Monthly Archives: July 2010

Hypochondria BSc

This is the thing with my degree, see. You study, in massive detail, all the things that can possibly go wrong with the human body.

It’s not the pathogens that bother me, I’m not worried – as yet I’ve never caught anything too serious (apart from a bout of food poisoning this year related to, well, the state of our kitchen *grumble*). I’ve got a pretty tough immune system by and large, and anyway, there’s not much in terms of random illnesses you can contract in the UK. Nothing as bad as the Ebola virus, or E.Coli, or whatever.

I worry a bit about cancer – one in three of us will get it, after all, but equally the chances of an individual cell in your body turning cancerous are miniscule, and there’s nothing I can do about that.

There’s also nothing I can do about the bit that does bother me: genetics. Except, kind of, there is. Because I won’t know until it happens that I’ve got cancer, or diptheria, or tetanus. There is nothing I can do to prevent those things from happening except do my bit to prevent those things happening like take a reasonable amount of exercise, not smoke, and read the Daily Mail obsessively, of course. But it’s not me that I’m worried about in terms of genetics – it’s what am I going to pass on that I don’t know about yet? What currently silent heterozygote mistake do I carry – one gene fine, the other containing a terrible deletion or insertion or repeat, which, when I was put together, could be safely ignored because the other gene for whatever-it-is was fine, and won out? What if I just happen to fall in love with someone who also happens to have that error, and there it is? I want someone to sequence my whole genome and just tell me the worst, tell me that I carry genes which will give this child short sight and loose tendons (duh) and probably a mild scoliosis and/or spina bifida (but not the really bad kind) – all that I know I definitely or probably carry on my genome and that’s fine, that’s not caused any big problems for anyone in my family. It’s also possible, but quite a slim chance, that I carry something else which has had terrible consequences within my family; and this frightens me in the dead of night sometimes or when I’m not expecting it to frighten me, and it’s difficult to remember that it’s a very rare thing to carry and I will hopefully not have the bad luck to ever have children with a fellow carrier. And then there’s all the things I don’t carry as such but who knows what will happen, what instability and fragility there is in my genetic code, which, completely unpredictably, will cause all kinds of problems for a child of mine?

And yes, I say I’m not worried about the illnesses I may or may not have, but honestly, I’m terrible, I’ve had headaches and started to worry about tumours; there’s an odd lump on my elbow I keep meaning to get checked out and it’s almost certainly nothing but I’m sure it’s grown; I spent a good proportion of the last year wondering – academically – if I had MS, although why is, well, a story for another time. Let’s not go there…! I wasn’t actually frightened about it, more just drawing parallels and spotting symptoms and adding things up and it came to a fairly reasonable ‘what if’ which concerned rather than frightened me, but I don’t want to go to the doctor’s about it because it’s just too much like hard work to schedule an appointment and register at a surgery (that’s right, I’m not currently registered anywhere. Well, no, I am at Uni Town, but… well, that’s a rant for another day. The UHS is the Fort Knox of bureaucracy). And then you start spotting random symptoms which are almost certainly just nothing but could be Something Fairly Serious… if combined with a whole bunch of symptoms you don’t have. I know too much not to think about it all; and not enough to know for certain that I’m being seriously daft.

And then I think about the level of hypochondria in intelligent friends who do completely unconnected degrees – English, Engineering, Maths, Philosophy, Chemistry – and I realise that actually, I could be so much more concerned about so many more illnesses. I must have some reasonable level of knowledge after all. And at least I don’t know enough about helicopters to convince myself that they’re suddenly going to remember that according to Physics they have no good reason to stay in the air, and just land on my head.

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My Weekend

I was at a party for most of the weekend. There was a barbecue which was gradually transformed into a fire. L and J and I went to the beach at midnight and J and I went skinny-dipping, which, for me, was a first. We came home to find M imploring E to hold his hand. ‘It doesn’t have to mean anything, you don’t have to do anything, but please, just, go on, hold my hand’. The poor brokenhearted (and utterly drunken) wretch then betook himself off, and after a while we wondered where he was. It was only when everyone else was out looking for him and I was going to bed that I investigated the breathing noises in my room and quite unexpectedly found him under my bed. We tried to persuade him out but first had to bring him round since he was basically unconscious. I pinched his earlobes. He wasn’t impressed. He then held onto the underside of the bed and refused to come out, reminding us all of a hermit crab. He also refused to take off his shoes on the basis that they were such nice, new shoes. So I went to sleep and the first thing I heard him say the following morning, on regaining consciousness under the bed, was, ‘well, that’s confusing’.

