Tag Archives: cancer

A few Poirots

The wailing, oh Jesus the wailing. 

Something grim has happened to somebody in a nearby cell. She’s trying to broadcast its full misery, but the walls are too thick to render her harrowing “It’s spread to my aaaaarrrrrrse!” as anything clearer than the terminal howl of a bombed Palestinian.

Still it’s less annoying than the arsehole who seems to spend most of the day scraping chairs across the floor above, or whoever fills many hours with the sounds of glass being squeegeed, despite the fact the windows don’t open so I can’t push them out.

As you know I aim to provide a public service with the screeching bullshit I write. So here I’d like to tell you about my experience as an NHS inpatient, so you know what to expect when you eventually take your first tentative step on the road to the hospice. So far I’ve been incarcerated in HMP UCLH for 21 days with no imminent prospect of parole. You get less for, oh, something to do with Barnard Castle. What do you want from me, topical?

Continue reading A few Poirots

Sunset on the Whittington Riviera

Truly, I feel for you. Your job, family and life in general teeter on the rim of a slop bucket of decisions made by a government so erratic it makes Jair Bolsonaro look like Jacinda Ardern. Old Aunt Doris, may her Covid-riddled cadaver rest in peace, left everything to the bloody cat shelter just as your pot to piss in sprung a mortgage-sized leak. And as if things couldn’t get any worse they’re threatening to make you go back to work, ending the laziest and therefore greatest few months of your adult life.

Still, you’ve got your health. So quit fucking moaning.

Continue reading Sunset on the Whittington Riviera

Shake, rattle and roll

What one day resembles Utopia, the next looks like Uttoxeter. Turns out if you let people do whatever they want at home all day every day, their favourite new hobby is to moan they’re bored.

Certainly the things people are doing to try to fill time feel a lot like barrel-scraping. Take gardening, when it’s not cold as a snowman’s carrot outside, because a week and a half of quarantine has completely reversed global warming and we’re now a fortnight away from woolly mammoths setting up market stalls in Aberystwyth.

Continue reading Shake, rattle and roll

Glenn Miller’s diabolical saxophone

A couple of weeks ago I found myself in a castle on a mountain, reading a text message from my brother.

The news from eastern Spain wasn’t good. My grandfather had been hauling around his prostate cancer for a decade without significant discomfort. But it had spread, to his liver, pancreas, spleen, pelvis, soul, spare bedroom, both rear wheels of his mobility scooter and a tailor who made him a suit in 1995. He was, so said the text message, quite fucked.

And so it proved. One of the best people I’ve known was dead within a week, having held out long enough to be allowed home from hospital to see the cat I now fully expect to be held to account for his murder. I will see you hang, Mimi.

The upshot of this was a funeral.

Continue reading Glenn Miller’s diabolical saxophone

The great big burger in the sky

Burnt toast, considering all it really represents is a bit of an inconvenience at the start of the day, gets a pretty bad rap on the health pages. It was once believed the smell of it could indicate you’re about to have a stroke, and now they’ve decided it can give you cancer.

Now not only do you have to do that ridiculous dance of frantically waving a tea-towel at the smoke alarm to shut it up while the cremated remains sheepishly peer over the edge of the toaster when you’re already running late, but you can also start worrying about whether your breakfast could lead to your last gasping breaths in a decade or two. Scrape the burnt bits off at your peril. You’ll still probably inhale the carcinogens.

Everything at one time or another has been linked to causing cancer. Anyone who grew up in the 80s will remember microwaves coming into our homes and our mums being convinced we would all end up riddled with tumours. Grew up in the 90s or 00s? Mobile phones. They were definitely passing radioactive material direct to our brains through our ear canals. It’s a miracle we’re not all walking around with phone-shaped tumours hanging off our faces.

I was once told cheese wrapped in clingfilm could give you cancer. I mean fucking hell, cheese wrapped in clingfilm? Who funded that research? Worst of all I still believe it a tiny bit and will often find my hand hovering over the clingfilm, unsure whether to take the risk, until I eventually conclude the best course of action is just to eat the rest of the cheese. Potential health disaster risk eliminated.

If the 90s are to be believed, it’s only a matter of time before every single beef-eating Brit comes down with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. By feeding our cows bits of other dead cows in the 80s, we sent them mad, which infected their meat, which we and the other cows were mindlessly ingesting. In their relentless pursuit of commercial gain, beef farmers turned a blind eye to the fact cows do not have cannibalistic tendencies. I’m pretty sure if someone made a similar assumption about me, I too would go mad. But how on earth did it come about?

Farmer A: “Seems a hell of a waste to just throw all these bones, spinal cords and innards away.”
Farmer B: “Doesn’t it just.”
Farmer A: “We could mash it all up and feed it to the next batch?”
Famer B: stunned silence
Farmer A: “Well if it’s good enough for schoolchildren…”
Farmer B: “When you put it like that…”

…and now we’re all going to go mad and die. I believe they estimated the incubation period to be something like 30 years, so we can expect the mad cow disease time-bomb to go off any time now, because surely the press coverage at the time couldn’t have been a wild exaggeration of the very small possibility that we were all eating infected beef.

I’m reasonably confident I’m not going to die from CJD. Sure, the idea of farmers creating a culinary disaster-piece from the otherwise worthless remains of cattle to sell on as feed doesn’t sit well with me. The poor fuckers just wanted some lush, green grass before going off to the great big burger in the sky, and you fed them a horror story, so shame on you. Shame on us for consuming the meat you produced, since eating red meat has also been linked to causing cancer.

Medical research is a wonderful thing. It gives us the gift of knowing how not to pollute our bodies and to give ourselves the best chance of living a long and healthy life, if we so choose. And then the press gets hold of it, distorts it, tells us we’re all going to die and creates a nation of paranoid germ-phobes. Bird flu didn’t kill us, swine flu didn’t kill us. I know they both killed a few people, and I’m genuinely sorry about that, but did either of them justify coverage at quite such a hysterical level?

The press is right; we are all going to die. We can do as much as we like to mitigate that, but it will happen, and there’ll always be a health-scare story to shit us up along the way. Like the majority of people, I would prefer not to go out at the hands of something lingering and painful, but I’m fucked if I’m going to spend the entire time I’m here, be it long or short, trying to adhere to every single piece of health advice that’s printed.

And if this is being read out at my funeral after I’ve been snuffed out by the long ago planted strains of CJD, then ha! I knew the smoking wouldn’t get me! If it’s happened the other way round then ha! I knew 80s school dinners wouldn’t get me!

If it was the burnt toast or the cheese, well fuck me, I can honestly say I didn’t see that coming.