In My Defence

We finally made it back from Portugal on Saturday morning, although it was a close call. I got some distinctly old-fashioned looks from the BA stewardess as I stumbled onto the plane with my complexion as white as a ghost. She probably assumed I was paying the price for a big boozy mash-up last night of my holiday. If only that was the case; I still felt really rotten.


I want to say a big thank you to everyone who sent messages after reading last week’s missive wishing me a speedy recovery from my latest bout of tummy troubles. And I’ll also acknowledge all of those who questioned my judgement in having chicken piri piri for lunch whist in Portugal with my current and ongoing issues. I know you meant well.


However, in my defence….


If you’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting that beautiful country you will know that chicken piri piri isn’t that hot a dish at all. It can best be described as mildly spicy at best. On previous days I’d eaten mixed seafood spaghetti with bits of garlic floating in the sauce, a very rich lasagna, and drank more beers than usual. Did they upset me? Or none of the above?


But I had been feeling so well, and doing what subconsciously or otherwise I have been doing for the last seven and a half years. You see, when I was first diagnosed with Stage IV cancer back in 2015 I suppose I could have shaved my head and gone to live in a hilltop zen retreat, meditated for twelve hours a day and survived on a diet of milk, mung beans and quinoa. Perhaps by sacrificing all the things I enjoy and love I might have extended my life expectancy by 2-3 months.


I didn’t do that though. As and when I’ve been physically able, I have, with the Blonde’s general encouragement, had many great nights out, enjoyed probably too many beers and too much wine, eaten in smart restaurants, had some delicious take-aways, bought a fast car that I drive like a hooligan, followed the Hammers home and away, beat myself up on the golf course, travelled a fair bit, including a trip to Vegas to see Rod, pushed myself in the pool and gym and tried my best to have a good few laughs.


And, as long as I can get over the operation on my colon that is now confirmed for 28th February, and good old JJ keeps on delivering to hold the Bastard Cancer at bay, that’s exactly what I intend to keep on doing.

Chicken Wings

It’s a short tale of good and bad this week. Yin and Yang. Highs and lows.


Let’s start with the good. Last Thursday (19th) we flew out to Portugal, just for a week, a bit last minute but I was between medical appointments and feeling pretty well, so off we went. It’s a lovely time of year to visit, nice and quiet and of course not too hot.


It all started wonderfully. The accompanying picture is me on the 14th tee of the Vale de Pinta golf course on Monday morning. Not too bad a swing, eh? I guess my hips should have rotated a bit more, and more shoulder turn, but I’ve never pretended to be a good golfer, just a keen one. And my score was of no concern; it was my first proper full round of golf in four months and I was pleased as punch just to be out there and to complete the round.


It wasn’t just the golf. I was feeling better than I had in ages, so when we went to lunch with friends on Tuesday I was perhaps in a little bolder in my choice off the menu, plumping for one of my favourites, Chicken Piri Piri with an extra couple of drops of the Piri Piri sauce just to spice things up a bit; it was a real treat after months of boring bland food.


But that was my big mistake.


We were due to fly back yesterday (Thursday) morning, but I was too ill to travel. I’m presuming it was the lunch, or maybe just one of those things, but I’ve had really severe stomach problems that have left me confined to my bed (apart from several dozen trips to the loo) since Tuesday night. I shan’t go into any further details, but suffice to say I still feel pretty rotten, despite taking handfuls of antibiotics.


I’ve rebooked us on a flight from Faro tomorrow (Saturday) morning, hopefully I’ll be ok for that. And I certainly won’t be touching any more spicy food until I’ve had the operation which is due next month, that’s for sure.


Kinky Bowel

It was my birthday on Monday (16th) – not a particularly big or significant birthday, but I suppose when I think back to the bombshell that was delivered in the autumn of 2015, and my prognosis at the time, every birthday is something of a milestone to be celebrated. I’d like to thank all of you who sent me cards, which I suppose would have arrived on time if the Royal Mail wasn’t such a shitshow of an organisation. Maybe they were on strike; it’s hard to tell nowadays.


