It’s All About Poo

It’s been a funny old year. Actually for us here at WOTE Towers, it’s been a funny couple of years. I didn’t ever really want to write a post about COVID. I’m done with Zoom, the ‘New Normal’, social distancing and self-isolation. I really can’t be doing with any more new phrases in my life than is absolutely necessary. All I will say on the subject is that I successfully grew some tomatoes, spectacularly failed to clear out the loft and ate far too many Curly Wurlies. Which have shrunk to a point now where I have to eat at least 12 to get anywhere near how they used to be! But that’s a whole new rant for another post. Last year was a different C word for us. In March 2019, without any warning, Mr WOTE was diagnosed with bowel cancer. So in the spirit of this blog, the following may seem overly light-hearted for such a serious subject but, despite my general pessimism about getting older, fatter and droopier, when the shit literally hits the pan, the positivity and warped sense of humour kicks in. I believe it’s commonly called survival.

Bowel cancer screening is available for everyone over 60 (50 if you’re lucky enough to live in Scotland). So when the kit came through, Mr WOTE (let’s just call him Mark for the purposes of this blog, for that is indeed what I call him most of the time) duly popped his poo in the post. Fast forward two weeks and we’re sitting in a small room with two lovely ladies who had the awful task of telling us the test results. It’s cancer. Scans to follow, appointments to be made. Suddenly plunged into a world called Colorectal and Oncology. It was surreal. Almost like they were telling someone else. And then they left us to digest the news. So in true WOTE style, we upped and went to the pub.

Shock is a shocker. One minute you’re meandering around Aldi, wondering whether you really need a horse blanket, 14 different types of spanners and a chicken. The next minute you’re not even sure if it’s worth putting the chicken on! But we were incredibly lucky. The scans showed it hadn’t spread so it was time to schedule some surgery to removed the wretched thing. We met the rather dishy surgeon and his team of equally lovely nurses and waited for a date.

Two weeks later and 5 hours on the table, Dr Handsome had managed to remove the offending creature all through keyhole surgery and reconnected his pipes without the need for a bag. What a hero. Mark spent the next day or so in a morphine haze while I sat on the chair next to him muttering nice wife things and playing Candy Crush. The next day I turned up on the ward to find his bed empty. Fearing the worst, I collapsed onto the floor in a gesture worthy of an Oscar nomination. “He’s gone, he’s gone”, I wailed. “Yes” said the nurse, “he’s gone for a wander. Here he comes”. And lo and behold, there he was, arse hanging out of the hospital gown, wheeling his drip down the corridor. No one needs to see that, so I took him home the next day.

Chemo sucks. For something that’s meant to make you better, it clearly makes you feel like shite. A 6 month course was recommended on the advice of the Oncologist, just to make sure the bastard didn’t return. So every 3rd Saturday, we sat in a chemo suite while he was pumped full of poison. Being a Saturday it was never very crowded. We had sandwiches and tea thanks to the WI ladies and the nurses were always friendly and positive. By December it was all done. A final CT and PET scan confirmed all was clear and he was discharged back to the arse team for monitoring.

Who says chemo sucks?

I wanted to write this piece for a number of reasons. First, you never know what’s round the corner. I know it’s a cliche about living every day as if it’s your last, but something like that certainly does make you think. And it certainly doesn’t involve wondering whether you really need a horse blanket. Secondly, and most important, you need to know that bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK and the second biggest cancer killer. Over 42,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year in the UK. And around 268,000 people living in the UK today have been diagnosed with bowel cancer.

More than nine out of ten new cases (94%) are diagnosed in people over the age of 50, and nearly six out of ten cases (59%) are diagnosed in people aged 70 or over. But it’s not just that age group. Bowel cancer can affect anyone of any age. More than 2,500 new cases are diagnosed each year in people under the age of 50. 1 in 15 men and 1 in 18 women will be diagnosed with bowel cancer during their lifetime. That’s a pretty shocking statistic!

Baking a poo cake for charity!

