Tower, this is Ghost Rider requesting a flyby


*blows dust off blog* Hey. Hey there. Long time no see.

So I was going to let the blog just wind down. With the move and the new job and the daughter and everything else, it just felt like a thing that I could drop and not really need to worry about. Then I got an email from the hosting company saying something about their seasonal offers and I wondered – “when exactly does my hosting wind down?”

2017. It runs out in 2017.

So how are things? Let’s keep it simple.

Kidney transplant: ticking along smoothly. Bloods are good. Need to drink a smidge more and work on my stress and sleep levels but really that feels more like a problem everyone has than one unique to my special snowflake self.

Location: Stockholm. We have a flat, both Lisa and I are working, Aoife has a good daycare where she goes outside a lot and runs round the local forest.

Life stuff: I really need to work on my time management. I really need to get to the gym more often. I need to work on my Swedish A LOT. Other than that things are pretty good: getting our weekly cooking situation under control, we’ve cracked out the slow cooker, and my office/workstation is coming along nicely. Bought a new keyboard with mechanical switches so it sounds like I’m at a typewriter when I’m writing.

Writing: took a bit of a hit at the start of the year. Recovery and house/country move? Not that good for getting work done. Still, managed to finish a novel and get that sent off to be torn to bits. I’ve not really written anything small in the gaps and I should really get back on the short fiction train again. I miss writing things that get the job done in such a short time. Kingdom’s Fall did really well on Wattpad – almost 110k reads now! – but I am at a bit of a loss as to what to do from there. Hopefully I can think of something as it would be a shame to just leave it at that. If anyone has any ideas (save for writing a sequel, which will have to wait a bit) then I am all ears.


Kidney Transplant: Zero Hour

I love making Direct to Video titles up. The more colons, the merrier.

So one of the things I wanted to do with this ‘blog was to try and maintain some positivity.

This may go some way to explaining the lack of posts of late.

It’s entirely fair to say that the first half of this year hasn’t really been what you’d call brilliant. Not even in the same ballpark, even. My health has been slowly deteriorating for some time, and over the past few months the effects have gone from potential to actual. It’s quite hard to spot from the outside – I look absolutely normal, or as normal as I get – and aside from the odd tremor in my hands and a tendency to do things very slowly, it doesn’t really show. Nevertheless, it’s there. It’s the oddest sensation. Someone commented to me that I seemed very phlegmatic about it all, that they’d be terrified if it was happening to them. That’s my secret, Captain. I’m always panicking.

So. I go into hospital tomorrow, and on Tuesday my brother Alistair will be donating a kidney to me. It’s a hell of a thing to do. It’s the biggest thing, and I know he’s as nervous as I am. If you want to say howdy and good luck, he’s @lostcosmonauts on Twitter.

I’ll see you all on the flip side.

Eleven percent.



It’s been a long week.

Let’s kick off with a genuine conversation that I have had with a student this week. An A*-target student.

Student: “Sir, do horses lay eggs?”

Me: “No. Horses do not lay eggs.”

Student: “So how do they breed? It’s not like they give birth to little tiny horses.”

Me: “That’s exactly what they do.”

Student: “They’d need a uterus for that. And a vagina.”

Me: “That’s exactly what they have.”

Student: “Don’t be stupid. *People* have vaginas, not horses.”

This conversation is pretty much my week, in microcosm. Like I say, it’s been a long week.

So, yeah. Other fun stuff that is happening: my kidney function has tanked somewhat to the titular eleven percent (way to bury the lede, I know). This means lots of appointments with nurses and consultants who are all very, very keen to discuss my “options” with me, which is a hilariously euphemistic way of saying it’s transplant time, with a potential side dish of dialysis, schedules to be announced. I thought a post appropriate so that I don’t have to endlessly explain on Twitter once my tweets start becoming really cryptic and hospital-centric.

