Lend Me Ten Pounds, and I’ll Buy You a Drink.

There is a gentleman I pass quite regularly on my cycle ride to the pool who appears to be picking herbs from the grass on the roadside. I’ve often wanted to stop and ask what he is collecting. I almost did so this morning, but it occurred to me he may be collecting cigarette butts discarded by people using the path. I am probably wrong. He is there so often, I doubt there would be that many butts for him to pick up by now. Nevertheless the thought was enough to deter me from stopping and asking. He might be embarrassed.

Whenever something like that happens I get the feeling I am losing an opportunity to hear an interesting story. Is he picking penny royal to make a decoction to induce abortion? is there some psychotropic weed growing here that no one other than he knows of? Is he a harmless nut herbalist, or a derelict with no money for fags? Is it any of my business?

Almost as if to answer the psychotropic theory, I next came upon a much younger man who appeared to have dropped a plastic carrier bag of possessions and was bending over to retrieve them. I was about to stop to help, until I heard what he was saying, or rather the language he was using, and his tone. It was a loud, angry, incoherent rant full of effing and blinding and the colourful C word. He seemed to be referring to one C in particular, up which he proposed to insert various objects. Whoever he was talking to was not visible to me.

Nor, it seems, was I visible to him. I pedalled by on my bike with its bright yellow trailer sporting a pirate flag on its mast. His rant at the invisible person beside him did not change at all as I rode through his line of gaze. I have seen those crazed, dilated-pupil red-rimmed stares before. Not weed. Ice. Move on. Quickly. Before those eyes focus.

The clear water of the pool was warm. It did not feel particularly refreshing. The only energy burnt there today would be in propulsion, not in maintaining body temperature. It was so warm I wondered if I was sweating as I swam. How can one tell?

The MP3 player gave me a particularly good choice of random music today. My 90 minutes of laps passed very quickly. A bit of Zydeco, Sinead O’Connor, Pink Floyd, and Afro-Celt Sound System. I managed to keep up a vigorous stroke rhythm most of the time except during the more languid sound of O’Connor’s Danny Boy. Not my favourite version, nor my favourite of her recordings.

An estimated 4,740 kJ burnt, I had a cold shower and shampoo. Then, after a quick visit to Aldi for salad vegetables, I headed home, pedalling into a freshening breeze from the NNE. Practicing my long neglected nautical assessment skills, I estimated the wind to be between 18 and twenty knots, and bringing rain.

I checked my apps when I got home. 20 knots, NNE. And the radar showed approaching storms. The rain and lightning began within half an hour. It hasn’t changed the heat or humidity.

It still hurts when I pedal. More when I walk. The exercise is not helping, and may even be making things worse. I can’t keep increasing my painkillers. I need a new strategy.

On a completely different note, Richard in Quebec may be interested to hear I have been told there has been a rare (for Bribie) sighting of a small flock of Oriental cuckoos down at Buckley’s Hole. If the weather and my legs permit, I may toddle off down there tomorrow to see what I can see.

Idiots.

I see a lot of quibbling on the internet and in letters to the editor about the current bushfire crisis. “It’s not really climate change that is the cause; the fires were started by youthful arsonists; by lightning”. Yeah, whatever.

How the fire starts is irrelevant, whether it was from a badly placed barbecue or a deliberately thrown Molotov cocktail matters not one whit. There have always been bushfires. Sometimes really bad ones. Some deliberate, some accidental, some natural. The point is that the conditions are now more and more such that once a fire starts, it’s increasingly, damnably hard to put out and spreads through the dry vegetation at an alarming pace that much of the wildlife and few humans on foot can outrun. The fires spread further and faster, and it is climate change that caused these conditions. Arguing against this scientifically established fact is not expressing an intelligent opinion, any more than maintaining that the sun, moon and stars all revolve around an earth placed squarely in the centre of the universe.

When science has established facts beyond doubt and has all the data necessary to prove it, there is room only for discussing the finer details of how globing warming may affect different geographies and circumstances. No way to say it is not really happening.

So I feel free to mock the deniers just as I would flat-earthers, creationists and iridologists. Because they are provably wrong. I don’t usually resort to the ad hominem because it is an admission of failure. However, I admit freely that I fail to understand how people don’t understand how science works.

Prove me wrong if you can. I’m willing to change my mind if the evidence is there. Lay it out.

