Pushing on


I’ve just got off the phone from the office, having tentatively agreed to return to work in February on a part-time basis.

I don’t know if my physical state is much advanced on what it was a couple of months ago – perhaps I’m a bit stronger? – but as our esteemed PM keeps telling us, we have to learn to live with it. At this point, I’ve said I can do three hours a day/15 weekly. All going well that can be increased in March. Given the limited hours, I’ll be focussing on specific tasks rather than general.

I’m curious to see how I go. I’ve spoken before of how I have no interest or motivation for work, having faced down death. I expect that will pass, but it’s a real thing for now.

What’s real also is that I don’t have the energy or enterprise generally, which is a bit disturbing. I’m tired, I’m in pain, I’m deaf in one ear and walk with a limp, so perhaps it’s unsurprising that I don’t have that drive. And, I still don’t know if I’ve made it through the woods – whether I’ll survive this or not. Still, it feels foreign and unwelcome. I’m used to doing things. Used to striving for something. It was a part of my identity, but with so much of my identity disrupted – most likely permanently – it makes sense that my sense of purpose has diminished also.

The best way to illustrate that is this blog and how rarely I post anything. These days it’s a chore, something I have to do, whereas before it was a vital means of expression for me. Then, I bubbled over with ideas and words. Not now, though I still have strong opinions (which I can’t be bothered sharing).

As someone who has been working on writing a couple of novels in his spare time over the last few years, you might think this was a great opportunity to put more time into those. But no. I’ve written nary a word. It’s not that I’ve lost interest – what I’ve lost is the sense of enterprise and discovery. I feel mentally spent, with nothing left for acts of creation.

Surely some of that is physical and presumably will change with time. However, I also think that having a serious illness has changed my perspective and the nature of my creative thought.

In my situation, you tend to live day by day. There’s little sense of the future and little point to it, really when you’re not even sure if you’ll be around for it and what state you’ll be in, presuming you are. It’s very confused. You deal with the circumstances of the moment, resting as you need to, taking painkillers 24/7 and attending medical appointments. You drift. Until you feel well again and get the all-clear, all bets are off.

My imagination feels like an indulgence in this situation and has slipped down the list of priorities. If I forced myself, I’m sure I could be just as creative as ever, but I don’t have the energy for it.

This is one reason I’ve started being more proactive in my recovery process. I need a sense of control. I hate being passive. I’ve had a physio appointment and have referrals for a psychologist and hearing specialist. And now I’ve organised a return to work. That’s where it’s at, I feel: I need to force things.

I still don’t know what lies ahead, but I’m through with relying on hope. It’s easy to do nothing, but that makes me aimless. The world doesn’t stop, nor should I.

All the same


I wonder sometimes if I’m getting better at all. I’m a little stronger perhaps because I’m eating better, but otherwise I don’t feel much different to a couple of months ago. I take more painkillers these days, so perhaps I feel worse.

Because of my condition, and covid, my days are quiet. I barely go out, and only because I must.

I had a visit the other day from someone from the office. He’s the first and only. I was grateful for the effort. He brought me a book by Eckhart Tolle.

The rest of the time I’ve been watching the cricket. A friend comes each afternoon to watch it with me. In times between, I read. Earlier in the month I was getting through a book every day and a half.

My favourite time of day is the evening. I allow myself to take one of the heavier painkillers, which takes the edge off. I watch pay-TV, enjoying the distraction. I’ll go to bed between 9.30 – 10, and read for up to an hour. Often I’ll take a sleeping tablet.

I look forward to lights out because with unconsciousness comes relief. In the morning, I wake slowly. Often I’ll feel a second wave of tiredness afflict me. It recurs throughout the day to the point I can barely keep my eyes open. It could be the humid weather. I thought I had passed that stage.

I have another day like that ahead of me, and for the foreseeable future, until I really do start to feel better. The only variation is that I’m going out to see a movie tomorrow. Otherwise, it all seems the same.

Surviving the season


Yesterday, I had appointments back at the hospital to check my progress. I couldn’t get a lift, so I got the train in.

I left early, intending to visit the Exhibition building to get a Covid vaccine booster shot. I’m vulnerable to any infection, and the AZ shots I have appear quite ineffective against the new omicron variant. With cases exploding in NSW particularly (the mate I stayed with last week now has Covid), and across the country, I wanted to do all I could to safeguard my health.

