't much look forward to the surgery that seemed the final option for that disease.

So I was put on steroids (prednisolone) and told to come back in a couple of months but to see my GP if I got worse.

[1] A rectal examination is usually carried out by the doctor either using his finger or with an instrument similar to that used to look into your ears, except longer. This instrument is called a rigid sigmoidoscope (I think). The examination was carried out with me laying on my side with my knees tucked under my chin. My trousers were (obviously) down and around my ankles. I was told to relax (yeah, right) and breathe steadily. Then the doctor lubed up the scope and what felt like a traffic bollard was inserted into my backside. I politely told him that it was quite uncomfortable and I'd prefer it if he removed it. He said that he'd just be a little longer. I told him that, no I'd rather he removed it now and emphasised this with a kind of groaning yell similar to the noise you use when you stand on an electrical plug in your bare feet. He then obliged and informed me that my anus was quite tender (no shit) and that he wouldn't be able to see much without an anaesthetic. I whimpered.

[2] A barium meal and follow-through is perhaps the least unpleasant medical test I've ever had to undergo. It consists of drinking a thick, gloopy liquid which is presented to you in quite a cunning way. First the nurse/radiographer gives you a small cup, half filled with the barium drink. You drink that with no real problems, although you might note to yourself that its quite tasteless and similar to plaster of paris. Then the nurse/radiographer whips out a massive container of the stuff, hands it to you and says that you are to finish it off and that they will be back shortly. After forcing the stuff down you then wander around the radiography department standing in various different poses and having your x-ray taken. If you're lucky, you even get to see a few which I find quite entertaining (although I have developed an unhealthy obsession with bodily functions, so maybe its just me).

[3] A flexible sigmoidoscopy requires you to be put under anaesthetic while they stick a camera up your backside and have a root around your colon. Its not unpleasant at all, especially if you don't mind being anaesthetised as I do. The embarrassment is lessened by the fact that you're under, although I made up for this by making sure my first words when I came round were "Where's the lovely anaesthetist gone?". The only side effects are a whole world of gas that requires you to deflate your belly a little like an air bed.

[4] Bowel-prep is the mother of all laxatives. There are a couple of different kinds but they all taste foul. They require you create a solution from some powder and then ensure that it is all drunk. You then have to drink lots and lots of fluids, both to aid the osmotic process of the prep and to prevent you becoming dehydrated. All bowel-preps have the same explosive results. They don't so much force you to empty the contents of your bowel as create a kind of vortex around your backside that tries its hardest to turn you inside out. The only instructions required for the packets are: Stay close to a toilet - at most a few millimeters. Don't make any plans for the next day or so.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Bit of backstory (1) - Something's brewing down below

Its been a pleasant but uneventful day so I thought now would be a good day to start with a bit of back story. You should feel honored, dear reader as this is the kind of thing that I only let people in on when I'm comfortable with them.

We all have a tendency towards certain kinds of illnesses. Some people get headaches, some get back ache. Mine was bad guts. I was a colicky baby and right through childhood it always seemed that I'd have moments of sickness. No family holiday was complete without me being sick at some point. Throughout my early adult life I never had much of an appetite. I just didn't have that love of food that most people seemed to have. I also seemed to have more than my share of times when - as a student for example - I would get sick from what I'd been drinking well before I got drunk. I thought this was merely due to having a slightly weedy constitution. It seemed to improve by moving from beer to spirits, so I didn't worry too much.

The first time I thought something might be wrong was when I tried to get fit. Due to my small appetite I never had a problem with my weight. So, while I had dabbled with the gym I never really saw the point. Then, in 1998 I agreed to go on a skiing holiday. So it was time to build up a bit of muscle. So I enrolled and threw myself in with a vengeance. At first it seemed to be working well. My strength was increasing and I was toning up. Strange thing was my appetite didn't increase to match. When I had a body mass test I had the same fat levels as an endurance athlete. But I didn't have the endurance.

