Well. I’ve survived so far :-D

I returned to work on Tuesday (past) after a (challenging) discussion with my General Practitioner.

I’ve spent all of today sleeping.

Recovery (I use the term loosely…) is taking longer than I thought. Turns out that GP’s sometimes know a thing or two…

thought that once I was breathing, more like a normal person, I’d be ‘my old self’ (the self who didn’t know about the other crap and was just blithely sailing on into the future).

I’m not.

OK.

look like my old self. I talk and laugh and joke and think (mostly) like my old self. I am just not anywhere near as energetic. Or enthusiastic. Or as resilient.

I am finding that I want to cry – quite a lot. And I spend considerable energy every day just suppressing that urge. My lungs still feel odd. Sensitive. Like they’ve been burned – and I am breathing through smoke. I am breathless and my legs ache when I climb stairs. I am not yet fit enough to do the moderate Walkway circuit – though I have tried.

Then there’s the too-fast-heart thing – not constantly too-fast, but just there. Occasional. Reminding me.

Of frailty. Vulnerability. Limitation. Mortality.

My very own glitch in the system. My on-board shit-faced irritant.

 

As for the work?

In the main, it was a typical new-start’s week: information coming at you in a tsunami of words and people and tasks.

Differentiation’s always difficult when it’s like that.

But I am starting now, to assemble the mental ‘filing baskets’ that will help me categorise and then perform the tasks that will be required of me.

There is much to be done. I don’t think I will be bored or unoccupied.

I’ll just leave it at that.

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Some little punk in a rocket…

I was on top of the world
it was right in my pocket
I was living the life
things were just the way they should be
When from out of the sky like a bomb comes some little punk in a rocket
now all of a sudden some strange things are happening to me….
Looks like it wasn’t a virus.
Or it might have been – and that might have been the precipitate. That, or some lousy manky allergen.
Anyway. The asthma I have only ever paid lip service to, decided to roar – or wheeze and cough and nearly kill me.
I have had too many folk – who should know better – telling me that I should be thankful to it.
Because I now also have louping arrythmias and tachycardia and a thickened heart muscle (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) at least identified (and just waiting for sufficient lung recovery to be tested into a certain diagnosis or a specific degree of hellish-ness).
It could be (and this makes perfect sense to me in terms of diagnosis given every other condition or illness I currently have – and have ever had) Churg Strauss Syndrome (the very nasty vasculitis both respiratory and cardiology are considering it might be).
It could be (and this is what I am hoping for) bog standard heart disease and bog standard asthma.
Anyway. Forgive me for not feeling the glowing warmth of gratefulness just quite yet…
In fact, I don’t feel remotely thankful.
I feel fucking furious.
And I feel afraid.

A bit battered

I’m in hospital. An inpatient. Still full of this virus that I am now 100% certain is just wanting to take me down and out. Waiting on tests that will explain the abnormal ECG. And pain. And deranged bloods. And enlarged liver.

Being treated for a heart attack that the blood tests tell them hasn’t happened (it’s routine). Holding onto a GTN spray to deal with ‘angina’.

What a spectacular coup d’etat my ill health troll has pulled. From pole position squatting in my lungs it has engineered a fucking blinder.

I am sanguine. I am alive. I am not as bad as the old man in the room next door. I’ll be ok I think. Bit reduced. Bit battered. Someone who will have a box of pills they take to keep them going – together with some pills to counteract the effects of the pills that keep me going.

It’s funny though – what knowledge that there is a union wummin in the ward can do. 

So far I’ve conducted a conventicle of domestics from my side room this morning. Getting them organised for a fight with management.

Never miss an opportunity. 

That’s always been my motto.

Nae point changing now.

The old man’s friend

Coughing is the new me.

Or pneumonia is.

Funny. I thought pneumonia was for hospitals and old dying folk. Taking us gentle into the final night.

And here it actually is: a feverish, walking, talking, fucking sore, rattling and wracking gut-wrenching cough; requiring steroids and antibiotics that give you the shakes and the runs; sucking on inhaler spacers every hour.

I am struggling with it. Every breath is a temptation to fold into spasms of rumbling rattling coughing.

Yes. I am struggling and I am seriously pissed off. And I am fucking fighting this.

I mean: for fuck sake. What the fuck?