It was a good plan, and I walked out of there with the Moderna vaccine as my booster, but it was a bit hairy in between.

It’s quite well organised, however, there are extended periods standing in queues. This can be problematic for me at times, and it was yesterday.

At no stage did I feel particularly strong, and travelling in by public transport had probably put an additional strain on me. I managed to weather it initially, but after about 20 minutes felt increasingly unwell, which included the splotches that appear in your eyesight. I hoped to make it to where others were seated waiting to be called up for their vaccine – perhaps 6-7 minutes away. If I had a seat, I could recoup my energy.

I didn’t make it, though. Feeling as if I might faint at any moment, I dropped to my haunches. The man before me in the queue and asked if I was alright. I swear, for most of my life and 99 out of a hundred times, I’d have answered that I was okay. But, this time, I answered honestly, “no” I said I wasn’t alright.

He went to speak to an attendant. Another woman in the queue came to check on me. I was very grateful for their attention and just a mite embarrassed by it. I admitted to the woman I had cancer as if a tall, fit-looking guy like me might be faking in. A wheelchair was brought to me, and I was wheeled into a medical room accompanied by a doctor, where a nurse looked after me.

They took my blood pressure and checked my heart rate – activities I’ve experienced hundreds of times in the last few months. I had a glass of water. Lying down, I began to recover.

After about 10 minutes, they gave me the vaccine (no side effects except a moderately sore arm). After another 10 minutes, they let me go.

I was much better and made my way the short distance to the hospital. There I was told that if the swelling and redness didn’t improve within a couple of days, I’d have to call up to be re-admitted to hospital for another course of IV antibiotics. I don’t want that, and it’s probably not feasible given there’s no-one to look after Rigby.

Because I was in town, I’d agreed to visit the office. It was the first time I’d been there since about June. I met with my team leader, and we went to lunch. He wanted to know when I might be able to return to work. I told him it was a week to week proposition and that things could change quickly – but, I said, maybe February, on a part-time basis.

I also told him I might need a holiday first to clear my head of everything. I need to make sense of things. I can’t understand. It’s been a terrible year. I don’t know what’s to come of me, but what justice is there should I be cured when my dearest companion is (likely) condemned?

I came home and slept for about 90 minutes. I felt washed out, but I had a dinner to go to.

As in previous years, I met with friends at a restaurant in Hampton to celebrate the season. It felt very different for me.

I didn’t feel great, and it’s hard to be as light-hearted as in previous years with everything that has happened. I’ve realised these aren’t enjoyable occasions for me. I can’t hear very well, and what I hear sounds muddy. I expect most of the hearing loss will be permanent and that I’ll have to get a hearing aid down the track. The effect right now is that I feel out of it and in a separate bubble from everyone else.

I was tired, and the act of speaking – with my face swollen and mouth half blocked – was wearying.

I made the most of it, but I don’t think any of us were in a particularly festive mood. It was an early night. I was home by 9.30 and straight to bed, sleeping just over 12 hours straight.

Pushing on regardless


Probably for the last 6 weeks particularly I’ve been looking ahead yearningly, expectantly, to a time when I might consider my state of health and being as ‘acceptable’.

In my mind at least, acceptable equated to minimal pain and much greater capability. I expected to be stronger in body, to the point I could walk down the street without fear of potential collapse. The pain I was less fussed about, though fully expected that I would breathe easier and the congestion I’ve suffered from would be gone, and probably with it the swelling.

From a purely cosmetic point of view, I hoped that my hair would begin to regrow as the swelling came down, and that I would get greater command of my mouth.

In the last couple of weeks there’s been a series of events that suggest nothing is as simple as that. I guess I knew that already, but I hoped for the best.

I ordered a new bed about two months ago. It was meant to be delivered within a fortnight, but a part was missing. I had to chase it up, and when they finally delivered it a month later they didn’t put it together, as requested. I slept on a blow-up mattress that night and then went into hospital for the next four nights. They finally returned last Wednesday to set the bed up.

I’ve spoken of my time in hospital. I picked up very well in there, but almost collapsed leaving the place. I‘d picked up diarrhea, which undid all the good work. I was frail for days after, and the congestion returned. My head would spin as my body sought comfort.