Back in the day I would have celebrated my birthday by having a big fat boy lunch and/or dinner, with copious amounts of alcohol. Sadly that wasn’t an option this year, and anyway I’d already had the best possible present last Wednesday when I finally received my much needed and anticipated dose of Pembrolizumab JJ. That was better than any continental lager or fine wine, I can tell you.


No, this year’s birthday was completely different. Now that the JJ issue had been addressed it was time to tackle my other nemesis, my dodgy tummy, and on Monday morning I managed to get an appointment with my consultant, Mr Jeremy “Gucci Belt” Clark. We shared the opinion that this scenario had dragged on for far too long, so he fixed me up to have another flexible sigmoidoscopy the following morning, along with another “stretch” to try to get to the bottom of it, as it were.


So I was back at the Nuffield on Tuesday first thing. He didn’t mess about; I was given general anaesthetic so he could have a proper rummage around and in-depth investigation to establish what had been causing all the problems that have plagued me over the past few months.


I was recovering nicely back in my room when Mr Gucci Belt came in to deliver his verdict. In his opinion all the problems stemmed from an anatomical twisting and kink in my bowel. A kinky bowel….If you’re a certain age you might remember the 60s the song “Kinky Boots” featuring the delectable Honor Blackman, but I suppose “Kinky Bowel” also has a certain ring to it too.


He confirmed that the only way we could properly resolve the issue was to finally have the bowel resection operation that we had discussed and tried to avoid in the past. It’s not what I want, but I’m almost guaranteed a positive outcome. As I’m writing this I am waiting for confirmation of a date for the operation, but we are trying to get the next cycle of JJ into my system first, so the 28th February has been suggested, although the decision will rest with the fragrant Dr Westwell who has the final say in these matters.


It will involve 5-6 days in hospital and 3-4 weeks to recover. After the offending 5cm section of my bowel is removed I’ll need to wear a stoma for about 3 months, although this should be reversible. There isn’t such a stigma about colostomy bags nowadays and I’m told they are much more discreet and effective. Maybe I should treat myself to a belated birthday present and get a designer stoma bag. Perhaps Louis Vuitton have one in their range, or even Gucci? I’ll ask Mr Jeremy Clark when I see him next – he should know.


It was more in hope than expectation that I made my way up to the Cancer Centre at RSCH for my 0900 appointment with the fragrant Dr Westwell on Wednesday morning.  No, make that dread, not hope, as I was fearing the worst.


As you may recall, the 11th January was the last chance saloon as far as Pembrolizumab “JJ” was concerned. If I wasn’t to have another cycle on that day I would not be permitted any further treatments under some bizarre NHS “12 week” rule. Moreover it was now four months since my last dose and I was desperate to get some more into my system. It’s normally only 6 weeks between treatments; I was really starting to panic.


But to achieve that, I had to be able to convince Dr Westwell that I was well enough to have the drug. And by well enough, it was with particular reference to my bowel which had caused me to be so unwell over the past few months. She will have heard that I had been quite poorly again over Christmas with another flare-up. She will also have been advised of the abdominal scan that I had last Friday which showed that my bowel was still partially blocked, causing a backup and potential infection. I didn’t hold out much hope.


My feeling of trepidation wasn’t helped by being told by the receptionist on arrival that although I had received written confirmation of my face-to-face with Dr Westwell I wasn’t on her list. The appointment was never actually made. Good work again, NHS admin staff.


But we did get to see her after just a short delay and before her extensive list of other patients, many of whom were already crowded into the dingy and depressing waiting room. The usual formalities were exchanged, and I was asked how I was. I had to be truthful, I was feeling good. Following all the efforts by the Blonde I was eating well (albeit with the boring low-residue diet), I was exercising more, swimming, I’d put on some weight, and my bowel was working relatively well. I even dragged my face nappy off so Dr Westwell could see for herself the colour that was back in my cheeks.


“Yes, you do look a lot better Bill, and your blood tests yesterday were excellent on all counts.” Lengthy pause…..”Mmm, OK, yes, I think we should go ahead with your treatment today.”


