Always something

A few weeks back I signed up to get some allergy/intolerance testing done. I’ve long suspected I might have acquired an intolerance in recent times. For much of the last year my nasal passages have been intermittently clogged, particularly come bedtime. The doctor supposed it might be an allergic reaction, but took it no further than that. For me it’s an inconvenience, but I don’t like to be subject to it without any say in the matter. So I sent off some genetic material and waited for a response.

I got the response last week. The good news is that there’s not a huge bunch of stuff I’m intolerant too, and most are easily managed. The bad news is that there was one item on the list which made much sense in retrospect, but which potentially will have a big impact on my lifestyle.

It turns out – according to this – that I’m intolerant to ground wheat. Whole wheat is fine. Gluten is fine. Ground wheat – basically flour – is not fine. And one of the symptoms of ground wheat intolerance is nasal congestion.

I have a pretty robust diet. Though I’ve introduced a lot more vegies and healthy food into my diet in recent years, I also greatly enjoy the broad, traditional food groups. I love my meat. I have a sweet tooth. I have a thing for dairy, particularly cheese. And I love bread, pasta, pastries, and most of the combinations thereof: hamburgers, pizza, Danish, meat pies, and so on. These are comfort foods for me and it’s rare, particularly, that I won’t eat pasta at least once a week. Now all of that is at threat.

My first reaction was exasperation. Here I am on the back of FLS cutting back drastically on sugar and alcohol and generally eating more vegies and grains. On top of that I’m now not allowed flour and other ground wheat products.

I’m definitely not happy, but it’s a challenge too. I plan to do as they suggest and cut out flour altogether for the next two months and see what effect that has. Hopefully it means the congestion in my nasal passages will clear. Then, depending on the outcome, might re-introduce elements on a very occasional basis – pasta once a month say, the occasional pizza or hamburger. In the meantime I’m investigating alternative options. I bought some spelt bread the other day which was chewy fresh, but fine toasted. I bought some spelt pasta, and might see if I can source some spelt pizza bases. And there must be other options.

The other thing I plan is visit my doctor – my old doctor, who I loved but who works miles from home, rather than the more recent doctor. I need to verify these results and ideally get some expert guidance.


Dialling down the lifestyle

It’s been a busy week, with all sorts of activities and meet-ups.

Last Wednesday night I met with Donna down at Docklands to go paddling a Dragon boat. We did that for a bit over an hour and it was fun, before adjourning to a nearby restaurant with our fellow paddlers for dinner.

I took Friday off to go on a hot air balloon. It’s my birthday this coming Sunday, and this was an early birthday present from the entrepreneur. I was out of bed at 3.30am and at Yering Station by 5.20. We were driven a little way to a nearby paddock where another half a dozen balloons were being prepared for take-off. It was a spectacular sight in the pre-dawn light to watch as these colourful balloons slowly inflated at the end of bright orange shooting flames. Soon enough we were in the air, the ground falling away and the landscape spreading far and wide.

I’d gone hot air ballooning once before, in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, which was spectacular. This was different but, for me, a very serene experience, and a lovely way to start the day.

The rest of the day was very indulgent, checking out a few wineries and sampling about 25 different wines, visiting a cheesemaker and later a chocolatier, finishing off the day with a visit to Four Pillars Gin and to a stone-fruit orchard. In between was lunch at Domaine Chandon, which was great. It was a long day, but much fun, with the added bonus and vibe of being on a schoolday.

The weekend was relatively quiet, but the last couple of days I’ve been to lunch with a couple of friends, and tonight am going to drinks with a friend I made first about 30 years ago – and seen probably twice in the last 15. There’s Cheeseboy’s birthday drinks on Friday, my birthday on Sunday, and the following Friday Donna’s birthday party – dancing on some boat out of the docklands.

It sounds all very enjoyable, but yesterday I got confirmation of something I had suspected.

I can’t recall if I mentioned it before, but a couple of weeks ago I had an ultrasound and some blood tests to check if I had one condition or another. The good news, as I discovered yesterday, is that I was clear of the worst case scenario – haemochromatosis. I’d figured that already, but it was good to have it confirmed.

