Friday, 23 January 2009


1. Throat: no better. Well, maybe slightly, but not really.
2. Weight: no better. Well, maybe slightly, but not really.
3. Cough: gone, hurrah. But Fisher has another one, and I woke coughing frantically in the middle of the night, so I feel the inevitability of catching it weighing over me like a ton of bricks.

To clarify point number 2, when I weighed myself at the start of my 'diet' I did so during the deceitful days just before That Time of the Month (yeah, that's right, my PERIOD ... get over it) when I always weigh light. During TTotM/P(goi) I then weigh a good couple of pounds heavier. Confusing, non? So, basically, taking all that into consideration, I have lost my first week's pound, but am casting around wildly for my next one.

I went for my first proper run yesterday, managing 3.5 miles in a horrible, terrible time of 39mins 20. What?? I know. I haven't been that slow since I started running. What is it - something like 11m20s per mile? And even though it was on the 'weight loss' programme and therefore had an intermittent incline, I really don't think it should have made that much difference. Terrible. Awful. BUT - most importantly, I did it - and the exercise definitely helped my tight throat for a while.

It's Fisher's birthday tomorrow, and I still haven't bought her all the gifts she deserves. I'll have to pop into town when in Edinburgh and pick something up for her.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Throat Troubles


I'm so tired of this globus sensation. I have to keep telling myself it's not like it's anything serious - but imagine, if you will, that you wake up every day with a feeling that something is pressing against your Adam's Apple region. If you push it with your finger you'll know exactly how it feels. It's not exactly pleasant, but it doesn't hurt - it's just there. ALL the time. I have no trouble swallowing food (which is good, as if I did I'd have committed suicide by now) or drink (ditto), but there's no let up of symptoms. The only time I've ever been able to forget about it to the extent where it may even have gone away is:

A) Running/swimming: the sensation is either pushed so far from my mind due to the pain of exercise, or it actually goes away because I'm thinking of something else. I think the former more likely, as the sensation returns after I stop exercising, even when my mind isn't on it.
B) When I was helping Fisher tile the bathroom. Bending over cutting tiles, concentrating totally on what I was doing, meant the sensation vanished.
C) Giving a massage.

All of the above suggest that occupying my mind does help the symptoms, but it takes more than a simple distraction. For example, we had the neighbours round on Friday, for supper and drinks. It was a lovely evening, good chat, some laughs, a sensible amount of wine - and I wasn't thinking about my throat at all. However, the sensation never really went away, and after supper it was definitely worse.

I do think it gets worse after eating, which supports the theory of oesophageal reflux. However, after much research online, I've decided it might well be sensible to take laryngeal reflux - rather than GERD - into account. Dr Scott M. Kaszuba says this:

"GERD patients typically have heartburn, typically are supine refluxers, and typically have esophagitis while the opposite is almost true for LPR. They are hoarse and have dysphagia and globus, they do not have heartburn, they have laryngeal inflammation, and they do not have esophagitis."

I definitely don't get heartburn, I don't suffer reflux in bed, and I don't think I have oesphagitis. The first thing that alerted me to a potential problem was that I thought there was something slightly wrong with my singing voice - I was slightly croaky, and kept missing notes I should be able to get. The first thing on Kaszuba's list of LPR symptoms is vocal complaints. Then "swallowing and globus sensation type complaints" which is bang on. Lastly are pulmonary manifestations, which I don't have. Well - I mean, I've had a cough for the last few weeks, but so has everyone. It's definitely not connected, as it's pretty much gone now. I actually went for a run yesterday (2.4 pathetic miles in an utterly horrendous 30 minutes - horrendous even through the first 1.2miles was all uphill), and even though my cough was back with a vengeance for the rest of the day, it improved in the evening and is back to feeling ok today.

I digress. Back to Kaszuba. He lists what an ENT dude should look for in an LPR patient, but unfortunately, not being an ENT dude I can't comment. My ENT dude certainly said there was nothing wrong save a little redness, which Kaszuba lists (erythema), so I should think that means I'm not really suffering very much. My hoarseness is mild, and I'm sure I only notice it because I sing and have a very intimate knowledge of my own voice and it's abilities. So, the options are that I don't have LPR at all, or that I do and it's mild.

Oh - and I don't know if it's relevant, but apparantly I have a very large thyroid. Not abnormal, or troublesomely large, but certainly at the top end of acceptable. Something to bear in mind for the future, perhaps.

Anywayyy ... the most important bit is treatment. This is what old Kaszuba (god I wish he wasn't called Scott. It really puts a dent in my levels of trust) says.

Elevate the head of the bed 6-8 inches - Can do. No bother.
Maintain an ideal body weight
- O fuck off. Like I don't know that. I'm TRYING, damn you!
Do not lie down three hours after eating -
Going to presume he means 'leave 3 hours after eating before lying down', otherwise it's unusually specific. And incomprehensible. If I eat at 8, I can lie down at ANY TIME except 11pm?? No, I think not.
No problem.
Foods high in fat
- Grrr. Will try.
Spices -
Should be ok, if regrettable.
Acid -
DAMN. There goes my hydrochloric and sulphuric lunch.
Alcohol -NOOOOOO!
Caffeine -
.. that promote reflux including calcium channel blockers, sedatives, or nitrates. - Oh, right. Ok then. *Reinserts heroin drip*

"You can also chew gum, which increases salivary bicarbonate production and may neutralize the acid." - Yuck. Be damned to that. I'm not becoming some cow-like, masticating beast, permanently grinding away on the cud. And I hate chewing gum. But if it helps , I suppose I could give it a go.

