Tag Archives: health

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?

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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.

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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.

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The path of a 355

This one’s serious then, is it?

Serious enough for politicians to admit that a few people might have to work from home for a while. The devastating effect this’ll have on the boss class – oh fuck, if they don’t need to be here to do these jobs, what’s the point of me? – was conveyed in the twitchy demeanour of Britain’s buffoon in chief, flanked by the experts he’s so recently branded as bogeymen. If staring about a podium wildly for help is ever a paying position, he’ll be fine, even as everyone who does a non-computer job is handed their last meagre pay slip and told to make it last because paper doesn’t grow on trees.

Before boffins had had the chance to give it the catchy sci-fi name Covid-19, red-top comics read by builders had planted ‘coronavirus’ into simple minds and that’s what we’re stuck with. How many of us are stuck with it, God only knows.

I heard some figures yesterday: the absolute worst scenario for people in the UK getting this virus is 80%. It kills roughly one in every hundred people who get it. Given the UK’s population of nearly 67 million, that would mean that the top projection of deaths from this is a bit over half a million.

A proper cull!

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Terrors of the deep

There’s a baby on the Tube. Sitting in a pushchair, cooing away, dribbling down a rattle and grinning at strangers as though we live in a world where not every stranger is a rampant paedophile. It’s placid, it’s cute and it’s happy. Everybody loves a happy baby.

Then it coughs. And not the cough you’d expect from a human that size – the full hack, crackling like an old man 30 fags deep into a 50-a-day habit, with a pipe for pudding.

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Behind the tombola

A milestone birthday. Today marks 40 years since I was forcefully extracted from inside a screaming 16-year-old girl, for once not behind the tombola at the local fete while ‘close-knit’ villagers bay for vengeance.

Yes, today is the day I fill out the second half of my dirty old man application form. If anyone tries telling you 40 isn’t old, ask them to imagine how they look through the eyes of someone half that age. Youth is the future, as a confused Jeremy Corbyn will soon find out when they euthanise him in favour of some infant in a suit.

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Chef’s special

Vegetarians are lunatics; I think we can all agree on that. Somehow, the ever-reducing number of guilt-free pleasures available to the western consumer do still include a meat-laden meal, prepared to perfection and presented in such style it makes you glad you were able to dismiss that definition of ‘pearl barley’ you had to look up the other week as the ravings of a madman.

Oh but hang on – you’ve been led astray. Your mind has wandered off to a land of cattle shaped like deliciously tender and well-seasoned steaks, done to within a split-second of perfection with juices emerging lazily to blend with your mashed polenta. You’re picturing succulent pieces of chicken reclining in a polpette di pollo, laced with garlic and flat-leafed parsley and sprinkled with parmesan as though Edesia herself has blessed your majestic banquet. Roman goddess of food. Thank you Jimmy Wales.

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Wet and brown

Recently I saw a series of pictures of someone who had holed up in a hotel room for eight months, only to be evicted once people started complaining about the smell. Styrofoam from what looked like a thousand unfinished ready meals was piled on one bed, while the other had sheets that looked wet and brown. Spray tan poorly applied while lying down, perhaps. Empty boxes of tissues were stacked in one corner of the room, surrounded by mounds of plastic bags filled with rubbish. And then the toilet, which is as disgusting as it is unrecognisable. A hill of toilet paper had constructed itself from the bowl upwards with a gap in it showing a black hole of faeces. How someone even lived in these conditions is impossible to imagine.

One important factor that distinguishes us from our animal counterparts is the fact that we’re civilised. Or, at least most of us try to be so. It always amazes me how people are able to live in conditions that even the most feral of creatures would turn their noses up at. As they surround themselves with piles of dirty dishes, unwashed clothes, and heavens knows what else, I cannot but be staggered at how they manage to function in life.

Most of us have had one of those flatmates. You know, the kind who leaves food-encrusted plates in the sink, with no promise of the crockery ever seeing its original state of cleanliness again. Or those who would let hair keep clogging the bathroom drain until the bathtub threatened to drown them – and only then they might think about cleaning their pubes out of the drain, maybe next week. I had one such person living in the same flat as me years back. I had to retrieve mouldy dishes from her room regularly, a venture which felt like a scene from a horror movie where an unaffected person tip-toes into the open world to check if the zombies have all gone. On one such expedition I found a wastebucket full of vomit. I’d never before experienced ironic nausea and I never want to again.

I just don’t get how people can sleep, dress, and carry on with their life surrounded by all this. Is their sense of smell shot? Is there a severe lack of self-respect at play? Or are they just lazy? The latter of those options seems likely, and I don’t blame people for approaching the idea of housework with the moan of a child told to eat a plate full of boiled cabbage. Cleaning is tedious, we all know that, but it’s a small price to pay. We all make these kinds of sacrifices in life so we can function better and not live in our own filth like animals. We are not creatures that live in nests made from the stuff that comes out of our assholes, nor are we a species that wanders around daring ticks and flies to suck off our bodily juices as we crawl through the dirt. We have advanced as a species, so why can’t we start acting like it?