Needless to say, the skiing holiday wasn't great. Falling over so many times wasn't great for someone as skinny as me. Coupled with this, the cold seemed to cut straight through me and I just couldn't get warm. My guts weren't great either, which was particularly bad as I was sharing a room with someone I didn't know too well.

I put this down to just not being much of a skiing type.

Shortly after this some friends came over for my birthday. It was a repeat of some of the drinking experiences I'd had years earlier only more so. I started getting sick quite early on and could barely keep anything down. I put it down to a bad pint and resigned myself to just having a bit of a crap birthday.

I muddled along for a while, but my enthusiasm for food was seriously waning. Some evenings I'd barely manage a bowl of cereal. It was hard to disguise that I was losing weight and people started dropping hints about having to eat more. Some implied that I might have some kind of eating disorder.

In 1999 I moved out of the house I'd been sharing and bought my first house. This was both the best and worst thing I could have done.

I now didn't have to disguise the fact that I needed to go to the toilet a lot. I also didn't have to worry when the one and only bathroom in the house was occupied (there was a particularly embarrassing moment one time where I had to resort to pooing in a plastic carrier bag when someone was showering in the shared house). I didn't have to field questions on what I was eating that evening.

But I also had the opportunity to hide myself away from the world. I could come in from work, eat what I could manage and then huddle in front of the tv. My energy levels were low, but this didn't matter as I had no inclination to go anywhere. Provided I could invent some meals that I'd pretend to have eaten whenever my parents rang I was fine.

But I was denying that I had a problem.

It was a tv program on gut problems that started me thinking. There were people on there with eating disorders and illnesses (one in particular stuck in my head). It was time to admit that I too had a problem. I booked myself in to see my GP.

This was my first introduction to the marvelous world of poo. I was to provide him with three stool samples [1].

I dropped the stool samples off and awaited the results. Three weeks later I rang for the results. Bad news - my stool samples had been misplaced. I went through the process again and awaited the results again...

Worse news. They had detected "occult" blood in the samples. Now this wasn't, as I initially thought, an accusation of carrying out strange black magic rituals involving blood and poo. It meant that there was blood from my gut in my poo.

It was time for me to see a specialist. I should wait for a letter to arrive from the hospital.

If I didn't have diarrhea before, I did now...

[1] The mechanics of providing a stool sample are as follows:

  1. Create a "nest" of toilet roll in the bowl.
  2. Carry out your bodily functions as normal (being careful not to wee as this will harm the sample).
  3. Remove the little blue spade/spoon from the stool sample bottle.
  4. Collect a small heap of poo from the nest using the little spade/spoon.
  5. Place this in the bottle and secure carefully.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


Ok, now that I've got your attention I'll go onto the mundane truth of it.

We got an ominous call from the builder last night. He was a little worried about some diagonal cracks in the bedroom wall. He wondered if we wanted to call the surveyor in... oh dear.

Now that he's stripped off some plaster and some more render the problem seems to be a lack of lintels. Or lintels put in by people who didn't know much about building houses. Or basic physics.

The lintels for pretty much every window in the old house are knackered. Not only that, they're only a few millimeters wider than the windows themselves. Oh, and around one of them the wall has turned into crumbly rubble. This means that we've got some walls resting pretty much on window frames and some others resting on... well... nothing. The ones resting on nothing are unfortunately the ones holding up the floor upstairs.

So that's a shame.

Builder reckons he can fix it all. But its not exactly good news.

The weathers been nasty today, so that's made the dogs very restless. We've decided to take the plunge and book them into the kennels. This is not just to keep our neighbours happy, because the ones whose opinions we value have actually been very kind. Its really for their sake. Its not fair for them to be in such a disruptive environment. So they're off on another holiday on Sunday.

Hopefully this should make both their and our lives easier. We can go ahead with what work we can while the dogs can have a restful experience in their little holiday home.

This is all turning a little negative, but I really don't want it to sound that way. I think it's just the influence of John Humphreys on Art School. He's so stuffy and stiff. I want to stab him. Or maybe its just that w2b's blog is getting more attention than mine... boo... hiss.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

UK Blogger Prevents Fuel Protest

In a shock U-turn today, the protests promised earlier in the week have largely failed to materialise. The main reason for this has been attributed to a blog entry posted by a sole Englishman yesterday.


