Boas Férias

My goodness, the economy is in a right old state, isn’t it? Two years of insane Covid measures, furlough payments, quantitative easing, loans that will never be repaid, ridiculous green taxes in pursuit of Net Zero, the war in Ukraine causing a massive increase in the cost of living, interest rate rises and a recession a near certainty. Then you’ve got the railway workers, encouraged by the loony left, going on strike, causing more misery and soon to be followed by those poor hardworking civil servants and teachers that remained on full pay throughout Covid now demanding outrageous pay rises themselves and threatening to strike as well (not that many will notice). The cost of fuel, heating and food have gone through the roof, inflation will soon reach 10% and the world economy is looking decidedly shaky. And if all that wasn’t enough, the scum media are doing their best to resurrect project fear with a new Covid variant, polio and monkeypox…

But, you know what, right now, I couldn’t give less of a toss.

You see, I’m on a bit of a roll.

My “ancillary” health issues, particularly my tummy and foot problems, are much improved. I feel well, the best I’ve felt in ages. I had good results from my latest cancer scans, and JJ number 77 was successfully delivered on Wednesday afternoon. I have no more scans or treatments or hospital appointments scheduled now until the beginning of August.

So, after several abortive efforts, The Blonde and I are finally heading off to Portugal on Sunday. We intend to spend a relaxing time enjoying some nice wine, fresh fish, the company of good friends (but not too much sun for me) and hopefully for a couple of weeks have nothing to worry about apart from my golf swing.

That’s the plan anyway, our flight from Gatwick to Faro is all booked and confirmed. What’s the worst that could happen?!

Boas férias!

Three Irons On My Shirt

So that’s it then. It’s all over. Depressed doesn’t begin to describe how I feel right now. It’s going to be a dreadful long summer, at least until the first weekend in August, as the football season has now officially finished.

Of course we should all be enjoying the World Cup now, a feast of football featuring the world’s greatest players and teams battling it out for the right to lift the trophy as they do every four years. But the morally bankrupt and corrupt governing body FIFA saw that plan off by appointing Qatar as host for this year’s competition, before realising that football can be extremely dangerous to health if played in temperatures in excess of 45 degrees, and moving the jamboree to November, right in the middle of the regular football season across most of the globe. Ridiculous and utterly bent.

It was suggested that FIFA had plunged new depths and trousered enormous untold $Millions in backhanders by awarding the 2018 competition to Russia, but playing in Qatar in 2022 really takes the biscuit. Clearly all thoughts of morals and woke credentials were totally abandoned when they chose the next venue to be a nation in which slaves are routinely killed and homosexuality is illegal. None of that will stop our brave boys taking the knee before each game in homage to that other corrupt organisation the BLM though, demonstrating the absolute ultimate in hypocrisy.

But wait, hang on, what’s this I hear. Somebody reminded me the other day that there is another international football tournament taking place in July, and at least three of the fixtures will be played here in my home town of Brighton! Must be some kind of catch, I thought, and of course there is. It’s the UEFA EURO Championship. For women.

Now look, if I was an eight-year-old girl I guess I’d be happy at the prospect, but really I am not. Good luck to the Dorises coming to England from all four corners of the globe, and especially The Lionesses, or the Three Irons as they are otherwise known, but I won’t be watching it as it’s absolute rubbish. Me and a bunch of mates down the park could do better.

In fairness I did give it a try once. There was a match on TV in the 2019 Women’s World Cup between USA and Thailand. The Yanks were all 7’ former beach volleyball players called Tiffany and Britney. The problems for the girls from The Land Of Smiles were fairly obvious – their goalie was only 4’8” tall and even if she stood on an orange box she couldn’t reach the crossbar of the goal. The Septics ran out 13-0 winners, and it’s fair to say the Thais were lucky to get nil.