He then goes into the pharmacalogical options, which are: antacids, H2 blockers, and PPIs. I'm on PPIs - but he suggests taking them before each meal. At the moment I'm taking one every morning and that's it, so the logical step is to up it to one twice a day, before breakfast and supper. My doc also backs this up, but has warned me that I really don't want to be on these things for the rest of my life. I agree. It's not about cost (god bless the NHS - £5 for about 3 months' supply of Nexium), it's about my body working the way it's supposed to. If I can get myself under working control with a high dose of Nexium to start with, I can then supplement it all by changing my diet, sleeping position, getting my weight down, and exercising. He doesn't mention exercise, but it always helps and never hurts. Once lifestyle has been altered, I should be able to wean myself off the drugs.

That's the plan, and the reason I'm blogging it is to make it more real, more of a decision - and, also, to help with records.

What other news? I mentioned the dinner with neighbours, and it was great. I had a panic with my Malay curry, which tasted awful to begin with, owing to the large number of shallots in the recipe. I forgot that frying shallots on a high heat tends to make them very bitter, so the curry tasted of sick for a while. Mmm ... a taste sensation. Turmeric bile.

I added a good gloop of honey, and after 2 1/2 hours of simmering it was all fine. I wouldn't call it my best curry ever, though. I'll be buying sweet shallots next time.

On an aside, and as a major pain in the arse, we have no heating. None. Nada. Zip. We also have a very lovely coating of snow outside, so you can imagine the joy. The geo-thermal people are coming on Wednesday to fix it. Wednesday. We have to live like Victorians until then, and I now have a hearty respect for the constitutions of our forebears.

Well ... like Victorians with electric heaters, that is. Our sitting room is tosie, thanks to the open fire and electric heater, and we've got an electric heater in the kitchen. Fortuitously, there's also a 1950s style electric bar-heater in our bedroom, which takes the edge off before we go to bed, but has to be switched off overnight, meaning the mornings are interesting. This morning, I awoke to find Baffie had forced her butt under the top edge of the duvet, and her top half - including head - under Fisher's pillow. How she was breathing I have no idea, but she was lovely and warm.

I must leave now because Fisher has just stormed in, declared that she "cannot make fire" and stormed out again. This means she has tried and failed to light the wood burning stove in Phid & Wheeler's room, so I must go and try my luck.


Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Goddam' Cough

I've just had to cancel my first 'paying' customer for massage (ok, I was giving it to her for free, but only to say thanks for the case study - all the other ones wouldn't be free) because of this goddam' mo'-fo'ing cough. Phid is also struck down with the same thing, but we both ignored it enough to thoroughly enjoy a whimsical weekend up in Brora.

Basically, it came about because I wanted to check out a motorcycle - a Derbi Terra - with Wheeler, whose experience of these things is obviously much superior to mine. The only place that sold Derbis in Scotland was Wick - some 4 hours away from us. In fact it would have been an easier job to go to Newcastle, but instead I thought - why not make a weekend of it?

So we did. I looked online for nice hotels in the Wick area, and found, frankly, very few. We thought we might do some surfing, so I wanted somewhere near water - and then Fisher hit upon The Royal Marine in Brora. It was difficult to get an accurate portrayal of what it was like online, but we just took a chance and booked.

Wheeler, Phid and Castor came up on Friday night. We shared a meal of Guinea Fowl Fajitas (we had a guinea fowl in the fridge that would have gone to waste otherwise), then went to bed. Phid and I were both spluttering a bit, but nothing to concern anyone. Saturday saw us attempt to leave at 9.30, and therefore make it out of the house at 10.15. I didn't bother to take my board, as there was no way I was going in the January water off the north coast of Scotland with this cough. Fisher also managed to forget her wet suit, so it looked like the only possible surfers were our guests. Instead, I took my mountain bike as Wheeler said there were mountain bike trails near Brora, and I've never done proper trailing.

The drive was long, but beautiful, and when we arrived at the Royal Marine it was a real relief to see it wasn't hidous modern monstrosity, or something born out of the 1970s and never redecorated. The lobby had a roaring open fire, and if it was a little unimaginative, and if the restaurant was just an adjoining room to the lobby, it didn't matter a jot. The staff were friendly, and our master rooms (upgraded from standard because of the low season) were lovely.