In the meantime, my work advised they’d paid nearly $1,000 to my account in error: could I please pay it back? It was a blow to my budget, but pay it back I did.

All this time I had my eyes on a trip to Sydney I’d booked in more hopeful times. As the day approached I was afraid that I wasn’t up to it. I feared that I would get there, take a turn, then be stuck. I was determined to make it, but wasn’t sure if it was wise.

It seemed even the gods were against me when I got to the airport on Friday. The flight left at about 11am; by 2pm it was back in Melbourne. A storm cell in Sydney had prevented landing. We sat on the tarmac for another hour, before finally we jetted off again. I arrived in Sydney at about 5pm.

The last couple of days I’ve spent in the Blue Mountains. It’s been very pleasant, though it’s tested me. Because I came away with a purpose I’ve wanted to do things, and I’ve been 2-3 more times active than before.

I tend to think of that as a good and necessary thing, though I’m not always certain. I feel like an invalid much of the time. Like a faulty part. I hate that and I push against it. It would be easier to stop, but if I never try how am I going to get ahead?

There was an episode on the way up which is symptomatic of much. We’d stopped at a second-hand bookstore to browse. We’d been there about 20 minutes and I could feel it wearing at me. Then I suffered one of the dizzy spells as I clung tight to a bookcase. In my head was some kind of crazy notion I was trying to figure out, as if it might cure my ills. I was like that for about 10-15 seconds before I came to. I had realised it was nonsense and knowing that broke the chain. I blinked, feeling weak and scared, but back in the world.

Otherwise, I need to take regular breaks to sit down, even if I’ve only been standing. I’m breathless often, occasionally without having exerted myself. But then I think, I can only get fitter by pushing the envelope – and I’m doing over 4000 paces daily, up from under 2000.

It’s frustrating, and psychologically challenging at times. I feel old and helpless; it will pass, I tell myself. I’m self-conscious about my appearance and wary of speaking too much – it comes harder than before, and with a thicker tongue. None of this is like H of before, and that’s the thing hard to overcome.

I don’t hide from it, though. I accept what is because I have no choice. I can’t hide away. I can’t take the easy option. I have to push, hoping it will get me where I need to go sooner.

I enjoyed my time in the Blue Mountains. Most of it we spent in Blackheath, where I have memories of a previous visit 30 years ago. I’m eating much better, which is a plus, but still not getting much joy out of it. In theory, I’m becoming stronger.

I’m back now at my friend’s house in Wahroonga. It’s very leafy and serene here. I’m sitting out on his deck typing this, in between reading. I might take a nap soon. It’s good to get away. Good to see familiar faces again, and to take in an environment far different to the stultifying world I’ve been stuck with these last four months. I return home on Friday.

Venturing out


For the first time in months, I went out over the weekend – and what I mean by out is that I went to places where I could sit with other people and be served. I had a brief taste of it a few weeks ago, but this was the real thing.

Both days were sunny. On Saturday, Donna came over for the first time since I moved. We walked down the road and sat in the sunshine, having coffee and tea and picking at a muffin I couldn’t enjoy. Afterwards, we walked by the beach.

One of the best things about it was having a meaningful conversation, and not just the practical, passing conversations I’ve had for most of my time in isolation.

Yesterday, another friend came over, and we drove towards Mordialloc. We sat in the sunshine again. He had lunch. I ate a few fries for the carbs, not the taste. When the clock ticked over to two, we ordered some gin from the dispensary there – first a cocktail, then a blood orange gin with tonic.

I didn’t know what to expect of this. I haven’t had an alcoholic drink since July. I’m much out of practice. Plus, I’ve lost all this weight since. But, no problem – except, because of my taste buds, I didn’t experience the complete enjoyment of the moment. I could taste about 40%, but no matter, the moment was symbolic.

It was good to get out, and if I pushed the limits a little, that’s okay. I pulled up well.

I’ve decided the time has come for me to push it a little more. I know most of my friends think it’s premature, but I feel as if I’ll never get ahead unless I begin to test myself. The simplest things have made me breathless. I have to push the envelope.