You can tell its been a bit of a slow day today.

So, some updates on the house:

The kitchen has now been plastered, as have a lot of the other walls in the house. We now have a new ceiling in the kitchen and pretentiously titled "sun room". The builders have started replacing some of the upstairs ceilings. Most of the wiring is now concealed - including the bit behind where the tv is going to go which we wanted to leave till last so that we could conceal some cables behind it. So those are the positives.

The only negative is that we misunderstood when the kitchen fitter was going to come back so that'll be week after next, not next week. Yum - pot noodle tonight.

Wedding-wise, I've had to put off BM (Best Man) for another week or so. He was going to come over so that we could choose our outfits. Ooooh Smell 'Er! But we haven't really got a house for him to stay in at the moment.

W2b picked up her dress after the final fitting. Obviously I haven't got much to say on that as I haven't seen it. She's been excited today at the prospect of getting silly shoes (think she's feeling constrained by bowing to pressure and wearing a dress and veil).

Sid's been ominously quiet today. Short on supplies though, so must remember to order some tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Nice day - lets bitch

Been a positive day today. We actually had a productive and enjoyable monthly meeting at work (wonders will never cease) and the builders made some progress on the house (I've seen the light!).

So its time for me to have a moan.

Are there any people in this country more annoying than fuel protestors?

Let me set the scene:

A few years ago, the government's policy of taxing the things that were on the whole damaging - eg alcohol, cigarettes, fuel, etc - backfired slightly when a bunch of people decided that petrol prices were too high. These people, largely hauliers and farmers who use subsidised diesel decided to protest against these high fuel prices. As well as go-slows on motorways, they also blockaded fuel plants and prevented fuel shipments being moved. This was largely done through intimidation, to the extent that some trucks only got through due to police escorts being provided.

The protestors kind of got their way. There was an election looming and the government decided to freeze their tax rises. Shame, really.

So now we get to this week's problem:

Hurricane Katrina hit some of the main oil processing plants in the US This led to a decrease in the global reserves of refined fuel. This in turn led to price rises.

At the end of last week and going into this week the mutterings began from the same protestors. Demonstrations but no blockades - there's been an emphasis on this - would take place towards the end of the week. The government announced that there were contingency measures in place (rationing, guaranteed supplies to essential services, etc).

So now the panic begins. Queues at petrol stations. Petrol stations running out of stock. Worried public wondering whether their fuel will last till the end of the week.

Is it just me, or do these protestors really piss you off?

Its not necessarily the inconvenience. True, when we have a product that we're completely accustomed to having suddenly threatened in some way it makes us feel uncomfortable and uneasy. But we adapt to these things. We find a way to deal with it and we move on.

Its more the fact that these people are protesting purely about the money in their pockets. Its the fact that they protest at the government intervening in one way (putting taxes up to try to influence the amount of fuel we use) and yet want them to intervene in another way in their favour (reducing taxes so that they can counteract the increase in price due to the reduction in supply). Its the fact that the main trouble makers are the ones affected the least by the government's tax policies on fuel. Its the fact that of all the terrible things going on in the world (thousands starving in Niger to take one example) they choose this to complain about.

These people are selfish, money grabbing scum who want to disrupt our lives purely so that they don't have to pay so much.

I can guarantee that half of these people are the same ones that complain about the noise of wind farms and that they are an eye-sore that they don't want near them.

Interesting stat: the percentage of the petrol price that goes into taxes is actually less now than it was ten years ago.

In other news, I see the Pentagon have found a lovely way to commemorate the September 11th attacks.

Sid's quiet. Think he's considering a dirty protest.

Monday, September 12, 2005

So tired...

England won the Ashes...


Dogs barking at some time after midnight. Tramped up from caravan by lamp light to shut them up. Found out problem was open window, so closed it. That shut them up.

First fix finally finished. Assurances that they'll have it all done by end of the week. Kitchen now almost ready for installation.

