Thursday, 22 April 2010

The Real Me

When all is going well, sometimes you need to test the UC. Of course, that is a complete load of old cobblers, but it is true that sometimes something happens to test it for you. For me these tests usually come in the guise of a stressful situation or through the consumption of ill-advised food (because I only have so much willpower,and most of that is reserved for staying on the wagon...). Well, last week my current low-level UC status was scrutinized by an evening in which those two challengers came at me in a pincer movement...

The other evening my mates and I finally managed to schedule a mutually convenient evening for a curry. Now, I have blogged about my miraculous relationship with curry before. For all the things that the UC has stopped me from eating I have always expected to have my appetite for curry and all things indian curtailed most completely. However, despite the Devil owning all the best food as well as the best tunes (Lord knows what heaven must be like...), somebody somewhere decided to shine a small chink of light into my life, and allow me to consume the odd curry. As long as I don't go mad spicey-wise. So a curry with the lads is hunky-dory and a reservation was made.

On reflection, I should have had an inkling from the name... we booked a table at The Chilli Pickle. The menu arrived with, what I think the restaurant describes as 'authentic' (as opposed the UK-indian fare we might get from a standard indian takeaway/restaurant) dishes listed, and at the end of each dish description was a little row of chilli's to indicate the 'heat'of the dish. Obviously (although I hadn't given it much thought until then) pretty much all the dishes were racking up the little chilli's at the end - this was their ethos: everything with fresh chilli. I plumped for something '2 chillis' strong, the lowest available strength, and said a quiet little prayer for my bottom.

My 'bottom-prayer' was prudent, because at this point it had already been tested by a stressful situation of the utmost weirdness - the kind that only seems to happen to me...

My journey into Brighton to the Chilli Pickle had to be undertaken on my scooter, not an awful proposition now the weather is finally picking up: it is always pleasant to scoot along the Brighton seafront in the sunshine visualising myself as Jimmy in Quadrophenia (see below). The restaurant is located in Brighton's Lanes, so as I was on the bike I would be able to park pretty close. However, this being my first visit to this place, I was not certain which Lane I wanted to turn up. On approach to the first I indicated left (didn't slow because there was a steady slow flow of traffic) but then changed my mind - I'd go up the next one - so I stopped indicating and continued (no movement or change of pace). The car behind started tooting at me...

Now, it could have had something to do with having been worn down by thoughtless car drivers over the years, or it could have been a steroid-flashback, but inexplicably I gave 'em the bird (dangerous in my line of work, consider parents evening: "Have we met before...? Oh, yes, at that junction... Anyway, about your son's geography..."). As I rounded the next corner, the car behind shot past me, cut across the road in front of me and screeched to a halt. I came to a rapid stop, and sat astride the bike. The car door flew open and an extremely large and irate youth stormed toward me. I do not exaggerate when I describe him as LARGE. His mate got out the other side. Ahhh...

Next thing, he's thrusting his own raised middle digit right in my face:
"You man enuff to do dis in ma face man? You man enuff to dis this in ma face?"
Oh, do love that peculiar london patois the youngsters converse in these days. Especially when it's shouted in my face...
"Ah you man enuff? Huh? Like dis? Huh?"
Well, it seemed to me the only obvious answer was the truth:
"No. No, not at all. I'm really rather sorry actually..."
Which rather seemed to throw him:
"You was showin' ya blinkers..."
He said, which threw me - my 'blinkers'? What is he talking about? Oh, he means my indicator...
"Yeah, I changed my mind, sorry..."
"You was showin' yer blinkers... ya blinkers was on man!"
And at this point he started to punch the front of my scooter. PUNCH THE FRONT OF MY SCOOTER! Repeatedly. And repeating the word 'Blinkers'. I would have got off and run away, indeed I was desperately thinking about how quickly I could lay down the bike without damaging it, I was certain he wasn't going to let me put it on its stand before he started punching me. Thank god I was wearing my helmet... But he didn't. Once he had punched the bike several times, he stomped back to his car and drove off. Of course I then had to follow him round the one-way system for several hundred metres!