The new job starts on Monday – and the cough has so far seen off two 5 day courses of prednisolone (40mg); 2 week long courses of antibiotic and two ventolin inhalers.

My medical bro says I need hospital and x-rays – and I say ‘just one more day… it might be gone…’ He is frustrated with me – and I am avoiding him. And I am pushing myself to do stuff.

Like pissing off my old employer by spending the last month of my notice intermittently calling in to say I was too feverish and sore to work – and then turning up at meetings and to the office as I tried to ‘finish stuff’.

Now I am actually finished with the old job.

I am technically between jobs for all of two days.

Between jobs – and worrying about being well enough for Monday because, ffs, we all know that you just can’t phone in sick on your first day.

You can’t.

You really just can’t.

 

 

Triggered

I’ve been working from home today. And some neighbour (who doesn’t know what he’s doing with ‘that thing’ according to my Dad) has been cutting grass all feckin day. I want to punch his lights in. I’ve never liked him and after 4 hrs and 30 some minutes of this intermittent whining drone I now despise him.

Who cares about the grass. It’s fucking wet anyway. It’ll be like hacking at bamboo with a teaspoon. 4 hrs and 30 some minutes and he’s covered a patch no larger than 6 car parking spaces.

Idiot.

Anyway.

I need to look on the bright side. I am nearly finished my employment notice period. The kids are back at school – Jamie having achieved a brilliant set of Higher grades. And my racist Father is now too ‘warned’ to consider even mentioning the words ‘Brexit’ or ‘immigration’ or ‘swamped’ within a mile radius of me. So I’ve not had a screaming match – with him at least – since before the holidays.

The hassle? That the dark side is almost 10 trillion miles bigger than the bright.

  1. Brexit. David Davis. Theresa Walking Dead May. Boris Fuckwit Wankstain Johnson. Fuckingfarage.
  2. Fucking arsehole 60yrs+ white Englishmen whose fucking main topic of conversation with French folk in the queue for the ferry was fucking WW2 – like they saw France and all they could think of was ‘we won the war and youse lot should be a bit more grateful’. FFS. Every single fucking one of them. ‘Blah-blah WW2 blah-blah’. Somebody needs to tell them it was the US wot won it.
  3. Trump. Bannon. Mercer. American Nazis. Christian Nationalists. Fascists. White supremacists.
  4. The Telegraph. The Express. The Daily Mail and The Sun.
  5. Fucking Alnwick Castle and the whole GB ‘aristocracy’ and me. The castle because I think it’s a Disneyfied fraud of a place – still privately owned (which disgusts me) and a piss poor (imho) custodian of the past. Them for their arrogance and the hideous stench of entitlement and superiority. Me – because I joined the queue and paid the entrance money (I thought it was National Trust – honest).
  6. Repeat any combo of the above. Ad nauseum.

They have formed a major crust (for GoT adherents think Greyscale) that I am permanently engaged in picking.

So I find myself trawling social media comments sections and examining the profiles of the hate-fuelled (largely) confederate or UK flag wielding noody-noddies – and wishing dark misfortunes upon them.

I am not tolerant of their intolerance. I am the triggered snowflake liberal of their ludicrous memes and bile filled rhetoric. I am the living breathing embodiment of Popper’s paradox.

R and I have debated the limits of freedom of speech off and on our whole together life. His own threshold is somewhere a bit further on than mine’s. So he’d happily invite a white nationalist to a televised debate – because he says nobody destroys them better than the cold light of day – that they condemn themselves most effectively from their own mouths.

I agree. Mostly.

I remember encountering a couple of educated US South’ners a few years back. On a blog. Polite. Entertaining. One was a multi-talented man. Someone I felt a genuine fondness for.

But they were intent on mythologising their South’ren past. Of making martyrs of those lying in confederate graveyards.

Sure – those poor bastards were pawns in a game played by the powerful. But don’t pretend to me that slavery had nothing to do with the Civil War. That it was all just about seccession.

Bottomline? That I don’t give a rat’s flying arse about the alleged or actual nuances – of an event that took place nearly 200 years ago. I am more concerned about what it symbolises today – about what young white men think it means and why they will kill for it.