Phoned builder from work to hear the good news. Also said that he'd rescued the dogs.

Got home to find out that they'd been running amok. Running out into the road. Refusing to be rounded up. Poor neighbour over the road rescues Gamba, but thought that Zulu had been lost for good. Found out quarter of an hour later when he tromped in, dying of thirst. Both finally rounded up and shut up in the house.

Patched up the run some more. Any more of this will mean kennels for the little buggers.

Changed Sid. This dust isn't doing him any good.

Washed up in the bath by more lamp light.

Now watching a bit of teev then off to bed.

Must sleep now.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Change of tack

I was gonna write a big soul searching ramble today about my tendency to worry over things that don't need worrying about.

However, after a bitty, pottering sort of day we've just watched "A Life Less Ordinary". Its such a strangely uplifting, silly, easy film that my ramble no longer seems appropriate. It was the first time that w2b had seen it and she got it. So many people dislike the film - probably because its such a change from "Trainspotting". But I've always liked it and its great to see it with someone who's opinion really matters and for them to like it too.

There's something brave about a film that's clever, with self-aware dialogue and unconventional characters and yet that has at its heart an optimistic message about love. Its kind of like "True Romance-lite".

Watching it now, with someone I love made it an even more pleasurable experience. Being able to enjoy the cleverness as well as the sentiment made it feel like I was enjoying it on all levels.

W2b has changed my view of the world so much - or maybe she's just allowed me to acknowledge the things I didn't want to admit before. It's nice to have the permission to be the hopeless romantic that I wanted to be. It's fantastic to watch a film that has as its central theme the idea of fate bringing people together and to actually believe it.

I'm sure you're all feeling nauseous now. I make no apologies.

Even Sid is feeling all relaxed and non-itchy. I think I'll quit while I'm ahead.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Going to the dogs

Our dogs are a nightmare.

We got home yesterday to muffled barking. Not the usual barking we get from dogs in the open air run, keen to have their adopted parents back. This was strangely muffled and strangely desperate. We approached their run - a big open air space, protected from the elements by tarpaulin with a little igloo inside for protection from the elements - and started to get a little worried when we couldn't see the dogs bouncing up and down in their normal way. But we could still hear the muffled barking.

Then we spotted the sign:

"Houdini and Friend are in the shed after three escape attempts. Karen will send you the cleaning bill later, Geo"

Most odd.

At least that explained the strange tone to the barking. The dogs had been rehomed in one of the run-down old out buildings. "Geo" had then secured them in there through a combination of bits of rope, wire and an old belt. They were still bouncing and you could just make out their frantic little heads bobbing up behind the grimy window.

So more apologies to go through.

Luckily Karen thought our dogs were very cute as they trotted into her kitchen and ate their cat's food. Three times. Geo - turns out to be another neighbour, called George - just seemed very pleased with himself for having saved the day.

Oh the pleasures of having two insane Jack Russells. And to think w2b thinks kids will transform our lives! Every second of our home lives is governed by these hyperactive, labotomised little bundles of joy.

Even now they're playing tug-of-war. With Gamba pulling from the high ground of w2b's knee. We've already witnessed Zulu slingshot Gamba across the room. Well it’s more entertaining than X-Factor.

In Sid news, he's starting to get really irritated by all the dust (sparkies were in today and actually did some work). His itchiness was getting to that painful stage - aided and abetted by Zulu and Gambas' leaping on and off my knee. But having a new bathroom kind of cancels that out. At least changing him isn't the trauma it used to be. Even if I have resorted to sandwich bags for disposal 'cos I can't seem to find the proper blue ones.

Friday, September 09, 2005

My mother likes my girlfriend more than she likes me

When I was about twenty I cut off most of my luscious, Kurt Cobain style locks. I ended up with a "number one" around the back and sides and a kind of topknot on top. My mother was mortified. She claimed I looked like a thug. She even came out with the immortal line that she didn't know me anymore.

I was twenty one when I got my first tattoo. Judging by the overreaction to the haircut, I knew it wasn't a good idea to allow my mother to see it.