Instead it was confirmed I had a relatively minor case of Fatty Liver Syndrome, which I had figured also. It’s manageable, and even reversible, but the hard part is that it’s going to impact on my lifestyle.

The way to manage it is with diet. Basically it means that all the things I like to eat I must now keep to a minimum. More pointedly, I can’t really drink a lot.

I don’t know if I drink a lot as is, but I’m certainly capable of it. When I’m not being social I might have 2-3 glasses of wine a week, and maybe a couple of G&T’s. When I’m social – which I’ve been increasingly so lately – I don’t really put a limit on it, though I don’t like losing control.

I’ve now got to re-think the whole thing, but don’t think I can start seriously on it until after the birthday season. For what it’s worth, I feel fine.

Needles in my face

Today I had acupuncture in my face. I also had it on my arms and legs, but it was my face I found curious.

I had to stop to consider the adjective I wanted to use. I’d have preferred not to have needles stuck into my face, but I wasn’t afraid of it, it wasn’t confronting, it wasn’t particularly painful, ultimately it was just a curious experience.

I lay there as the Chinese practitioner carefully inserted her needles at strategic junctures of my body, explaining to me each time what the therapeutic value was to be. She spoke of chi, and balancing the yin and the yang, advising that I was weak in the kidney, liver and spleen.

I lay there patiently as she prodded the needles into me, asking as she did more often than not if I could ‘feel it’. I would give her the verbal equivalent of a shrug of the shoulders. Sure, I felt it, and to various degrees, though never too painfully – though once I felt my entire foot tingle, and another time my thumb jerked reflexly. Then she went away and I lay on my back pondering idly and wondering what I would look like with all these needles in my face, and how strange it was as a thing but here I was, nothing to lose.

And I’m going back next week for two more sessions. How’s that?

Pinned and cupped

I’ve just had a Tui Na session, something that up to two weeks ago I had no idea about. For those similarly ignorant, Tui Na is basically a combination of treatments, including acupuncture, cupping and massage. It’s a traditional Chinese form of medicine, which – if you want to get technical about – aims to restore your Qi.

So anyway my manager has been getting treatment the last few weeks for her back and has been talking it up. As the treatment is administered by trainee students the cost is very reasonable and so I thought what the fuck, why not?

I used to get massages back in the golden days of my wealth. I enjoyed massage, but I also figured it had a therapeutic effect by getting the toxins out of my system before they built to a dangerous level. I was pretty confident of the preventative benefits, but sadly, as my wealth diminished, so to did the massage treatments. I reckon my health has diminished since, at least partly due to this.

Sometimes I feel like age is creeping up on me quickly. The results of my x-ray last week was not a broken wrist, but revealed was incipient arthritis. That’s not uncommon, but gee, it felt like another sign of increasing age (never mind that I’ve never felt any symptoms of it). Add to that my DVT, a rash, and an almost permanently blocked sinus and I was starting to feel like an old man – time to do something about it.

I had to fill in a form to start with, after which the trainee asked me a series of questions, checked my pulse, checked out my tongue, and so on. He went away to consult with his teacher, and returned with him. He checked a few things for himself and they decided on a treatment plan.

I hate cupping, but that was a part of it, together with acupuncture and occasional massage. I had hopes it would be beneficial, but didn’t expect anything too radical. To my surprise when he asked if I felt any better at the end of it the answer was “yes actually”.

They focused on my sinus, and while it’s not completely clear, it doesn’t feel anywhere near as blocked. Such swift results delighted me. I’m going back again next week.

Time for a detox

I figure I need a holiday pretty badly. I’m feeling it physically, but more than anything I think I need a mental detox.

I had to leave early yesterday to get a CT scan at Sandringham hospital. Visiting the doc last week about another matter I made mention of an annoying lingering cold I’d had for six months. It hardly bothered me except come bedtime when sometimes my sinus would feel blocked and I might labour to breathe smoothly. He examined me and said actually I had something else. I might need to see an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist, and surgery might be required worst case scenario, but in the meantime let’s get a CT scan to see how bad it is.