Then, after two films and a highly successful clear-up operation, during which I did a lot of washing up and sang a lot, we went to the beach. PS and I swam in the sea, heading out for what felt like miles, but when we came back and spotted the buoy we’d swum to, it really wasn’t that far. But in all fairness we were swimming against the tide. I was complimented on my beach hair. We planned an imaginary holiday. Then we headed back and I packed up all my belongings into my two panniers and pedalled off to the station, which was one of those tiny little branchline stations at which only the slowest of slow trains stop, and then only once an hour. So I waited, for forty minutes. Having got myself sat down, bike finally stably balanced against a pillar, I came to realise that the very traditionally good-looking lad on the next bench was kind of grinning at me, gesturing with his head that I should look behind me, and would you believe it but not six feet from me was a fox who gradually edged closer and closer, almost unconcerned by our presence. He was mangy and skinny and one eye was injured and closed but he was beautiful, too.

He then got scared away by the arrival of the oddest man I have ever encountered. From his bizarre, clownish tantrum at the guy he was with I at first assumed he had fairly severe mental issues. Ophelia-like, he diverged from his odd rant – using the most childish language and facial and vocal expressions to express his extreme hurt and sense of betrayal as he apparently broke up with the man he was with – and broke out into a complex song and dance number, some form of hiphop with pretty decent dancing, and then back into the childish tantrum of earlier. Going into serious mode, he then told the guy he was with that they would always be the best of friends and always had been, all implications of love or of a sexual relationship apparently completely forgotten and contradicted, and the guy he was with agreed. I couldn’t make out how they were related – friends, brothers, lovers? – but it was obvious gradually that despite appearances the man was entirely compos mentis, just hyperactive, possibly high. The fox came back and he mimed shooting at him and suddenly got quite serious and angry with just about everyone. Really it was all very threatening, somehow, and I was genuinely quite scared because I couldn’t tell at all what he might be about to do at any one moment, and seemingly no-one was exempt from possibly getting dragged into this strange situation.

Worse still, he too had a bike, and this was a four-carriage station, so he and his mate had to end up in the same bike section as me, so he was following me onto the train. His mate seemingly disappeared. Like I say, I really wasn’t sure what to expect and my bike was hugely weighed down with possessions, and I was struggling to get it onto the train, when I felt it suddenly lift up, and there he was, being all gentlemanly and polite and helping me to get the bike safely stowed and the panniers off for the journey.

And… that was it in terms of interesting events. I am very curious as to who he was and what actually was going on, though.

Anyway. Quite a lot for one weekend, really…!

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Dreaming…

I want to go on holiday somewhere hot and beautiful. I want a villa with a pool and cocktails and friends, I want a village with fresh bread and tomatoes so ripe they make the rest of the world seem as if it’s so far been lacking some crucial dimension. I want little ancient churches, intriguing markets, historic castles, secluded bays, beautiful long walks. I want to cook with fish I practically saw being pulled out of the sea and I want stars and crickets and lizards and sunshine and the kind of tan people will admire and envy vocally for weeks. Still. I had a lovely weekend, coming away with tales of foxes and insanity and shoes, of which more later. And I’m perfectly happy. But it could be sunnier.

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Some Unfinished Lists:

The ‘You Know You’re Middle Class When…’ list. I couldn’t think of any more things that weren’t obvious, so I stopped.

  • at the age of twenty-one you already own more than one cafetiere. And a camping cafetiere mug, and a travel mug. Just in case.
  • your enjoyment of eighties music is definitely, definitely ‘ironic’.
  • you own decent whisky. You probably shouldn’t.

The ‘Stupid Experiments I Have Tried With Mind-Altering Substances That Are Not Illegal’ list. To clarify, I’ve never done anything stupid or not stupid with illegal substances. And all of these anecdotes are from when I was sixteen. Clearly I should never have been allowed to be sixteen, certainly not for as long as a year.