Around two or three years later I got another. Then while at a festival (yes I used to be quite wild and crazy, you know) I decided to get my ear pierced. When I saw my mother's reaction to that - "that's so unhygenic, you'll get hepatitis, or trench ear or something" - I knew more than ever that I'd be keeping my tattoos under wraps for a while.

This was successful for a couple of years until, on a kind of forced holiday to Vegas with them (my brother was - classily - getting married there) she spotted me sunbathing. Her reaction wasn't one of those over-the-top, blow-outs. Thats not her style. It was disappointment. She actually said that I was an idiot.

Skip to last week.

W2b and I had decided to get matching tattoos around two months ago. Nice star sign ones on our forearms. It was either that or have each other's names on our biceps.

When my parents came over to visit there was no way we were gonna keep our arms covered. It was obvious that they'd seen them (they're difficult to miss), so eventually on the Saturday afternoon we decided to ask their opinion on them. My mother's reaction, directed straight at w2b was along the lines of:

"I like them."
"If I'd been born today I think I'd have had piercings in my ears and probably one in my nose."
"I don't think I'd have a tattoo though - I think that would be too painful."

Now I know people mellow with age. But this is just bull-doo-doo.

She is soooo the blue eyed girl. I thought daughter-in-laws were supposed to be desperate to impress their partner's mother. Not with these two, its completely the other way round. W2b just can't put a foot wrong. T'aint fair, I tell you.

Can't blame my mother though. Shows that good taste is hereditary.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Its my party...

Am I the only (potential) groom in the world not to want a stag party?

I've had to explain to my best man (a really nice guy who epitomises the phrase) that I don't want to have one. Its a tough sell. After all, who wouldn't want to get together with the guys, be the centre of attention and have a laugh with them in some City?

Well me, to be honest.

Its not just that I'm not into that kind of thing (I haven't been much of a drinker for a while now). It just seems a bit of an artificial thing to do.

Since I left University, most of my friends have been female - the only male ones are the good friends I've kept from University and from home before that. I've grown accustomed to a quieter way of living and I like it. W2b and I have a very nice life here which I wouldn't change for the world. The days of drinking till I'm stupid with the lads are well behind me - if they were ever there. People who know me, know this. I think, though that what they don't seem to understand is that I don't miss those days. I am incredibly happy and there is nothing, nothing at all that I have ever had in my life that I miss.

To me, a stag party is mainly a celebration of and a farewell to all those things that you're giving up when you get married. But my life is already pretty much what it will be when I'm married and I like it that way. I'd be faking it if I tried to pretend it was any other way.

The only other purpose that a stag party can serve is a chance for friends to get together and toast your future happiness, without the formality and stress that will be there on the wedding day. To me that would be so much better if it was a party that both w2b and I could enjoy together. Especially as we live quite far from most of my old friends (so not many chances to get together before the wedding) and because so few of my friends will be able to make it to the wedding in SA.

So I *gasp for breath* am putting my foot down.

No stag party.
Party at our house for friends of both of us (assuming its kind of finished by then).

Look forward to the fallout - given the way wedding planning seems to go, sure there'll be some arguments.

Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

Sid update: all fine and dandy, although not happy about the football - and believe me, he knows a thing or too about crap.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

She's just a devil woman!

God w2b is scary.

I've just witnessed my fiance calmly and with incredible self assurance destroying our useless electricians. I've never in my life seen two grown men cower like children before the head mistress like that. Bear in mind that one of the electricians is a young, healthy guy around six foot and we have personally witnessed the other carrying an ancient oven out of the kitchen single handed. W2b on the other hand is around five foot four and deceptively feminine.

Maybe its a South African thing. Maybe we British are just not used to a nation populated by people whose sole response to any kind of frustration is not to tut and whisper how disappointed they are with the service. Maybe with the difficult recent history that South Africa has had, coupled with the difficulties of having a whole multitude of national languages their people are used to making their present felt. Maybe the slightly skewed view that blinkered non-South Africans have of that country means that they expect to have a gun pulled on them at any moment. I don't know. But boy is it impressive and - it would seem so far - effective.

