Such a week I’ve had this week. This blog began two years ago at the start of my PhD, as a reflection on how a PhD will push its way into an already busy life, and grow alongside all the other busy-ness of a retired workaholic. Well, the simple answer this week is: it hasn’t. PhD has had its nose well and truly disjointed by other aspects of my life. It’s strange, isn’t it, that I go on holiday and pack PhD to come with me, work for two hours a day while I’m away, get loads of work done; and yet on a week when I’m at home and should be able to work on it for hours I haven’t been able to fit it in anywhere, except the small amount of reading I’ve managed in bed. So, apologies to PhD, I’ve been slacking; but oh my, what a brilliant week I’ve had!
On Sunday last week I joined the anti-Brexit march in Manchester, where the Tory Party was holding its annual conference at what used to be GMex. We marched past the back of GMex, but weren’t allowed within a shout of the front for security reasons: understandable, but annoying non-the-less. So hats off to Simon Brodkin, the P45 delivery man, for breaking the security barrier! On Sunday an estimated 35,000 of us walked through the streets of Manchester, from All Saints Park to Piccadilly Gardens, with trumpets, banners, flags and slogans, letting the world know what we thought of the pig’s ear that is Brexit (I still hate that word, even if it has made it into the OED). ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ was my favourite shout of the day: there is something liberating about being able to shout a slogan within a huge crowd that you wouldn’t dream of shouting in your normal walks around the city streets on your own. This was my second ever demo and I loved it.
Monday I tried and failed to do the domestic thing and bring the ironing up to date. Ironing is the one thing that still annoys the 4th thoracic vertebra, and I had a seriously sore back after only a few items. It wasn’t helped by the fact that I bought a new ironing board cover and couldn’t work out how it fitted: that ‘asbestos’ plate that the iron rests on wouldn’t fit back into its space. So I spent thirty minutes working that out before I even started ironing; and when I had eventually beaten it into submission and succeeded in reassembling the ironing board, the back was sore already. So I ironed a couple of things and then gave up and let the hot water bottle hug the pain away. I was fit enough for the aerobics session on Monday afternoon, but I left before the weights and floor work of the second half.
On Tuesday, I had an appointment with the rheumatologist about my evil auto-immune triplets: polymyalgia rheumatica, Giant Cell Arteritis and osteopenia. It was all good news though. I wanted to reduce the cortico-steroids in a bid to come off them altogether. Dr Klimiuk checked the blood results: all pleasantly normal. He asked about symptoms: nothing to report. So he has given me permission to reduce by 1mg a month until I’m off the Prednisolone altogether by next summer. If the symptoms return at all, I can increase again (being terminally optimistic, I’m ignoring this last as an irrelevance!) This reduction is a huge positive, as anyone who has taken this drug for any length of time will appreciate. I’ve been taking Prednisolone since December 2012. It does a wonderful job on the pain levels; but it comes with other issues, not least of which for me has been the shakes: you don’t want to be sitting next to me when I’m eating soup! So, that appointment took up most of Tuesday morning. I decided to go into Manchester after it to pick up the train tickets for our trip to Swindon at the weekend.
Wednesday morning, more NHS. I had an appointment with my GP for the subcutaneous abdominal injection of Denusomab, a drug to assist the assimilation of Vit D and calcium to protect the bones in osteopenic/osteoporotic patients. In a past life—six months ago—that would have been done by the nurse specialist at the same time as the appointment with my rheumatologist. But, presumably in a cost-cutting efficiency exercise, that part of the treatment has reverted to GP surgeries, so now, instead of one visit, it takes up three mornings and the time of three busy professionals instead. The injection itself doesn’t take long, but it takes up a disproportionate amount of time in the process. Firstly, some weeks back, I had to order the prescription for the drug, take it to the pharmacy who informed me it would be sent back to the surgery to be stored in their fridge. Then, last week, I had to have the blood tests to evaluate how successful it was being in assimilating the said Vit D/calcium into my body; then I had to go again to the surgery for the actual injection. All this on top of the appointment with the rheumatologist. This very convoluted process replaces the original one visit/all done at the rheumatology clinic. How is this improving efficiency? Answers on a postcard, please.
