Because of the lockdown, home working and home schooling I’ve been having a lot of conversations with my son. Today alone he informed me that he had named his football Dave, asked me who I thought would win in a fight between a bike wheel and a scooter wheel if they were both to ‘come alive’ and played out an intergalactic fight between a ‘really strong guy’ and a ‘really stretchy guy’ (stretchy guy won, for the completists out there). Every now and again he asks me questions like ‘what does that pill do?’ or ‘did you leave your belly in the hospital?’ but more often than not we just talk rubbish and it’s brilliant. It is also brilliant when he draws stick men with steaming poos on their heads or tries to give the dog a cape. All these things make me glad to be alive every day and stop me from dwelling on the tedium and separation of lockdown.
What’s that? Oh the dog. Yeah, we’ve got a puppy. A little baby Labrador boy called Bodhi (that’s him in the picture) and he is an adorable pain in the ass. There has been strong lobbying for around six years to get a dog and just at the point I caved in the pandemic hit which sent the price of dogs through the roof. I mean, there’s profiteering and then there’s puppy-teering (and then there’s profiteroles) but I refused to pay over £3,000 on a furry beast that is going to eat everything below 4 inches in height and urinate and/or defecate on every available surface. Nevertheless, we hung on until we found someone who wanted a good home for their dog more than a big wad of cash and Bodhi was duly collected. So there are now ten mouths to feed in our house and one of them is permanently clamped around my wrist for comfort. I have a strange wife.
In between puppies, chaotic conversations and general lockdown life, there have been some medical shenanigans going on as well so I should probably update you on that while you’re here, eh? About a week ago I got an excited Facebook message from my wife who was physically only downstairs but mentally she was running a very select academy for six-year-old boys that only takes on one student at a time. The message was passing on that our local GP surgery was inviting those in the ‘at risk’ category regarding COVID to step forward and get vaccinated. So, like an excited teen waiting for my favourite boy band to have two songs played back-to-back on the local radio station, I called in and yelled “Gary Barlow” at the top of my voice. Needless to say, they hung up on me but the second time I composed myself and was booked in for the Astra Zeneca (Oxford) vaccine to be administered at the China Fleet Country Club in Saltash.
It felt like I was turning up to try and crash a wedding but as I was ushered through the various heavily arrowed areas by be-masked individuals it became more like an audition for the X-Factor in a world where Simon Cowell has become a serious germophobe and we must all bend to his will. In reality, it was what the British do best – a series of short queues, some beige small talk and an underwhelming injection in the arm followed by a pamphlet about what just happened and a complimentary squirt of hand sanitizer. In America there would have been fireworks set off with each injection and a balloon or a medal to take home but for the Brits there is just a pamphlet and the honour of being directed back to a soggy car park by a man in a high-vis vest and a flat cap…..and a mask, of course.
Based on a tip-off from a similarly ‘at risk’ neighbour, I managed to blag a vaccination for my wife who is shielding me so she was all excited to show Simon Cowell what she had to offer the following day. At the same time, my immune system (or lack of) was having a major ‘WTF?’ moment and I descended into a pit of flu-like symptoms for 24 hours, unable to look at even dim lights and pretty weak all round. I am pleased to say that I recovered pretty quickly but it was quite the bump in the road so I thought it was worth sharing in case any of you are coming up to a vaccination – I would recommend clearing out a day or two and buying in a load of comfort food if you have any immunity issues (unless the issues are around diplomatic immunity like Joss Ackland in Lethal Weapon 2 with Patsy Kensit and some questionable South African accents).
Once I’d recovered from that slice of fun, I had to report in with various people to make sure that everyone is on the same page because although it’s called a National Health Service I have found that various areas within the same hospital don’t necessarily talk to each other. In hindsight, I’m glad that I have a habit of telling everyone what’s going on because it threw up that firstly I wasn’t taking a steroid drug that I should have been which I then promptly started taking. My blood sugars, however, were not so glad and they went through the roof, so I checked in again and it turned out that I was double dosing on two different steroids because of crossed wires. I have now listed my drugs out for clarity (4 insulin injections and 13 pills plus the Creon stomach enzyme tablets) and have stopped trying to overdose on steroids just before I hit the brink of roid-rage.
All of this is, I have to say, fairly innocuous stuff by my medical standards but that in itself is worth mentioning because I am getting really good at appreciating the small and simple things in life. I walked to the shop on my own the other day for a loaf of bread and not only was I not completely exhausted by the process, but I was also perfectly comfortable, without anxiety and as close to normal as I have been in over a year. And as much as I cherish these normal and quiet moments, they often come before a storm of some description which, in this case, is a day of days next week where I will have a CT scan, receive my next round of immunotherapy treatment and, most importantly, pick up my new glasses. The main element of trepidation is the scan which is the first proper look at my insides after the internal dust of the operation has properly settled. This will be my first opportunity to find out whether it’s a green light for more normality or an amber warning light that we might to get even more brutal with any stubborn lingerings of cancer still floating around in there (points vaguely at body but specifically not at penis because doesn’t want penis cancer).
And so it is, with this fog of fear hanging over us that we approach the most romantic day of the year with a certain sense of uncertainty. I mean, how do you throw yourself in to Valentine’s day when you’re still shielding during a pandemic, you’re waiting on a scan that will determine your immediate and potentially long-term future and all you have to talk about is home-schooling or a hatred of Zoom meetings? Well, I’ll tell you how – you order the £15 Asda meal deal for 2 (3 courses AND a box of chocolates, people), you buy a glass jug of scrumpy from the local farm shop and you order a second-hand copy of Sleepers on DVD from eBay. That’s what romance looks like in Cornwall in 2021 and if you don’t like it then, well, stay away on Valentine’s day. You have been fair warned.