My role in the whole thing was pretty negligible. I had an excuse, as I was emptying the rather fragrant chemical toilet from the caravan (cheers Sid). Even if I didn't though, I wouldn't have wanted to deprive w2b of her fun. She's been looking forward to this for a while now.

Over the next few days, as the opportunity presents itself I will be furthering the misconceptions that our now timid electricians have of South Africans. They will be subtly subjected to (wholly fictional) stories of w2b's experiences in her home country. Tackling workers at knife point. Bypassing the legal system to retrieve money she's been owed. Hell, I might even hint that she keeps weapons in the caravan and is not afraid to use them.

All in all, what with the bathroom now being finished and England hopefully about to demolish Northern Ireland in the football and Australia in the cricket, quite a satisfying end to the day.

Just as an addendum to yesterday's rant I was sent this link as an illustration of the kind of subtle bigotry that Katrina has uncovered:

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Lets have a big debate!

W2b and I have been living in a bit of a state of heightened emotion lately. So its not been the best time to engage us in any kind of emotive discussion.

Unfortunately a discussion group that we both belong to did exactly that today.

It started as quite a high minded piece on the culpability or otherwise of Bush and his administration in the whole Katrina situation. After the initial "no-one's to blame for a natural disaster" chit-chat came the inevitable drawing up of sides between the liberals and the conservatives.

Now I can engage in impassioned discourse without getting too emotionally battered most of the time. Often I'll revel in remaining impassive as I prick holes in the arguments put to me. But as I said, today was not the day for me to remain impassive.

I think what got me really angry were not the pro-Bush (or to be generous, anti-anti-Bush) sentiments, but the views below the surface that the argument uncovered.

It seems like there are a lot of people, irrespective of their geographic location, who have a disturbing view of the less fortunate in our respective societies. The sentiments that I found most shocking were:

  • No matter how poor you are, you must be stupid if you don't get out of a potential disaster area in time.
  • Most of the people who stayed did so because they wanted to - and that the information about how bad the situation was going to be was freely available.
  • The people who stayed in the area where so off their heads on drugs, they wouldn't pay attention to the warnings.
  • If you are poor, its your own doing - either because you're lazy or because you're stupid.
  • Granted, your wealth had an influence on whether or not you'd survive. But so be it, "life's not fair".
  • Why should we get emotional about what's happening there, its not going to help anyone? (personally I just found this a bit pathetic, but it certainly got w2b angry).

I find it very difficult to carry on a reasoned discussion with people who hold these kinds of views. Its easy enough to have a rational discussion, where you present evidence and argue its validity. But when you are talking to people who come from such a differing moral standpoint I really struggle. All you can hope to do is try to start them thinking and perhaps hope that one day they're in a situation where they have to rely on the charity of others and that when that happens they are treated better than they would treat others.

In related News, I hear that Bush is to launch an enquiry. That's good news. Sure to be a probing, unbiased enquiry.

Closer to home, the house is still going to hell in a hand basket. At least we have an almost complete bathroom (thankyou, thankyou, thankyou Dolphin - I can't praise their workmen enough and I want everyone to know that if you need a bathroom, they are the people to go to). That should make things a lot easier when I come to change Sid. He's getting a little itchy you see and our temporary setup here actually meant that he leaked a bit on Saturday night. Believe me, that's not a situation you want to be in when you've got minimal sanitation, its dark and you've only got lighting in one room.

Monday, September 05, 2005


Originally uploaded by Sid and the pig.
Part dog, part amphetamine junky Gamba is the brains of the outfit.

If there’s any trouble, you can guarantee Gamba has caused it – even if he manages to run off and leave Zulu to take the blame. Gamba is the one that finds the escape routes in any barricades we try to put up. Gamba is the one that, after Zulu has retrieved the latest stuffed toy will utterly eviscerate the corpse.