I’m still fatigued. I’ve spoken how I can sleep so easily. I’ve resisted it to a degree, though I realise I need it to heel. I feel a bit of a slop sleeping during the day, but if there’s any time I can be a slob, then surely it’s when I have cancer?

It’s all a bit of a balancing act. Exercise is good, but it burns up calories, which I struggle to get in. I can’t be silly.

Previously, I averaged about 1500 paces daily, which is fuck all (it was around 9,000 when I was healthy). I’m going to push the average up to 2000, then 3000, and so on.

I’m encouraged in doing this as the situation with my taste buds is improving. I need to explain this.

It’s my theory only that two factors were affecting my taste buds. The first was the backwash of all the cells killed by my treatment, flooding my nose, my mouth, my stomach (making me nauseous). This is pretty nasty and made practically everything inedible. The overwhelming taste was salty, smoky, bitter.

The second factor relates directly to chemo, which makes things taste metallic. These two overlaid each other. Now I’ve stopped treatment, the backwash has diminished, though a remnant remains. It makes eating easier, though – thanks to chemo – everything tastes metallic.

I’m testing the limits regarding food also. Nothing is enjoyable, though some things go down easier than others – sweeter things and some fruit flavours.

As always, it’s a day by day proposition. I’ll be in a much better place when there’s no more backwash, and my nose is cleared, and when I can taste truly. I can hope for part of that in the next 2-3 weeks, I think, as for the rest, it could be anytime now, or in months.

Bros


We’re back in lockdown for a week as of 8pm last night. At about 4.30, I got a call from Cheeseboy telling me that he’d planned to organise a drink with me Friday night but, as that was no longer an option, why not tonight – sneak one in before the deadline?

I was in bed and not feeling much like doing anything, but I said yes. Opportunities for me to get out and see people before I go into surgery were diminishing anyway, and with lockdown, very little remained possible. I’d organised lunch on Saturday at a steak restaurant. Bit of a last hurrah and the final to get something decent I could chew on before being restricted to a liquid diet. Now, that was cancelled too.

It was a good decision to join him. We went to True South, which is walking distance from home. It was packed with people with the same idea as us. There was a raucous, almost festive atmosphere, full of good fellowship. It had very much the last supper vibe, with people opening up to between tables, laughing and joking with bitter humour at yet another lockdown. We’re old hands at this now. No-one likes it, but most of us understand why.

We were there for a bit over two hours. We had a couple of pints eat, a bowl of fries, and a couple of pinot noirs – including some shelf stuff the proprietor let us have knowing that for the next week, he would be closed to custom.

I was grateful to Cheeseboy. Gratitude is a recurring theme over the last month or so. I’ve been blown away by the kindness of friends and acquaintances. The Cheeses have been particularly good, supporting me through the house move and providing help at every turn. I expect when I return from the hospital that Mrs Cheese will have rallied her network to provide me with the pureed foods I must sustain myself on. She’s also coordinating with a nutritionist friend of hers to put together a meal plan. Cheeseboy also promises to do a few things in the new home while I’m in hospital – including, he reckons, selling my dining table, too big for the house.

While the practical help is a boon to me, the moral support really fills me with humble joy. It fills me with warmth.

So it was last night. We sat there having a drink, as we have a hundred times before, and the conversation, more or less, was like we’d had a hundred times before. The exchange of easy friendship lends perspective to what I’m fighting for and gives me strength.

We laughed a lot, as always. At one stage, we got talking to the people at the next table. The woman there thought we looked like brothers. Yes, he’s my Dutch brother, I told her. It’s the first time that’s happened. We don’t really look alike outside a few generic descriptors – both have glasses, our face shape is probably similar, both with a light fuzz on our cheeks and both greying, though he has the edge on me. People say he looks like George Clooney, which I don’t (though some claim I have his personality), and I’m about four inches taller than Cheeseboy. We are brothers in spirit, though. This is what you live for.

At 7.33, the proprietor came out to say the place would be closing in five minutes. Some had beers in plastic cups so they could finish them outside. Cheeseboy and I, we left at about 7.40.

It was a good experience in a lot of ways and probably emblematic of the times.

In limbo


It’s an easy argument to claim that life has been pretty strange for a while, though it’s a strangeness most have become accustomed to, if never comfortable with. For me, it’s gone to whole new level lately.