  • Once, whilst on a music course and incredibly hungover, I drank an entire pot of tea. Not a normal, four-person pot. A whole, billion-litre, industrial catering pot, which comfortably holds upwards of ten tea-bags worth of tea. I got tea-poisoning, came over all shaky, and couldn’t stand, let alone think or indeed sing.
  • Adding vodka to herbal teas does not make you ‘interesting’ or ‘hippy’. Even if the tea is chocolate and jasmine flavoured. It just tastes vile, like hot, medicinal vodka.
  • ‘Herbal Highs’ have no effect on me except to make me (well, my sixteen-year-old self) feel very guilty and surreptitious.

A similar list, of stupid things my friends tried, at the same sort of age, with substances that are not illegal:

  • taking a shot of vodka through the eye is not big or clever. It is just painful. It does, apparently, make you drunk far faster.
  • Snorting Polos will not make double GCSE chemistry pass any quicker but it might give you a nosebleed which will, if you’re lucky, get you out of the lesson. Alternatively your nose won’t bleed and will just hurt a lot instead.
  • If, at a party, you all decide to pool your alcoholic resources, don’t do that literally. At least, not until you’re all too wasted to care anyway. Think about it. Bailey’s, coke, vodka, Stella, Jack Daniels, Guinness and Archer’s in one bottle is no-one’s idea of a good time. No-one actually wants to do a dirty pint, do they? It’s one of those things certain people in certain places are for some reason made to do on a significant birthday, not a rational choice for those who want to have a good time.

Reasons Why I’m Glad That Geeky Is Getting Cool Again:

  • flat sandals in summer
  • bike baskets on handlebars (so very useful)
  • being a girl and not feeling like a weirdo for using a bike in the first place (oh, the fun I had at school when I most definitely was a freak for riding into school)
  • Do you remember how, a few years ago, it was contacts, or rimless glasses, or wandering around being blind? And glasses with frames were all terribly spinstery? And I wore them anyway? My glasses these days have big frames, and quite large lenses, and are excellent.

Sleep-Related Good Things

  • I have woken up after seven every morning this week, except the time I woke up with a terrible headache. This is brilliant, frankly.
  • I had the most awesome fun dream last night involving new clothes, the world’s most extravagant picnic-based houseparty ever ever, and I looked stunning all dream. It was amazing.
  • I’m going to get a new mattress. You have no idea how happy this makes my spine.

Things That Have Horrified Me This Week:

  • I increasingly suspect that I have developed an intolerance to alcohol. Which leaves me with the following drinking choices: tea, coffee, water, fizzy water, fruit juice. For the rest of my life. I’m going to test this theory out tonight with no more than two drinks.

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Infants' School

It’s in the name. I think four is far too young to be at school. You barely know your own name, your hands aren’t developed enough to hold a pen, and it isn’t fair to expect you to play nicely or sit still. Frankly I don’t know why we even try at that age. I’m moving to Sweden, or Denmark, or Norway.

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And Then We Flew To Paris…

Good on the little boy (click to enlarge on new page). I found it, incidentally, here.

On that note I once in reception year went marching inside, grabbed the big bell they used to ring for end of break, and rang it really really hard because I was bored of playtime and it was cold and like every other four-year-old I didn’t really have anyone to play with or care about particularly. I can’t remember what happened next except that I do know that every class lined up, ready to go in; no idea what sort of ‘trouble’ or otherwise I got into.

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What I Like About The Future

I have no idea what’s going to happen. I have no idea, either, what I’m going to want, and whether what I want this time next year is going to be the same as what I want now or somehow entirely different. And so it doesn’t matter that I don’t know what’s going to happen, because I also don’t know how I’m going to feel about it, so I basically have to assume that whatever it is it’ll be fine; because even if you could tell me what’s going to happen, how I feel about it now and how I will actually feel about it could well be two entirely different things.