Then there was the absolute legend of ladies’ soccer that goes by the name of Meikayla Moore, whose name will go down in history for her “perfect” hattrick. For those of you who aren’t fans, a perfect hattrick is three goals in one match, one scored with the left foot, one with the right, and one with the head. Meikalya managed this incredible feat playing for New Zealand, again against USA, in the SheBelieves Cup, whatever the hell that is. The only problem for Meikayla was that all three strikes were own goals. Classic! Please check her video out on YouTube, it’s a belter.

No, I won’t be watching the UEFA Women’s EURO this July. Of course the right-on BBC will big it up and try to make it sound exciting and essential viewing, but it’s fair to say I’d sooner watch my grandparents make a sex tape. Roll on August 6th.

A Well-Trodden Path

Many of you dear readers who have keen kind enough to accompany me on my journey over the last nearly seven years will be familiar with the trip I take every three months along a well-trodden path that goes by the name of Scanxiety Street; that worrying period between having my MRI and PET/CT scans to check on the status of my cancer and receiving the results from the fragrant Dr Westwell.

If you’ve been with me since the early days, you will recall that the drug that has held the cancer pretty much in check, called Pembrolizumab (aka Jungle Juice, aka JJ) is a relatively new method of treatment known as immunotherapy. It looks like chemo, is delivered the same way as chemo, and probably smells like chemo, but it works entirely differently to chemotherapy. Instead of attacking the cancer cells, and pretty much everything else, immunotherapy works by boosting and stimulating your own body’s immune system to fight the cancer. Good old JJ was only supposed to work for a maximum of two years, but he’s been smashing it since November 2015, although that doesn’t stop me from worrying every three months whether this is the time that it’s finally run out of gas and we have to try something else, another drug which may or may not be successful.

On this particular occasion I think I had particular grounds to be concerned, as I have been suffering with various other ailments, severe infections in my colon and in my foot that have taken ages to heal. Because I am a simple man, who sees things in black and white, I was worried that if my body was working so hard to deal with these other issues, would it have taken its eye of the ball and allowed Bastard Cancer to get back in the game?

Thank goodness, my fears were misplaced. Dr Westwell informed us on Wednesday that the scan results showed everything stable with no new growths. The tumour is still sitting there in my left lung, 19mm long and showing low grade activity, but no worse than before. Why did I ever doubt you JJ??

But before we left Dr Westwell to her next patient, there was time for one revelation. Not a bombshell as such, but quite a shock. She asked how my foot and bowel problems were progressing, and I was pleased to confirm they were both much improved. I told her how the consultant who was dealing with my foot was still somewhat baffled, and was prepared to diagnose a type of gout as the root cause, despite the uric acid levels in my blood rests not being outside the “normal” range.

Dr Westwell gave me a knowing look then explained that I was not alone. Evidently an increasing number of her patients who are on immunotherapy have been complaining of severe rheumatoid issues in their joints that they had not experienced before. All these cases have emerged in the last eighteen months, and research is suggesting it’s increasingly likely that Covid is connected. Not the virus itself, but the bloody vaccine.

So this “miracle” vaccine, that has been proved to be pretty useless in preventing the spreading of or infection from Covid, has no benefit apart from to the very old and clinically extremely vulnerable, has been directly linked to heart problems, extreme fatigue and even sudden deaths in otherwise healthy people, including athletes, and responsible for a huge increase in the number of autoimmune illnesses, including Polymyalgia Rheumatica which has seriously affected my dear friend JP, can add another potential harmful side effect to an ever-growing list – an adverse reaction to immunotherapy. And yet still we are being told by the Government and scum media that we will need more booster doses, we are prevented from travel if we don’t have the requisite number of jabs, and we are encouraged to inject our children, to whom Covid itself poses virtually no risk whatsoever. Why? And where is the clamouring in the media and elsewhere for the pharmaceutical companies who have earned hundreds of £Billions from this snake-oil to contribute to a windfall tax? Their profits dwarf those of the oil and gas companies who have been so aggressively targeted recently. Perhaps there is an agenda or protected interests in play here somewhere, I wonder?