So, a curry on top of metaphorically shitting myself. Good combo. But the food was good. And the company excellent. And guess what? Next day no ill effect. In fact, since then I've been constipated! Go figure.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

The Look of Love

Hey! No counting. (But it's over 5 and a half months... )

I was in the pub the other night with friends of 25plus years. These are the kind of absolutely rock-solid, dependable mates with whom one can share all ones UC tales. In gruesome detail. These are the friends who never question my sobriety despite all those years we spent on drunken adventures and high jinx. These fella's have helped me through many a desolate period, visited me in hospital, are the only people allowed to laugh when I've shat myself... So, we were enjoying a few beers/cokes/non-alcohol beers when discussion turned to when we would next go out for a curry. We had been planning on a curry-night the week before, but were thwarted by a bout of D&V to one of our company - and this lead to a poo-themed exchange. The scenario put forward was one in which the toilet, and your poo specifically, becomes the focus of your day... of course very quickly it was established that this is my area of expertise...

The toilet-centrality of the UC sufferers life goes without saying - there are those times when the bathroom is virtually your prison. Thankfully I have been free of that for sometime now. But there are other areas of poo-centricity that I seemingly may never change. I have oft made mention of the Bristol Stool Chart, (my friends have become entirely au fait in its application - we like to recount poo-types currently being experienced... (uh, is that wierd? No, don't answer that)), and of course to the UC-er poo consistency becomes an obsession. Not only are we asked about it at every gastro appointment, but it lends itself to our own peace of mind: my entire mood can be determined by the consistency of my last toilet visit - should you ever meet me with the expression of a well-contented man on my face, be sure that I have probably deposited a sausage somewhere earlier in the day. I'm not sure exactly what's best on the chart, but I like to aim for a Type 4, although, I'll be honest I'll cheerfully greet a Type 3 on its arrival.

Thus it is that I/we spend considerably more time than most staring into the toilet bowl: 'Are they soft blobs with clear-cut edges, or fluffy? Is that a mushy stool?'. This is no place for the squeamish, and I'll be frank, I have often found myself trying to move things around that pool with nothing more rigid than twisted up bog-roll. Oh, bugger it, I'll admit it, on occasion I have been known to use a cotton bud (the most conveniently located tool)... It's not pretty, but it becomes vital: this can determine what I do and where I go. Or even whether I do anything, whether I'm going to leave the house, or whether I take spare stuff in case. I have ruined potentially enjoyable trips by worrying all day after a toilet inspection. I have turned down the chance to do great things. I have sat at home wallowing in misery. All because I've dwelt on the contents of the toilet bowl. (As an aside: I wonder if you can 'read' those contents? You know, like the tea leaves...).

I'll never stop looking into that bowl, but I'm better able to shake the mental torment planted by the poo lurking there. This has free'd me up to enjoy life better. This weekend past was a case in point. On sunday I travelled with a band of fellow Portsmouth FC fans, up to the FA Cup semi-final. In the negative ways of old, a day spent, essentially, in packed trains and a football stadium (albeit Wembley) would fill me with fear - and of course, for the UC-er, fear brings...consequences. Indeed, in the utterly complex recent history of Pompey that I shan't bore you with here, only two years ago we also reached the cup final. I attended with the same intrepid band of fans, only this time armed with 2 spare pairs of pants, plastic bags, wipes and loo-roll, praying both for the successful outcome of the game and the successful survival of my dignity... Happily both were achieved, but not without energy sapping mental anquish.

But this weekend I was really up for it (Oh that positivity courses through my veins now). And so were the team. What a game! Here's the 2nd half k.o:

Note the lack of Spurs fans in the seats opposite - still in the loo maybe?
And here's the moment we won (where are those Spurs fans?):

A triumphant day for the club. And my bottom!

Friday, 2 April 2010

Boom! Shake the Room

24 weeks. Nearly. I think (I've tried to count twice, and drifted off both times. Maybe I shouldn't keep counting anyway?).