I have cancer and am waiting for surgery to remove it, which leaves me in a kind of spooky limbo. On top of that, I’ve just moved home, and though the first impressions are fine, it’s unfamiliar still, and the routines and patterns of my previous home have yet to be replaced. Everything is still very much in flux, and probably will be for months to come.

I feel a little lost, to be honest. I still have much of my household to unpack and place, and that keeps me busy to some extent. The Olympics are on in the background and once or twice a day, I’ll go out to walk Rigby and go to the shops. I’ve had breakfast out twice since I’ve come here, mostly just to change up the scene.

I’m not working at all, though in theory I could probably manage a couple of hours a day. I don’t because to do so would nullify my application for income protection. I have no interest in it, however, particularly after they have treated me. And, my head isn’t in it. How can I concentrate and even be interested in the trivialities of the office when my life, potentially, is on the line? Cancer is a great leveller.

I spend about 12 hours a day in bed. Generally, I’m in bed by 10pm each night, though I’ll read for a while before switching the light off. I cherish my time in bed. For the most part I’ve been sleeping beautifully, thanks to the plethora of painkillers I take. Sleep is a sanctuary. It takes me away from the pain and worry. For those hours I am just like anyone else.

Every night after switching the light off I’ll listen to an audiobook for 30-40 minutes. The cadence relaxes me and eases me into sleep. When I wake in the morning – somewhere between 7 and 8am – I’ll feed Rigby and then return to bed with the radio on in the background. I’ll sleep again, drifting between layers of consciousness, with Rigby snuggled up close beside me.

When I rouse properly – around 9am – I’ll make my coffee and return to bed where for the next hour or so, I’ll browse my iPad, catching up with news and events from overnight, or will read. Mornings are always non-fiction, and currently it’s a book on Albert Speer.

I suppose I could stay in bed, but it feels lazy. I always feel a bit sad when I get up finally and the day proper begins.

Physically, I don’t have the energy I had before. The move last week took a lot out of me. I had requested three removalists to speed up the move and take the pressure off me, but only two turned up. I did more than I intended and it knocked the stuffing out of me. My watch said I took 15,000 steps without going anywhere – that was all lifting and shifting and unpacking.

In the days after I had nothing in reserve. I would start unpacking, but after 20 minutes would need to sit down. My strength was undiminished, but I had no stamina. Whether that’s because of the cancer alone or the medication, I can’t say, but it felt like no matter how well I slept, I couldn’t properly recharge.

It’s like having a dodgy battery on your phone. It only charges to 60% of capacity and every action uses up more than it should. It’s why by every night, I feel worn down.

The right side of my face is puffy and numb now. It’s like I’ve taken an anaesthetic which has only partially worn off. My cheek feels distant when I touch it. The bag under my right eye feels fuzzy, and it felt a couple of days ago as if my eye was closing. The right side of my nose is numb also, though the left feels perfectly normal. My lips tingle and my teeth may as well be false, as I can barely feel them. It’s an odd sensation.

The pain has ratcheted up with this and I’m now taking painkillers as I need them, which is about every three hours. The right side of my face was so sore – that is, inside my face, not the numb surface – that I couldn’t rest on my right side.

I suppose I could be worried by this, except I think it’s directly related to how congested I am. I’d been pretty clear for a few weeks, but the mucus has built up again and my nose blocked by it. It’s a symptom, and I have to deal with it. I’m visiting the hospital tomorrow, just to check it out.

Mentally, I’m fine on the surface, though there’s an undercurrent of stress. I don’t know how surgery will go, and frankly it scares me a little. I’m considered young by the medical professionals and, despite niggles, pretty healthy. The surgical risk is low. I’m more concerned that they won’t get all the cancer when they operate or that it may have spread further in the meantime. And I’m concerned that I may lose my right eye.

Even assuming that it goes all according to plan, there are no guarantees. I know that, and I learnt when mum was ill to take with a grain of salt the optimistic prognostications of doctors. The signs were forever improving, then she died.

I accept I’m in a much better situation than mum was, and am pretty optimistic overall. I know, though, that having cancer once I must be on a lookout forever for it to return. That’s the way it is.

There’s no point worrying about it too much. Cliche that it is, I can only take it as it comes, one day at a time. By this time next week I’ll be in hospital and on my way.