So, by all means, embrace your past. Own it. But don’t fucking pretend that your ancestors were fucking saints. And don’t use nostalgia and a sense of blood-loyalty for your fallen kin as the excuse for your now-today (this-very-fucking-day’s) support for statuary that was erected by racists of the 1910s and 1960s and for flags that mean white supremacy.

No. These blogsters, their kin were like my much-loved maternal grandmother – supporting UDA and UVF gun runners. Steeped in Unionism. Staunchest supporter of ‘the Crown’ and of a Northern Ireland that would forever be bound to Great Britain.

She and they – creatures of their time and of the prejudices of their day.

But whilst I loved my grandmother deeply, I am not obligated to adopt her beliefs nor to be their apologist or protector or modern day proponent.

Neither are they.

 

 

 

 

Parental Temper Tantrum

I’ve fallen out with child no 4.

I have succumbed to a fit of the temper tantrums and am not yet ready to speak to him. And yes, I do know how childish I am being. He has already pointed that out. Which has just made me all the more raging and ready to fly across the room at him.

His offence? Or offences. Because, when I start to apply my mind to them, I am aware there’s more than one.

  • That he unilaterally decided that his senior school award (1st in English) was ‘shit’ ‘meaningless’ trite nonsense.
  • That having so decided, he failed to tell his parents (we are really talking about me here – because Headteacher husband is remarkably nonchalant about this, despite bitching about the kids who would be absent from his own school awards ceremony) that he had earned this award.
  • That he then failed to tell either his school or his parents (really me – see above) that he had no intention of collecting the award.
  • That his mother discovered via a 3rd party that he had earned the award and that he was ignoring the ceremony.
  • That on being challenged re the above he managed to subvert and manipulate the entire conversation and I found myself arguing with my nemesis – one who likes to turn tables and manages to end up smelling of roses whilst the other party really smells of shit… (this should really be labelled: ‘that he then humiliated his Mother by making a total arse of her’).

 

My mother says that he is me – my mirror image.

I say that I would never have been as fucking selfish – or audacious – as to deny her and Dad the opportunity to ‘celebrate’. I say that I felt my social obligations keenly (always have).

I say I am sore and disappointed that child 4 is like this.

‘This’ being someone who would actually fucking say: ‘Ah right… so your real problem is cos you were embarrassed you found out from someone else…’ and ‘you’ve made this all about you…’ and ‘you care so much you haven’t even said ‘congratulations J” and ‘I don’t care about it. It’s meaningless. I don’t need a prize!’

Thing is – he’s learned too well from me/us.

I/we were so busy encouraging rebellion and scepticism and (at least mild) contempt for ‘the system’ – that I forgot that actually, sometimes the system is the community and sometimes we need to support that community. As it is – Teachers who genuinely value my obstinate and obtuse child and who also need to know that their efforts are appreciated and that they produce something good – they have suffered a child no 4 rebuke.

The thing is – I’d have likely supported his decision not to attend.

I just don’t like that he was cowardly and avoided telling his school that he’d no intention of turning up. That he didn’t value the value they placed in him and his achievement.

And I’m also pissed that he’s so fucking good at refusing to bend his will.

 

I hate this parenting thing sometimes. It really does highlight your inadequacies and all the internal contradictions and the cognitive dissonance with which you live out your life….

 

 

Catnip for our ancient lizard brains…

I’m old.

I am not knocking age because I know what the alternative is – I just know that I am old. I am old, not just because of the number of days I’ve clocked up or the ache in my knees when I climb the stairs or the fact that my eyes now need help if I’m to see 5 car lengths’ away. But because I remember a time when the world seemed like a relatively predictable place.

Predictable. Knowable.

Or maybe work-out-able.

In the sense that the world that I inhabited – the worldview I had internalised – gave me a frame of meaning for all entities (human or otherwise) and all action that I witnessed or was aware of or that I executed myself. It seemed immutable. Stable. Solid. ‘Meaning’ was something tangible – and I took it all for granted.

I’m not sure I can claim to inhabit that type of world any more. Or at least, I cannot claim to have the illusion that I inhabit that type of world.

I don’t want anyone to imagine that I simply accepted this generally ‘stable’ world. Or that I imagined that it was ‘fixed’ in some kind of good or admirable way. I didn’t. No. I was – in that pale anaemic ineffectual way that easily-spooked, everyday earnest people like me are – a ‘reformer’. Fighting the good fight. Banging the party political drum. Because what other way was there to effect change?