Hopefully all will be revealed one day. For now I’m just grateful that I’ve successfully made it down that well-trodden path unscathed again, despite a couple of obstacles along the way.

Gawd Bless ‘Er

My parents were at the Coronation in 1953. Not on the balcony of Buck House rubbing shoulders with the landed gentry of course; they were on the Mall along with hundreds of thousands of other loyal subjects. I remember them telling me it was a really cold damp day for early June, but of course that was long before global warming and the temperature in the UK never got above 15 degrees in those days anyway. The crowds lining the streets were six deep at least, and as they got there late all they got sight of was the arse of one of the Queen’s horses, and the top of a Guardsman’s bearskin, but they enjoyed the experience immensely and topped it all off with a couple of pints of mild and a gin and tonic in The Duke Of York on the way home, where they drank to the good health of our new Queen.

Mum and dad had both passed away by the time of the Silver Jubilee in 1977, but I remember it well. I’d bought my first house in Lewisham and drove a company Ford Cortina. Living the dream. I had to move my motor from its usual parking space to accommodate the trestle tables that some of our neighbours were setting up for an impromptu street party to celebrate twenty-five years of the Queen’s reign. It was a jolly fine affair, there was lots of bunting, and all the residents joined in the fun, even the woman who lived two doors down who hated us because our cat kept shitting in her garden. We all chipped in and put on a lovely spread, including plenty of sausage rolls that were so devoid of any actual meat they were almost the forerunner to the then unknown vegan option, curly ham sandwiches and sponge cake, all washed down with copious amounts of warm Watneys Red Barrel and even warmer Liebfraumilch for the ladies. I managed to get an extension lead long enough to run my hi-fi system through our lounge window into the front garden, so as the night drew in we danced away to “Tonight’s The Night” by Rod Stewart and other patriotic ditties. Some bastard nicked my favourite silver pewter pint mug during the latter stages of the evening, which put a bit of a dampener on it, but we still all had a great time.

Sadly there won’t be any street parties in our particular corner of the People’s Republic Of Brighton to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee this weekend. There will be precious few Union Jacks flying either as that would make us flagshagging Nazis. (The usual array of BLM, Support for Palestine and LGBGTQ++*7%4 banners will still be displayed in many local windows though, just like they always are). And even if we did want to organise a street party to celebrate 70 years on the throne, we wouldn’t be allowed to do so unless we submitted the appropriate application to Brighton Council. That would of course need to include a permit to close the road, a health & safety statement, a risk assessment, a fire certificate, the employment of background-checked stewards, a drinks licence, the requisite number of portaloos (gender neutral, obviously), a diversity statement, every colour of recycling bin under the sun, trained first-aiders, bio-degradable crockery, paper straws, food that was fairtrade organic and vegan with no trace of nuts, no outdoor heaters as they are responsible for global warming, disabled access, a carbon footprint assessment, no bunting as it could potentially damage council property, recycled wooden seating (not plastic), a “safe-space” for all the local junkies to jack up, no loud music after 7pm, negative Covid PCR tests, a representative number of the travelling community, and mandatory labels for all guests to wear which stated their preferred pronoun (he/she/they). Oh, and a cheque for £358.00 payable in advance.

Nope, we are having none of that. We are staying home – I’m not really in the mood for partying anyway. We’ll just raise a glass to Her Maj; continental lager instead of mild and vodka instead of gin perhaps. I’ll just sit here and admire my Daily Mail commemorative souvenir tea towel, apron and wall plate set, a snip at £27.99. I’m no royalist myself, but if that doesn’t scream grateful thanks for seventy years of dedicated loyal service, I don’t know what does.

