Monthly Archives: April 2008

Wherein the twins engage in battle

Excluding obvious emergency scenarios, how much pain would you have to be in before you called 999?

It’s a question I asked myself many times five years ago during the time of the previous unpleasantness, the civil war in my lower spine. More recently the twins residing in my gallbladder have caused me to consider the question again. They occasionally kick me awake in the early hours, interrupting my usual bizarre dreams – a couple of weeks ago I woke wondering how to put gallstones under version control – but their games generally just disrupt my sleep for one or two hours and feel like a stubborn lump in the abdomen. Only once has the pain been strong enough to make me wonder about a trip to A&E, but the question resolved itself when the twins settled down again.

And then there was last night.

The pain started at about 10.30pm, but I’d known it was on the cards for about an hour before then. A burning sensation in my abdomen, on the right side beneath the lower ribs. Not the same pain as normal: hotter, less concentrated. It grew from discomfort to annoyance and beyond, inducing a sheen of sweat combined with restlessness – I walked around the room, lay flat, lay on my side, sat, leaned, stretched, crunched, nothing helped.

The usual scenario is a relatively quick build-up then a dissipation, with only a dull ache remaining after about two hours. But the pain kept building. Give it another five minutes and it’ll start to ease off, I thought, but it wasn’t listening. By midnight I was thinking seriously about hospitals. Pretty soon I realised I wouldn’t be able to drive there myself; I couldn’t concentrate.

I thought, if it’s still the same by 2am then I’ll go. But 2am seemed a long way off for the pain I felt. The balance tipped just after 1am when I decided that if there’d been someone there with me they’d have said: “right, stop messing about: hospital” by now. So I rang 999.

The ambulance arrived quickly; but the two staff on board seemed, how shall I put it, less than enthusiastic. “I can’t give you anything for the pain,” the main chap said as they sat in my living room. “All I can do is take you to the hospital.” I thought that was the point of the whole ambulance thing.

We spoke for a minute or two, him trying to get across to me the notion that he didn’t have any painkillers, me trying to get across to him that I was fully aware of that and in quite a lot of pain and let’s, you know, go to the hospital.

We got there eventually. A small part of me was slightly disappointed that we stopped at red lights, though the larger part was trying to ignore the pain and scanning the ambulance for somewhere to throw up if that became necessary. Meanwhile the main chap asked a few questions for the records and seemed less than interested.

I was very glad to be handed over to the nursing staff. It was, as you’d expect, like Casualty on TV but slower and with fewer jump cuts. I got myself into the standard issue hospital gown, answered all the questions through the fog of pain, was plugged into machines, injected with various fluids and had other fluids extracted. A succession of people came and went. One of the on-call medics examined me and discussed options.

Into the vein went some anti-nausea drugs, some painkillers and a bag of saline solution. Nice.

As the night drew on, the pain receded; whether due to drugs or time was unclear. The blood tests indicated a gallbladder infection so I got a shot of antibiotics to add to the mix. The on-call surgeon turned up for a prod and a chat, though by then my abdomen was no longer tender. Good thing really as he prodded pretty hard; I’d have been screaming the place down (like the chap in a bed just down the corridor, who really didn’t want anyone to move his leg; no idea what was wrong with him).

The surgeon’s assessment was no real surprise: when the infection has cleared up, best get rid. No need to detain me any longer.

All the faces I saw expressed some surprise that my GP hadn’t given me any painkillers, so I was promptly issued with a packet plus a course of antibiotics to take home with me. Like a Bullseye souvenir. That’s yours to keep, to take back to Rotherham. Have you had a lovely time? Oh yes, Jim.

I left three hours after I arrived, which was about three hours after the pain started. Bed at 4.30am, but no sleep for nearly an hour as there was still some discomfort and my mind wasn’t settled yet.

I worked from home today and took it easy. Hopefully the twins will sleep as well as I will.

Avaragado’s rating: one syringe of industrial-strength Gaviscon

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Not forty yet

It’s always tricky trying to decide where to have my and Melanie’s birthday meal. Do I plump for the easy – La Margherita or thereabouts – or try to find somewhere we haven’t been before for this particular celebration. I usually opt for something new, sometimes deciding months in advance (as last year). This year I couldn’t make up my mind.