Gamba is mummy’s little baby. He does spend his time on his mum’s knee – one of the advantages of the fact that he stopped growing around two months after we brought him home. He’s also a little… well… deformed. His legs are wonky, meaning that when he stands he looks a bit like a ballerina. But his mummy and daddy still love him… even if he is a bit broken… and a bit mental… and still wees and poos in the house.

(It actually seems a bit weird how much we love our pets once I write it down)


Originally uploaded by Sid and the pig.
If Gamba is “The Brain” then Zulu is “Pinky”.

Zulu is taller and more elegant than his brother and so desperate to please it can be quite pathetic. You see, Zulu has a tiny, tiny brain. He spends most of his time loping around wondering what he can do to get praise.

Zulu is completely dominated by his smaller brother and does all the fetching and carrying for him. When you throw a ball Zulu is the one that runs after it and brings it back. Gamba just waits to ambush him and then steals it out of his mouth.

Zulu is daddy’s little baby and would spend all of his time sitting on my knee, but unfortunately he’s too big and has to harrumph off and lay on the floor.


Its been a slow day today. Progress on the house has been so slow as to be almost un-noticeable. The bathroom is coming on well, but as for the rest...

Work was quite eventful but as I'm still wary of talking about that it may have to wait till another day.

So you'll have to satisfy yourself with some ramblings about our family - seems appropriate as w2b seems to be feeling broody. Plus it gives me a chance to include some cute pics (see above)... aw bless.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Wuthering Heights (1)

Wuthering Heights (1)
Originally uploaded by Sid and the pig.
See - Britain can be pretty!

(Note lack of rain, all you doubters overseas)

Wuthering Heights (2)

Wuthering Heights (2)
Originally uploaded by Sid and the pig.
Where's Heathcliffe?

(Believe it or not its actually very sunny)

Wuthering, wuthering, wuthering heights... It's me

Been a lovely day today.

Was warm and sunny so we decided to take advantage of that and go and see some of the sites that this little isle of ours has to offer. Going site seeing is the kind of thing that feels disturbingly middle-aged when you're just a couple in your late twenties or early thirties. Luckily w2b being foreign and our best friends here actually being middle-aged gives us plenty of excuse.

So off we toddled: me, w2b, sid and our friends. Off over the border into England (hehehe, those of you not reading from overseas will understand that this isn't exactly a border crossing with passports and guards wearing ray-bans), over the pennines into the strange world that is Yorkshire. Down through the mill towns into the village of Haworth - or as it seems to be becoming - Brontelandtm.

Now, I've never been much of a Bronte fan. So the house where they lived was slightly lost on me. But I'm always one for pottering around, old man style. Getting fish and chips. Looking through shops selling tat. Ooohing and furniture that we can't afford, let along find a place for in the house. Trawling through old bookshops wondering which cool smelling book to buy (or is it just me that likes the smell of old books?).

After wandering through the high street a couple of times and starting the flag in the humidity (or maybe just being unaccustomed to going up hills on foot) we decided to gorge ourselves on cream teas. If you're not acquainted with the cream tea it's a particularly healthy blend of heavy scone, sticky jam and rich cream. We didn't walk very far after that.

To top off the tourist thing we then went off to the moors for a bit of a picnic. With a wicker picnic basket and everything! If I can figure out how FlickR works I may even treat you to a view of the moors in the hazy sunshine (yes, we finally tracked down a cable. Seems we were looking for the wrong one all along. Good to see my University education in computers, not to mention my eight years working in IT, coming in to full effect).

So now we're back at the building site. We've got that nice Sunday evening feeling of fresh-air-tiredness and slightly over full (did I mention that we got fudge too?).

Sid enjoyed the trip but was a bit disappointed by the toilet facilities - we're not very good at providing for tourists in this country.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

"Bloody" women

Its that time again. The time when w2b turns from the most incredible woman I know to a shadow of her former self.

25 days of the month she's the best company you can imagine. She's funny, she's laid-back, she laughs at the slightest opportunity. For those other few days she's a whirling dervish of aggression. Add into the mix the temporary accommodation we're living in and you have a volatile mix.