Pimp My Ride

When the DVLA finally condescended to reissue my driving licence last June, after a “ban” of over two years following the discovery, and treatment, of a cancerous tumour on my brain in April 2019, it was only for a period of twelve months, so it’s due to expire in just a few weeks’ time. An accompanying letter that arrived with the new licence stated that they would write to me again in March this year to invite me to reapply and presumably go through the same hoops. Needless to say, I haven’t heard a dickie bird from them, and the clock is ticking.

Despite the potential temporary nature of my permission to drive, Last summer I decided to treat myself. Old ‘Tankie” of whom many you will have heard, had been a faithful servant for several years, but was showing her age – although still much loved, especially by The Blonde – so I traded her in for a newer model (the car, not the wife, obviously) who we now call “Kitty.” That’s because she purrs.

I love my new motor, but what with all the ailments I’ve been dealing with lately I think it might have been more appropriate to get one of those little blue three-wheel invalid carriages that the Government used to dish out to disabled people, especially as I discovered only recently that in accordance with The Equality Act I am officially classified as “disabled” as I have a Stage IV cancer diagnosis. You learn something new every day.

If you’re anything approaching my age you will remember those little blue single-seater “Invacars” as they were unsympathetically labelled, that were first introduced in 1948 and incredibly were still being produced in 1976, but finally banned from the roads in 2003 as the Government finally realised they were total unsafe, discriminatory, 600cc, fibreglass death traps.

The memory of those motorised blue lawnmowers does take me back to a happy time in my life, however. When I got my first proper job as a messenger in a freight company in the East End docks I was taken under the wing of a lunatic Scotsman by the name of Dave McLean. He convinced me, a naïve seventeen-year-old, that he planned to steal an Invacar from an unsuspecting cripple and stick a Chevy V8 engine in it, and one split rim alloy wheel on the front, just for the craic. I don’t know if he ever achieved that ambition, but I do remember his party trick of driving his VW Beetle through the entire length of the Blackwall Tunnel at 60mph whilst packing and lighting his pipe, and steering the car using only his knees. A feat that was particularly impressive as by then he’d consumed eight pints of strong lager, and there are a surprising number of bends in that particular stretch of subterranean roadway. He also swore you’d never get pulled over by the Old Bill for drunk driving in one those distinctive light-blue numbers either; they’d just think you were a bit confused and leave you in peace. Great bloke, was Dave, and a big influence on my life, he taught me loads…

But getting back to Invacars, you used to see them everywhere, and I especially remember them in the 1980s on Match Of The Day at many football grounds up and down the country, just behind the corner flag. Must have been great when it was pouring down with rain and all the regular fans were getting soaked. They could sit there blissfully warm and dry, eating a meat pie whilst the single wiper cleared the screen. A kind of forerunner to the modern day corporate box perhaps, but without the prawn sandwiches and Chablis. Not so much fun though when a bunch of away fans decided it would be a great laugh to pick up the car, turn it over a full 180 degrees and set it back down on its roof with the driver still inside. Simpler times.

Despite the UK Govt demanding all remaining Invacars be crushed in 2003, there must a few examples rotting away in barns or abandoned garages somewhere, and I’m tempted to try and get hold of one and pimp it up in memory of Dave. I think it might be a little cosy though, with my 6’5” frame, and nowhere to put my golfclubs either. So I’ll happily stick with Kitty, at least until 30th June, when she might have to go the way of Kurt Zouma’s cat. After that, if the good folk at the DVLA can’t get off their arses, drag themselves away from sitting at home watching Netflix on full pay and do some actual work, it’ll not be a little blue vehicle I’ll be travelling in, it’ll be a big red one with a number 7 on the front. Again.

Fancy A Sherry?

Rain was forecast for later in the afternoon, so I decided to take my daily constitutional along the promenade a little earlier than planned the other day. My foot problems, that still haven’t been definitively diagnosed, have been easing slightly lately, so I’ve been going for short gentle strolls along the front, which seem to be helping the recovery.