I can’t begin to tell you how massive the wave of relief was that flooded over me, and the Blonde, at that precise moment. I really wasn’t expecting it. Maybe under normal circumstances she might have told me to wait a couple of weeks longer, but she knew how focused I was on getting some more JJ in my system, and by not missing this deadline we could secure future treatment and funding. Not to mention the positive psychological effects that cannot be overstated after such a worrying period.


So at 3pm on the dot on Wednesday afternoon I was still smiling as I finally made my way back up to the chemo suite for JJ number 80, delivered by my good mate and cool geezer Enzo the Italian lead nurse who seemed as pleased to see me as I was him. I’m still far from out of the woods yet; I still have these blooming’ bowel issues which may still require surgery, I don’t know what effect the gap in treatment has had on my cancer, but Wednesday was a good day. Enzo even took my photo to prove it.


And talking of days, I was reminded while I was sitting in the big purple chair of something I read recently, written by a lady called Nakeia Homer, that I, and many other people in situations not unlike my own, can definitely relate to and sums up my current mood:


Some days I swear I’m gonna give up

Some days I swear I’ll never give up

Some days I just swear….

Every day I just keep going.

Going Full Gammon

I think it was seeing that bloke who is leader of the train drivers’ union on the TV the other day that set me off. There he was, bold as brass, acting like Bertie Big Bollocks and double proud of himself that virtually no trains were running, inconveniencing millions and ruining countless Christmases, with the ultimate goal of bringing down the government (there’s no need pal, they’re doing a pretty good job of that themselves) and claiming that he had the support of the public.


Well I’ve got news for you Mick, me old china, you’re wrong there. Your drivers already earn in excess of £50,000 per annum, plus perks, and there is no way you are worthy of a 15% pay rise, or whatever it is you’re demanding. The massively subsidised rail service in this country is already a joke, and is in desperate need of a major overhaul, not more money for your pampered members. Your average traveller is sick and tired of the dreadful service, especially those that live and work in the North of England. Have you ever tried to travel between Leeds and Manchester by train? You are shoved like cattle into decrepit carriages, the journey of only 36 miles between two major northern powerhouses takes over an hour and a quarter and costs a fortune.


And we, the Great British Public, put up with it. We just shrug our shoulders and suffer in near silence. Why and how did we become so accepting and apathetic about the shit service we get everywhere we turn in this country nowadays?


Another example, as well as the overpriced filthy trains running late, is our acceptance that the post will rarely arrive, if at all. We get on average one of two deliveries of mail a week here. This is Brighton, a major city, not a small hamlet in the Orkneys. Back in the day we’d get two deliveries a day, not a week. Pathetic.


Our Council Tax bill is exorbitant. We cough up every month, but do the Council get the bins emptied on time? Or clear the snow off the pavements? Maybe you’re thinking of applying for planning permission? Good luck with that – you’ll wait longer than a Tesla driver at a motorway charging point.  If you’ve got any issue or a problem do they answer the phone? No. You can’t get through to anyone and they have closed the offices that were once open to the public. They couldn’t give a toss, clearly, but are demanding a hefty pay increase.


Need a GP appointment with our “envy of the world” NHS that costs you, the taxpayer, over £150billion a year? Three weeks if you’re lucky. Dentist? Nothing doing, unless you go private. Need an operation for a debilitating hip problem or non- critical condition? Get on the back of a queue of seven million others and wait a couple of years.


Had a break-in, been assaulted or had your car or other property vandalised? You’ll be lucky to get a crime number, let alone see a policeman.


Need a passport? Three months is the norm nowadays. How about a driving licence from the DVLA? I applied in April for my renewed licence, and I still haven’t got it. I used to be able to phone them, wait on hold for an hour before listening to some Taffy lie through his teeth about Covid / Brexit / Ukraine as an excuse for their gross inefficiency. I tried again the other day; you don’t even get that now, just a recorded message politely telling you they are busy and to fuck off. It’s impossible to speak to anyone.


So everywhere we turn we put up with significantly shittier service than we ever did, and we just accept it as inevitable, while paying more and coughing up higher taxes….but for how much longer? Is there a limit?