It’s one of those things I’ve known has been in the post for some time. I was told by a consultant in 2009 that I would need a transplant within 3 to 5 years and it just so happens that a majority of that time has actually passed, much in the same way as the 90’s feel like last week but are, in fact, a decade and a half distant.

I’m still not sure how I feel about the whole thing, even though it’s been looming for sometime. It’s not like I have much choice in the matter, though, so might as well get on with it. I dissemble beautifully in a hospital situation. Outwardly phlegmatic, inwardly shitting it. Again, something of a microcosm, albeit one with a more personal slant.

The pamphlets the hospital send out are a joy, though. There’s one that’s obviously been written by someone who is probably far more comfortable writing copy for selling spectrometers than they are writing about renal failure, as the resulting document is quite dark – far more than they intended, no doubt – with its surprisingly upbeat bullet-point list of what happens to the human body if you decide to refuse treatment.

So, anyway. Yeah. That’s what’s happening, or will be.  As you were, internet.


So, tomorrow I’m running my first race of 2010.

It’s almost been a decade since I last ran a race (which was the Harlow 10 mile*), and while I’ve been training for the last four weeks I’ve come to realise that in the decade that has passed I can no longer comfortably run as fast as I used to, nor can I just start running from cold.  Physically speaking, the me of ten years ago was far, far fitter than the me of today.

On the upside, the me of today is less of an idiot.  Still an idiot, but less of one.

I think.

Still, as part of my pre-race preparation I have started mentally ticking off all the things that I think are wrong and that will lead to me having a terrible time.  For a start, I slept really oddly last night.  I woke up twice, once at 3 and again at 6, and when I finally got up for good, my right knee was aching.  Have I been walking oddly the last few days, or did I put pressure on it during the night?  I don’t know, but I’ve been hirpling around trying to stretch it out all morning.  A couple of k’s warmup tomorrow early might be in order to check that it’s alright.

Also, food.  I worry about food a lot; it’s a combination of the low potassium diet I’m on/meant to be on but the renal dietician won’t see me until July and the knowledge that from now onwards I’m battling my body’s natural tendency to fill out.  With regards to running, and fitness in general, I know I should plan out my approach to food a little more than the standard “open fridge, grab, pile into cakehole” method that has been at the vanguard of my lifestyle since I was tall enough to reach the fridge door handle.  Considering today I’ve had time to grab a latte and a muffin on my way to the post office (after taking Lisa to work and driving back into town), I’m not doing too well on the diet front.  If I don’t sort it out, I’ll either be ravenous or bloated and queasy from over-loading.

Oh! I also have a spot on the inside of my nose.  THE INSIDE. This probably won’t affect my race time at all, but it’s still really annoying and random as hell.  Who gets a spot inside their nose?  Crazy.

It might also rain tomorrow.  I don’t like running in the rain, or indeed the cold, or if it’s too hot, or for any number of variations off of an idealistic memory I have of doing the Nike RunLondon 10K in breezy sunshine that was absolutely perfect.**  There’s not much I can do about the weather aside from hope, but really I should just suck it up.  This is Britain, after all, and anything short of horizontal sleet should be considered fortuitous.

So, we’ll see how it goes.  Report tomorrow, in all probability titled “Toot Toot, all aboard the failboat”.

*where the celebrity guest runner was snooker playing swagger-wank, Ronnie O’Sullivan.  I honestly can’t recall my time from the race, but I do remember that I went flying past him and his gaggle of personal trainers quite early.  I also recall that I went dressed for bad weather and it turned out glorious, so I was boiling all the way round.

**This should actually be a really shameful memory for me, because I latched onto a fairly professionally-dressed runner who was going about the pace I wanted to go at and dogged along behind him the entire way.  Apparently this is the runner etiquette equivalent of sitting next to someone going “AM I ANNOYING YOU YET AM I AM I AM I AM I?” but in all fairness I was a complete beginner at the time and didn’t know better.

Also starring Nicholas Cage as…Fu Manchu.