A Good Night’s Sleep

It is remarkable how much better one feels after a good sleep. I have not been sleeping well lately, something I ascribe to a combination of my state of mind and the weather. The days and nights have been hot and humid. Any slight breeze is a blessed relief. My daily swim at the pool, though giving me the exercise I need, and the heavenly release from the pain that plagues my gravity-stressed muscles and bones, is not as refreshing as before because the water has become too warm for my preference.

I have been going to the pool earlier in the morning to get there when the water is coolest, but it still feels more like a warm bath than a fresh dip. Maybe I should switch to the sea and risk the jellyfish and imaginary monsters. I’ve never understood why Australians, who claim to be so hardy in their sunburnt land, won’t swim in water cooler than their skin temperature. I still recall how astounded I was when I learned Katanning Shire would close the public pool if the temperature of the water was below 20 degrees.

On Saturday, I had completed my 90 minute swim and ridden my bike home again by 9 am. That left me nothing to do for the rest of the day but lay under my fan, nap and watch Netflix. The day was supposed to be one of my vegetarian days. I was planning to have dal and rice. On a whim I rode around to the butcher to seek out some more substantial sustenance. I’ve not had red meat in an age. I found a plump lamb shank, already marinating in a red wine sauce, just begging to be cooked and eaten. It fit perfectly into my 12V slow cooker with some celery, onion, tomatoes, and a large sweet potato, cut into chunks. By 7 pm it was perfectly cooked and ready to be deliciously overeaten.

In the afternoon the sky became increasingly overcast and the breeze cooled noticeably. The rain started in the early evening and continued all night. By Sunday morning it was still pelting down and the camp roads were all flowing streams of stormwater. The morning walk to the ablution block was also the morning shower. I had to towel off and change my clothes when I returned. I don’t have a raincoat. I should get one.

I did not ride to the pool. Nor did I drive. I spent the day reading Ursula Le Guin. I was so inactive that my self-winding watch actually stopped. I couldn’t understand why I was so hungry when it was only two pm and I had eaten brunch at eleven. But it was nearly seven. Time flies when you are reading a good book. I hadn’t even noticed how dark it had become as I lay under my reading lamp.

The rain continued. Then the wind came up. It buffeted the caravan until it rocked and creaked. It felt like being in a small boat in a storm. It felt wonderful. The breeze coming through the insect screen was cool and damp. For the first time in weeks I pulled my duvet over my body rather than laying uncovered on top of the bed under the fan. With a full stomach and snuggled in like a child, I had the best sleep I’ve experienced in a long while.

This morning, the outlook seems a little less bleak, though the weather hasn’t improved at all.

On the plus side, this amount of rain means the fire risk has been significantly reduced.

De Morte

Now that I’ve had a nap, and a glass of wine with my dinner, my reflections on today have given me some insights. It was indeed embarrassing; both for the GP with an unnecessarily concerned patient, and for the patient.

I too quickly leapt to a conclusion. When I received the previous call back, I made the appointment by phone, and asked for a hint of what the doctor wanted to discuss. Of course the receptionist was not falling for that one. This time, I didn’t ring, but just booked via the booking app. If I had rung, no doubt some confusion and distress might have been avoided. Or perhaps not.

No harm, no foul. A lesson learned.

My own (over)reaction ranged from considering the simple possibility that I was just going to lose a bit more of my arm, to the increasingly more sinister implications of chemo, radiation, drastic surgery and a short and painful prognosis. I missed the one I should have considered first; it’s probably nothing serious.

I also thought about where I was right now. From a medical standpoint, possibly the best possible place in the world. I have free medical treatment in a country well equipped and experienced with skin cancer.

I am between 2,500 and 3,600 km away from my closest friends and relatives in any direction. I’m paying the price of having been too far for too long from my immediate and extended family. I explored some time ago the possibility of returning to NZ. My visit only confirmed you can’t go back. Even returning would have to be a going forward. I couldn’t see the way.

My local support group consists of two very kind new acquaintances. I have one person with whom I have regular long distance telephone conversations, a friend who has experience with basal cell carcinoma. It used to be we only had dogs, emus and cooking as common interests. I’d have preferred to stick to that.

Today was, therefore, a reminder of what it is to be alone and ageing. As if I needed one.

In vino veritas

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.