Oh, but on a lighter and more positive note, and as you might have guessed as I’ve gone back into full-on ranting grumpy gammon mode, I’m starting to feel quite a bit better, thank you 😊

Complaining About The Complan

If 2022 had been a car it would have been a Lada Riva, finished in beige. If 2022 had been a football team it would have been Stoke City, and if it had been a food it would have been a bowl of whelks (ugh!) If it had been a type of music, it would definitely be jaaaaazz.


I mentioned last week what an utter arsewipe of a year it had been and how pleased I would be to see the back of it. But it couldn’t bloody resist it, could it? Just as we were coming to the end, with Christmas two days away, it delivered one last massive kick in the Jacobs. I’d been getting better, feeling stronger, putting on some weight. I’d even hit a few balls on the driving range, taken some nice strolls along the seafront, enjoyed a couple of continental lagers down at the Thomas Kemp, and chanced mixing the diet up a bit. But then I woke up last Friday morning (23rd) with terrible pains in my tummy, feeling absolutely awful and with what is known in certain circles as a severe dose of Montezuma’s Revenge.


Luckily I managed to speak to the lovely Dr Susi Green the next day, Christmas Eve – she assured me it shouldn’t be anything too serious. It could be another diverticular infection, in which case I could try the antibiotics I still had from my last flare up, or simply just a bug that was going around, or quite possibly a reaction to something from the “forbidden” list that I’d rather rashly introduced into my diet.


And by that she meant the humble Brussel sprout. I admitted to her I’d had a few over the previous couple of days. I bloody love them, always have, ever since I was a kid, but I wasn’t to know that they were an absolute no-no when coming off a low fibre diet. Apparently there’s more fibre in a bowl of sprouts than in a warehouse full of All-bran. No wonder they make you fart so much.


But whatever it was, the damage was done, all my recent good work was shot to bits. I couldn’t eat properly for days, I lost weight again, all the goodies in the fridge were replaced by Andrex 4-ply and Christmas Day turkey lunch was cancelled, to be replaced by a bowl of chicken soup and liquid dietary food supplements. The Blonde had to rush out for a spot of last minute Christmas shopping and managed to stock up on Complan, while all I managed to do was Complain…


Almost a week has now passed (and a lot more besides) and I’m pleased to report I’m feeling considerably better. Maybe it was the antibiotics, or maybe nature just took it’s course. I didn’t have a single drink all over Christmas, because of the meds I was on, but that doesn’t bother me unduly. What does worry me is that I’ve got under two weeks now until I see Dr Westwell on 11th January, and as I mentioned last week I need to build up my weight and strength sufficiently to convince her I’m well enough to go back on my cancer treatment, good old JJ, and this latest episode has put me right back.


I’m doing my best, but the clock is ticking. If only there was a quick-fix, something stronger than bloody Complan. But then, totally randomly, I thought about Popeye. Remember him from the comics, with Olive Oyl the skinny girlfriend? Whenever he had a barney with Brutus or some other miscreant looming, needed boosting up a bit, he’d neck a few cans of spinach. Maybe I could try that? Oh, hang on, a fibre-packed green vegetable? Maybe not…


Happy New Year everyone x

Merry Winter Closure Period

The last working day before Christmas. I’m sure you’ve all got far too many presents to wrap, sprouts to peel and trees to decorate to waste time reading my ramblings. But it’s Friday after all so I’m posting my blog as always, which, as you’re so busy, I’ll keep mercifully short.


Old Queen Elizabeth II, God bless ‘er, famously spoke towards the end of 1992 of it being her “Annus Horribilis”, and one that she “would not look back on with undiluted pleasure.” Nothing to do with her bottom apparently, just a reflection on one of her many castles catching fire that year and several of her children suffering acrimonious splits with their partners due to varying degrees of infidelity.


Well luckily none of those catastrophes befell me or the Blonde this year but it’d be fair to say it’s been a pretty crap year all in all, and one I’ll be pretty pleased to see the back off. Fittingly we won’t be going to any Christmas parties this year, or attending swanky black tie dos in fancy hotels (not that we ever did). Neither will we be invited to pub lock-ins or grazing on three types of bird at some kind of drunken bacchanalian feast. Christmas lunch on a sandy beach in the Maldives is certainly off the agenda, as are the breathtaking Northern Lights. (We did however manage a relaxing short break in Malta last weekend, which was lovely).


