Well. That’s Embarrassing.

Mehdi seemed surprised to see me. Particularly when I asked him why I was there. He reminded me we had agreed I would not need to return until the stitches came out unless there was new information from pathology.

I agreed, and said that’s why I was surprised to get an invitation via the appointment app. this morning. Then it dawned on him. His face was a picture.

That’s what happens when you have automated protocols without human oversight. The results come in, an invitation is generated to make an appointment to discuss them. Anxious patients put two and two together.

As a dear old and wise friend used to say to me in a broad Norfolk accent – or was it a Norfolk Broad accent?;

Doont joomp ta kon-kloo-shuns, lad”.

Sorry Norfolkers if I didn’t capture that properly. A fond memory. No piss-taking intended.

Mehdi apologised, I said I’d send him my fuel bill. He laughed. I smiled wryly.

He checked the wounds, expressed satisfaction that they are healing cleanly, but still won’t let me swim until the sutures come out. Bugger. If he had conceded that the trip would have been worthwhile.

At least I don’t have to pay for the appointment.

Memento Mori

Laundry day is also the day I do the routine maintenance and hygiene tasks associated with Caer Ibormeith , my CPAP goddess of sleep, who gently breathes nightly into my nostrils. You know you are an eccentric when your appliances and vehicles have names – and you talk to them.

I gently changed her air filter, cleaned out her humidifier tank, and washed her hose and nasal pillows, telling her as I did how very much I appreciate her company and support. Today she spoke back. On her little screen where a smiley face usually assures me all is well, was a dire message.

“Respice post te. Hominem te esse memento. Memento mori!”

I rang my service provider, Andrea, in Albany, WA. I told her of this ominous message. I asked what I should do.

“You now have a piece of string. We don’t know how long it is. Keep using it, but it could fail at any time. Then you’ll need to look for a new one.”

“Can’t I send her somewhere to be serviced?”

“No. They are not built to be serviced. That would cost more than replacing it.”

“Her.”

“When did you get it?” She consulted her computer. “2013. It’s lasted you well. “

“She has. I’ve had marriages that didn’t last that long.”

“I remember you now – You joker”.

“Yeah, that’s me. Thanks for the advice, Andrea. I appreciate it. I hope she lasts me a while longer. I guess I can find a local supplier when the time comes. Bye.” I hung up.

It’s just a thing. It can’t love me. But I feel as if she does. I was in pretty bad shape before we met.

Morning

At four in the morning the sky is already lightening here in southeast Queensland. Daylight savings is not observed here. Today, sunrise was at four forty five. By five, the flashing bars on the solar controller announce that the panels are already receiving enough light to charge the battery.

The dawn chorus of about seven species of bird is already subsiding as the dawn chorus of coughing old men begins, followed very soon by the shuffling of slippers, the slapping of flip-flops and the tapping of walking sticks as those of the elderly residents in the camp who do not have facilities in our caravans begin our morning peregrinations to the ablution block. The dawn chorus of morning greetings begins.

The morning coffee has already kicked in, but the analgesics have not yet reached full effect. This first walk of the morning is the one I dislike most. I step carefully over the speed bump across the road outside the cabin where Gaz lives. I almost tripped on it once, because I don’t always lift my feet high enough. That is becoming less of a problem since I started pedalling.

On his veranda rail is a sign that says “Office of Der Kommandant, Stalag 13”. On the wall of his cabin is a newly arrived sign reading “ No Money, No Fags, No Grog. Go Home”. On the back of the mobility scooter parked in front is the sign “FARTY”. Gaz is probably the most cheerful resident in the park, and possibly the one with the least reason to be cheerful. I remind myself of this every time I pass his home, and smile.

We were discussing knees a while back. They are a popular subject here, like the weather, the high temperatures, and the irascible park manager.

“I got new knees” Gaz told me. “Didn’t do me any good at all”. Then cheerfully adds “The vets association are giving me a new scooter next year. I’ll give you this one”.

In the ablution block the cistern over the men’s urinal is filling and flushing every forty five seconds. Wasting water. I can see it has a new stainless steel braided hose fitted. Someone had made a repair recently. It used to flush manually by pulling a string to depress the lever. Now an automatic flusher must have been fitted, probably because most of the old codgers who use the urinal don’t bother to flush.

The handle of the stop cock had been removed, so I could not adjust it. I made a mental note to call the office later, and tell them about it.