An April fools day visit to the Gastro clinic. And at no point was I worried that I would be subject to a hilarious "Ah, Mr rich, I'm afraid we're going to have to remove your colon after all.... Mwahahahaha." type gag. There is no doubt my consultant has absolutely ZERO sense of humour. Not even an evil one. He is too busy listening to the sound of his own voice. And probably making it reverberate around his office to sound more like God. An old testament god. Like the ones that appeared in those old hollywood biblical epics. He's probably got a smoke machine under his desk.

No, this was my next 3-monthly check-over where I could tell 'em I was still hunk-dory. So there. It was about this time last year they were insisting there was no choice now but for a colostomy. Once upon-a-time I feared the hospital visits, but now I feel rather smug.

And so, me and boy2 (for the easter hols are upon us - hurrah) mounted the scooter and zipped across town. I armed him with a book to fight the inevitable boredom of the double-waiting area, and we climbed the 4 flights and crossed the bridge into the gastro clinic (Level 9 as it's known at the RSCH, which makes it sound like somewhere they might dissect aliens). The waiting area was almost full. The sign said the clinic were running up to an hour and a half behind. I settled in and surveyed my fellow patients.

There are several types of visitor to an NHS clinic. Here is my observers guide:
  • The Stoic - I believe that in the distance past of the NHS in England the waiting rooms would have been permanently populated by these. People who literally have a stiff-upper lip. By God, they wouldn't even be there if their wife/husband hadn't forced them. Nothing wrong with 'em anyway. Can wait forever if necessary. Without moving. Or making eye-contact with anybody else. Resolute.
  • The Perpetually Angry - An increasing sight in the NHS. Often sat forward, elbows on knees, head in hands. Though, rarely remaining still. These people fidget and huff and puff with such alacrity that it's tiring just watching. Brow furrowed, dark glance cast upon every member of staff and new arrival in the room. You can see their coils tightening with each passing minute, especially with that old peculiar chestnut of people arriving recently but going in ahead of them. On the occasion that these people comment it is loudly about their appointment time...
  • The Resigned - Arrives with book. Slumps in chair. Weakly smiles at everyone else: "Hey we're all in this together, good old NHS, huh?". May, after an hour of so, nonchalantly double-check their appointment time at the desk. Apolegetically.
  • The Resigned plus Family Member/s - Mother/daughter strides in followed (eventually) by shuffling teenager/elderly parent. Mother/daughter most resembles 'Perpetually Angry', whilst resigned relative (the ill person after all) looks most subserviant and apologetic. Relative will frequently be sent to desk to find out what has been/is going on. And naturally delivers inadequate response thus propelling Mother/daughter into further paroxysm.
  • The Carefree (most often spotted in pairs) - Chat freely and loudly about a) their procedural experiences that nobody else wants to hear, b) recipes, c) other peoples procedural experiences that nobody wants to hear, d) how they got to the hospital, e) how great their kids are (conspicuous by their absence), f) scurrilous gossip about the doctors. Often laughing. Loudly.
  • The Elderly - On their own in a hospital wheelchair, blanket across legs. Nobody speaks to them. They don't speak. Just look round, bewildered, through rheumy eyes... Who are they? Where do they come from? Where do they go?
  • The Munchausen-by-proxy - A variation on the resigned plus family member, only where the family member seems considerably more determined to find something wrong than the patient. I witnessed this with a mother and teenage son: she was desperate to find his percieved problems were medically based; he seemed a hairs-bredth away from killing her there and then.
  • The First-Timer - shell-shocked and nervous, or ridiculously unconcerned: 'they're not going to find anything wrong with me...'
Me? I have been several of these, but nowadays mostly resemble the resigned. I find myself trying to gee-up the nurses with encouraging smiles, whilst working to remain serene but engaged with what is going on. This time I was called through within 20mins (if I were a cycnic I might make an assumption that taking my younger child with me seems to encourage faster service... but I'm more positive than that these days). By my Nurse-Practitioner herself. I even skipped the 2nd waiting room! Woo! They weighed me - 78.4kg's - uh oh: more weight gain (must cut further back on the custard creams...). Told her I was still well. She was pleased but less congratulatory this time. Made an appointment for 3 months time, and me and the boy were outta there. As the Perpetually Angry stared hard at our backs...