That said, I have an appointment with a group called Medigold on Thursday. They will assess whether or not I'm fit to continue doing my current job. I'm torn in a way. Part of me would like to walk in there and feel better than I have for the last 4 months, but I know that would be a false reflection on what my physical state is like; but that said, I don't want to go in there racked with aches and pains because I don't fancy being retired on medical grounds or being moved to a department where I'm going to be even unhappier than I currently feel.
One of the key issues is driving. The purchase of the expensive Fiat Sedici last year was done purely on the grounds of it was a good deal and it was considerably easier to drive than the bloody poky Seat Ibiza. When I say easier, I mean comfortable, but a year on and driving more than about 20 miles causes me a lot of grief; I think it's because, unlike sitting, my legs are moving but nothing else is; so subsequently my hips seize up and I get this sharp ache down my right thigh. Getting out of the car in Stamford - after driving the Sedici was... grating. Getting out of the Doblo - about the easiest car to drive with a bad back, or so I thought, was like someone had replaced my hips with ground glass. I could barely stand up and this is from a man who has recently had it confirmed he doesn't have arthritis! That said, the ankylosing spondylitis diagnosis is just as bad in many places.
I started to get problems with my back in 1988 - I was 26 and I will always blame a packet of sausages. Throughout the last 22 years, it has had its moments, but I've never really been free from it. Yeah, I've had months where I've barely noticed it, but it's always been there and now it always will.
The wife didn't enjoy our trip to Leicester the week before last, mainly because I was in full Victor Meldrew mode. My love affair with the city seemed to evaporate that day, but that's regardless. Anyhow, she had a good break, but she said I really have to lighten up a bit, especially when I go to places like Leicester and London. I was much better in Stamford, which is a quite beautiful town with more character than just about anywhere else in this sometimes godforsaken county - shame its in Lincolnshire.
Mushrooms dominated - I picked more mushrooms this year than I have since the turn of the century; the storage jars are full and if things stay the way they have for the last few weeks, I may see even more. Even yesterday, almost a week since any significant rainfall, I picked half a dozen agaricus augustus, which are currently drying the the airing cupboard. This year, I've picked more of this Prince among mushrooms than I have in the previous 20 years!
Finally, I'm considering stopping smoking. it's been said and tried before and many people have seem me continually fail - even going 18 months once and then buckling. But despite my brain having been rewired by nicotine, giving it its own independently autonomous voice, the rewiring appears to have broken. The voice isn't telling me the 1billion reasons why I shouldn't stop, or the ways in which I can stop but not stop, if you know what I mean? If you don't, unless you've been addicted to something you won't understand, so there's not a lot I can say that would make it easier for you to understand. It's like an itch you can't scratch; it's a pain you can't rub; it's a tickle at the back of your brain; it's an anxiety that isn't the same as a normal anxiety; it's a feeling of falling, but also of stopping and its like losing something important. I know ex-smokers, 30 odd years since their last drag, who still get that urge to light up.
I told the voice the other day, while I was lying in bed, that I either stop smoking or I die prematurely. It said nothing. I asked the voice what it would rather have - a few more years and then BAM! - a heart attack or an emphysema diagnosis or maybe a stab at another 25 to 30 years - yes, boring years if I don't get a hobby to replace ciggies, but 30 years as opposed to maybe 12. It said nothing; in fact, I'm pretty sure it harumphed something like an agreement. The only time it spoke in the week since I decided was when I told the wife, I added the caveat of, "even if its only for a few weeks". But that was more to do with not dashing her expectations.
This ankylosing business and smoking don't get on. My lungs and smoking don't get on. My mind loves it; it has been my adult pacifier for years; even nowadays when people are actually surprised to know that I smoke, because hardly anyone ever sees me doing it. I am, according to Sheila one of my former no-smoking nurses, the most difficult patient; not because I'm Phil, but because I smoke about 5 cigarettes a day. I have a routine - one in the morning, one on the way to work, one on the way home, one after dinner and one, sometimes two when the wife has gone to bed. I smoke less than 50grams of tobacco a week; the habit is ingrained; I'm not a constant 40 a day person - who it seems have far more success at packing it up.
I've no doubt I'll fail. Won't probably let on to anyone for weeks and will have cheated two people - yet again. But at least I'm in serious stage 2 mode:
I'm writing this with a fag on; the voice is obviously going to be quiet. I've spent the last week thinking about the stop day; preparing for it. The voice has been up in an attic room, mumbling away, but it hasn't said anything audible yet. Fingers crossed, eh?