So I clearly thought that change was possible. In fact, not only that – I believed that it was desirable.

Now I realise that I just lacked the ability to understand – to work out – that change need not necessarily fit within the frame of meaning or worldview you’ve attached yourself to/been attached to.

Thing is – I remember a 3 channel television system. I remember when ‘the news’ was authoritative reporting of what we all accepted were ‘facts’ (objectively verifiable things that happened in real time and in the world). I remember black was black (and the darkest (non)colour known)- and that white was white. That Labour was (mainly) left wing – and that ‘we’ all seemed in agreement this meant it was pro-State provision of services and State intervention/regulation; pro-distribution of wealth (via a progressive taxation system) and – uncontroversially – supported by the Trade Union movement (from whence it had come). I remember when the Tories were the pro-business ‘right’ – still relatively biggish State – more patrician old money than laissez-faire liberalist. There were political bogey men – but they were still on the known political spectrum. Political discourse was characterised by familiar tropes. There were few women – anywhere – except in the kitchen or bedroom. Feminism was loud and fighting and the sexual ‘revolution’ had apparently all been about sex and having it anywhere anytime and it was all because of the pill.

I remember letters and pen friends. And the rationed landline telephone being something that only rang for emergencies – and a rare ‘after 6pm because it’s cheaper’ call from a boyfriend.

My undergraduate essays were fucking hand-written! The first typed ones were executed on a massive iron-cased 1950s typewriter that I couldn’t lift from my desk.

‘Computing’ was something treated as a specialist – and academically irrelevant – subject. For strange boys who were pale and white and skinny with spots and an inability to speak out loud.

Political scandals invariably involved sex – of the prostitutes or homosexuality or several in a bed variety – though these things only saw the light of day if the establishment had decided you were expendable.

Now.

Now.

Now we have an American President who speaks a mess of infantile gibberish and hate-stoking bile. And whose unpredictability and uncontrollable spite we are all at the mercy of. A man who courts the monsters of our world – whether domestic or global.

We have a rapid-fire virtual world that is catnip for our ancient lizard* brains – and we are drunk on it. Our senses are drunk on fake news. Infowars and Breitbart and all the myriad sites selling apocalyptic thuggery and misogyny and race-hate and homophobia and religious extremism – presenting opinion as fact. Playing our biases. Plucking our strings.

And oh how we sing.


I began this as an exercise in ‘thinking it all out’ – my own wordy (and very Western-centric) way of trying to make sense of what the hell is going on. Of trying to understand the shift at least in Western political culture – which I’ve certainly experienced as a rupture – and of how this fits with what I know of how we are designed.

I thought it was something about us that had changed.

When the truth is: we haven’t changed. Nothing has actually changed.

What is happening now differs only in scale from what was happening in 17th Century Restoration England when the printing press and playwrights were propounding political propaganda that manipulated the masses.

Trumps and Putins and Erdogans and Kim Jong Uns have come and gone before – and taken very many with them. But they have always existed.

The powerful – and power – has always existed to protect and nurture itself. That appears the ineluctable way we tick. How we are wired.

It’s just that our tools have grown more sophisticated.

The stakes are higher, whilst we are still just the same as we ever were – our neurophysiology no more sophisticated than it was 100 or 900 years ago or more and our conflict management skills at the mercy of a biological system that was designed for flight from predators with teeth or fight against resource-competitors.

So, here we stand,  forever condemned to see things as we are. Not as they really are (thanks Nin). Prisoners of our own peculiar psychological and neurophysiological design.

——————————-

I end this with a peculiar sense of what feels like useless academic relief – tempered by fear.

Relief, mainly, that I am not going mad – that there is a certain congruence and comprehensibility or logicality about the world as it is.

Fear – that the machinery we have created could now obliterate us.

For the rest, I retain enough of my old, bumbling, reforming instinct – the same instinct that will propel me to the marches and protests – operating as a distraction but also an articulation of my hope.

Hope that we will not succumb to the whims of mad men.

*I don’t actually believe the shit about the ‘lizard’ brain – but couldn’t find a better metaphor for the fact that we are no different (biologically, neurologically etc) from our ancient ancestors.