Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Last Temptation of Fate

Sunday 18th December, the morning I woke up with a stinking cold and feeling like shit (although one wonders if shit actually feels anything, considering it is just smelly human waste), should have been a couple of days of manflu, with me ordering the wife from the sofa while still managing to do most of the things I usually do - cook, whinge and be as sociable as I usually am. However, by the time Tuesday came around, I was feeling considerably worse than I had on the previous Sunday. No worries, thought I. It'll be okay by Christmas.

By the 23rd, I was sitting in the doctor's office with a raging temperature, a chest that seemed full of red hot coals and the warning that if I felt worse I needed to contact the out of hours emergency team because if it did get worse, I might be looking at pneumonia. I know that sounds almost scaremongering by my GP, but a careful look at my ancient medical records shows that I had pneumonia back in 1980 and you have a better than average chance of getting it again.

The original 1980 diagnosis, by my Northampton GP, was that I might have glandular fever, because my, then extant, tonsils were swollen and my glands were all fucked up. That initial diagnosis was totally pooh-poohed by a fantastic guy called Dr Wadge, but I'm getting ahead of myself...

The reason for this 1980 serious illness can be laid squarely at the feet of one person, but because she is still alive and connected to my family, I'll breeze over the fact that this person seemed intent on killing me, all of which culminated in her washing my bed clothes and then putting them on my bed while they were still wet. I got home from work after a late shift, went to crawl into bed and discovered my sheets were all very much the ocean side of damp. My solution to this was to grab a couple of bath towels and lay one on the bottom while draping the other over the top of me and still using the damp sheets to give me some warmth. I was 18; it never occurred to me that I might as well have got into a bath full of streptococcus pneumoniae.

Within a couple of days, what had been a minor sniffle turned into a full blown case of serious illness. I was prone to infections because of my diseased tonsils, but this time whatever was wrong with me didn't just stop in my throat. My mother called me in the evening of the third day and while I have no recollection of this conversation, I do remember my dad turning up at the place where I lived at some point after it, carrying me to his car and waking up 60 miles from where I started.

The glandular fever diagnosis was pursued, because another GP had said that was what it was, but Dr Wadge - who was also my parents' boss at the time - ran blood tests, which all came back as negative and this wasn't a surprise to him. He concluded that I had pneumonia. The fact that I was bed-ridden for three weeks seemed to confirm this diagnosis. In total, I was off work for 6 weeks, of which most of them were horrendous days of feeling like my chest was in a vice and phlegm that looked like it had been filtered through my blood supply.

Just prior to this Christmas, I watched George Michael talk about his own pneumonia experience in Austria and how emotional and weak he was from it all; I could sympathise completely. By the time I was well enough to return home to Northampton, the person partially responsible for me almost dying and my brother decided they needed to live in their own place and had made moves to separate themselves from me. This was good and never again did I have to suffer wet sheets, rotten steak, hidden toothbrushes and an assortment of little 'suggestions' that my presence wasn't required.

Obviously my 2011 GP's suggestion that I might be susceptible to another bout of pneumonia was the catalyst for bringing back 30 year old memories, but by Christmas Day I was thinking that maybe I was due for another one. It had been a week since I woke up feeling crappy and here I was feeling even crappier...

Normally, antibiotics work for me inside 48 hours and the fact that I haven't had any for over 4 years meant that my body was not, in any way, tolerant of them. I don't eat meat, so there was no residual animal antibiotics floating around my system and, much to my old friend Mitch's amusement, I can track my bad health record back almost six years, so I knew that this was possibly the worst case of lurgy I'd had since that horrible spring of 1980. So why weren't they working now?

The wife has suggested that my new job is essentially a Petri Dish of Disease, so having something bad isn't really that unexpected, but Jesus Hairy Christ, the last 10 days have been the fucking Nightmare of Christmas. Yes, I don't really enjoy the festive season and I am Bah Humbug Man, but I look forward to it because it's an excuse to do fuck all for a fortnight. Yes, I have done fuck all for the last 10 days, but I really would have liked to have a say in it.

Today, I have woken up feeling like the fever has finally broken. I feel a little like my old self, but I still have a vice around my chest and I feel pretty weak - I know that's a pathetic thing to admit, but it's true - but I feel like I can actually do some stuff. I've missed taking my dogs out for a good walk; I've missed having a drink and indulging in treats and I've felt that the last ten days have been grossly unfair; like someone is kicking me, for the last time, in a year that has been dogged with bad luck and misery. The last few years have been pretty shitty in terms of my health - what with my shoulder, my back and my joints - but I've been fortunate that the worst I've suffered in illness terms has been a couple of doses of manflu and a couple of colds. This recent bout has surpassed much and has left me worried because in a week I'm back at work and I need to see a massive improvement in the next 7 days to be ready for the new challenges and rules (that I'm responsible for) of 2012.