The weird thing is that we spend so much time together that I'm starting to get sympathy PMS. I've been grumpy all day, shuffling around the house like a teenager. I've had a headache. I've been alternating between sulking and snapping. I got into a strop because the electrics kept tripping when I was trying to boil the kettle. I sulked when, after w2b bought a camp stove to boil water on I couldn't find the camping kettle. I hrumphed when I realised we couldn't get the football on our crumby freeview tv setup.

It wouldn't be so bad if w2b's PMS made her a fragile, tearful wreck. But she seems to revel in the lunacy that it allows her to give reign to. So while I'm shuffling and mumbling around she's swearing at pedestrians that dare to step into our path and turning to me with a maniacal gleam in her eye and a devilish grin on her face. As I wait for her in the car park she gleefully describes how she tore apart the spotty shop assistants in the computer shop. Its one of the many, many occasions where you wonder which one's the man and which one's the woman in this relationship.

Its also one of the many reasons why I love her so much.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Bit of perspective, please

Its been a funny day. The sun is shining. Work has been pretty good. Its given me a chance to put this whole thing in perspective.

My afternoon has been spent alternating between a discussion on the existence of God and reading the posts of a guy blogging in New Orleans... oh, and working a bit too. It makes you look at things a little differently.

Its made me think that in spite of the hassle we're going through with the house, we don't have it bad at all.

We've got sanitation, we've got water, we've got some power and more than anything else we've got civilisation. There's a whole world out there - New Orleans is the most pressing example - that don't have some or any of these.

The question that keeps coming to me about New Orleans is how can this happen in America. I know natural disasters are just that - natural. So you can't blame anyone for them happening. But as with anything how we react to them is what defines us. In general, people care, people worry, people show support. But also, people murder, people loot and people take it as an opportunity to get what they can.

Surely the role of the government is to facilitate the caring and the supporting and to prevent the murder and looting. So what exactly are Bush and his people doing? This is the kind of thing that defines leaders. This is what they're supposed to get into politics for.

I know its probably not my place - I'm a Brit and I'm not physically doing anything to help. But I've been to the US. I've stayed with an average American family. I know that they are decent people. But their leader and the organisations that help keep him in place are letting them down.

As I write this, the news reports that he's cut short his holiday to go to the region. Cut short! Now! Days after the disaster! He's not even going to NO.

Its disgusting enough that so called developing nations are without basic human necessities. Its horrific when the wealthiest nation in the world lets its people descend into anarchy, disease and deprivation. While their leader plays cowboy on his ranch.

My heart goes out to the people trapped in this ravaged place and to those who have loved ones there.

Updates on Sid and other frivolity will have to wait till another day.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Getting better all the time...

A new month and I'm feeling increasingly optimistic, though without any particular reason I can put my finger on.

LBG is still doing his stuff and has pretty much finished the tiling. Just grouting left to do now. All we need are floor tiles, a toilet and a sink and the room will actually be a bathroom rather than a room with a bath.

NKG has finished preparing the kitchen and has made a nice job of it.

Our other workmen are still on holiday so no progress there. Boy are they in for a shock when w2b gets to speak to them.

The dogs are seemingly getting somewhere with their obedience. They are at least prepared to go outside and do their stuff. If only they could get it into their tiny, tiny minds that they're not supposed to do anything in the house then they'd be perfect. They're even going outside off the lead without running, lemming-like into the main road that our house backs on to.

Work was pretty good. Wary of revealing too much and encountering a dooce style situation. So the edited version goes something like this:

*Our company* provides *certain services* to *certain clients*. I'm responsible for a *major aspect of this service* and w2b is responsible for the *biggest of these clients*. The *two people in charge* of *this project* for *the client* came in to talk to us today about *another phase of the project* when the *service* will be largely handed over to them...

God this is frustrating. Suffice to say the meeting went well, with much big-headedness and mutual back slapping on my and w2b's part.

Don't think I'll be talking much about work in future.

Well, got to say TTFN. Sid needs changing and then we're off to get take away and go visit friends. Be nice not to be going there purely so that we can use their bathroom for once.

Take care, dear reader.


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