Saturday, 6 December 2008

It's the Most Wonderful Time

of the year.

Yeah. Christmas. I like it - well, the family side of things and the looks on the kids' faces on the morning of the 25th, not the the shallow orgy of consumerism - and am looking forward to it.

Still, things have been a bit all over the place in the last month or two. I finally had my cathter ablation on 23rd October in Middlesbrough, under the care of the wonderful staff at the James Cook University hospital. It's still early days, but things are looking good in respect of having my atrial fibrillation problem fixed. Fingers crossed.

A couple of weeks after my procedure I lost my job. I was told it was because of the lack of work, but have a sneaking suspicion they were just looking for an excuse after a couple of weeks on the sick following the op. I was philosphical about it because there were other (exciting) irons in the fire.

The biggest, most exciting iron was the chance of a job in the USA, in New York. I got a call completely out of the blue from this company a day or two before my ablation, and picked up the conversations with them afterwards. I talked it through with the family and they were keen on the idea. I went through numerous telephone interviews with numerous big cheeses and things progressed slowly but surely towards a point where an outline offer was made and I looked at places to live. I was then invited to New York for a five-day trip to meet the people and see the place, so I took the plane over the atlantic, buried my hatred of flying as deep as I could and spent 5 whirlwind days seeing New York City and Long Island, meeting some lovely people, eating far too much amazing food. I flew back with a firm offer in my hand and a dream of something great in my mind - a fresh start - a great opportunity.

Of course, being the man I am - a worrying, doubting, paranoid android - I soon started having a few doubts a few days after I got home. They were the usual doubts about the enormity of moving to a new country and all that stuff, but on top of these doubts were my paranoid feelings that something would go wrong. There was some detail that would get in the way.

I should have realised what it would be. I can't believe that I didn't consider it more seriously. I suppose, if I was to make an excuse, I woud say that I have lived with this thing for so long that I have just accepted it as a part of me. I knew that this day would come, but it has always been away in the future.

But everything changed when I went to see an orthapeadic surgeon on Friday.

It was one of a long line of appoitnements I have had with specialists like him over the years. I had something called Perthes disease as a child whcih is basically a degenerative disease of the hip joint. Since about the age of 3 I have had problems with my right hip following the disease, which pretty much wrecked the joint and ruined the femur head, transforming it from a nice roud ball into something resembling a bit of dog-chewed toblerone. I had an operation at the age of 10 to correct the twisting to the leg caused by the poor shape, and then reached adulthood with my right leg more than an inch shorter than my left. I got used to it; I adapted to it; I developed a limp, but I was still pretty active well into my 20s. I even played football (not very well, I admit).

Then, in my mid-20s, I was told by a specialist to stop playing football, as it wasn't good for the joint. Who was I to argue? There wasn't any other exercise that I particuarly enjoyed, so I became pretty sedentary, but didn't cut down the eating to match my reduced activity - and within a couple of years became a fat bugger. By my early 30s I was knocking on 20 stone (280lbs). I really should have learned to love swimming or cycling, but just didn't and couldn't. I tried Weight Watchers, I tried hypnosis, I tried Atkins, I tried exercise regimes - all have ultimately failed, and I have stayed at around 20 stone for a while.

This has probably been worse for the hip than playing football, but at my regular visits to the orthapeadic surgeon, I was told that nothing was really changing and that I should keep going as long as possible until the hip was at the point of failure and the need for a replacement was overwhelming.

In the last year the pain has been getting worse, that's for sure, but it would come and go, and I had x-rays in the middle of last year that apparently showed little change. I took to using a walking stick for the bad times and took pain killers to help me sleep. Although there was a sneaking feeling in the back of my mind, I was surprised to hear the specialist say these words to me on Friday:

"It's time to give you a new hip."

Ah. That's the American Dream on the back-burner then, eh? Recovery time of 3 months? No driving for 6 weeks? I would also have to lose a substantial amount of weight before the op...

Still, the silver lining of this cloud is that I can now get it over with and get back to an almost normal existence. I will be able to function and have a good quality of life with a new hip. The timing is just rotten, though, especially when I've been out of work for a month. I am hoping the people in the US will wait for me. I hope they will understand. I feel a tad foolish for failing to see this as an issue before now, but I'm also glad that I wonn't go out to America and risk a catastrophic collapse of the hip and not be able to get it sorted.

Yet another thing is sent to try me, but I've got bored of feeling sorry for myself. I'm gonna get on with it.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

The M62


I am pig, hog and boar sick of this fucking road. Allow me to whinge...I mean explain:

My current job is in the North West, near Liverpool. I live in North Yorkshire. This means I have to traverse the Pennines at least twice a week. The most direct and supposedly quickest route across the Pennines is on the M62 motorway. The problem is that it sucks. By God, it sucks.

I drove over it this morning, and didn't leave particularly early admittedly. This factor doesn't make much difference, because at the end where it morphs into the M60 Manchester Ring Road, it is invariably snarled up with thousands upon thousands of cars and lorries. Even if I leave at 6.30 or 7.00 am, I still get stuck in traffic around Manchester.