I was taken aback. Good grief, I thought. All that for a little cold – except, of course, it’s not just a little cold.

The ‘other matter’ I was there for is a small patch of red on my calf recently appeared. It might be a melanoma, but suspect it isn’t – but we need to find out. He gave me a referral to a dermatologist, whose fees start at around $300 he told me. Think again, Doc, I thought. I can’t afford $300, or even half of that. I’m seeking a second opinion, but will need to pay something.

He also gave me a bunch of prescriptions I can’t afford to fill. Situation normal.

Before leaving he checked my blood pressure, and found it was high. My blood pressure has been historically stable and right in the sweet spot. It surprises me when it’s not. He asked a bunch of questions. How’s your diet? How much do you drink? Are you getting exercise? Are you stressed?

I’m on two meat free days a week, and my diet radically transformed from twenty years ago, and clearly better from even 4-5 years ago. I drink socially, but rarely to excess. I’m not about to run a marathon, but I keep reasonably active, and average about 9,000 paces a day – well above the average. That leaves stress.

I had to think about this. I’m not a stress carrier. I’ve endured some tough times and sometimes it can get to me, but mostly I manage to shrug it off. I’m very lucky to be of pretty phlegmatic disposition.

Fact is though I have a pretty stressful life. I remember a few years ago sitting down with a doctor and him asking me the same question and I shrugged my shoulders. He then gave me a stress test and found that when factoring in the life events I had to deal with then I was pretty much off the scale.

Some of those things have moderated since, but there’s still a bunch of tough stuff. Money is always tight, but exacerbated when I need to spend money I don’t have on medication, doctors etc. It worries me that I have to forgo these things because I can’t afford them, but what do you do? On top of that Christmas is coming, and ideally I’d like to buy presents for the kids. I’ll manage that, but it means making a sacrifice elsewhere.

Then there’s work, which is professionally frustrating, on top of everything else. I seem to be always fighting. There was the bitter struggle to get my salary properly reviewed, a struggle I lost. I get frustrated with the outmoded and professional practices. Then there’s the sense that I’m being excluded from some things, and not being told others. I had another example yesterday of how my plans have been subverted and re-branded by others.

Then I’m looking at Christmas alone, which is my choice, but a result of basically being without family – and without the love, affection and support you take for granted.

There’s probably another dozen things on top of that. So, am I stressed? Yeah, probably I am.

I’m trying to do things to make it easier, but without success so far. Ultimately I think I need a break.

I suspect many of my physical ailments are the result of mental exhaustion and stress. I haven’t had a decent break – as in time off – since I was unemployed; and I haven’t been on a holiday for years. I haven’t even been away anywhere. Thinking on it I’ve been driving myself hard even on my weekends. For the last two years I’ve been so intent on getting my book written that whenever I have the time I spend it on that.

Not sure how feasible it is – probably very little – but reckon I need time away to truly relax and unwind. A detox, like I said. Have some fun, sleep in, laugh a little, be frivolous, and so on.

I’m considering what I can do. I have leave up my sleeve, and a shitload of frequent flyer points – but then I was saving my leave to cash in because I need the dollars, and anyway though I can fly around the world I don’t have the cash to stop anywhere. To be honest, a shack by the beach would probably do me.

It may not be scientific, but if I got my mind right I reckon many of my present ailments would go away. If I think it, then probably there’s something in it.

Ultimately the solution is a change in circumstances – a different job perhaps, certainly a better salary, some financial security, and perhaps someone to share it with it, as well as to lean on. Working on it.


This will be a short post, and just for the record.

I’ve spent the last couple of days home at my manager’s instruction. I struggled on Monday, mostly because of frustrations to do with my job. It impacted upon me physically. I couldn’t concentrate, was unmotivated, and had that fuzzy feeling. For the first time in my life I said something about.

I had practical doubts about my ability to do my job properly. I went to my manager and admitted to that I was struggling. She understood why, and was sympathetic. She suggested to me that I take the rest of the week off to get myself right. In the meantime she would chase up some of my frustrations.