No, I’m still not quite up to any of those, so we’ll be at home counting our lucky stars and feeling grateful for the good things that have happened to us this year (bollocks to the bad things; move on, forget them). In particular I’m referring to the invaluable support and kindness so many of you, old friends and new, have shown us during a difficult period. We couldn’t have done it without you, and I’d like to wish every single one of you, as well as everyone who takes the time to follow my journey by way of this blog, a very Happy Christmas – or “merry winter closure period” if you find the word Christmas offensive and attend Brighton University – and say a massive thank you for everything from the heart of my Annus Horribilis.

Remembering Mr Fray Bentos

Here are six words that if you have known me for any period of time you would never in your wildest dreams expect to hear me say:


“I’m trying to put weight on.”


But it’s true. Throughout my adult life I’ve always been a big lad, not fat (well, maybe a bit), perhaps pleasantly plump, chunky, built for comfort not speed, even Rubenesque.  But as I mentioned last week, this recent bowel problem has seen me lose a great deal of weight.  I went as low as 89k and the fragrant Dr Westwell has already informed that before we can consider going back on my cancer treatment, good old JJ, I have to gain some weight and demonstrate to her that I’m sufficiently robust to handle the toxicity that Pembrolizumab brings with it. And I need to do it quickly as the clock is ticking.


I’m still on the low-residue diet which doesn’t help, as lots of the foods I particularly enjoy are strictly verboten. I’ve started supplementing my diet with Complan drinks which are helping (the strawberry flavour is surprisingly palatable) and the list of acceptable stuff is quite extensive, if a tad boring, although I’m allowed meat, potatoes, chocolate and plenty of other stuff, including, unbelievably, meat pies. Nothing with any fibre in it though. So there you are, I can have a Fray Bentos in a tin, but very little in the way of fresh veg, salad, or fruit. Funny old world.


I’ve put a few pound on, although I haven’t succumbed to the delights of one of Fray Bentos’s finest yet, don’t much fancy it to be honest, but they do remind me of this time of year and when I got my first proper job down the East End, in Bow Common Lane, just around from the back of Mile End Tube.


Right next to our offices there was a real old-fashioned cockney boozer. No food, apart from crisps and cheese rolls stacked on a plate on the bar, a blousy barmaid, a constant fog of cigarette smoke, warm beer, a juke box that specialised in Frank Sinatra, and a fives dartboard (extra point if you know what one of those was).


It was the last day before we packed up for Christmas. Me and Scottish Dave (remember him, the fella who drove though Blackwall Tunnel using only his knees to steer) were having a few pints and a game of arrows. The pub was busy, everyone getting into the Christmas spirit, apart from one old boy sitting on his own at a table nursing his light and bitter and puffing away on his Woodbines. He was proper old school, Crombie coat, neckerchief and cloth cap. He’d clearly had quite a few and looked a bit dishevelled; he was mumbling away to himself and looked lonely.


Eventually he got up to go home, but as he did, a Tesco plastic carrier bag he was clutching to his side fell to the floor and the contents spilled out – a packet of instant mash, a tin of peas, a box of Milk Tray chocolates and a Fray Bentos pie.


Dave and I helped him collect up his shopping, and asked if he needed a hand getting home. It was snowing outside and the pavement was icy. He swore a bit, and explained that he lived in the flats across the road, one those sixties monstrosities with open balconied corridors and stairwells that always stank of piss.


We helped him cross the road and up to his flat, while trying to engage him in conversation.


“You doing much for Christmas?” asked Dave.


“Nah, don’t think so,” he replied.


“You got family coming over?”


“No, don’t think so.”


“Will you be having Christmas dinner?”


“Yeah, I’ve got a meat pie and some other bits.”


“Shouldn’t you be having turkey?”


“We never have turkey. My missus can’t stand the stuff.”