The rest of Wednesday was taken up with bringing the restaurant books up to date after my recent holiday.
Thursday was a big work no-no; I went with Amie to London. This was my Mothers Day present: yes I know Mothers Day was in March, but we were going to the theatre in the evening, and the tickets were my gift from Amie and Richard. We travelled first class on the train to Euston, which was an experience. I don’t agree with the classist attitude of ‘first class and plebs’ that exists on our railways; but it was nice to avail ourselves of it when the price sank into our price-range. When we arrived in London we took the tube to Covent Garden then did the touristy thing, walking around Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, Regent Street. We seemed to walk for miles so we got the underground back to Covent Garden—Sky News’s Adam Bolton shared a lift with us—and had an early evening meal at a lovely bistro there before taking the underground to Hammersmith to meet up with Richard. We went to see Ricky Gervais in his show, ‘Humanity’. I know Ricky Gervais is a ‘Marmite’ act: you either love him or hate him. We love him. He was at his controversially satirical best in this show. He was supported by Doc Brown, who, I found out later, is the brother of the novelist Zadie Smith: a talented family. The two comedians were brilliant; but oh my, the audience was appalling. People were in and out of their seats throughout the performances, coming in late, going off to the bar to refill their glasses; and not quietly either. Is there some new trend that says you don’t have to consider the performers any more when you visit the theatre? I thought you got to your seat in time for the start and you stayed there until the interval; and you stayed there again after the interval until the end of the show. Some of the audience on Wednesday had missed that part of their upbringing, then. Piers Morgan was in the audience, and he was one of the nicest people there: it shows how bad some of them were!
We took the train back to Peterborough from Kings Cross and stayed over at Richard’s house before coming back to Manchester on Friday. Then on Saturday I was on the train again, with Bill this time, to come to Swindon for the Battered Moons competition celebration event. We changed trains at Cheltenham Spa, spotted Tom Daley and Tristram Hunt on the platform: this has been a big week for celeb spotting. The competition readings were last night: I’m writing this blog from my hotel bed. I met up with some old poetry friends: ‘Quiet Compare’ Sarah Dixon was there volunteering at the Poetry Swindon festival, of which this event was a part; Rachael Clyne, whom I met at a poetry week in St Ives earlier this year; and Julia Webb, a poet friend from Norwich, whom I met in York at the Stanza Reps meeting about four years ago. And there were new friends to meet as well, like Christina Newton, the wonderful woman who organised the competition and the reading event; and Malika Booker who was the competition judge and whom I missed when she read for us at Poets&Players a couple of weeks ago, so it was lovely to hear her read and now, of course, I must buy her collection; and Dalgit Nagra, whom I sat next to all evening and who is one of the loveliest men I know. I introduced myself and told him he short-listed a poem of mine in the Ilkley competition about four years ago. At that Ilkley celebration event—I got two free tickets for being on the shortlist—he introduced his Ramayana to the world; he had an Indian dancer there to interpret the words in dance, it was wonderful. Ramayana is still my favourite Dalgit Nagra work, I love it. To cap a wonderful evening, I had lots of lovely feedback from audience members on my commended poem, ‘Chiggy Pig’; and to ice the cake, I think I may have been invited to read at next year’s Cheltenham Festival: watch this space! I was high as a kite after the event when we came back to our hotel for a big glass of wine and ate the remains of our train picnic because we hadn’t had time to fit a meal into our day!
So that’s it; a wonderful week but the PhD is sulking because I shut it out. Don’t worry, I’ll be working that particular treadmill again this week: it won’t be ignored for two weeks running. I think I’ve said more than enough. I won’t leave you with a poem this week, but instead I’ll leave you with a link to the Battered Moons website, where you will be able to read all the winning poems, including ‘Chiggy Pig’, when the website is updated. This was a well-run competition, and a lovely event to celebrate the winners. If you like to write poetry, you should consider an entry next year.