Eventually I settled on the Fleur, having finally rejected the Punter after one tedious risotto too many on previous reconnaissance visits. I knew the Fleur would do decent food and one or two people attending hadn’t previously eaten there. Sadly we had to pre-order – tiny kitchen versus fifteen diners – but that went smoothly, my simple spreadsheet printout of who-and-what deemed “the most organised pre-order we’ve had” by the barman. The final tally was seventeen, with latecomers Nadia and ex-ANT colleague Simon squeezed in and allowed to order on the night.

A good mix of people, I thought; the usual suspects bolstered by former ANTers and more recent chums Andrew and Doron. There was even, astonishingly, some mixing between the groups.

The food was, as usual, excellent. I was slightly worried that my creamy tagliatelle would cause me some difficulties in my present confinement, though those worries were misplaced; possibly doused in alcohol. I declined dessert, since I never eat dessert (© Chef).

To round off a fine evening, the presentation of a magic voucher got us 15% off the bill for the entire table. And it doesn’t get much better than that.

Avaragado’s rating: fifteen peas

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Bring back Screen Test!

I have mixed feelings when watching films and TV shows set in the 1980s. Look at all those silly haircuts! Why did everyone look like they got dressed in the dark? WHERE OH WHERE DID MY YOUTH GO?

The eighties are a popular target for today’s film-makers as that’s when they grew up. Or “came of age” as they like to put it for some poncy reason, usually in a fake American accent voicing over all the best clips. That’s when today’s pros started making films themselves, using cine cameras or clunking great VHS video cameras the size of Cardiff.

For young amateur film-makers the must-watch of those halcyoff early Thatch days was TV’s Screen Test, where for most of the show bespectacled proto-nerds were probed by Brian Trueman (who replaced Michael Rodd) on excerpts from the latest blockbusters. (Except, as I remember, they were never the blockbusters we actually wanted to see – presumably the studios refused permission to show long clips. We watched anyway, hoping that this week, this week would be the week they’d show a clip from Star Wars.)

The quiz was, generally, tedious and overloaded with earnest Children’s Film Foundation tosh. But Screen Test’s Young Film-makers Competition was more interesting. My brother and I never created anything we deemed worthy of submission; shame, really, I think we could have done well. Some of the films they showed, I remember, were rubbish.

I’d like to have made a version of Poltergeist, the pirate video of which scared the bejebus out of me on several occasions (the soundtrack still sends a shiver down my spine). I’m not sure that would have been suitable for tea-time telly, though. And we’d have had trouble with the special effects. Today’s kids could knock up something like that over a long weekend and already be yesterday’s Internet meme by the following Thursday.

So yes. Eighties, Screen Test. Which brings me to Son of Rambow, in which an eighties scruff teams up with a religious extremistmember of the Plymouth Brethren, plus a French exchange student and sundry hangers-on, to make a film – Son of Rambow – for Screen Test, and Hilarity Ensues.

Less hilarity than I was expecting, though; it’s funny, yes, but deeper than that. It’s about how friends and family can collide.

Believable performances all round, I felt. Jessica StevensonHynes plays it straight as Religious Mum, and the two main child actors are pretty good. Adam Buxton has a humorous cameo, not quite as gory as his role in Hot Fuzz.

There are a few authentic scenes from Screen Test in the film: in one of them we see the young film-maker trophy being awarded to some geeky speccy chap. That, it turns out, was Jan Pinkava: he went on to win an Oscar and co-direct Pixar’s recent Ratatouille. Yeah. Geek.

That could have been me, you know. I coulda been a contender. Had I actually entered.

Avaragado’s rating: one Kia-Ora multipack

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Waiting rooms are like men’s toilets

I was struck by this surely entirely unoriginal thought an hour or so ago, as I sat in Addenbrooke’s waiting for an ultrasound.

All gentlemen will be familiar with the urinal choice algorithm. The same one applies when choosing where to sit in a waiting room: your goal is to position yourself as far away from everyone else as you can. As a behavioural pattern, I guess you’d call it something like the Pisson Distribution. Haha, I so funny.

Anyway, my ultrasound. No, I’m not pregnant, and yes, the man with the magic wand had heard them all before so I didn’t bore him with another lame gag. Entirely as expected, I’m cultivating a couple of stones in my gallbladder.

The larger is about 11mm across, occupying a throne near the top of the gallbladder and apparently doing a grand job of blocking bile since my gallbladder was pretty much deflated when it should have been full. The smaller stone is about 8mm across and guarding the exit. This is likely the one that’s been giving me gip/jip/gyp for the last few months.

Back to the GP next week to talk about Options. I expect I’ll just ‘ave it out.

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