“So is your wife at home?”


“No, I don’t think so.”


He fumbled in his coat pocket and found the key. He pushed the door open. The flat was in total darkness and even colder than the landing outside. As he stumbled across the threshold he reached into his carrier bag and pulled out the box of Milk Tray.


“Here you might as well have these lads. I ain’t got no-one to give them to now.”


We tried to refuse, but he insisted, wouldn’t take no for an answer, and when we did reluctantly take them, he gave us a faint smile. He promised to look after himself and get the heating on. We waved him goodbye, wished him a Merry Christmas and walked away in silence.


I often think about old Mr Fray Bentos at this time of year, and it still makes me feel sad.

Rabbit Grub

I don’t remember my grandfather all that well as he died of lung cancer when I was only five years old. But I do know that he was a costermonger by trade, a little-known term rarely used nowadays that basically means he sold fruit and vegetables from a barrow in a street market. He started out in Berwick Street in Soho after the Great War, before moving to Kentish Town in North London. My father took over the business for a while, but he was too fond of the horses to keep the business afloat, so it passed to my uncle and aunt who traded very successfully until they retired in the 1970s. From the time I was thirteen I worked every Saturday and school holidays on the stalls with them, so, yes, I was a barrow boy, and I loved every minute of it, especially working the salad barrow which they left me to run by the time I was sixteen. They asked me if I’d like to take over the whole business when they retired, but I declined the offer as I could see the effect the supermarkets were having with their superior buying power and self-service options and ended up getting a job as a messenger for a freight firm down the Docks in the East End, and the rest is history. Our family’s stalls were sold on, but closed for good not long later. They now sell snide Nike trainers from our three pitches.


Having the stalls was a real bonus in my youth as we always had plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and salad in the house, and as a consequence I can say hand on heart that I have always followed a healthy diet. Until the last few weeks that is.


Although my most recent bowel procedure went well last Monday (5th), thanks to the lovely Dr Susi Green, I am still on the low-residue diet that was prescribed when I was finally able to take on solids after my stay in hospital. I cannot eat anything containing fibre so most fresh fruit, vegetables, salad, brown bread, anything wholemeal or granary, nuts, cereals, sausages, beans, herbs, spices, mushrooms etc etc are all off the menu.


It’s a sacrifice worth making though, as I need to protect my colon whilst gradually building up my weight and strength. I’m still tipping the scales at just a shade over 14 stones, which for a 6’5” bloke really isn’t enough, despite what the NHS BMI scale might tell you.


Of course the fragrant Dr Westwell has kept herself fully briefed on my progress, and it was no surprise, although desperately disappointing, to hear her tell me when we spoke on Wednesday that I was nowhere near fit or strong enough to go back on JJ. She has set a target date for the next infusion as 11 January, with a review in two weeks’ time. She reminded me again that in my current condition, especially as far as my colon was concerned, the toxicity of JJ could prove life threatening – in fact she had another patient in a similar situation to my own who was admitted to the ICU at RSCH just this week.


My last JJ was on 14th September, so it looks like the break will be four months all told. That worries me. If I’m not ready by the 11th January we have a stopgap on 18th, but if I’m still not ready then there is a chance I will be not permitted JJ anyway under some peculiar NHS “twelve week break” rule as my last prescription (although not administered) was on 26th October. I’m trying not to get ahead of myself on this point, and I’m sure Dr Westwell will have something up her sleeve if need be. Best just get myself nice and well, so that particular concern becomes academic….


On a more positive note I also spoke to Mr Jeremy “Gucci belt” Clark on Wednesday afternoon. He’d seen Susi’s report from Monday’s endospcopy, he was still pleased with my progress, and optimistic that things would continue to improve, albeit too slowly for my liking. I’d never want to put the cart before the horse, but I had to ask him how much longer I was going to have to endure this awful low-residue diet. Best not to rush things, he advised, but maybe I could start introducing some very small amounts of fibre into my diet; definitely no cereals, or anything like broccoli or onions, but maybe the odd lettuce leaf.