So actually, yes, it’s all OK. Even though sometimes I would like someone to drop out of the sky and whisper in my ear, tell me about my future, promise me it contains Nobel prizes and a real-life Daniel Craig/Mr Darcy hybrid and a car that drives like an Aston and runs on solar power or the breath of fairies or something. It’s not going to happen (the sky person thing, I mean, not the Aston thing, that’s a definite). I don’t know what’s around the corner and, if I’m honest, I’d rather not find out too soon. It’s like reading the last page of the novel when you’re still only just getting up to the dramatic bit. You really don’t want to spoil the ending or know about twists in the tail, they’ll surprise you soon enough.

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Pruning Facebook

I’ve decided I don’t want to have things like Favourite Quotations on my profile any more. Gradually I expect I’ll cull some friends and some interests and films and books and whatnot, too. I’ve been on Facebook since I was seventeen and I’ve hardly ever deleted anything from my profile and perhaps it’s about time.

Meanwhile – these are the things that, over the last four years, have seemed hilarious or profound enough to put into my ‘favourite quotations’:

  • “I’ve got a shaving box, I’ll stuff you in. There’s a penguin in there, you won’t know each other, there’ll be embarassing pauses.” Or something like that.
  • “The ending is always happy. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end”
  • ”I’m sorry to inconvenience you two, but I can’t actually see anything in my rearview mirror” — Callan on New Years, 2006-7, to Keir and I.
  • “You know, I just thought it was quite a cool pop song” — my sister, joining the generation above several decades too early.
  • “Everyone knows all the reasons why they don’t deserve to be loved; everyone who cares for them knows some of the reasons why they do.” — the genius that is Trishy. She’s so happy, she has her own group. And she regularly makes me feel better. AND I’m married to her, so I am the luckiest girl in the world, QED πŸ™‚
  • Her: ‘It’s like someone’s trying to suck milk out of it or something. I’m not having a baby, alright?’
    Me: ‘Did you SERIOUSLY just start up a conversation with your own right nipple?’
    Her: ‘You know what, yeah, I think I did.’
    (a conversation between me and a friend, who shall remain nameless to save her blushes. Although I’m pretty sure you can all guess who I’m talking about!)
  • Me: ‘Well, I’ve lost a bit of weight recently, so I may well fit into your dress.’ Clare: [astounded expression], ‘you HAVE!?!’ (not sure if that was meant to be a question or just an expression of her total shock that I’d actually managed to be less than planetary in girth… Either way, my sister (love you lots, Clare) is utterly the most tactful person on the planet. Or not, as the next quote also proves…)
  • Clare: ‘You know, Jenny (looking at me trying on a surprisingly unflattering skirt)…you’ve actually got the top half of a reeeeeeeally thin person, and bottom half of a really FAT person’. Oh, Clare, I love you.
  • And my father, noticing me sunbathing in the garden: ‘Jenny, you look like a beached albino whale’. Um, cheers, Dad πŸ™‚ I wonder where Clare gets it from?!
  • Anthony: ‘I really think I should try to stop neurotically stroking my own face’ (yes dear…)
  • Katie: ‘I’m not coming out of my room because you can see my nipples’…! (it was drop dead hilarious at that time)
  • Dylan Moran as Bernard Black: ‘What is this? What is this that I’m drinking? It’s like a choc ice…fell into a bottle of bleach’ (last episode of series 3 of Black Books. Just so you know. Bloomin’ilarious.
  • Little Pete (although I think this might be a bit ‘you had to be there’, you can see why it was funny at the time…): ‘I can sleep in a bed and not have sex’!

Because, erm, recycling four years’ worth of nonsense is obviously what counts for seriously high-quality blogging these days.

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Twitterblogging III

Two people for whom I have more respect than I know how to put into words (really, I don’t) are getting married. In some ways I barely know either of them but, well, we follow one another’s fortunes and misfortunes and I can honestly say that their news has made me a very happy woman.

Now I’m going to go and swim in a millpond. A very good day, I think.

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Twitterblogging II

Barbecue, postcards, sunshine, friends. Trying to work out how A came to be, having got to know his family a little better. Still stumped on some aspects of that one…but then I met his friends. Depends to what extent ones’ friends can be considered to be a formative influence, I suppose. Am now inconveniently re-addicted to nutella. Then work – chaotic but good fun and almost as steep a learning curve as my first shift. Next shift is Thursday so I hope and assume that this will give me less time to forget everything I know. Now. Bed.

There’s a fly stuck in my room.

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