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.

Noddy Has A Very Busy Day and Makes a Decision.

Senior moment today. Fully aware that I had an appointment with the GP in Woodford at 11:15 I hurried off for my morning swim at 07:30. I was in the water well before 8 and swimming to the accompaniment of Mozart, Beethoven, Dire Straits, Ultravox, Pink Floyd, Clannad, Steeleye Span et al.

Ninety minutes passed quickly and just as I planned, I emerged from the pool at 09:30 for a shower before driving the 50 minute commute to Woodford. I like to always allow a little extra time. It is a habit you learn in the outback, where a four hour drive can sometimes end up taking a couple of days.

Except without even thinking about it, I had ridden the bike to the pool. Now I had to ride back to base camp to get the cruiser.

Today I found out how the bike performs on full assist. Really well.

I arrived in Woodford, without breaking the law, in plenty of time for my appointment, which was all about the latest blood and pee test results which are encouraging. I took the opportunity to raise the subject of my knees, now that the weight was coming down. Mehdi prodded and pushed, and wrote a referral for x-rays.

Three weeks ago he had checked me all over for melanomas. All clear. Today as I was about to leave, he pounced on a new spot on my forearm and examined it with his super magnifier. Not good. Worried frown. He took a photo with an attachment on his iPhone and showed me what it was about the spot that concerned him. He told me to make an appointment ASAP to have it excised. I go back on Monday.

A couple of hours later I was being x-rayed by a cheerful and chatty young radiographer at Caboolture Hospital. After a few poses and buzzing sounds, she pronounced that the images had come out perfectly,

Then, looking at the images, she said sympathetically, “I bet they hurt”.

I told her they do. Then added “You know, I used to go out with a radiographer”.

“Did you really?” She said.

“Yes, but she saw right through me from the start”.

“How long have you been sitting on that one?” She said, laughing.

“I composed it just then, for you”.

Next stop the Department of Transport and Main Roads Customer Service Centre Caboolture. I’ve been here in Queensland over a year now, and several times at road checks when queried about my WA drivers licence and how long have I been in Queensland, I’ve told the police I am passing through, hanging around only for medical reasons. I have already stayed over the legal time for using an out of state licence. The time has come to acknowledge I am not up to the Grey Nomad life in my current state. I won’t be moving on soon. Maybe I shall in the future, but for now, I’m probably in the best place I can be. Where I am. A very Zen thought.

The nice lady at the Customer Service Centre gave me a form for my doctor to sign, and checked the forms of ID I carry. She pronounced them satisfactory. All can be sorted once I return with the signed form.

So out of practical necessity I’ve made a decision. I’m staying here. I shall join a bowls club or some such for a social life, cheap meals and meat pack raffles, and see about a dinghy to fish from.

Non-Existential Angst

A foray into a new genre. I don’t know what it is.

Sometimes, when you are dead, you just don’t know it. Your mind continues to believe in your life, despite the irrefutable proof lying in a wreck on the roadside. You ignore the clues, carry on in a dazed trance, doing work that does not need doing, and which is never noticed. You raise imaginary dahlias and runner beans and children. You still believe in Love, Family, Friends. Hope. You believe in Truth and Balance and Justice. They are ideal, because they are not real. You take foolish risks for their sake, not realising it matters nought. For you have nothing to lose that is not already lost.

You edge sometimes towards an unwilling awareness of your sad condition, this seemingly human condition. When you do, you seek diversion. You lose yourself in fiction, for deep inside you know that only in the imagination is found the Happy Ending. Every book you think you read, is one you write yourself. Every movie you watch is no more than your own reimagining of all you missed while you were still alive. Your own mind sometimes produces that rare masterpiece, a dream so moving, so sweeping, with such an epic, tragic, sad or bitter-sweet finale, that you weep. You weep. You feel. Because despite being dead, on some unconscious level of your non-existential soul you are aware you have just realised the Truth.

Entropy rules. Decay. That is how you should know you are dead. There is no other condition.

And the only question for you, Zombie, is “When was it that you died?”

There, perversely, paradoxically, is your true immortality.

You were, you are, you shall be – always – nothing more – and nothing less – than a skin cell shed from the Universe as it searches for meaning.