Lettuce. We used to have loads of that left over on the stalls during the winter months back in the day; much of it got chucked away, but now, fifty years later, it’s a delicacy I’m rather looking forward to.

Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

Back in the day, and I’m talking over 40 years ago now, it was quite normal for me to have three or four pints down the pub at lunchtime, a couple more swifties after work, then have a proper night out. I’d drive everywhere of course, in my black Ford Capri 2.0S with gold JPS coachlines, and have to admit that sometimes I was ever so slightly over the limit.


Luckily I was never stopped by the Old Bill, but I did end up in Bow Street nick one Friday night when my dear chum Clive, aka Mooro, loaded six us into his Triumph 1500 and drove on two wheels the wrong way around Trafalgar Square at three o’clock in the morning after leaving The Global Village. Although we were all carted off in a Black Mariah he didn’t get done for DD; no idea how he got away with it, he was as drunk as the rest of us, but he always had a silver tongue did Mooro. Pride of place that night though went to Steve Knight, who enquired of one of the Bobbys as to why us five passengers were being detained in custody. “You’re all accessories” barked the surly copper aggressively. “In that case,” responded Steve with typical razor sharp wit, “can I be a fog lamp?” RIP Steve, you’re sorely missed.


Of course I’d never even contemplate drinking and driving nowadays. My licence is far too precious, even if it officially expired at the end of June and I applied for a renewal SEVEN MONTHS ago (thank goodness for Section 88). I’ve given up chasing the DVLA, maybe they are on strike, again, although it’s difficult to tell, or perhaps they are still “suffering severe staff shortages” due to Covid – you know, that flu-like virus that the whole world apart from Swansea and China has long forgotten about…


Anyway, I digress. I’ve always been a bit of a “drinker” but definitely not nowadays, on account of the health issues I’ve mentioned in these pages recently. But I did try a can of Guinness on Sunday afternoon. They used to say in those old adverts “Guinness is good for you” and “it’s full of iron” – all nonsense of course, it’s just another beer, but darker and delicious.


It was my first drink in six weeks, although I couldn’t finish it as sadly my health was already taking another turn for the worse. The procedure on Friday evening by Dr Susi Green had gone well, I’d spent Saturday recovering on the sofa, but by Sunday I felt rotten, which worsened markedly on Sunday night and into Monday morning – I’ll spare you the gory details, but suffice to say it was really horrible.


It was that bad I would have gone to A&E on Monday morning, but fate took a hand. I already had a routine appointment booked with Mr Jeremy “Gucci Belt” Clark at our local Nuffield on Monday afternoon, so I held out till then, the Blonde got me there somehow and I stumbled into his office, looking and feeling like s**t.


After an examination he reassured me that it wasn’t anything too serious – it bloody felt like it though – probable inflammation and a nasty infection of my transverse colon, not surprising given all the probes, enemas, cameras, bowel preps and balloons that had been shoved up there, as well as a lack of proper food and nutrients for over a month. He prescribed some weapons-grade antibiotics, three types, and suggested Lucozade Sport (really?) to replace all the salts, minerals etc that I’d lost over 24 hours.


And sure enough, by the time he phoned me on Wednesday evening I was already feeling a lot better. He seemed as pleased as I was, as well as relieved. But he didn’t rest on his laurels. He promised to inform Susi Green of my improvement and get her to line up a 4th stretching procedure, and that has already been booked for next Monday afternoon. But even more importantly he would inform the fragrant Dr Westwell that despite the recent blip my underlying bowel condition was showing good signs of recovery, and hoped that she would be able to consider getting me back on the JJ in due course. I know Sarah well, she won’t rush into anything and I know that she’ll need to be totally satisfied that I’m well enough to start treatment again, but to hear of Jeremy’s endorsement was really encouraging.


Too early for celebration, much too early in fact, but this was hopefully a sign of light at the end of the tunnel. I thought of having another Guinness, I’m sure there is a can lurking in the fridge somewhere, behind the salad cream and a jar of pickled onions, but I’m not permitted any alcohol with the meds I’m on, so I’ve settled for a Lucozade Sport, orange flavour, and contemplating how “good things come to those who wait.”