I heard a news report on BBC radio this week that the stock answer to ‘How are you?’, is no longer ‘I’m fine thank you, how are you?’ but ‘Oh, busy!’ Because busy, apparently, makes us feel successful and achieving and that in turn makes us feel good about ourselves. So, how am I? Well, this week I’ve been busy and ill in equal measure. No, not ill exactly, just not feeling well. Just not myself. I’m not me any more, I feel as if I’ve been taken over by aliens, as if my body is a battle field. I just don’t have time for all this body-battling.
On Sunday my daughter drove me to Telford to visit my son and his family. I took two Tramadol before the journey, prophylaxis really, just because my back had been sore the day before and the car ride is nearly two hours. Oh, my! Big mistake. I’ve had a recurring waterworks infection since Easter that came back while I was in Minorca and I ignored it thinking if I didn’t make eye contact it would just sidle off. It didn’t sidle anywhere and on Sunday it got fed up with being ignored and mixed itself with the Tramadol to remind me that it would be noticed. I felt sick in the car – I’m never car sick. We took a comfort break at Knutsford Services and got ourselves a coffee and some polo mints and I felt a bit better then. I had a lovely day with the family, we discussed a celebratory holiday next summer to celebrate my seventieth and my daughter’s fiftieth, even made a loose decision about where we would go. But I never lost that weird feeling of being someone else; of literally not feeling like myself. On Monday I made an emergency appointment at the surgery and got antibiotics for the plumbing. It’s as bad as it gets, the Doc said, as she dipped Clinistix in my little sample. I told her getting old sucks and she said, ‘Unfortunately, life only goes in one direction.’ Which did less than nothing to cheer me up. But a double dose of antibiotics and I was feeling better within twenty four hours. The underlying problem to all this is that I take corticosteroids for Polymyalgia Rheumatica and Giant Cell Arteritis, ugly sisters in an autoimmune condition. The Prednisolone subdues the autoimmune system so that it stops attacking my healthy tissue; but because it subdues the autoimmune system it is harder for the body to fight off infection. Catch 22.
However, you can’t keep an old dog down and after a day feeling sorry for myself on Monday, and buoyed up by the positive effect of the antibiotics, I drove myself to Uppermill on Tuesday morning for my fortnightly haircut. A bit of pampering is sometimes all it takes. I felt so much better when I got home. I spent some time booking a poetry residential in St Ives in February, details here:
I’m really looking forward to this one: Kim Moore and David Tait as tutors, what’s not to like? I spent some time prepping the evening meal before going out after lunch to Manchester. The good news is, Poets & Players were awarded an Arts Council England grant this year on first application. This is a group that organises high quality poetry and music performance events at the Whitworth Art Gallery on Oxford Road in Manchester. Check us out here:
I am on the organising committee for P&P. We were elated to get the grant because it took three applications last year, so to be successful at the first attempt was a wonderful bonus. But. We, the committee members, had to sign personal information forms before the grant can be processed so Janet Rogerson sent out the forms with a rota for getting it to all members of the committee before being sent off in time for the deadline. Of course, being poets, practicalities are not always our strong point and somehow the system broke down and had to start again. On Tuesday I met Shirley Nicholson, fellow committee member, so that we could both sign before she sent it recorded delivery in time for the deadline later this week. We met in one of my favourite cafés, ProperTea by Manchester Cathedral. Lovely to spend an hour over tea and toast with a like-minded friend; and we did some provisional planning for forthcoming events while we were together. If you haven’t been to ProperTea yet, check it out, details here:
Wednesday was my day at my daughter’s pub/restaurant. I do her books; and I’d been away from them for three weeks, so there was a lot to do. I got there at 9.00 and it was after 5.00 before I left; but all is up to date and it should be easier next week. I had asked Bill to put jacket potatoes in the oven. Unfortunately we had a short power cut on Tuesday evening: big, big storms over Manchester disrupting supplies. The clock on the oven had switched itself off. The oven won’t work without the clock. Bill didn’t know how to set the clock. I am always telling him to play with technology to learn what it can do; so he took my advice and tried to set the clock. Bless him, he used every knob on the oven to try to set that clock. In the end he managed it, but he had set it to the timing device, which neither of us use normally. So, when I got home from the pub I made myself a brew and used the hot water bottle to ease the aching back while the potatoes were cooking. Bill prepared the whole meal, which made a nice change: he’s no chef. But when it was served, we couldn’t switch off the oven because it was still in timer mode! Oh my, Bill and technology – lethal mix!
Thursday was all about shopping for food and getting Jimbo to the vet for his annual health check and immunisations. I have two cats, house cats who never go outdoors. They have the run of the house, so I always think going to the vets should be a bit of a treat for them, a sort of excursion. They have different ideas. Having battled Jimbobs into the cat carrier he did that anxious panting thing that cats do and cried loudly all the way there. Thankfully he forgave us as soon as he was on home ground again. I suppose being house-cats, they are a bit agoraphobic, perhaps. But, hopefully, that’s his outings for another year. I was back to Slimming World in the evening – I haven’t been for 9 weeks, since the accident, so it was with some trepidation that I mounted the scales. I had put on 4lbs since my last visit so that was a bit of a result after six week of Bill’s cooking – if it doesn’t have oven chips it’s probably a take-away! – and three weeks staying in hotels. Back on it now though. I’ve been a target member for nearly six years and I know if I didn’t go regularly I would need to join again because, basically, I love eating! I know my limitations and an hour and a half a week is a small price to pay for feeling good.
Friday was bank day and a quest for a page-a-day academic year diary for the pub bookings. How difficult are they to find in September? But I did track one down in Ryman and the good news is, I got to use my student discount card as well. The rest of Friday was taken up with watching Andy Murray battling Juan Martin del Potro in the Davis Cup semi-final, another heroic match. Murray beat del Potro in the Olympic final, but he couldn’t repeat that achievement in Glasgow. And the evening match was lost too, so GB have it all to do now if they want to retain the cup. They have to win all three remaining matches; and del Potro looks unbeatable at the moment. In the evening we went out for a meal with a friend. We went to the Lime Tree Indian restaurant in Prestwich. Fine end to a weird week.
So, what does all this rambling about my week really tell you? Think about it. I promised I would force myself to start work this week. Is work mentioned above? Not a jot, not a tiddler, not as much as a comma or a full stop. Up until the weekend, I have done nothing towards my PhD at all: feeling too poorly at the beginning of the week, prevarication and avoidance towards the end of the week. And too tired by bedtime to even read in bed. So on Saturday I gave myself a jolly good talking too. After breakfast I came into my office, set up the MacBook and began. I printed off what I had already written and did an editing job. I realised that some of what I had written was really for a later chapter, so I cut it and pasted it into another document to save for another time. I redrafted what was left and wrote another thousand words. So yes, I have started. I am back on it with a vengeance. And I’ll be writing some more later today. Sometimes it’s hard to discipline yourself when you are not feeling 100% and other aspects of life too readily get in the way: don’t beat yourself up about it. Just take your time, look after yourself and get back to it when you can. That’s what I have learned this week.
After all, life only goes in one direction: and the alternative doesn’t bear thinking about!