I might have broken the back of this thing, but I'm acutely aware that I still have three days of antibiotics left and that if I overdo things it might all slide back into the nastiness of the week before Christmas. But I think I'm entitled to be a little positive; I might get a few days of my winter break for me. Yes, I'm tempting fate and whenever I do that I end up on my arse regretting saying anything, but I don't care.


So, Boxing Day has always traditionally been the best day on TV. Every year I look at the Radio Times and find at least half a dozen things to watch on the 26th; this year I found nothing. Boxing Day made Christmas Day look like a blockbuster of a day; so we decided to watch a movie.

The preferred choice was The Ides of March, a political thriller with George Clooney and Ryan Gosling. Unfortunately, the advance review copy that I downloaded was a bit buggered and did some interesting things to my DVD player. I tried burning it to another disc and to the same result, so we were left with the best of an average lot as an alternative. The wife suggested we watch Winter's Bone, a critically acclaimed indie film from last year. All we knew about it was it was set in the mid-west of the USA and was about a young girl trying to find her father.

My God, what a depressingly awesome film it is. I have seen horror movies that have creeped me out less. It is a cold, stark and deeply menacing movie that has an ending that I suppose is more upbeat than the rest of the movie, but only in a way that makes losing your hand much better than losing your entire arm. It is, I suppose, a sort of road movie, but equally it's the kind of film that makes you realise that parts of the USA are no better off than parts of the Sudan or North Korea. In fact, it paints a picture of the backwoods of the States as a place that is, in many ways, far more dangerous for people than going to Afghanistan wearing nothing but a Stars & Stripes flag while singing 'All Muslims are Gay'.

Not exactly festive viewing, by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm glad I watched it. I doubt I have seen a more thought provoking and disturbing movie in the last 12 months and I watched Terry Gilliam's Tideland this year! If you want to see a film that is just depressingly brilliant, wonderfully shot and full of characters that could easily be seen for all being inter-related, then watch this. Don't if you fancy a fun-filled night in with the gang!

The other big film we watched was Bridesmaids, which I have to admit was good fun, but nowhere near as brilliant as the critics seemed to think it was. I like Kristen Wiig - the two previous films I'd 'seen' her in were How To Train Your Dragon and Despicable Me, both brilliant films from 2010 and her performance in Bridesmaids was pretty excellent; but you just got the impression that the film makers could have gone the extra mile in the film. To me the film fell between two stools and therefore never really fulfilled its potential. I also think the makers copped out several times when they could have really pushed the comedy envelope. Still, it wasn't bad.


The big TV event was Doctor Who, an annual event that I usually am so drunk by the time it comes on I miss most of it from falling asleep. This year, no booze had passed my lips and I watched it expecting another really naff special. So imagine my surprise when the episode finished and I found myself wiping a tear from my eye. Not at the main story, full of plot holes and nods to other children's fantasy fiction, but at the end, when the Doctor arrived at Amy's house for Christmas.

I think, without a doubt, that Karen Gillan is possibly the most interesting, sexy and devastatingly good looking woman ever to be stuck next to a doctor and in the two minutes on screen on Sunday, I realised that Moffatt has to do something special now that she is leaving for pastures new. I've been highly critical of the Matt Smith era, because they had 4/5ths of a great cast, a good budget and stories that flip flopped about and caused more confusion than entertainment; but Amy Pond has been a revelation and I don't think DW will be the same again...


Just to prove that if I like something I've downloaded I get the original. One of my presents was Hurry Up, We're Dreaming by M83 - the album I've been saying for two months is my favourite album of the year. Guess what? It still is.


Either I'm just getting old or the flu/infection thing I've had has made me a big softy, but my eyes have leaked more this Christmas than I can remember. Music and TV have both had moments where I've felt that hitch at the back of my throat, or the sensation of having something in my eye. Maybe being ill at Christmas has made me a little more sensitive, or maybe I just miss my long departed parents. Or it might be that I've felt unbelievably isolated this time - whatever it is, I found I had to turn a film over on Saturday because I knew I was going to blub...


The plan for today was to go out with the dogs and then go to the pub quiz; however, most of my optimism has evaporated as the wife takes the dogs out and I sit here finishing this off feeling crappy again and cold.

I suppose I just need to take it easy, but I'm a bit stir crazy. I have, at least, prepared dinner and I still intend to take my fellow quizzers to the pub, even if I just drop them off, come home and then pick them up again after 11pm...


Incidentally, I've grown a beard.


Anyhow; thanks to everyone who sent well wishes my way either via the phone, email or Facebook. Much appreciated!

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