And that is my entire plan for the day. I still can’t swim for a few more days. Even now at five o’clock the temperature is already twenty five degrees. I doubt I’ll be riding in the sun today. I shall have to ride in the evening, if it cools down. Yesterday it didn’t. I sat in front of a fan all day and binge watched season eight of Game of Thrones.

Today will be a book day. I think it’s time to revisit Earthsea. No. It’s Saturday. Time to change the sheets and do the laundry. Then I’ll be a free man for the remainder of the day.

At least I can start showering again.

Scorch

It is just past 6am. The temperature is already 22C. The radio predicts another two days of heatwave with temperatures seven degrees above the December average for southeast Queensland. EDIT: the seven o’clock news now puts the expected temperatures at up to twelve degrees above the December average.

Yesterday was so hot I cooked this piece of chicken without even lighting the barbecue.

I can’t swim for at least a week, and I can’t shower for another two days because of these chunks out of my forearms. I could probably manage a shower if I only had to keep one arm dry, but both would be problematic. Even gladwrap and duct tape didn’t work last time I tried. So it is facecloths and baby wipes.

But there’s no substitute for a shower.

Melanoma Blues

A massive chunk excised from my left arm today. Eleven stitches to close the wound. My new personal best. Hopefully we got the whole thing. The bad news is there is another one to do tomorrow. Another positive biopsy result. The good doctor had to shuffle some appointments for me. I appreciate his sense of urgency.

I thought, having made it to 67, I was probably immune to cancer and it would be something else that took me out. Maybe it will be still, but the odds are changing. One thing I have already decided. After looking after my friend Jeff for his last couple of months, I determined then and there I would not be going quietly and meekly if it happened to me. The man suffered. I suffered with him. There shall have to be a plan B. B prepared.

I got the melanomas
Melanomas in my skin
I got melanomas, yeah
Melanomas in my skin
So I went to the doctor
He started slicing straight in.

Said we gotta cut them out man
Before they get too strong
Said we gotta cut ‘em, yeah,
Before they get too strong
‘Cos iffen we don’t cut ‘em
Man you ain’t got long.’ *

I got the melanoma blues,
From knocking around in Sunshine City
Where the ozone layer’s thinner
And the UV rays are stronger in the air
I had SPF to use – but I didn’t use it, that’s a pity
And those bloody melanomas
Are popping up everywhere.

* Poetic licence. He’s Persian, and does not talk like that.

If you actually listen to the Blues, you’ll know a lot of the songs are considerably worse than this one.

I hold my dent up to the light.

Spot the Difference

I’m pleased I swam yesterday and managed another, early swim this morning. It will be Thursday before I can swim again, provided the wounds are not infected when I remove the dressings.

I was at the pool by seven this morning, and in the water by seven fifteen. I swam until nine, then went to shower. The lid of my shampoo bottle had broken. The shampoo had disgorged itself into my toilet bag. So I used it up as body wash. I should have no problems with dandruff anywhere, for a while.

As I washed I spotted on my right forearm what I thought must be a new mole. I was sure it wasn’t there a while ago. Since finding the lesion on my left arm, I am now more aware of my freckles and moles. Especially since the one I was having excised today had not been there only weeks before.

When I got to Woodford I drew the mole to Mehdi’s attention. He peered at it through his magic optical device, and said “I think you are right”.

“So. That was well spotted” said I with a straight face. Mehdi agreed. Also with a straight face.

That was how I came to have two excisions. One on each arm. Now we wait for the biopsy report.

Two huge chunks were cut out. It is necessary to get all the tissue for three millimeters around the spot, and to cut the length three times the width, so that when it heals, the scar doesn’t pucker up. Five stitches each. Ten total. My new personal best.

I’m glad it wasn’t on my tat.

Not there before.

Mehdi told me he had seen my knee x-rays. My condition is severe and he is referring me to a specialist. The journey has begun.

Having had only an eight hundred kJ breakfast, I was famished by the time I was driving home. I managed to drive past Beefy’s without giving in to temptation, but then the thought of a nice piece of crumbed barramundi popped into my head. I gave in to temptation and set my course.

Saviges did not have barramundi available so I ordered a piece of crumbed cod. And a serve of chips. What the hell.

The cod was delicious. A large fillet. Perfectly cooked.

Eric the bin chicken helped me out by eating some of the coating. He didn’t get much of the fish at first, though I shared some chips. Once he understood I wasn’t going to grab him and wring his neck, or spray him with the diluted vinegar spray put out on the tables by the proprietors for just such occasions, he became quite friendly, and cheerfully ate from my hand.