I have friends who are messy and I admit freely that I look down on them. And why not? When they pick themselves up from a carpet stained with the residue of some epic masturbation session, past bed sheets that went straight from Primark packaging to soiled mattress when bought seven years back, and through the thick atmosphere of smells and dust, I will look at them face to face. Until then I shall condescend.

Someone had to clean up that hotel room, all because someone else was too fucking lazy to carry out functions as simple as emptying a bin or flushing the toilet. The disregard for the cleaners (if not bio-hazard team) who would have had to deal with this is almost as disgusting as the cesspool left behind by this particular tenant. Have some respect, especially when this isn’t your own house.

In your own house, where you live alone, away from any humans with a shred of decency, you can pile up all the crap you want (literal or otherwise). Just don’t expect anyone to want to come around and ever spend time with you, you filthy animal.

A delicious two years

I’m not scared to admit that I am afraid of obesity. The health complications, the isolation, the social rejection. I have been a ‘fat girl’, and it sucks. It scares the hell out of me.

I have to live in this body for the rest of my life. I can’t have collapsed arches, collapsed veins, and diabetes and high blood pressure brought on by weight. I have a family bent towards excessive weight gain, especially in the waist, hip, and thigh areas. I see what it does to their knees, their hips and, most importantly, their self-esteem.

When it comes to weight gain, we as a society are not kind. I want to be able to run around with my kids when I have them and do what a woman my age should be expected to do, without complaint. I want to be happy in my own skin.

And I was. Very happy. I was a stone cold fox…until we moved to the UK. A slow creep started two years ago and I’ve gained a stone since. I’m 5 foot 7 with a medium build; I started out at the mid 140’s and now I’m at 158 pounds, and it feels fucking disgusting.

Plato said, “Think of the human body as a ship. It should not be overloaded.” And my ship is listing to port side. I’m fat and I have to shift this shit before it fucking takes over. I have to lose weight because if I don’t it’s too slippery of a slope for me to not roll all the way down.

Fear and panic is what helped me lose weight the first time and it’s what kept the weight off. But that’s gone away now. In fact, once I got married I can honestly say I stopped weighing myself. Not that I didn’t care about how I looked, but I was so happy and comfortable, I felt so loved, that the scales just didn’t figure into things any more. I didn’t need to be one number or another to feel comfortable in my skin. And it’s not just me – when I met my husband he had a washboard stomach, very nice arm/calf muscles, and could lift me up with no more effort than a mother cat with a baby kitten. No more.

The UK is a minefield of pub culture, grey meat encased in wet pastry, weather that makes you cry, and really tasty ale. It’s just we two; we have no children, no mortgage, no car payments. No car, in fact, just a Vespa. We walk a lot, but we have nothing to spend our money on but ourselves and we work long hours and have little time to do that. So, we started to eat. We’ve been munching a path through London’s gastronomic multiverse. It has been a delicious two years. It’s hard to say goodbye.

We started doing a weight challenge. It sounds stupid, I know. But what’s also stupid is that I can no longer fit into the Levis I bought just last year. I used to wear my husband’s dress shirts around the house of evenings after he’d taken them off and now I can’t – too much back fat. He looks like he has a bicycle tire around his middle and the pile of pants he’s had to throw to the back of the closet is growing.

So we made an agreement to get back to our pre-UK poundage. I make healthy dinners; my husband’s in charge of healthy breakfasts. His plan of “small sustainable goals” is a novelty for me – crash diets that produce results in short order are more my thing. But this seems to be working. It’s not easy for me to choose oatmeal over croissant or lentil soup over Chicken Tikka Masala, but we’re doing it.

We have made weight loss our bitch. There will be a few extra treats left on the UK’s shelves for the rest of you to hoover up. Sorry about that.

The disease of modern living

Next month will commemorate my 24th revolution around the sun. Already my forehead resembles a weathered ball-bag and I find myself aimlessly sprawled in front of a screen more evenings than not. This never happened two years ago. Now, like some declawed beast sedated by glossy images rolling seamlessly over one another, I lounge and gape with numb abandon, occasionally flick through Facebook on my phone and wonder why exactly people from school feel the need to repopulate the Earth with smaller humans that look like them before McDonalds ravaged their bodies. This is adult life, so I’m told, and you too are welcome to the party, please make yourself comfortable and wait for the air to run out.

Everything you need to know about me is explained by the steaming pile of cat shit that has collected outside my bedroom window. This veritable Everest of faeces makes me feel at home, as does the decapitated pigeon with its guts strewn out like a meaty party popper that’s stuck outside my office, in a location that the cleaners can’t reach. It rots there, sun-baked and spoiled, festering in the British summer.

