Long-suffering readers may remember that during our last days in Turkey I developed peripheral arterial disease which affects the blood flow to my legs. My blocked tubes meant that taking a stroll for more than a short distance was a bit of a pain. Back in Britain, I went under the knife for an arterial bypass to my nether regions. The op worked well but was only designed to fix one limb so, rather than hop to the shops for the rest of my days, the quack suggested the best long-term therapy was to walk, walk and walk again. He told me that the body, when pushed, has a remarkable ability to create new channels to pump blood. Me? Walk? I’ve promenaded many times down the years but I’ve always been more talk, talk than walk, walk. The trauma of compulsory cross-country running as a spotty schoolboy left me scarred for life. I don’t hike, roam, ramble, trek or yomp.
But I heeded the good doctor’s advice by joining a local gym, called simply, ‘The Gym’. It does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s got all the instruments of torture anyone could possibly wish for – a masochist’s wet dream. That was in 2014. I’ve been going ever since.
Here’s the torture chamber:
Has it worked? Well, yes, it has. It’s still a gruelling work in progress but I reckon I can now mince triple the distance without having to rest. And the view from the exercise bike of the sweaty gym-bunnies strutting and straining provides some distraction from my labours.
On Christmas Eve my thumb began to ache and throb. I drank through the pain. By the Feast of Stephen, it resembled a medieval pox. The image doesn’t really do justice to the horror of it all. Though angry and weepy, it hardly seemed serious enough for a mercy dash to A&E: the busy medics have quite enough to do over the festive period without me pitching up with a silly sore thumb. So what’s a boy with a pussy digit to do? Well, a call to our local surgery the next day provided the answer.
“The nurse can see you later today,”
said the helpful receptionist.
“Nasty infection. A few pills will soon sort that out,”
said the lovely nurse.
“Oh, and it might burst in the meantime,”
And so it did. I took the pills and drank through the pain.
There’s one evergreen Christmas custom in the Scott-Brennan household that gets rolled out every year – thumbing through the Radio Times for festive televisual treats. Liam likes nothing more than ringing his must-sees with a red felt-tip pen. It’s a quaintly old-fashioned ritual in today’s online, on-demand era. The magazine, first published in 1923, has a loyal but ageing following. I wonder how long it will be before both go the way of the dodo. The advertisers know this too, judging by the loose leaflets that drop from the magazine pages – funeral plans, will writing services, equity release schemes and special furniture for special needs. It’s enough to make me think I’ve already got one foot in the grave. On the other hand, those rise and recline chairs do look comfy.
Liam suffers from acid reflux – indigestion from Hell – which he controls with early dinners and prescription drugs. In rare cases, the condition can lead to oesophageal cancer, something most sufferers don’t know they’ve got until it’s way too late. Early diagnosis improves the odds massively. If only there was an effective screening programme for those most at risk.
Enter stage left, the boffins from the University of Cambridge. They’re trialling a low-cost diagnostic tool which, if successful, could be the answer. Enter stage right, Liam the lab rat. He swallowed a large pill attached to a length of twine. Going down was the easy bit (isn’t it always?). The pill dissolved to reveal what Liam described as a Brillo pad which was tugged up through his gullet, scraping the sides as it travelled. It was quite a performance by all accounts.
To get over the shock of the drama, Liam took himself off to Cinema City to watch Stephen Sondheim’s Follies broadcast live from the National Theatre to 2,500 venues globally. Liam is a huge Sondheim fan. I’m not, so I didn’t crash the party. The last time we watched a live performance beamed to cinemas was Billy Elliot. Now that’s my kind of musical. It’s a great way for the fiscally-challenged to watch a top-notch West End show at a knock-down price.
I joined Liam later for a bottle. He was delirious after Sondheim – almost losing his mind with the pleasure – and needed a large red to bring him down to planet Earth. Throat well lubricated, we raised a glass to the miracle of medical science. It’s keeping us alive, after all. And now we’ve both done our civic duty for the greater good, we’re feeling rather smug.