This morning, however, I had the added pleasure of rain, especially at the highest point of the motorway, where you are cheerily reminded that you are on the highest motorway in England. And up there, where the clouds converge it is not just rain, it's monsoon conditions. Even with the wipers flailing across the windscreen like demented, giant, Roger Moore eyebrows, the visibility was shockingly bad. It's always at this point that I seem to get some sleepy residue in my good eye, meaning I have to rub it out and rendering my vision even more blurry. At this point it's just a case of hoping I don't get sideswiped by a Lidl lorry (the shame!) or an Audi Awhatever (the wanker!).

And naturally the rain made the traffic worse. The approach to every other junction seems to be heralded by flashing lights and temporary 40mph speed limits indicated on the gantries overhead. This makes the drive a sequence of slowing down, speeding up then slowing down again a couple of miles later. It drives me mad.

I have been offered alternative routes to try, but they are no better time-wise. They involve either negotiating what is supposedly the busiest stretch of road in the world near Glossop (or taking a week to avoid it around some crazily convoluted short-cut) or tackling the searingly intense insanity of the M6 to get up to the A59, upon which you always - ALWAYS - get stuck behind some gimp in a Skoda.

AAAGGHH. Time to invest in a personal jet pack, I think.

Monday, 29 September 2008



It's doing my freaking head in!

I can only seem to buy machines or gadgets that work properly for a maximum of 18 months, if that. Why is this? Laptops, i-pods, mobile phones; all invariably start malfunctioning and driving me to distraction.

Computers especially seem to have a habit of taking on the personality of a pre-menstrual woman. My laptop now takes at least 10 minutes to boot up properly and get going, and then will inexplicably freeze up as if its gone into an almighty huff. "NO, you're not using me! Get off! I'm not in the mood, and I'm not going to tell you what's wrong either. You have to read my mind!"

I have always suspected things are like this for a reason. There's this theory - a conspiracy theory if you like - that everything that is built these days is designed to fail and break down within a set period of time. It's called in-built obsolescence, or something like that. The theory basically says that things are built to either break down or become technologically and/or stylistically obsolete within a short period so that the consumer feels obliged to go out and buy a better replacement. It keeps the wheels of commerce in motion and keeps people shopping and borrowing money (for how long in these credit crunch times is anyone's guess).

Think about it. How many people still have the same computer they had 5 years ago, the same gaming console from 2 years ago, even the same mobile phone they had a year ago? I'd wager it isn't many. And what happens to all the shite we buy? We sling it out and it ends up in a council dump or landfill site being picked over by seagulls.

If I'm not careful this will end up as a rant about sustainability and finite resources, but I don't want to be a tree-hugger. The bark always snags my jumper.

Friday, 12 September 2008





I fucking hate hotels.

OK, let me qualify that statement: I hate hotels when I have to stay in them alone for work purposes, especially on a long-term basis. For four or five nights a week, I live in a glorified en-suite bedroom and my only conversation is with (mostly) surly hotel staff. When locally-based colleagues find out that I’m staying in some pretentiously-titled holiday camp, they make jealous noises and shake their heads. They obviously think I’m living in the lap of luxury, and while I might eat nice food and enjoy access to fabulous facilities, the truth is that I would rather not be here.

I’m not alone, that’s an undeniable fact, because I see the other poor sods every night, sat silent and alone at tables in the bar or restaurant with books or newspapers. None of them look happy. They glance around enviously at the old couple in the corner who laugh and joke about their recent trip to India, and then start stilted nervous conversations with nearby waiting staff about the weather or the price of goat’s cheese. Then there's the ambient music: We all hear the unspeakably awful Muzak that dribbles into the room like diarrhoea from hidden speakers. They're hidden for a reason, I'm sure. If they were not, they would be smashed into oblivion with anything that came to hand, including loaves of poncey olive bread. No-one should be subjected to the music of Lennon and McCartney played on pan pipes. It would be deemed inhumane to play it to prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Possibly.

The worst bit about it is the separation. We’re all hurting inside because we have to be away from our loved ones; wives and young children who could be doing anything, from recreating the ceiling of the Sistine chapel in the lounge to fighting off sustained attacks from sexually-frustrated poultry. Imagination is the lonely man’s nightmare.

So why on Earth do we subject ourselves to this? We must be fucking idiots. Is there such a need to earn large amounts of the filthy lucre that we feel obliged to live out of a suitcase and watch television whilst lying on a bed in our pants. Of course, if we were at home, we would probably be watching television whilst lying on the sofa in our pants, but that isn’t the point. When we are at home we can move freely to other rooms in our pants. Doing the same in the hotel might get us evicted.

I never sleep well in these godforsaken places either. I am invariably given a room below what sounds like a herd of wildebeest in clogs or next to some nocturnal entity with impaired hearing who turns the TV up to high volume at the same time I turn mine off for the night.

After a night of broken sleep, I stumble into the shower and turn the tap to see if I get a freezing trickle or a boiling jet that knocks me off my feet, juggling tiny bottles of shower gel and shampoo all the while.

At breakfast, the over-worked waiting staff shove me in a dim corner with the other loners and forget that I exist for an hour or two before bringing me some cold toast and treacle-like coffee. I end up consoling myself in a full English breakfast, which on top of the comforting food and numbing alcohol of the previous evening makes for a rather large calorie surplus. I’m going to need some new trousers soon.


To a regular - OK, sporadic - rant at the injustices of the world.

Of course, I'm a white, middle class fat-arsed Westerner, but I like to have a good whinge now and again. Don't we all?

If you like it, fine. If you don't, fine.