The sky out to sea was turning a very dramatic shade of grey, with heavy rain-laden clouds forming, but The Palace Pier was still bathed in bright sunlight. That’d make a great photo, I thought to myself, and dug my iPhone out of my pocket to take a shot. Now normally I think I’m reasonably tech savvy, and usually know when a single or double click is appropriate for example, but I’m still capable of making a gaff, and this was one such occasion. As I held up my phone to get the picture, just before clicking on the big white button at the bottom of the screen, I must have inadvertently caught the smaller round icon to the right and changed the lens to “selfie” mode, so instead of a dramatic shot of the pier, the sea and the angry skyline, I ended up with a close up of my ugly mug.

What a shocker that was. My Barnet was a right mess, “Hair By Brighton” they call it down here, but I looked so old, a cross between Harry Redknapp and poor old Dennis Waterman who sadly passed away last week. A mass of wrinkles, bags, nose-hair and saggy bits. Not a good look at all.

But hey, it’s been coming hasn’t it? I’m nearer seventy than sixty now, and the tell-tale signs have been there to see. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t started dribbling or smelling of pee and mothballs yet, but I have noticed that I’ve started making that strange “oooh” noise when I sit down or get out of a chair, I shout at the television quite a lot as well as turning on the subtitles as I can’t hear or understand the mumbling, and I’ve been giving serious thought to buying some of those trousers in the Cotton Traders with the invisible piece of elastic in the waistband, and those slip-on trainer type shoes they sell in the aisle of shame in Lidl which normally come in hearing-aid beige.

My diet has changed too, although that’s mainly due to “Gutgate” which is still bothering me (that colonoscopy on 1 June can’t come soon enough). I haven’t had a Ruby or anything remotely spicy for literally months, and I seem to be surviving mainly on soup. Honestly, there are pandas that have got a more varied diet than me. Don’t drink much beer now either, a couple of pints is about my lot, and I’ve been giving serious consideration to experimenting with sherry. I won’t fall into the same trap as my mate Pete though; he’s sworn he’ll never touch sherry again after he once drunk two whole bottles of the stuff at a party and woke up on a settee several hours later with the head of a thousand bastards and blistered fingers having no memory of the cardigan he’d knitted for a christening….

But it comes to all of us eventually, we can’t turn the clock back, and better to grow old gracefully than one of those grotesque Hollywood types whose face, and several other bits of their body, would melt if they got too close to a radiator. And, moreover, looking back to those dark and dreadful days back in the autumn of 2015 when I was first diagnosed, if you’d have asked me then for a wish list of things I’d like to get, “old” would be right up there in the top three of the list, so I’m not complaining.

My Week So Far

There’s nothing quite like an MRI brain scan to start your week off with a bang. Literally. Monday afternoon saw me at my second home, the Royal Sussex County Hospital, for the first of the latest round of scans. One of my many new friends, the pretty Spanish nurse was on shift as usual. She knows to call me “Bill” not William, and soon had me all prepped up. She’s called Aida, a lovely name, and kind of apt as she has a bum the size of the Albert Hall. The radiographer was a newbie, to me anyway, looked like he’d come to work on a skateboard, but knew I was an old hand at this too, so dispensed with a lot of the usual preliminaries and soon had my head locked in the vice in the big doughnut to be assaulted by a barrage of loud bangs and a cacophony of other deafening noises.

Tuesday was relatively quiet by comparison. Just a trip to Out Patients for my “bloods.” I like to get there early, before all the old gits who can’t use their bus passes before 9.30, but I was still 17th in the queue. A trainee, under the watchful eye of one of the senior nurses, drew the blood and did remarkably well, despite forgetting the magic words “sharp scratch” before sticking the needle in my arm. I reckon she’ll go far, and told her as much. I didn’t feel a thing.