I spent the last two days working around the house, and writing. It was pleasant, but for the most part I wasn’t quite right. I nearly came to work yesterday, but wasn’t ready. Much as I like to be home these are not the circumstances I welcome. I felt better last night and this morning I got back into the groove.

For the most part I have been fine. As predicted, the worst of it has passed and I am hard at it again.

Some things haven’t changed. There was supposed to be an answer yesterday regarding my salary queries. There isn’t because the person meant to provide an answer is ill. That sounds fair enough, except there’s always a reason, just as there has been for the last 6 months.

When I enquired about a role I had been nominated for even my manager showed frustration. Everything has been approved, except that the new manager of the area must rubber stamp things. She has been given recommendations – namely that I and another person – are put forward. From what my manager said it seems like she might go maverick and nominate whoever she pleases (after being in the job 5 minutes and being only a temporary appointment).

I almost laughed. “I give up,” I said, and my manager replied, “I give up to.”

It’s now the afternoon. It’s been a busy day and I’ve been productive, but since lunch I’ve been feeling fuzzy again.

That’s all.

Managing meat-free

For the last couple of years I’ve been on a weekly diet that includes two days being completely meat free. In theory it’s Mondays and Thursdays, and most weeks it works out that way, but occasionally it gets shifted around by circumstance. I’m happy to go meat-free, but the challenge always is to find sufficient vegetarian food to keep it interesting. I’d go meat free 7 days a week if I could, but when it comes to food I’m not into austerity. Food is too important an element of life, and given I’ve got a certain span of years I don’t see the value in denying myself the pleasure of it.

I think that’s a sensible attitude, but like everything it’s wise to maintain a balance. I love my meat, though increasingly it troubles me. I am getting older also and good health becomes more of a focus than when I blithely took it for granted. And so I’ve decided to extend my meat free days to three a week.

I’m a systematic character. There are certainly maverick aspects to my personality, but at heart I believe in process and system. It’s the basis of my profession, and though I run an untidy household it applies domestically as well. And so when I set about a venture like this I look to plan it.

There are 7 days a week, and basically 7 dinners I have to consider. Two of them I’ve already set aside for meat free meals – I made an eggplant curry the other day for example, and am planning to cook a Moroccan pumpkin and couscous tagine this weekend. Now I’m adding another meat free day and rather than going the same way will make it different, for variety’s sake. That third day will either be eggs or pasta with a meat free sauce. I know pasta is bad to excess, but I love it, and there are plenty of non-meat options which remain pretty tasty.

Of the remaining four evenings three will be the standard homed cooked, meat based meal, give or take – I could eat out, or visit friends. The other day is my naughty day, generally Friday or Saturday, when I’ll eat and drink what generally I’ll refrain from – pizza, chocolate, beer, and so on. This Friday I’m out for a few drinks locally before going to a new hamburger bar in Hampton with a friend. (At the moment I’ve set other healthy constraints – no bread on weekdays, no sweets on weekdays, no drinking unless socially.)

All of this means I’ll literally be planning my meals in advance. I do that anyway, more or less. I’m not one of those people who have a general grocery shop, even when I could afford it. I know what I’m cooking and I buy towards that. When it comes to meat free food that becomes more essential as while I have hundreds of meat dishes at my fingertips, I have to search out vegetarian dishes. I can’t just make it up or do it from memory.

I enjoy that though. One of the joys of a good meal is the anticipation of it. That’s why I – and millions of others – have bought cooking magazines and recipe books.

In the winter that means I’ll spend some time figuring out my menu over the next fortnight and put together the shopping list to facilitate. It means – in the winter – that over the weekend I’ll cook up the two main dishes that will serve me over the next fortnight (every week – there is overlap for variety’s sake) – one a meat dish, a casserole or curry or something, and likewise the vegie dish. In between I’ll fix up meals on a daily basis as needs be – tonight I’m making pasta with leftover eggplant, capsicum and bocconcini (last night was a chicken curry frozen from a few weeks back). In the summer it’s different only that I have lighter meals prepared fresh – as a rule I eat Asian in the warm months, and European in the cold months.

Food – just writing about it like this pleases me.