These features of my surroundings help me to keep my perspective, much in the way that drama teachers educate young minds on what shattered dreams look like. They symbolise perfectly how much we crave our precious distractions in order to ignore the grim brutalities of life: their continued existence is damning proof. Even as I write, the gangrenous disease of modern living cramps up my hand with premature rigor mortis and spreads through the veins, pumped ever closer to the brain by a palpitating aorta that struggles against the thickening walls of tar that I have cursed it with.

Gradually I too will be pacified by the epidemic that sweeps the nation. As the world hurtles down into the belly of the abyss, we will watch with apathetic disdain as the stomach acid swirls around our ankles, melding our shoes to our feet, kicking up a mighty stench in the process. By the time we’re half digested we might reach feebly for an app to save us, but it’ll be too late and when we reach the sphincter of the universe to get sprayed out into the cosmic toilet bowl, only then will we admit that perhaps, just maybe, mistakes were made. Such is the nature of this affliction.

The first symptom was an involuntary twitch of the hand, reaching ceaselessly for the mobile phone to save me from reality. My phone-orientated spasm is akin to a phantom limb, but the ever-loveable philanthropists of Microsoft recently conducted a social study on some screen-worshipping Canadians and established that the average human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds down to just 8, so I doubt I’m alone in the quarantine zone.

This mutated strain of the 80’s TV-borne virus could be seen as the next step towards in our evolution where we transcend our physical forms to live entirely digitally, floating around the ether poking at one another’s faces with three and half inch floppies like cognitively impaired sea-monkeys in screen-saver form. Or maybe it just marks the next step towards a society of preening, gurning blobs of self-absorbed cellulose, hopeless invertebrate wads that could grow a spine if only they found use for one.

Maybe I’m being unfair. Maybe our jobs really do have meaning in and of themselves. Maybe George Osborne isn’t fuelled by orphan tears and it’s even possible that Adrian Chiles and the rest of TV land aren’t just a collection of gelatinous guff-wagons constructed of meat. But don’t worry about it, just distract yourself with more words.

As the disease assaults your ability to think or even dribble coherently, the modern office does little to treat symptoms. Constant reminders from HR flow in via email reaffirming our enthusiasm for the casual business Friday dress-code and advising us not to jump from the east facing window because yesterday’s pile of mangled bodies hasn’t yet been cleaned up on account of the impossible-to-reach pigeon corpse. Whatever they bleat about it’s always in the distant language usually reserved for passive alarm voices who alert you to danger in an unnervingly calm tone. By specialising the function of the individual’s job we have become more and more divorced from the purpose of the work we do, so it’s no wonder we’re perpetually left unable to explain our jobs to relatives or friends.

Graduates are forced to fight to the death in gladiatorial combat for the chance to win an unpaid role as junior deputy assistant to the intern in some useless consultancy firm, or worse they become unthinking phone monkeys in firms with indoctrination programmes that would give the US Army a hard-on. Those without qualifications are converted into compost to grow, whilst those in jobs too long are quietly bumped off in the night by obtuse phrases such as “regrettably unforeseeable internal restructures” so they’re heaped on the cat-shit mountain as well. Our purpose in employment becomes harder to find, our days flow by in an uneasy wave of tedious confusion and we leave the office without a thought in our heads except for the rush of relief afforded by brief respite.

In a sleep-deprived stupor we’re driven to distraction, urgently seeking anything to ease our minds. It’s all there waiting for us, from kittens decorated by the mentally infirm to the online equivalent of the Dulux colour range told through pornography. And what’s more, the great benevolent dictator of the internet is only too willing to oblige us. With the frantic scurrying of a crack-addled banker trying to hide a hooker’s body we crave any blockade we can erect between the reality of the situation and the collective lie that we all buy into, known colloquially as ‘satisfaction’.

The disease of modern living is the catalysed onset of delusion, the belief that things actually aren’t that bad and that perhaps we ought to be thankful for what we have. This belief drags itself with us, a parasite on our bedraggled carcass shuffling from the tube to the bus to the sweat-stained pavements only to moor up in a desolate port with the TV on, our minds switched off and the glum cyclical nature of the horror pushed out of sight for another day as our eyes close and it’s all over.

In short, I’m becoming one of the idiots. Soon you’ll be like us, begging for distraction from the endless flurry of miseries and injustices that make up human existence. London has succeeded in dumbing me down with its isolating cost of living, alienating social conduct and the beckoning appeal to those who value money, prestige and job title über alles. We try to avoid how unfair it all seems with copies of Time Out and the latest in pop-up restaurants that only serve suffocated gelatine in plant pots and where all the cutlery is emblazoned with the face of Noel fucking Edmonds. Now I even have their haircut. It might get me a promotion.

At this rate I’ll max out a credit card on paper doilies this time next year, bragging to middle-management about the spacious depths of my new living room and how much light the bay window lets in whilst fiddling with a selfie-stick, all the time wondering why no-one can use a word of more than three syllables.

Unless we treat this disease swiftly, that is. Prognosis: amputate at the neck and leave my headless cadaver on the window ledge of a skyscraper where no-one can clean me up.