Over to you, big fella


Things I haven’t written about I’d have loved writing about:

Euro 2020. I didn’t watch it all but followed it closely, and it was a point of constant discussion with my mates. I’m glad Italy won.

Ash Barty winning Wimbledon. This was big news and a very popular victory in Oz, and I sense, in other places, too. I didn’t watch it – I was in bed asleep – but it’s so nice to have her win.

Then there are random footy matches, the Boomers beating the USA in a trial match ahead of the Olympics (I watched that), and the NBA finals too, which I’ve watched all the way, though. Then there’s the Sydney ‘lockdown’ and the incompetence of Gladys, and ingoing shitshow, which is the federal government and the vaccine rollout – and even the lockdown we find ourselves in from today, for the fifth time, thanks to the NSW shambles.

All of that has been crowded out by my health, but it doesn’t mean my mind doesn’t touch on other things, that my curiosity and interest isn’t piqued by other events. In fact, I’ve made a vow to myself to stay engaged, no matter what the prognosis is.

I should get the prognosis next week. I’m preparing for the worst, though it doesn’t alter my attitude. I’ll fight it every inch of the way, by whatever means. It doesn’t feel right to simply accept the fate they map out for me. That’s too meek, and the struggle is an essential part of this. And I think it’s what I do best: fight.

In actual fact, I’ve been feeling better the last couple of days. I was wary of it initially: what could it mean? I wondered if it was a sign that the cancer had gone deeper into me. I considered that the recent signs weren’t so positive and that the biopsy may have livened up the cancer. That’s the danger of being an overthinker. In the end, I twigged. It was because the cold I’d been carrying for months – which seemed wrapped up in the carcinoma – had gone. Seemed strange but welcome nonetheless because it eases the pressure, and therefore the pain.

I published something to Facebook announcing my situation, and the response has been incredible, both online and off. I’ve had so many messages of support and help that it’s really quite humbling. Everyone is rallying around, to the point that some of the concerns I had now seem irrelevant.

I also spoke extensively with work, both to the senior manager and HR. I’m going to run out of money long before my treatment ends, and so we’re exploring options to take up the income protection insurance I have on my superannuation account. There’ll still be a gap, and it only pays 75%, but it’s better than nil income.

The other day, speaking to a mate, I commented on God, using the other C-word (both are in common parlance lately). He said, be careful, now’s not the time to pisss him off – though I figure he’s long been pissed off at me given all the shit he’s dumped my way.

Last night, we got to talking about Job in quite a playful way. I have a long sympathy for Job as I once wrote an essay on him when I was in love with a Jewish lady – that’s another story. I know the story well, how he’s treated like a plaything, miserably taunted by God in a running bet with the devil. He cops most of it, but in the end, he spits the dummy. Why the fuck have you done this to me he demands of God?

It’s all a test, which is a bit cruel, but ultimately he has restored to him everything that was taken.

I have a grudging respect for the Old Testament God, though he’s an unashamed prick at times. He comes off as a much kindlier figure in the sequel.

Anyway, I’m kind of hoping something similar happens to me. I’ve been tested up the wazoo – but I could do with a miracle and get back everything I lost and more.

More fun


I had a dream last night that I was young, and I had a gang of friends who were cool but who were also all into science. I was smart and resourceful, funny and determined. There was a girl I liked I wanted to get the attention of, so I contrived situations where we would encounter each other that would show me to advantage. She was elusive, though, the type that appreciates her own worth and wants you to work to get her. I was up for the challenge, and the dream was all about that, like a fun TV show from the seventies or eighties, with a bit of a Ferris Bueller vibe.

The whole vibe was fun and over the top – episodic adventures and a laugh track. The character I was, you just knew I’d eventually win out. The rest of it was about books and music – I was into that, and so was my desire. And my hip friends had that geeky touch that made them interesting. In one scene, they’re watching an old Barbra Streisand movie set in an earlier era. Throughout, they’re busily searching a college equivalent of Google looking up historical and cultural references – which is the sort of thing I do.

Afterwards, I realised that’s the very thing I miss most: fun. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt it. And, it seemed, in its absence, I had sold myself short. The Bueller character was in me, and maybe it’d been me in an earlier incarnation, but in recent times I’ve been bogged down in the here and now.