Wednesday was the big day though. Firstly an appointment with Dr Cool-Dude at the Nuffield to get the results of my recent bowel scan. Turns out it still shows signs of infection; it’s swollen, inflamed and restricted, and my continuing foot problems are almost certainly connected due to this Reiter’s Syndrome I’d recently heard about. He booked me in for a colonoscopy on 1st June when he would investigate further, and try to effect some running repairs using a “balloon” to clear and open my bowel up. If that didn’t work, he’d try a stent, and if that didn’t work….oh, let’s not go there….

He also warned me against foreign travel before then as, although unlikely, the bowel could deteriorate and potentially block totally, and I wouldn’t want that happening in Portugal, particularly as the last remaining insurance company that would offer me travel insurance have politely told me to get lost as they no longer entertain people with a Stage IV terminal cancer diagnosis. So, not for the first time, our flights booked for next Saturday to Faro need to be cancelled. Oh well, don’t much like sardines anyway. Too fiddly.

There was no time to hang around. It was straight back to the RSCH, initially for an appointment with the fragrant Dr Westwell, and following that to the chemo ward for JJ number 76. She listened carefully while I relayed the news from Dr Cool-Dude, was pleased that I was at least walking without a crutch now, but threw me a massive curve-ball.

She explained that it certainly could not be ruled out that good old JJ (Pembrolizumab) was responsible for or exacerbating the bowel and foot issues. She really didn’t know as there were no previous cases to compare me to. She reminded me that Pembolizumab is only supposed to be a two-year course. By then most patients have been unable to continue to tolerate the drug, or it’s ceased to be effective. Nobody under her care has been on it for six years, or anywhere close. According to her I was a trailblazer. Imagine that. But she thought that it might be prudent to defer my latest round of JJ and monitor my situation, just in case we were doing more harm than good.

Even through my mandatory standard issue Covid mask she could see that the prospect of missing my JJ absolutely terrified me. As far as I’m concerned it takes priority over everything, and I wanted very much to take my chances. Eventually Dr Westwell agreed, albeit with reservations, and subject to my promising to keep both her and my CNS, Claire, fully and immediately informed if I experienced any deterioration or other side-effects.

So, a little later than planned, and more than a trifle relieved, I finally made my way up the stairs to the chemo ward. Another pal, Ryan the specialist chemo nurse, greeted me when I made my way into the ward and towards one of the big chairs.

“Hi, Bill, how’s it going? Good week so far?” he asked.

“Not bad Ryan” I replied “pretty standard, you know.”

The Amber Nectar

I knew the charming little Asian pharmacist wasn’t joking when she said the antibiotics she handed me the other week to combat my bowel infection were very strong, seeing as she was wearing protective goggles, a full biohazard suit and a pair of those fire-resistant oven gloves at the time.

‘’Remember Mr Shay, these drugs are powerful and when taking them you must on no account drink any alcohol, and preferably not for 48 hours after you’ve completed the course either, to allow them to get out of your system.”

Yeah, whatever, I thought to myself. Typical nanny state, a bit like driving under 20mph in a deserted street at three in the morning, putting a “warning of death” sign on an escalator and wearing a Covid mask in an empty train carriage. Anyway, I’m West Ham, and tough as a Wetherspoons steak. If I wanted a drink I’d have one, although as it happened I didn’t fancy it, and I knew a few dry days would do me good, so I did actually comply with her instructions.

By last Thursday night (28/4) I was getting the craving back. I was about to watch the Mighty West Ham on TV in their biggest game in almost 50 years, and what better time than to break my period of sobriety and have a can of beer. I’d taken last of the ABs on Tuesday morning, so surely I was good to go.

Jesus H Christ, little Fatima wasn’t half kidding. I had a terrible reaction and was violently ill all that night. The drugs were clearly still in my system and were no fans of continental lager. I couldn’t even watch the game on TV, I felt that rough. (Good job, we lost 2-1).