I was wandering through our local library last week and came across this intriguing exhibit:
The display was made up of 18,000 forget-me-nots, one for each individual living with dementia in Norfolk. It was Dementia Awareness Week and the library was running a host of creative events for dementia sufferers and their carers.
All sickness is cruel but dementia has got to be one of the cruellest of them all, robbing the victims of their very essence while their loved-ones look on helplessly. We know dementia. Liam’s mother was a victim and died from the inevitable complications of the disease. It’s ironic that as science and wealth has let our bodies survive beyond our allotted three score and ten, our minds often can’t keep pace. But there is hope. Just as cancer is no longer the death sentence it once was, there is every chance that science will one day halt and maybe cure the disease. A healthy older age is something we all want. And while we wait for that time to come, there are some amazing people doing some amazing things to make living with dementia just a little bit easier.
I hate beards. Well, I hate the idea of having one. So it makes no sense whatsoever that I should grow a beard – other than as a perverse way of raising a few pennies for a cause close to my heart.
Mencap is an amazing charity. Since the 1940’s they’ve pushed through huge changes in social care and legislation for people with a learning disability. What’s more, they give brilliant support in the community, running life-changing housing and employment schemes for people who otherwise would lose out.
With social care provision in a right state at the moment, it’s more important than ever to bang the drum for anyone who’s vulnerable. And I have a personal reason for supporting Mencap. My amazing younger brother had some wonderful support throughout his life, right up to when we lost him in 2013. Without it, Mark’s life would have been so very different.
I’ll leave the last word to Northel, a young man with a learning disability who recently wrote to me.
The charity helps people like me with a learning disability to find jobs, and they support us and our families. Your gift will help more people like me with a learning disability and for that I am truly grateful.
If you can spare a few pennies to sponsor me through a month of itching hell, I’d be ever so grateful. I’ll post a picture of the hairy mess on my Just Giving page and on Facebook once it reaches its full, disgusting glory. Anything I raise will go to Mencap. Click the JustGiving link below.
P.S. Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving – they’ll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to the charity. So it’s the most efficient way to donate – saving time and cutting costs for the charity.
I don’t mean Olay Total Effects or any of the other magic potions promising to hold back the ravages of time. No, I mean the seven signs as they apply to a middle-aged ex-pretty boy who knows he’s got fewer years ahead than behind. I was reminded of my impending decrepitude when trying to grab a rogue sock evading capture at the back of the washing machine. The sock nearly won. So there it was, my first sign of ageing – stiff in all the wrong places.
But what of the others? Well, in no order of priority…
The only time I get to wear a suit these days is at funerals. This in itself is no bad thing. If only I didn’t have to replace it every year to keep up with my expanding midriff.
I used to sleep like a Brothers Grimm princess. I even slept through an earthquake in Bodrum once. These days I get caught short mid-slumber. And I’d rather sit to pee than stand.
My memory of yesteryear used to be as sharp as a drag queen’s stiletto. Nowadays, I never forget a face but names often defeat me. And sometimes I go into a room and can’t remember why.
As I grow older, my farts get louder (and more frequent). Thankfully, following through is still as rare as a gay bar in Tehran.
I reached puberty sooner than most and my hirsute legs were a source of great adolescent pride. Now I constantly moult. Sweeping up short and curlies from the bathroom floor has become a daily chore. What’s left is rapidly turning silver.
Liberal tolerance was my mantra for decades and accepting (though not always respecting) differing opinions was the price I paid. Now I shout at the box when some ill-informed twat spouts rubbish. I have become a grumpy old man and I rather enjoy it.
Despite stiffness, middle-age spread, nocturnal bladder weakness, fading memory, noisy flatulence, grey pubes and a serious bout of the grumps, I’m content with my lot. Unlike Olay’s fanciful brew, happiness is something you can’t bottle and sell at Boots. But then I’m yet to suffer from the eighth sign of ageing – erectile dysfunction. Now that would burst my bubble.