I was talking to him all the time, just making conversation, asking about his family and whether he preferred battered or crumbed fish, and whether he was in fact female.

Some of the patrons were giving me the disapproving looks of those who do not believe wildlife, especially ibis, should be fed human food. Some gave me the look reserved for people of alternate ability that they are embarrassed by. Others were smiling. Whether at me or the bird I know not and care not. They were smiling. With their eyes. My kind of people.

I have certainly changed. There was more fish than I needed and in the end my ibis friend got a bit. There was still a heap of chips left. He looked enquiringly at them. “I’ve had enough” I said. He looked hopeful. “and so have you”. He said he hadn’t. I told him I was taking the rest home home. He gave a resigned shrug and wandered off.

At home I divided the remaining chips into three portions, which I put in cold storage to have with other meals. Not bad for four dollars fifty worth of chips.

Lessons.

Today was a day in which I learned, or was reminded of, several important things. It was intended to be a quiet day sorting out the van and disposing of things that are no longer needful, or that do not bring me joy. I am decluttering with a ruthlessness that would make David finally proud of me.

Having swum ninety minutes every day this week I thought I’d take a break, but then, in a fit of energy, and procrastination, I rationalised that I may not be able to swim for a while after the surgery tomorrow. So I should definitely go today. The truth is, I am becoming a swim junkie. I need my fix of weightless, fluid, pain-free motion with good music, the cool silky feel of water flowing over my skin.

Also I had spotted in the Target catalogue, a cheap, small microwave oven that looked as if it might fit into the space created for one in the caravan, a space currently filled with sauce bottles and assorted condiments that do not require refrigeration. I decided I need a microwave, now that I am on mains power semi permanently.

I measured the space and recorded the dimensions on my phone. Then went for a swim. I forgot my walking stick. Emerging from the pool and feeling the return of gravity, I regretted my decision not to go back for it. I decided I need three. One always in the car, one in the bike trailer, and one at home. It is getting hard to do without it.

After my swim, I showered, changed and headed for Target. I stopped into the bargain shop first to pick up an extra walking stick.

In Target I found the oven I was interested in, pulled out my tape measure, and checked the dimensions of the front of the oven. It would fit. I picked up a boxed oven from the shelf below the display and headed for the checkout. By the time I got there, I knew I had made a serious mistake. The shooting pains in my legs and the grinding sounds from my knees told me both they and my back were buggered from this weightlifting exercise. It was only a small oven!

I left it by the checkout and went in search of a trolley. I had not limped far at all before I needed a rest. I leaned on my stick in the forward leaning pose that seems to give me relief. A young woman, who had been at the checkout behind me, came up to me, pointed at a bench and told me to sit there while she found me a trolley. She then headed down to Woolworths at the other end of the mall, returning with a trolley.

What a sweetheart. Her name is Tara. I felt so old. Especially when she patted me on the shoulder and told me that like me, her grandma was always trying to do more than she was now capable of. Hey, I’m father material, not grandad. But of course, I was her age when my grandad was my age.

Such people are the treasures of humanity as much as any great Nobel laureate.

Once I had a trolley to lean on, I was fine. I collected the oven and transferred it to the cruiser. Back at the caravan I unboxed it and carefully, if painfully, carried it inside. Of course it did not fit into the space available. Only the face had the right dimensions, and even then, only just. A short existential crisis until I realised I could remove the top of the cupboard, insert the oven and put the top back. A quick gathering of tools and the step-stool I call the standy on-thing.

First, I put insect screen over the ventilation hole through the wall of the caravan. That should keep out the ants and insects that might otherwise colonise the back of the oven.

It did fit though the cupboard top does not quite go back as snugly as before. I then reheated some cold coffee in a mug. No more reheating in a saucepan on the gas stove and forgetting it.

But I now need to find somewhere to put all the sauce bottles and assorted condiments that do not require refrigeration.

I wondered at the marvellous technology before me that cost only $68. I remembered my first microwave and how expensive it was. This thing cost little more than a packet of 40 cigarettes, or an hour of my wages, back when I was earning them.

That made me think of all the man hours and material that went into manufacturing it. If the retail price is so low, how much do those who do the real work get? Then I felt guilty. This is why the world is in crisis.

But coffee. And reheated chicken, turkey and chorizo in mushroom sauce.