That was my last and only alcoholic drink for almost a month until this Wednesday (4/5). By then over a week had passed since the ABs, so I hoped I could now enjoy a cool beer. Not that I was going to the pub, or anything exciting like that – the bins currently go out more than me. In the last ten days I have only ventured as far as the hospital for a scan on my bowel (no results yet) and a trip to a local osteopath to see if he could give me a definitive answer as to why I still had foot problems (he thought it might be Reiter’s Syndrome or Enteropathic Arthritis, but didn’t really know).

So, not the pub, I was in the comfort of my front room. I picked one of my favourite pint glasses – I’d nicked it from a pub somewhere, no-one actually buys pint glasses do they? – and selected an ice-cold can of San Miguel from the back of the fridge. I carefully tugged on the ring-pull which made a reassuring “psssst” noise and a small amount of froth seeped out. I held the glass at an angle of 45 degrees and slowly poured the beer into the glass, being careful to keep a head, but not too much. I’m not bloody German after all. Once the glass was full, I set it down on the coffee table, A shaft of late afternoon sun was streaming in through the window – it picked out the tiny bubbles rising majestically to the top of the glass – and the amber nectar was shimmering, almost glowing like liquid gold, bathed in glorious early summer sunlight. Small drops of condensation formed on the outside of the glass.

It looked almost too good to drink, and I stared at it for a while, but then the temptation was too great. The first sip was like an angel landing on my tongue, the second hit me like a freight train, and the third gulp emptied the glass. It was then that I knew. It’s taking a while, but I’ll be back.

Phoenix Rising From The Ashes

Sixty-six, sixty-seven, sixty-eight, sixty-nine…

“What you going to write about in this week’s blog, Billy?”asked The Blonde.

I was happy to be asked, but she made me lose count. I’d have to start counting over again. It didn’t matter though, I didn’t have much else to do.

I’d been passing a few minutes of boredom counting for myself the wind turbines out at sea on the Rampion Wind Farm, which you can see from our apartment off the coast of Brighton. I already knew quite a bit about it having investigated on Google earlier. There are in fact 116 turbines, situated about 8 miles out to sea and capable of generating enough electricity to power the equivalent of 350,000 homes in Sussex. Providing it’s windy of course. On a calm day it’s about as much use as an XR activist. Utterly useless. Opinions are split on its aesthetic qualities; I quite like it myself, especially at night when the red lights mounted on each turbine shine brightly like some kind of offshore lightshow.

I had no particular reason to count the turbines – it was just something to pass the time. It was another sparkling sunny afternoon, but I was stuck at home, sat on the bed looking out to sea. Yet another day of incapacity with my ongoing bowel and moreover my foot issues. It was this Tuesday, the cocktail of drugs that I was taken were starting to kick in, but I still couldn’t walk. I’d read yet another book, and The Times, completed Wordle, done my best at the cryptic crossword and upset myself by reading all the shit posted by lefties on Twitter. I’d finished Netflix, but despite my boredom I still refused to watch a bunch of menopausal women and Jeremy Whine on daytime TV. There is a limit.

The Blonde was doing her best to keep me amused, but I really am a poor patient. I absolutely loathe being stuck indoors, even for a day. I’d be hopeless as a prisoner in jail; I’d literally go stir crazy. I’m too pretty to be banged up anyway, and I don’t much relish the prospect of attracting the attention of Big Dave in the communal showers.

But I was getting better, like Phoenix rising from the ashes, and I had had a call from Claire, my Macmillans CNS. Ever since my first cancer diagnosis in 2015 she’d drummed it in to me that I had to keep her and the fragrant Dr Westwell fully briefed on any health issues that I encounter, just in case they were related to the cancer spreading or side-effects from the JJ.

I’d sent her quite a lengthy email to explain what was going on, but I certainly didn’t expect the response it generated. I was to present myself the following day, Wednesday, at the Cancer Centre. My initial “glass half full” reaction was to assume the worst. But after a week of being stuck indoors any reason was a good reason to get out of the house, even if navigating my way into the taxi that was waiting to take me 400m to the hospital proved more than difficult on the “XL” set of crutches I’d purchased on Amazon Prime a couple of days earlier.