We had a bit of lunch in the bistro - all quite pleasant - and then Wheeler and I headed up to Wick to see the bike. It was about an hour's drive, and when we got there the bloke just nipped round to his mate's, to whom he'd sold a Derbi Terra over Christmas, and drove it back to the shop so we could take a look. I couldn't drive it, of course, but I did get to sit on it. It felt fine - not too heavy (in fact the steering is very light to the touch) and not too daunting a prospect for a complete beginner. Wheeler had a good poke about, too, and we chatted - at length - to both the sales bloke and his mother. In fact, it was difficult to get him to shut up. He addressed most of his comments to Wheeler. Wheeler was the only one asking sensible questions, but he knew full well I was the one buying the bike. Couple that casual sexism with some slightly startling comments about 'queer boys' coming in and buying a certain type of jacket and I started to wonder whether I actually wanted to give them any money. It's not that they were saying anything offensive, particularly, just classically ignorant. Other than that, they were very pleasant.

We left after an hour or so, with me pretty convinced that was the bike for me, and went for a very - very - blustery walk along the coast. Wheeler wanted to show me the local fishing spot, and it was worth a bit of gale force to see it. At the foot of some coastal cliffs lies a natural step, some 20 feet wide and maybe 100-200 yards long, made of beautiful, smooth black rock. Apparantly Caithness is famous for a certain type of sandstone that forms natural flagstones, which people used to build walls out of and mark off their land. I don't know whether the natural step - almost like Wick's front porch - is that rock, but it was certainly striking. Wheeler tried to find some natural steps down but couldn't recall where they were; either that or he couldn't really make them out in the rapidly fading light.

After 15 minutes or so we jogged back to the car and headed for Brora. It had certainly blown the cobwebs away, and I was looking forward to seeing what the hotel had to offer.

We picked up Phid, Fisher and Castor from Castor's room, where he was watching TV and playing PSP, and decided to try out the swimming pool, sauna and jacuzzi. It was a relatively paltry affair, with the pool no more than 10-12m long and quite narrow, but the jacuzzi was lovely, and the sauna eased my aching chest quite a bit. We played in the pool area for a good hour and a half, before retiring to our rooms to get ready for supper.

Supper was pretty good. Nothing spectacular, but good hotel fare. Wheeler ordered his steak rare and had to send it back, but that was really the only black spot on a good night. We had a couple of bottles of very passable Barolo, followed by after dinner drinks, while Castor joined us for a spot of poker around the fire afterwards. We chatted a lot, then went to bed.

I miss chat. One thing we just didn't do over Christmas was chat a lot. At least, not those in-depth, meaty chats you used to have while staying up until 3am over a bottle of brandy. I don't know whether this was because people were being more 'couple-y' or whether we just know each other too well now to really get our teeth into conversation, but there were a couple of occasions where I felt people were actually avoiding it. Sitting around the kitchen table with Pro and Koios, there was a moment where we could have had a conversation about why violence against women is utterly tabu, while violence against a man who may be much, much weaker than you is less so. Just as I started to make a point, Pro and Koios started doing a little 'couple bicker' - you know the sort: where you think you're being playful and amusing, but you're just excluding everyone else in the room and talking shite. This means they either found the conversation itself dull, or they just didn't want me going off on one. Either way, it means I'm boring. And that's fair enough. Frankly, I'm bored.

I wasn't this weekend, though. On Sunday we had a leisurely breakfast and headed off to find a mountain bike trail. After much ado regarding my soft tyres (had no pump - random stranger I pestered in a guesthouse couldn't find her husband's pump - Wheeler's pump wouldn't fit my valve - success came in the form of ingenuity on Wheeler's and my part as we adapted the valve cap to be a conduit between pump and smaller valve, much to our pride) we set off.

Bloody hell. Riding uphill for 45 minutes is REALLY HARD - especially if you can't breath in fully. However, I can't really complain about my lungs. They served me well enough. Castor was about the same pace as me, so we made it gradually to the top of the mountain (probably a hill, to be fair, but a mountain of massive proportions in my head), passing Fisher, Phid and the dogs on our way up. We then started the downward track, with some twisting hairpins to navigate, and a couple of long stretches to get the blood singing in the ears.

Then we lost the trail. Wheeler took us down the walking path instead, involving a flight of 40 steps, which he rode down and Castor and I walked our bikes down. We emerged on the outskirts of the village in which we'd started, and, as we passed a restaurant, saw Phid and Fisher enjoying a coffee in the gazebo. We immediately propped our bikes up outside and went in to join them for lunch.

After a very good lunch, Wheeler had to go straight back to Edinburgh, so we took Phid back to ours for some supper (chilli con carne) before Fisher ran her home. The drive back was pretty hairy, as the rain came down in torrents and the wind threatened to blow us off the road in places. House of Bruar was shut, where we'd planned on getting a cup of tea before separating, so we headed into Pitlochry and McKay's bar (which is worth remembering for the future).

I think Phid was starting to feel a little ropy at the end of the evening, and the moment she and Fisher left after supper, I started to feel like my lungs were full of slightly poisonous gas. I couldn't take a deep breath without coughing, or fully breath out without the lovely rattle of a wheeze - and yet more coughing. Clearly, considering I felt much worse after my last long swim, the mountain biking was not that clever. It makes sense, after all. If your lungs are struggling agains an infection, they don't want to have to work really hard to provide you with enough oxygen, just because you stupidly choose to ride a bicycle up a mountain. And yes, it was a mountain. It was over 300 metres. (Cue massive debate, in which I have approximately 0 interest. This is my new bid to avoid boredom. If someone is talking about something I find dull, I refuse to join in. So there. I'd rather sit in silence.)