Bowel cancer is treatable and curable especially if diagnosed early. Nearly everyone survives bowel cancer if diagnosed at the earliest stage. However this drops significantly as the disease develops. Early diagnosis really does save lives. The above facts are from https://www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk – a wonderful charity who support people affected by this shitty disease. Like most charities, they’ve suffered terribly as a result of COVID-19. So if you can spare any coins, please donate. We took part in their Walk Together event last year, did a charity bake and raised over £1,300.00.

Hurrah for walking 5 miles with a hip replacement!

So, if you’re of a certain age and get invited for a screening, PLEASE DON’T BIN IT. Scrabbling around in the toilet bowl for piece of poo may well be the worst ten seconds of your life. It might also save it. And if you experience any of the common symptoms – bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo, persistent and unexplained change in bowel habit, unexplained weight loss, extreme tiredness for no obvious reason or pain or lump in your tummy, go to the docs and insist they refer you! The quicker you catch it, the better the outcome.

Right. Who wants chicken ….

Is There Life After Life?

Don’t worry. I’m not intending on going anywhere. I’m not expecting a visit from the grim reaper anytime this week. Nor have I found God. In fact, I generally try not to think about what’s to come once I’ve departed this mortal coil, although I’d like to think I’ll be spending eternity sat on a cloud playing the harp with in an ill-fitting white tunic without having to worry about skincare and dieting. But I have got to that age now. That age where you become just a + in the drop down menu or it takes an eternity to scroll down to your birth year. That age when you realise it’s time to start thinking about Plan B. No, not the hip hop bloke from the noughties. He’s way too young and besides, he has no legitimate surname. I’m thinking about that time when you suddenly find you’re ‘no longer required’ in your current guise, but not quite ready for that ‘home by the sea’. You might have ‘one foot in the grave’ but you still have a big fat, freakin’ mortage! From October 2020 the State Pension age in the UK for men and women will be 66 as the government has now realised we’re all hanging around a lot longer than we used to, and many of us will need to work some way beyond. So no chance of feet up, light gardening and coffee mornings for me. As we hurtle like an out of control bullet train into our fifties, you can easily be facing another decade or two at work. Oh what joy!

I work in a pretty ageist industry. Experience counts for very little in the media. Anyone over 35 is a dinosaur from a land before time. And anyone over 45 is pretty much unemployable. So I’m on borrowed time here. I admit, I try and stay cool. I’ve got trendy glasses. I wear Converse. But the harsh reality is that I’m old enough to be most of my colleagues’ mother. I’ve got t-shirts older than most of them. And I don’t know how much longer I can get away with it before someone sounds the over 50’s klaxon and I get carted off by the nice men in white coats.

Anyway, this isn’t a piece about getting old again, even though it occupies most of my waking hours!  It’s the dilemma we face when we’re clearly too old carry on with the job we’ve most likely been doing all our working lives, therefore we need to consider a viable alternative. Over the years, I’ve thought of many professions that will take me beyond my current working life and still earn me a crust into my later years that don’t involve me a) getting on the Central Line, or b) getting off the Central Line.  I’ve done quite a few courses, read books and done lots of research in search of an after-life which I thought I’d share.  It’s been mad, fun, pointless and typically ended up with me on the familiar road to nowhere.

So if you’re thinking of a new career path, here’s a few non-starters for ten:

Becoming an Aromatherapist.  This seemed like a good idea.  I liked the idea of working at home in a lavender-scented fug.  So I signed up for a 6 month course in Aromatherapy and Massage at my local college.  It was run by a nice chap called Bob who, despite clearly knowing his Frankincense from his Myrrh, was mostly dull and uninspiring.  As is often found on these type of courses, a fascinating cross-section of the weird and wonderful general public, all searching for something new and exciting and clearly hoping to find it in Patchouli.  But despite Bob being as boring as a box set of Friends, I signed up enthusiastically.  I dutifully bought every essential oil there was on the market along with a shit-tonne of now dust-gathering books.  It was all going quite well until we got to the massage bit.  The theory was fine but the harsh reality of rubbing a sandalwood into someone else’s blubber really didn’t appeal.  Some practical sessions followed with Bob demonstrating his Effleurage on a rather excitable older lady called Barbara, where we got treated to her clear lack of grooming.   The novelty was starting to wane now.  You clearly don’t know who’s going to walk through the door, do you.  But the final straw came when we had to practise some reflexology.  I have an irrational fear of other people’s feet at the best of times, so obviously I got the lady who was riddled with the bunions, cracked heels and fungal nail infections.  Suffice to say I ran screaming from the room, leaving an exceptionally heady trail of benzoin and bergamot.

 

 

Journalist / Writer:  From quite an early age, I wanted to be a journalist or novelist.  There I’d be, writing pithy, political ramblings for The Times or a best selling thriller which got made into an Oscar winning film and starring Tom Hardy, mostly in a state of undress, directed by me. Or travelling the world, staying in luxury hotels, thanks to my editorial skills at Conde Nast Traveller.   I did a couple of courses at The University of London, all of which were actually wonderful.  One of my tutors was a lovely lady called Jan,  a Canadian dance critique who was not just a great journo but also an amazing teacher.  I once went to her flat in Central London for a tutorial.  I’ve never seen so many books, folders, magazine and newspaper cuttings.  There wasn’t a spare surface anywhere!  I guess that shows a real writer.  But suffice to say,  nothing ever happened – or I suppose I never really pursued it.  And there endeth the dream.  Although I’m dead proud of my Squeeze concert review in the alternative fanzine c. 1984, circulation – 9.

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Sub-editor. An 8 week course in spelling, grammar, editing and how to make a magazine page look nice sounded lots of fun.  A career in publishing was definitely the way to go.  Glamorous photo shoots, interviewing film stars and getting lots of freebies seemed right up my street. So there I was in a basement in a college in Notting Hill with another bunch of random folk all with the same pipe dream.  It was fun, actually.  But I soon realised that my colons really did need some attention and parentheses weren’t those 2 nice people that brought me into this world.  And so there it also ended.  My dreams of becoming editor of Vogue and yelling at flunkies to bring me skinny lattes while I flounced around Paris Fashion Week with Naomi and Kate was also dampened by the fact that, not only am I prone to inappropriate slashes, I know absolutely nothing about fashion and look terrible in oversized sunglasses.  

 

Italian:  I always wanted to learn another language.  So I signed up at our local community centre to improve my Italian.  I thought I could be a translator.  Or a teacher.  I’d scraped an O Level many years ago so I thought this might be an easy win.  I actually managed a whole year and can now order a lasagne, a beer and comment vaguely on the weather.  But teaching a bunch of mostly retired, hard of hearing locals didn’t really inspire me to pursue any sort of career.  But I’m happy to report that, some years on, my gesticulating continues to improve tremendously and my pizza consumption is off the scale!  So not a total waste of time I suppose.

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Internet Entrepreneur:  Yes I admit, I was seduced by a lot of the ‘I make £90k a week by selling videos of how to make £90k a week’ that appeared around 15 years ago once the internet really took off.   You know, endless pages of smiling humans not really telling you anything but showing endless photos of them standing next to someone else’s Lamborghini or a massive country pile.  You buy an ebook for a special price of £9.99 with tips on how to con other people out of buying an ebook for the special price of £9.99 and you too can own this Sunseeker yacht.  I didn’t buy a book in the end but I did buy a job-lot of last season’s Top Shop bikinis, which I sold for a profit of, yes you’ve guessed it, £9.99.  

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Psychotherapist.  OK, so a long time coming and a long way to go, but that’s what I’m doing now. I’m 18 months in and I haven’t given up.  That’s some sort of record so fingers crossed I don’t.   It’s wonderful and scary and probably a whole blog post which I’ll save for another day.

So if I don’t go mad myself trying to get through another 2 years of studying, essay writing and personal therapy, you may well find yourself lying on my couch in the not too distant future.