There was the mandatory wait, but I eventually hobbled in to Claire’s office, and Dr Westwell joined us a few minutes later. Basically they had read my email, but wanted to see me in person to check I was OK, despite their enormous workloads. Dr W assured me and The Blonde that my current problems may well have been related to each other but were almost certainly nothing to do with cancer.

Cheered me up no end, that, and we were soon back in a taxi on our way home. As I climbed back on to the bed I counted my blessings yet again that I have such a fantastic oncology team looking after me. Nothing is too much trouble and if I paid £millions at Harley Street I wouldn’t get better care or treatment.

And talking of counting, there was still time to complete an unfinished task.

One, two, three. four, five….


“Go on, eat it all up. It’ll do you the world of good.”

The Blonde had brought me my lunch. It was a bowl of soup that was a peculiar shade of green, the sort of colour only normally seen on a bathroom suite in Grimsby. She’d shown me the pot it came in before heating it up. For no apparent reason it was called “Bol” and my first inclination was to turn the pot over and see if it said “Locks” on the back. According to the blurb it was full of proteins and extremely healthy stuff. Further research revealed it was the brainchild of a bloke who had given up on his dream to be a professional snowboarder in California to extol the virtues of a plant-based diet. You just somehow know he’d live in a loft apartment in Shoreditch and drive a Prius.

The flavour was pea & spinach which explained the vile hue, and listed amongst the ingredients was cannellini beans, which generally I’d put in the same category as whelks and tripe as things I refuse to eat. But I needed to build my strength up, so I tucked in as instructed.

I have to admit it tasted rather good. Surprisingly so. And I hoped it would aid my recovery from diverticulitis.

Yes, Gutgate had entered yet another week. Progress had been painfully slow, but I managed to secure an appointment with a private doctor (who I’d seen before when I had other bowel related issues) at our local Nuffield on Tuesday afternoon. He’s a good bloke, and pretty cool for a guy who specialises in his chosen field of expertise. The Blonde was particularly impressed with his designer jeans and Gucci belt, but I wasn’t so happy with his bright yellow Merc SLK with private plates in the staff car park. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and suggest he was using his wife’s car that day and he actually drove an Aston Martin that was in for a service. He examined me and prescribed two types of nuclear strength antibiotics that should eventually see the infection off and promised to arrange a scan to see exactly what was going on.

But on Wednesday things took a turn for the worse. My “plates of meat” problems have been a side effect ever since I started on JJ, with weak tender joints, skin problems and frequent cuts on my soles. I’d noticed a bit of an ache in my left foot for a couple of days but by Wednesday afternoon I was in agony. I had a good idea what it was and feared the worst. My foot was bright red, hot to the touch, very swollen and excruciatingly painful.

Unbelievably I got an appointment to see my GP that evening. Even getting myself into a taxi to get to the surgery was only achieved by using The Blonde as a crutch; I literally couldn’t walk. I really don’t know where she finds the strength or how I’d survive without her. Doc Martin soon confirmed my suspicions, it was cellulitis again, just like I’d had six months ago. There were antibiotics that could eventually clear it up, but although he gave me a prescription I couldn’t take them as I couldn’t mix them with the other two drugs the gut doctor had prescribed for diverticulitis. However he hoped (not the best choice of terminology that you want to hear from a medical professional) that one of the original two antibiotics could do a belt and braces job and work for both my tummy and foot issues. Try it for a week and let him know, was his advice.

So it’s Thursday now, and I’m waiting for the drugs to work. I’m bedbound with an ache in my guts like I’ve been kicked by a mule and feeling like a rugby ball has been shoved sideways up my colon. I’m totally exhausted, have no appetite, and my left foot looks and feels like it’s been run over by a Russian tank. Twice. What’s more I’m living on plain water, fruit tea and green soup made by a hipster.