So that's where I leave you. My cough has not improved, my throat is still as tight as a drum, and I'm really quite fed up with it all. Fisher had her cough for 4 weeks, and I'm on week 3, but I'm buggered if I'm risking it going the full 6 weeks that other people have reported. I'm going to the doctor, and if they offer me antibiotics I might even take them - if they think it's bacterial rather than viral.

That's all.

Oh - food. Had some toast and coffee today, so far.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Right. New Year and all that ...

So, as those who have followed this blog (for reasons of insan ... of their own making) will know, the question of weight loss has come up quite frequently. You'll also know that it fades relatively quickly into the background. Success came in the form of a bet with Janus, suggesting that competition really does inspire me - but I think it's about time I stopped pussy-footing around.

Jeeze, what an unpleasant expression that is in modern-day parlance.

So, here is my philosophy towards weight loss and me.

I am, by nature, a relatively comfortable person within my own skin. I recognise that I'm not at all attractive, but I'm not a hideous monster either, so I can accept my physicality quite readily.
Luckily, Fisher has some sort of brain defect that makes her think I'm pleasing to the eye (or, at least, her eye) so that's really all that matters.

The above is not false modesty. I'm sure there are psychologists out there who will say that a woman who believes herself to be unattractive externally, suffers from feelings of poor self-worth. As far as I'm concerned, this is hokum. Honestly, the superficial doesn't interest me at all. In fact, I barely notice it. There's a theory that people see things in different ways, namely:

You walk into a room. Person 1 sees the whole room at once - how it's decorated, where things lie, what's in it - and then 'zooms in' to focus on detail. Person 2 sees a chair - the chair's pattern, cushions, detail - and then gradually focuses on the room via each individual characteristic. This may be simplistic, as I haven't exactly researched this subject, but it fits with me and Fisher. Fisher definitely sees the whole room, while I definitely focus on, if not one piece of furniture, then certainly a small area of detail. It's the same with people. While others may take in the whole person at one glance, I look at the face. Yes, I'll notice their build as well, and probably sort of clock what their wearing, but as those things are totally uninteresting to me I don't really pay them much mind. I see how they smile, whether they're nervous or not, how they carry themselves - and I do not give two shits from a lamb's arse about their clothing, or whether they're pretty or ugly. Let's face it, prettiness and ugliness are relative terms anyway. I'll notice whether I like someone on sight or not, but I like some very plain people. Looking likeable is very different to being conventionally attractive.

There are some people who will judge a person by how they dress. Notes of scorn or admiration will enter their voice when they comment on the outfit in question. I don't do that; not because of some higher set of values (hell - who knows? How someone dresses might be an accurate portrayal of their inner self and I might be majorly missing a trick) but because I genuinely don't notice. Unless something really catches my eye my brain simply disregards external paraphanalia as unimportant. Before anyone thinks I believe this is a good thing, I'd like to apologise to all the friends I've disappointed by not commenting on their new haircut/skirt/14lb weight loss etc etc etc. I'm trying to get better, I really am.

My point? That when I look in the mirror I see my face. It's an ok face. It's not going to launch a thousand ships, thank god (that would be painful and almost certainly detrimental to bone structure) but it's expressive, malleable and functional. It's me. Generally speaking, I'm quite happy with me. God, there are some deep-rooted, black and festering flaws I'd like to cut out, but that's just Work in Progress. We all need to self-improve, otherwise what's there to interest us?

So the fact that I'm fat doesn't generally bother me too much. I have mornings where I wake up and feel angry and disgusted with myself because I can't wear clothes I like*, or look as graceful as I'd like to feel - but these feelings are fleeting. They're certainly not powerful enough to keep me away from the delicious ice cream at Stewart Tower (surely the finest in the land?). The only thing that really matters to me, the only thing that gets my goat and inspires me to change is very simple.

Being fat is unhealthy. It shortens your life expectancy, and weakens the body. It weakens the abdominal muscles and therefore affects posture. It causes lordosis of the spine, thus shortening of the hamstrings and any number of other muscles. It weakens the urinary bladder. It increases the risk of cancer, heart disease and stroke. Being fat is, in short, a fucking stupid thing to do.

I don't like looking stupid. For Christ's sake, I stopped smoking because I thought it was stupid, and every time I see someone smoking I tend to think poorly of their mental acuity. And, seeing as I'm being personally insightful here, I should admit that I'm not the world's best person at laughing at myself - unless I'm in control of it. I can tell any number of stories that make me look stupid, but if I do something stupid and people laugh, I'm not all that good at laughing along.

So, what, then?

Quite simply, this.

It's a new year; it's the time for resolutions and new goals. My only goal this year, the only one to which I will truly hold myself, is weight loss. By January 8th 2010, I will be considerably lighter. Hopefully, I'll have lost 2 stone 12 lbs - 40lbs - and be in a healthy BMI category. That's my ultimate goal, and I think it's pretty do-able. Hell, losing a pound a week would mean I'd be done in the same amount of time it's taking Blarney to grow a whole new Cheese-eater. And I've got an extra 12 weeks. I shouldn't have a problem at all.

