Month: May 2009

05.31.09 insufferable

I spent the morning sorting toiletries into two categories: “labels in languages I do not speak” and “tiny bottles of Aveda snagged from hotels.”

Is it possible to travel too much?

I was extremely excited to find that the city centre chemist now stocks the sunblock I normally fly to France to purchase. My life is officially perfect! I am quite insufferable.


5.30.2009 reunion

A friend commented on the Jordan/Peter Andre split: just proves if you marry for tits, you end up with crazy. I mean, look at you!

In more pertinent news, it has been five years, five months, and twenty-three days since I last tasted coffee and I have decided: today is the day for a reunion with my favorite beverage. Wish me luck! Who knows how I will react to such a strong stimulant!


5.25.2009 hols

In the midst of what people in England call ‘hols,’ including visits to a twelfth century castle, the largest toy museum in the world, and a guinea pig safari park!


5.23.2009 nibbling

The view from my boat includes a cow nibbling on my bicycle.

I’ve been reading the newspaper and must report I am terribly disappointed that there isn’t more racy sexy nonsense in the current political scandal. Mortgage fiddling is BORING.

Off to a hot date with the Audley End Miniature Railway.


5.21.2009 routine

It is difficult to catch up on life after a long absence, but this I know for sure: I am not an intercontinental answering service. I don’t even know my own phone number!

Though if I had read the several hundred pieces of email that arrived while I was traveling, I would have known that someone wrote a song for me!

Back in the routine of archive films, I managed to see ‘Writers and Trains’ and… I’m ever so pleased that both Auden and Betjeman shared my sincere love of the railways.

Tonight I’m going out to watch Forgotten Music from the GPO (including live orchestra and chorus) with the best dressed and most charming chap in all of England. AKA my son.


5.20.2009 quarantine

I am merely a visitor in this country, despite the fact that I work here and pay taxes and whatnot. While I am entitled to use the health services, I do not feel that I can criticize the system. At least until August, when my permanent residency is certified.

However, I do have major concerns about the treatment I have received during the so-called flu epidemic.

Not that it was insufficient – quite the opposite.

I flew back to the UK from an area of the states with verified swine flu cases. I fell sick within the incubation time, and had several of the defining symptoms of the malady.

But I didn’t feel bad enough to seek medical attention, and didn’t know there was a public health issue as I failed to read the newspaper during the tenure of the illness. By the time I was persuaded to call, I was almost entirely better and certainly past the contagious point regardless of any other factor.

Why then was I prescribed Tamiflu? After my official government quarantine ended?

Or, more worryingly, why was I prescribed anything without a proper physical exam?

Nobody even asked if, for instance, I have allergies or a history of adverse drug reactions.

The anonymous people at the call centre did not, in fact, ask any searching questions about my particular history; they just noted whatever it occurred to me to disclose.

My questions about Tamiflu as a specific chemical compound could not be answered by the person on the line. My reluctance to take any drug for any reason whatsoever was disregarded. My resistance to taking medications before consulting my own doctor? Brusquely dismissed.

I’d already been in a state of self-imposed isolation for ten days, and was willing to accept formal quarantine as a condition of refusing medication.

That was not an option – I was told I absolutely had to take the drug.

In a word, why?

I didn’t want it, I didn’t have any symptoms it could help with, and I was no longer a threat to the public, even if Tamiful has magical unknown anti-infection properties (it doesn’t).

When I tried to weasel out of it using the ‘no ride to the chemist’ excuse the very nice concerned NHS people dispatched a delivery.

Now I have a spiffy unwanted box of a drug I will not take.

I’m going to go way outside of my normal remit and make a prediction that this approach to prescribing a relatively unknown drug to people who are not especially sick is foolhardy at best, dangerous at worst.


5.13.2009 test

I was the driver on the day of the PSAT’s but we all missed the test because I was unable to find the building. Even though it is the only octagon in the county. My own parents didn’t know or care, but my mates were grounded over the debacle, and probably should have extended the lesson since it was the exact same crew in my car when the accident happened.

Without any preparation or interest, I pulled a perfect score on the verbal portion of the SAT’s, then elected to nap through the rest of the test. Why bother to make the attempt, when my college-of-choice didn’t require any particular score? Besides, my elder cousin had aced it without any discernible positive change in his life. Who cares about these things? Not our family, for sure! If memory serves, he ended his young life wandering – schizophrenic, addicted, and homeless. Though that might just be a rumor.

I sat the GRE the day after invasive jaw surgery, high on (and having an allergic reaction to) Percoset. I have no memories of…. any little bit of the whole ordeal, aside from the bloody surgical dressing stuffed down a gaping wound in the back of my mouth.

Today was mild by contrast. I woke up wincing and still sick, but officially no longer contagious. Then I trudged to London, where I shivered with fellow immigrants through the long registration to take the citizenship test. Knowledge required ranged between obvious and esoteric, and I was quite worried.

We were allowed forty-five minutes.

I finished in five, feeling hunted and horrified, arguing in my mind with the phrasing of the questions.

Though I passed.

My kid memorized the answers by rote (for instance, Question 19, answer = D) without engaging with the literature. Her method translated to a perfect score, and she finished first, then stood at the front of the class gossiping with the invigilator.


5.6.2009 presume

Of course, I should never presume to understand my own body.

I’ve been sick and ignoring the whole thing for several days, but last night a series of conversations with various folks found me on the telephone with the after-hours medical people, who agreed with my assessment of non-risk regarding the swine flu. Mainly because they thought I have it.

They certainly did not agree with my blithe indifference to intense joint pain. Various acronyms were bandied about, finally settling on the possibility of an abdominal strep infection.

When I first got sick last week I thought to myself Self, this feels like a strep infection… in my kidneys…. though I discarded the theory when I started to (mostly) get better.

See – having a high pain threshold is not always helpful.

Growing up sick and poor in the states I learned to ration my own healthcare, and the habits were so ingrained I persisted even with full insurance. In this country I have remained at least nominally healthy so I have never fully utilized all of the services available.

This means I was shocked nearly speechless to hear a stranger on the telephone inform me that not only was he worried, he was dispatching a doctor to examine me at my residence – posthaste.

Mainly because of that pesky childhood history thing; as the man on the phone pointed out, even when I feel better, in principle I can remain contagious, and might easily relapse. Cancer, even in permanent remission otherwise known as cured, can be so annoying.

Like a scene out of ET, suited and masked professionals turned up in my natural habitat to swab and poke and inquire.

When the first round of examinations proved insufficient, they came back again.

Numerous consultations, two home visits, drugs not only prescribed but also delivered – cost to me? Exactly nothing.

I love the National Health Service.

Right now I am officially quarantined – quite a novel experience, given that back in the states I was not just allowed but actually forced back out into the world… even when I was literally radioactive.

I don’t feel sick enough to be part of this pandemic, and expect the tests to prove my hunch that all is well. Probably about ten minutes after I cancel all of the plans for the evening!

But in the meanwhile, my home is under official government quarantine. With a sign on the door and everything.