It’s not as if times are particularly fun these days. Covid, and repeated lockdowns, tends to take the edge off anything whimsical. The inability to travel doesn’t help, on top of which we live in an era of dreadful governments and politics, and I find it hard not to be wound up by injustice and corruption. Then there’s work.

The answer, it seems, is to let go of some of those things. I’ll always be politically and culturally engaged, but I can take it less personally. I can’t do much about Covid, but it will end. Then there’s work, and that’s something I can act on.

Work has been a problem for a while, and in the last few days – since my scare – it’s just seemed wrong, though I couldn’t explain why. Then it became clear: there’s no fun in it. And how can there be when you feel undervalued and exploited? Even the work I do, which I do competently, isn’t the sort of work I like best. I like to create and build, but all I’m doing is managing. I take an intellectual approach to problem-solving, which is out of step with the prevailing orthodoxy – just do it. The result is half-arsed results that drive me crazy.

After wondering all this time, I decided that all I need to do is find something that fits my definition of fun – challenging, creative, expansive, engaging. It’s not as easy as all that, but at least I have a sense of what’s gone wrong. That’s something to aim for because I’m not going to get it in my current workplace.

It might sound a funny thing, but I think I need to believe in myself as that person. Be bold again, be adventurous, don’t set limits and, as I always did before, bite off more than I can chew. I lost a lot of that going through the dire years of struggle, and ever since (though many still think me just as strident and confident as ever). I’ve become a lot more serious and solemn when I want to be light-hearted and charming again.

Get healthy. Get fit and beautiful. Don’t get bogged down in the negatives, go out and find some positives. Have fun. That’s the goal from here on in.

Venturing outside


There’s every excuse to stay indoors at the moment, and not just because the weather is cooling. We’re back in lockdown, which means a range of restrictions, including wearing a mask any time you step out the front door. I hate that and tend to think it’s a bit of overkill when all you’re doing is walking the dog, but I go along with it. It’s easier to stay indoors, and for a fleeting moment this morning, I even considered staying in bed the whole day. Why the hell not?

I got up, though, and followed the usual routine, right up to the moment when I decided on impulse to take Rigby for a morning walk despite all reasons why not to.

We have our routines, and he knows them. Every dog does. Come mid-afternoon, he’ll come nuzzling at me as if to say, come on, dad, it’s time for my walk! It’s the same with meal times, of course, and there are a dozen other triggers that will set him off. Nonetheless, he’s thrilled to add to the routine, and so when I said the magic word ‘walk’, his ears peaked, and eyes drilled into me enquiringly. Did you just say walk? Really? Are we going for a walk? Tell me we are. Tell me, tell me! Yes, yes? Come on, dad! Oh yes, yippee, we’re going on a walk!

By this point the gentle enquiry has become whirling, impatient joy which always gives me pleasure too.

Off we went. It was about 9.45. The streets were quiet. No surprise that, but still a little eerie. I made up to the main drag, and the traffic was sparse. Normally, there’s a regular stream of vehicles going by. This morning, the street was clear for hundreds of metres into the distance, and passing vehicles were sparse. No school today makes a difference.

I walked by the cafe I’ll often visit for a coffee and sometimes breakfast. There was no-one at the outdoor benches, and inside, chairs were stacked on the tables. One or two people were inside getting a takeaway coffee.

I’m not overly perturbed by having to lockdown. It’s an inconvenience on a personal level, but no more than that. It’s a lot harder for those businesses who have to shut up shop and the people unable to work.

Now that we know more, it’s hard not to be mighty pissed off at the infected cases who chose to do nothing at all for 6 and 10 days. They were crook, showed symptoms, but carried on with their life, infecting others. Too late, they got tested,

It makes a huge difference. The Indian strain is highly infectious, and because they didn’t come forward, it was allowed to run unchecked through the population. The cost of it is a 7-day lockdown and a growing number of people infected.

The good news is that only four new cases were reported overnight. With luck, we may contain this. It’s a huge job for the contact tracers. They’ve identified 10,000 primary and secondary contacts and growing, as well as over 150 hotspots. It’s a huge piece of work, and mostly they cop shit for it.

In the meantime, take it easy. With luck, we’ll be out of it soon.