So how shall I do it? The only way that's ever worked for me is telling myself that I will deny myself nothing - I just won't eat it as often. If I really need chocolate I'll eat chocolate - but I have to have some sort of balance system. If I eat chocolate one day, I have to have nothing sweet the next - or something equivalent. And portion sizes need adjustment. Exercise should increase - I've been too lax.

Fact 1. Medicine says I'm obese.
Fact 2. Being obese is stupid.
Fact 3. I'm not stupid.
Fact 4: I am obese.

Hmm. My logical conclusion leads me to surmise that one of the above facts is incorrect. Fact 1? Hmf. Wouldn't be the first time medicine has been wrong ... but the mirror tells its own story (the parts of me I can see in it, anyway. Not that I'm that fat - just that the mirror's small. God, I hope!). Fact 2? Stupid is a relative term, but by my own argument I have to agree with it. Fact 3? Well, as Fact 4 reiterates Fact 1, we're left with the horses/zebras scenario and I must conclued that, in this case, I'm pretty stupid. But not stupid enough to continue to be stupid.

I tried to write a food list on my blog, but that didn't work at all. I couldn't be arsed to blog every day, so the food list fell by the wayside, along with the diet. I will, however, write up a list of what I've eaten whenever I do blog, and keep a progress log of loss.

On a brief aside, there are some people who would say that calling it a 'diet' is a bad start. It's too psychologically restrictive, creating subconscious panic and obsession. Well, as far as I'm concerned semantics are semantics. I'm looking at my diet, I'm changing my diet, and so I'm calling it a diet.

A cruce salus, people. Or, as the local gym instructor might say (and thereby only avoid a swift kick in the knackers through sheer force of will) - "No pain no gain!"

*Did you just say "aha! so she doesn't completely disregard clothing"? In which case, let me make myself clear. I like clothes. I like being well dressed (not that it happens all that often). I admire excellent taste in others, as I see it rarely enough for it to be a detail my brain acknowledges. In fact I have strong opinions on style. I just don't think about it often. It's like my strong opinions of music. I have them, but I don't think about them very often. Music is everywhere, and unless I hear something striking then I'll just block it out. I don't notice it when I walk into a friend's house, or a noisy pub - there are other things that are more important. When I play music, or listen to it purposefully, it's a very different matter. Then it's a matter of passion. Same with clothing. On a broad, general scale I'll block it out. When I'm trying to dress well, or when I'm talking about it with people, it's extremely important. Does that make sense?

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Ug. Ill.

Thanks to Janus I've been struggling with a nasty cough and cold of late. Last night it reached - I hope - its zenith and left me with a temperature of 101.7F. Luckily it rapidly dropped, and this morning I've got no temperature whatsoever. My lungs are still awful, crackling away with each breath, and my throat 'thing' remains despite there being no inkling of stress on the horizon at all. Very strange. I've done a lot of reading about it, and it's called 'globus sensation' or, my preference, 'globus hystericus'. Nobody understands it, nobody can cure it, and most of the people who suffer from it say it comes and goes. One poor chap had it for 9 years. 9 years! And it was so bad he would suffer from not being able to breathe. Crumbs. I'm not that bad.

I'm on omeprazole at the moment, but the ENT specialist put me on Nexium. They're both roughly the same thing. Nexium deals in esomeprazole, and from a journal I read it seems like Nexium might be the more potent of the two. Now, I've definitely had some indigestion while on the omeprazole, so I'm thinking that going back to the Nexium might be a smart plan. After all, the throat thing did clear up when I took Nexium, and even if the whole thing is psychosomatic then going on the drug that 'worked' before might trick my brain. Will it make a difference to my brain that it knows I'm on to it? But if it's the subconscious part, will it know I'm on to it? Does the subconscious listen to the conscious? Voluntary/involuntary communication? Tricky one ...

Also, I'd like to point out that, despite my body's demands to the contrary, I'm really not a person of nervous disposition. I'm not a hypochondriac. I find the workings of the body and the mind quite fascinating, so I tend to like to talk about aches and pains, and weird stuff that happens ... but I recognise this isn't particularly fascinating to everyone. I like to think that if I understand how something works, I'll then understand how it's gone wrong and therefore how I can fix it. Unfortunately, psychosomatic things don't work that way. If this throat thing, like psycho-tummy, is brought on by stress then you'd think it would go away in times of relaxation. However, I definitely remember times when there was no stress on the horizon and yet I was lying on the sofa, shaking from head to foot and feeling awful. Now I've got an entire year of no plans stretching before me, I could do absolutely nothing if I wanted to - and the throat thing is a permanent fixture.

Baffling. I don't get it.

Still, I will wait until my cold has 100% vanished, along with the unpleasant post-nasal drip (an oh-so-charming expression, n'est ce pas?), before taking stock of the throat situation. Then I'll go back to the doc and get back on Nexium and see if that makes a difference. If all that fails ... well, I suppose I'll see if the doctor can come up with something. If, as someone suggests, it's actually my oesophagus going into spasm, then I could suggest some muscle relaxants to see if they actually make a difference.