© S.P. Nov, 2019
Another skin cell, shed from the Universe

Observations

A change of routine today. Since I am up early I decided that now the weather is seriously hotting up, I’d go to the pool first thing in the morning from now on. I set off at 7:30 for an 8 o’clock start. It turns out to be the best time of day to go. The early lane swimmers have just left to start work. The youngsters haven’t arrived yet. I’m pretty much assured of a lane to myself. Best of all the water is cooler by a couple of degrees and very much clearer than it is towards the end of the day.

I had completed 90 minutes of my own peculiar stealth style of breast stroke and was out and showered well before the first droves of youth arrived.

I think the cooler water is better by far, this morning was really refreshing, but I heard people complaining that it “could be a bit warmer”. I’ve noticed this all over Australia. Despite their carefully promoted reputation as hardy rugged individuals, most Aussies are a bunch of wusses. They won’t swim if the water temperature drops below 24, some have an even higher minimum, and they can’t survive a warm day without air-con. Not that I haven’t been glad of air con, on occasion. I suspect I may be wishing for it myself, soon. It is really getting hot, and it’s only November.

There were police and a rapid response vehicle all over the place this morning. I don’t know what that was about, though no doubt it will come out. It wasn’t fire, at least.

Smoke is everywhere again. The winds must have shifted. The fires have shaken a lot of people’s complacency at last. They are suddenly the topic of conversation everywhere I go. An older couple were expounding on the value of steel or aluminium shutters today. Houses can be saved from destruction by using them. Most homes burn down because radiant heat from bushfires shatters the windows, allowing flying sparks to enter and ignite the furnishings. This should be a well known fact here in Australia, but apparently it is not. I have a shutter on the window facing the bush behind the caravan, but I doubt it will help much. The roof is plastic.

There is a new turkey staking out territory in the bush along the path I ride. That makes three that I pass each day, now. I must take them some food and try to make friends. Two new bird calls for me to try to identify, and I caught a brief glimpse of a kookaburra this morning. There are plenty around. I hear them, but don’t often see them. Ibis are poking around everywhere, earning their pejorative epithet “bin chicken”. I must be the only person around that likes them. Any bird that learns to exploit us as we exploit them is ok by me.

Small Significant Steps

My weight has plateaued again. Despite daily exercise and (mostly) healthy meals. On the other hand I have lowered the saddle on the bicycle a few finger widths. Chubby finger widths.

This is particularly significant because apart from meaning I can put my feet down properly, increasing my safety when I am stopped at an intersection, it is a very encouraging indication that my knees are improving. Also that I’m lighter. My riding posture seems more comfortable too.

Best of all, I pedalled home this afternoon against a steady strong wind that proved I was contributing a significant effort to my progress. Enough to break out in a sweat despite the cool of the evening.

The pool is getting a lot of use these days. I am sharing a lane most of the time. Sometimes we triple up which involves some accommodations, since I am invariably the slowest swimmer. I am also the only one who does not stop unless I’m waiting my turn for half a lane. The others swim intermittently for a fixed number of lengths or a short time such as half an hour, then leave.

What I find particularly irksome is the couple of old codgers standing still at the shallow end of a lane talking for half an hour and not using the lane while others are triple sharing. If they just want to talk in a moist environment they should go sit in the paddling pool. I’m becoming a grumpy curmudgeon.

I don’t like to feel I’m hogging a lane so when there is a crowd like today I quit after only 90 minutes. That’s a good 4,000 kJ burned at least by my calculation. Another thousand minimum on the bike and a couple of hundred on my daily limp around the camp mean that I can be completely guilt-free however I choose to spend the six to seven thousand kilojoule daily food and beverage budget I allow myself.

Then the black dog reminds me that I’m doing all this just to be fit and well at the Apocalypse. And I pour a couple of gins and tonic. Bombay Sapphire was on special on Saturday.

I had started stocking up for Christmas, but what the hell. Christmas is when you feel.

Salted Cashews

Yesterday I passed Woolworths on the way home and called in for a few things I can’t get from Aldi. Lentils, coffee whitener and brown flat mushrooms. I also hoped to find some low sodium soy sauce but I shall have to keep searching, or get it on line.