And my advice?  If at first you don’t succeed, drink a bottle of wine.  You’ll be amazed how little you care.

x

Losing it!

According to The Wall Street Journal, the average person misplaces up to nine items a day.  And one-third of respondents in a poll said they spend an average of 15 minutes each day searching for items such as mobiles, keys and paperwork.  I beg to differ.  I think it’s more like 60 minutes, maybe 120.  Well, it certainly is in our house.  For want of rolling out a familiar cliche, if I had a pound for every minute one of us has spent searching for something, I’d have around £2100.  And that’s just September!

Apparently, our genes are at least partially to blame, experts say. Stress, fatigue and multitasking can exacerbate our propensity to make such errors. Such lapses can also be linked to more serious conditions like depression and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorders.  More often than not, at No 1,  it has something to do with alcohol and the resulting fuggy, blurry, morning after which has the ability to wipe one’s memory.  I’m not referring to me, of course.  It never gets that bad, mainly because my capacity for alcohol now doesn’t extend beyond a small Tia Maria and coke!  Mr H, though, has kindly taken over my capacity.  In fact he’s embraced it with great gusto and enthusiasm.

So last weekend was a perfect example of this genetic phenomenon.  I had tickets to the festival for the over 50’s, (or Radio 2 in the Park as it’s more commonly known).  We got there eventually but only after a monumental hunt for Mr H’s wallet.   Clearly it wasn’t in it’s usual place – his pocket or bedside table.  Neither was it in it’s unusual places – down the side of sofa, in the kitchen or in the car.  So then mild panic set in and the task of trying to remember where the friggin hell it was when you’re horribly hungover began.  Normally, the act of physically and mentally retracing your steps when looking for lost objects can work. “The more you can make your brain act like the way it was when you lay down that original memory trace,” the more successful you will be”, says Kenneth Norman, a psychology professor at Princeton University.  But trying to do that when you can’t remember your own name is bloody impossible.

Finally, we came to the conclusion that it had probably been left on the counter of the Happy Cockroach, the Thai takeaway where, due to a lack of inspiration, we ended up getting our evening meal.  And as they didn’t open til 5pm, it looks like our elderly rock fest would be somewhat hampered by lack of funds.  Pity I didn’t tell him to look in his shoe.  Because that’s where the bloody thing was!  I mean, who on earth puts their wallet in their shoes!  Mr H does.  Of course.  He remembers.  He put it there for safekeeping.  Who on earth thinks, “I know,  I won’t leave it in my jeans or put it on the bedside cabinet as I usually do.  I’ll put it in my shoe for safekeeping!  Where I’ll never look.  Until I need to put them on.  And then I won’t be able to get them on because they’ll be something in it.  Oh. My wallet”!

This, to be fair, isn’t unusual.  It’s just another in a long list, which has yet to be topped by finding a lost mobile phone in a bag with the bread rolls in the freezer compartment of the fridge.  However, the older we get, the more things we need and therefore there’s more things to remember not to lose.  Glasses – 2 pairs each plus spares, tablets – which has resulted in a whole new shelf creation housing a plethora of medication required to keep us functioning, various limb supports, spare keys, spare spare keys.  I’m seriously thinking of never planning to book up to go anywhere ever again.  There’s so many things to remember, that by the time we’ve applied/found everything, it’s hardly worth leaving the house.  At least then I can have a couple of large Amarettos and not worry about losing the kids, the car or forgotten to take something to stop something else dropping off.  And Mr H can down a few bottles of Marston’s Grumpy Old Fucker, safe in the knowledge that it doesn’t matter if we’ve lost something because we’re not going anywhere anyway.

I just hope that the we don’t acquire any thing else to remember not to lose.  I’m running out of places to look.  And I’m running out of shelves to put things.  At a push, I suppose I could always put whatever it is on the shoe rack.

Not that there’s any shoes on it.

They’re in the dishwasher.

Of course.