I'm not crazy, but I might be soon if this weird 'something stuck in my throat' sensation doesn't fuck off and leave me alone.

On an aside - I think I became iller because I decided to go for a run and a swim the day before yesterday. Ok, it was only a mile's run, but breathing out was incredibly unpleasant - horrible crackles that coughing couldn't clear - and at the end of it, and not to put too fine a point on it - it felt like my womb was trying to climb out of my body. Hey ho - it's not like I need it anyway. In medieval times physicians believed the womb moved about the body - called the 'wandering womb' - and after the run, I could have believed them. Even though they were clearly idiots. The swim was much less uncomfortable and I managed 80 lengths of front crawl (1360m) - although I had to pause to cough at about the midway point. I felt pretty good about it all - but then came the fever the next day, which suggests to me that going for a swim in a public pool when your immune system is shot to shite is not a very good idea.

Took the pooches for a wander up the road today, and both are much happier because of it. We've also had the drain men round and they've unblocked two of the other drains, which means everything should flow much more easily now. We were told, charmingly, by Mr Drain Man that a sure fire way of screwing up a sceptic tank system is to put 'white mice' down it.

"White mice?" I snorted to Fisher, when she relayed this. "You don't get white mice in ... ahhhh! Those white mice."

Sometimes I can be slow.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Christmas Update

So, the Christmas holidays are over, Hogmanay has been and gone, and at last Fisher and I have the chance to really settle into our new home. This I am currently doing by playing non-stop Grand Theft Auto IV all day, coughing, spluttering, sneezing and wheezing - and in between, cursing Janus with the remnants of breath left in my body; for it was she - SHE - who infected me. In fact, not only am I infected, but so is Phid, Badger and preggers Blarney.

However, despite the evils that is Janus's cold, Christmas was a success. The usual gang was holed up in a country house near Pitlochry for a week, and while the whole gang is a very different dynamic to just the Cheeseboard (coupledom becomes a factor) it was great to all be together. Even Wheeler managed to make it up for a few days, including a bit of Christmas morning - enough to open his collective present and his stocking, at least. Then he had to rush off and be with Castor, for family fun. Personally, I'm not sure he was sold on the Cheeseboard as a gathering. He certainly wasn't sold on playing poker with my allergy to wild cards, and my confusion over trying to play Texas Hold 'Em with wild 4s. I was trying to work out whether, if a wild 4 shows on the flop, it becomes the highest card showing and therefore loses its wild status. Looking back, the incident is so infantile it's actually pretty funny.

Me: "So what happens on the flop?"
Phid: "Eh?"
Me: "If it shows on the flop, does it become the highest card, or is it still wild?"
Phid: "It's still wild."
Me: "But if there's a pair of nines showing on the flop, one a wild card, doesn't that mean everyone should have a pair of nines? And therefore doesn't the wild card become a nine?"
Wheeler: "It's just the same as an ordinary wild card."
Me: "But it's not, it ..."
Wheeler: "Yes it is."
Me: "No it's not, it ..."
Wheeler: "Yes it is."
Me: "No, because it ..."
Wheeler: "Yes it is."

I was just waiting for him to put his fingers in his ears and go la-la-la. I was being pretty obtuse, but I genuinely didn't get it. Hey, I was a bit drunk at the time. Anyway, we played the round and it worked ok. It does render the odds completely redundant, but then wild cards do that anyway and I believe they should be used very sparingly, and only to break up the monotony. So it was fine. A bit shit, but fine. It was Phid's game, and Wheeler was dealing next and I waited with bated breath for him to choose exactly the same game, just to prove a point.

"Texas Hold 'Em, 7s wild," he snapped, not disappointing me in any way. I wish I could say I found it amusing, but it was so obviously a put-down I was - at the time - quite angry. Stupid. Anyway, I bit my tongue and we played another round, equally fine, equally a bit shit.

Then it was my turn to deal.

"Texas Hold 'Em," I declared. Pause for effect. "2s wild."

Laughter - from everyone, including Wheeler, who probably got the point and recognised how ridiculous it was, thus dealing with it in a more adult manner than I. I added the proviso that should a wild card show on the flop it pairs with the highest card showing and is therefore no longer wild. Hand played.

Hand equally shit.

There were no more occasions of Texas Hold 'Em with wild cards. All in all, it's quite funny to look at it now. The rest of the table must have wondered what the hell they were doing, playing with two such utterly childish brats. Wheeler was obviously defending Phid's honour, as she chose the original game, but it was hardly an honour that needed defending. And yes, I'll make my views known here and now: Texas Hold 'Em with wild cards is rubbish.

That happened on Christmas Eve - and the other thing that happened - this time during the day - was that Spartan, Phid, Pro and I all went skiing at Cairn Gorm. The snow was really icy in the am, so we waited til the avo and took the funicular railway to Ptarmigan at the top. It was still pretty rubbish, snow-wise, with roughly 6 square feet to play with (ok, not that bad) but we had so much fun I've just got back from buying myself my first set of skis, boots and poles. Can't wait for Glenshee to open up! I'll be there with bells on. And, according to our neighbour, there's a spot on our local brae you can go to and see whether there's snow at Glenshee. Brilliant!