I spotted cashews on special, 500g for $8. Salted or unsalted. I grabbed a bag from the unsalted box. At home I opened the bag to snack on a few nuts and transfer the rest to a jar. They were salted. Someone put them in the wrong bin, and I didn’t read the label.

This morning I rinsed the nuts off in a strainer under the tap and they are currently in the turbo oven drying on low. I hope that works and they don’t go mouldy.

It is not easy to stay under my daily sodium limit. Most days I transgress to a greater or lesser degree. It’s harder to manage sodium than it is fat, sugar and protein. It’s in everything. Reading labels has become more than a passing interest.

It is impossible to survive without salt but I need not worry about that, because it is also impossible to eat most foods without getting some. Even so, it takes a while to appreciate the unsalted flavours of some foods traditionally salted quite heavily, but we do adapt. Low sodium stock, and spices help.

I have been rewarded for my efforts with an excellent and consistently low blood pressure of around 120/75. My GP says this is the main factor in managing my kidney function.

I still sneak a little bacon into my diet now and then. Usually flavouring something else unsalted, like cabbage or mash. Or both in bubble and squeak. I had a slice of ham in a salad roll yesterday. There was probably more sodium in the bread.

Returning Alone – Haiku 2

I go to the bush

With my black dog on a leash

I return alone.

ARF

The other day in the changing room at the pool I met Julius. Fit, firm, muscular and tanned with a shock of grey hair that rivalled mine before I cut it, he looked much like I aspire to. My casual “How are you going?” unleashed an expletive – laden account of depression and unhappiness that caused a conversation of over half an hour. His life had no purpose. His family no longer needed him, he had no job satisfaction. He was getting nowhere. He’d lost a lot in a property settlement. He wanted to be dead. Whenever he saw a report of someone being killed he wished it had been him. And so on.

,A lot of what he said resonated with me. I told him I had an inkling of how he felt and that I shared some of his experience. I was very concerned not to enable his suicidal thoughts and looked for ways to talk through them. I asked if he had sought medical help. I told him I had found a lot of help with Prozac. It might not be for everyone, but there was undoubtedly something similar that might help in his case. He was dismissive. He did not want to put that stuff in his body. I asked if he preferred to have sadness and sorrow. There was an alternative. I have been on medication for ten year’s over. It helps.

He asked how old I was, I told him.

“Christ, you’ve had eight years of this shit more than I have”.

I could only tell him that it wasn’t all bad, and though I had been right where he was not so long ago, there is another side. I urged him to get help. We talked on for a while. In the end he shook my hand, told me his name and asked mine, then bid me goodbye, saying he was pleased to have met me.

I don’t quite know what to make of that encounter. On the way home I pondered whether there was ever a time when it was ok to decide one had endured enough and there was nothing left in life to give it purpose and meaning. What circumstances would make it a reasonable decision?

From his physical appearance, Julius has no reason for such despair unless he has been diagnosed with something as yet invisible but terminal. From a social and mental health perspective it is harder to comment. There are creative and intellectual considerations. There could be matters of conscience.

Though I have been where Julius seems to be, I don’t think it was ever more than a passing moment of self-pity and self-doubt that was easily managed by an appropriate dose of fluoxetine and a jolly good talking-to.

“On the other hand, there are plausible circumstances that I can envisage. Perhaps, should there come a time when the pain is too much, the prognosis too bleak, and the point has been so completely lost, I may need to think along those lines. If so I’d like to think I shall make the decision rationally, deliberately, and without despair. At such a time it would be wrong to dissuade me. I would not have “so much to live for” any longer. There would be something unpleasant to avoid and nothing still left I’d care to do. Particularly if the cost of doing it was too great. Then the inevitable end should be embraced and welcomed in a manner of my own choosing, rather than slowly, fearfully and painfully. At such a time I would prefer to go gentle into that good night. Joyfully, even, knowing I have done, and had, enough.

This could have been a very depressing encounter. Oddly, in the end I concluded I was ok. I worry about whether I shall see Julius again, and what I should do if we meet. Should I invite him out for a drink and a chat?