I was very impressed with Phid. She's only had a couple of days on skis, but her snow ploughing is steady, controlled, and graceful. She could go down almost anything skiing like that. I really ought to try and find some grace from somewhere. I'm like a sack of flour strapped to a couple of planks. Occasionally I have a rush of blood to the head and take a kamikazi rush to the bottom, getting scared as I hit what feels like 60mph (but is probably about 6) and then discovering I'm not really good enough to stop. I swear I'll come a major cropper one of these days - especially as I also tend to forget I'm not 14 years old any more, and try and 'catch air' over moguls - or, as at Cairn Gorm, over small ice-boulders.

We had huuuge fun, and then returned home to discover that the rest of the clan had prepared all the sauces and fiddly crap for the next day's Christmas dinner, leaving me only to shove things in the oven at the appropriate moment. I can therefore hardly claim to have cooked Christmas dinner, and feel something of a fruad - but it was so fantastic to have got the skiing under my belt. It's the sort of thing we always say we'll do but then don't - so perhaps this is an example of a new, pro-active set of Cheeseboarders. Of course, a few of those who said they'd like to do it backed out, so maybe it's just a case of weeding out the runts ; )

Christmas day was lovely. It started with everyone trying to sneak into everyone else's room and deposit stockings, as we had a 'secret Santa' type deal going on with them. I had Koios's stocking, but at 3am the door of our room creaked open and an arm stretched in.

"Woof," I said, in a passable imitation of Bridie.

"Ho ho ho," said an unimpressed voice before withdrawing.

Bridie promptly peed on the carpet.

3am, and once again I'm called to clean up dog piss. Enough is enough. I've done it too many times. This time I wasn't letting Fisher get away with it - so she mopped it all up, while I delivered my own stocking to Koios. She was not in any way asleep - because, it turned out, she had my stocking and had been the unidentified deliveree from 30 seconds ago. Pah.

"Ah, yet more visitors," she said into the darkness.

"Yeah, well, my fucking dog just pissed on the carpet. Happy Christmas," I hissed.

The next day it transpired that Koi and Pro were convinced that, apropos of nothing, I had flung a stocking at them and, with spitting venom, wished them a "Happy Pissing Christmas."

Well, they weren't far off I suppose, but I'm sure they've seen in the Noel with more festive cheer in previous years.

At 10am we all piled into Spar and Blar's room, as it had the biggest bed and some chairs, and opened our stockings. With Koi as my secret Santa I was assured of some great loot, and great loot I got. Then we all tripped downstairs, ate smoked salmon & scrambled eggs, and drank Buck's Fizz. Then we opened a present each. We had one from everyone, so we were well looted!

Wheeler left after the first present, and we continued on with Christmas Day. The presents kept coming and hours slipped away until it was time to start putting on the roasts. Yes, roasts. You see, we had:

1 x roast goose, prune stuffing in the cavity & nut & mushroom stuffing courtesy of Phid in the neck. Blueberry sauce to accompany.
1 x ham, glazed with honey and mustard, studded with cloves. Went really well with the blueberry sauce.
2 x quail each, stuffed with apple and onion. Bread sauce to accompany.

Add to this, sundry vegetables and roast potatoes, and you can envision the table as it groaned beneath the weight. We'd also decided on going black tie, so everyone looked marvellous as we stuffed our faces, pulled crackers and quaffed champagne.

Naturally, after all that food, we then had to play a rousing game of 'sardines.' For any who don't know the rules - where the hell have you been living? Mars? Anyway, just in case this is a peculiarly British game, I shall explain.

1. Take a large house, preferably one you don't know very well.
2. Send 1 person away to hide. Give them a loud countdown of 100.
3. Seek said person.
4. When you find said person, join him/her in their hiding place, until the bed you're hiding under is resting against the ceiling.
5. Last person to find the others loses. Or, alternatively, is the first person to hide next time.

We played 2 rounds of this, and it was most amusing. Some people also played some table tennis in their finery, thus cutting up the wooden floor so badly (courtesy of high heels) that I got a massive splinter in my foot the next day. In fact, it was so painful I can't remember the result of the match I was playing against Spartan at the time. Nope. Totally gone. We'll just call it a draw, shall we Spar?

And so passed Christmas. We opened our last bits of loot at just before midnight, and collapsed into bed feeling most festive. Boxing Day saw us lounging round the house, taking a short walk of 2-3 miles through the countryside (predictably, Spar and Blar got lost and only managed to find us as we made our way back, while Koi and Pro gave up after a mile or so, leaving Fisher, Phid and me to ramble onwards with the pooches), and forcing leftovers down our gullets.

The day after that, we went home.

Other events of note that took place during the week are:

1. Walk up Ben-y-Wrackie. Ok, not quite up the ben, but to the base of it. The dogs had a fabulous romp, Baffie exhausted herself, and we were all tired and happy as we reached the lovely Moulin Inn for lunch. I paid my respects to my ancestors, buried in the kirkyard.

2. Supper times. Every couple cooked a supper. Ones of note: Spar's droolworthy chicken & brocolli bake; Phidippida's chowder, and her trifle; Pro's chocolate orange ice cream.

3. Playing the Cheeseboard Game. This was a rare moment of Cheeseboardiness, where we were completely transported back to simpler times, and it was just us - in pure form, as it were. This was a game I'd invented for the last Cheeseboard Christmas, which was just us lasses, and we'd had to make each other gifts. It was a simple board game, and one whose rules I'd completely, utterly forgotten in the subsequent 4 years. For a couple of hours we existed inside a little isolated bubble, remembering issues long dead, attitudes in the throes of formation and now either well established or discarded, lives changed, lives continued ... and it was bloody funny. Especially funny how Koi was losing and therefore suggested (not unreasonably, considering the author) the game was at fault, while Phid and Fisher romped to the finish line.

4. Dougal the maniac dog rushing through the house in excitement, and yanking out the cable attaching Koi's computer to the phone line. This he did so thoroughly that the wires came out, rendering it unworkable - and Koi's email no less vital. Then followed several hours of fruitless DIY, concluding in a wander down to Kirkmichael in search of a replacement, finding one in the local hotel - which we loaned. Koi was astonishingly un-furious - although even she struggled when she told Wheeler what Dougs had done and Wheeler found it most amusing. On the other hand, it wasn't really his fault - it wasn't anyone's fault - and I don't think he really grasped the gravity of the situation at the time. Koi did tell him with a laugh in her voice, so an answering laugh didn't seem unreasonable at the time. Anyway - the merry conclusion of this was that we went down to the hotel that evening to return the cable and bring them some business in gratitude. We quaffed beer with contented sociability, returning home roaring out the 12 Days of Christmas at the top of our lungs.

Or maybe that was just me and Phid.

And that, I think, is that. I daresay others with blogs will write their own summary of events. It would be nice if they did (hint hint, Phid & Fisher) as I'm fed up of only reading my own perspective of these things!

So, I'm almost caught up. It just remains for me to mention New Year and then I'm done.

New Year, then.

We were joined by Spar and Blar, and Blar's folks from Norn Irn. We were naturally anxious that all should have a good time, especially as Blar's folks (known hitherto as Dagda and Breg) had been so courteous as to accept our invitation to Hogmanay. We didn't want to bore them to tears.

I think it went rather well. Fisher and I certainly had a fantastic time. We kicked off with a wee dram in the sitting room, and were pleasantly surprised by a visit from our neighbour, Gullo Shah, who joined us for a drink and invited us round the next day. I mentioned that we'd thought of first footing, and he enthusiastically encouraged us to do so. So, after nosh of Hebridean smoked salmon starters, roast lamb, and syllabub with home made brandy snaps to finish, we thought about 1st footing. But it was only 10.30, and we didn't want to interrupt their supper, which we knew they'd be having late - so we went through to the sitting room. There we roared out a few songs of the Scots persuasion, as well as some Eagles and Dolly Parton, until Blar suggested we turn on the TV for Edinburgh's fireworks.

We did so - only to discover that we'd done it just in time. It was 11.58. The fireworks were splendid, the countdown took us over into 2009, and we sang Auld Lang Syne in good voice. Then we went first footing.

At Shah & Epona's house, all seemed dark. My companions were rather reticent about the whole business, it being a very presumptious thing to do (what? Turn up on a stranger's doorstep and demand entry? Without being invited?) but I was confident. First Footing is a tradition that's falling by the wayside, but every person I've ever talked to about it is always extremely enthusiastic at the notion. Shah had definitely been enthused, and even though it was considerably later than we'd originally mentioned, I didn't think it would be a problem.

When we got to the front door I saw several people chatting quietly by the fireside. I knocked. No reply. I started having a few doubts ... so Spar and I went round to the back door. There I saw Shah getting drinks from the kitchen and drew his attention.

There was no cause for concern. Despite my horrendous attire of posh trews and top, walking boots, skiing jacket and Scotland beanie filched from Phid, we were all welcomed roundly. Of course, Spar went first across the threshold - being, if not tall then at least dark - and presented Shah with a lump of coal. In return, we were plied with drinks, warm welcome, and much good chat. We stayed until nearly 2, then swayed back home. By this point Dagda and Breg's eyes were almost closing of their own accord, and they were only too glad to hit the hay. We weren't far behind, but it was still well past 3 by the time our light went out. And best of all, while I was glowing with booze, I hadn't drunk enough to feel like shyte on a shingle the next day!

I was able to rustle up some scrambled eggs and croissants for the morrow's brunch, just before our guests departed. We bade them fond farewell ... and started to prepare ourselves for the drinks party we'd been invited to at Shah and Epona's. BUT - we also arranged to see Ceegar and Meeper that evening for dinner at An Lochan ...

We spent a very pleasant hour and a half at our neighbours', meeting all the other people on the hill, and then sped off to catch up with C&M. At An Lochan the food was good, the pudding uninspiring (so I had good cheese instead, despite it not being on the menu) and the chat lively. We've decided that this is definitely the year we go barging in France - something that will be arranged in February, when they come and stay for a couple of days.

So, with that first date on our 2009 diary, I leave you all.

Until next time, Mo Cairde.