Today I got to see a consultant about the biopsy I had back in January.  Funnily enough, it was a different consultant which meant I had to go through everything with her again to get to the point where she would tell me what the hell they actually discovered.

So, when I was in my teens I developed HSP.  I was all kinds of blotchy, which was fun in that not fun at all way, and had to go for ultrasound and blood tests.  The doctor declared me okay when the blotches went away, and that if I had any issues in years to come, be sure to mention I had the condition.

So, almost fifteen years down the line, here’s the kicker.  It never really went away.  Instead, my immune response has been producing lots of an antibody (IgA) that has repeatedly inflamed and scarred my kidneys, reducing them to approx. 40% of their normal function.

Kidneys, as we all know, don’t self-repair and don’t grow back, so 40% is my new 100% at the moment.  All I can do now is take even more medication to try and control my blood pressure so that the inflammation and scarring occur at a reduced rate.

Due to my age and the level of degeneration thus far, I’m in the “poor” prognosis group, which means I will see dialysis in my lifetime and may require a new kidney (although because it’s an immune system disorder, I have a 35% chance of recurrence in any new kidney, and an 11% chance of outright rejection within a 5-year period).

To add to all this, the consultant tells me I should be sure to “look after myself”, which I thought was a bit fucking rich.  I mean, I’ve just been told that I have a systemic disorder that cannot be stopped or reversed that will, if the progression is linear, reduce my kidneys to a pair of vestigial, stony lumps by the time I’m forty-five?  Look after myself?  I’ve been doing nothing but so far and look what it’s got me.  Christ alive, I know I’ve heard some pretty arbitrary advice in my time but that really takes the biscuit.

Gah, writing that has made me all grumpy again.

At the movies.

So I was all charged up and ready to get back online with a massive rant about Avatar, but it seems the internet has already moved on, many of my usual haunts already having delivered up a panning over the lacklustre writing that was paired with such an impressive visual spectacle.

Still I couldn’t not mention it, especially as I sat and watched Last of the Mohicans the other night while reinstalling Windows, and even though that’s only half a movie (it is – it gets to the climax and you go was that it?) it’s still miles better from a writing perspective than Avatar is. Michael Mann’s obsession with synth soundtracks doesn’t really help him out, though – I sat watching the Huron war party to see if I could spot the guy carrying a Casio keyboard set to Demonstration mode.

So. A New Year, and all that. My last words of 2009 were, rather sadly, “I think I can fill the hot water bottles before the bells”. We’re not big into New Year parties as a couple, ever since our first New Year when we spent the night freezing our butts off in the middle of Edinburgh after they cancelled the celebrations. I should really make a resolution, but honestly I can’t think of anything other than sort my shit out. It’s a blanket statement really, but reflects quite accurately all the stuff I need to do. Better get on that.

In other news, I get biopsied on the 6th. What fun! Hopefully it’ll be of some diagnostic value because if this doesn’t tell them what’s wrong, God only knows what will. Maybe I should watch some episodes of House, see if he comes up with anything renal on his travels.

Health Update, or “multiple doctor confusion extravaganza”

I had a follow up appointment with the hospital, which for some odd reason was scheduled with the diabetes clinic, in spite of the fact that I’m not diabetic.  The doctor who saw me was slightly confused on that point.

Still, he did his best, which included being further confused by my notes.  He showed me the discharge sheet from my stay in hospital where the doctor had noted that my CT scan was normal.  Then, he flicked to my CT scan notes, where they described noting a “sclerotic, bony lesion” at the top of one sinus.

Which meaning of sclerotic is that, I asked the doctor.  It seemed pertinent, as not only are the sinuses near the eyes (hence my concern vis it being sclera-related) but also “sclerotic, bony” struck me as something of a tautology.

It’s probably just benign, he replied.  Don’t worry about it.

He then went out to confer with a colleague (getting a bit tired of that happening) and came back to reassure me that it’s fine, nothing to worry about, and also he’ll refer me to neurology for a follow-up appointment.

The saga continues!

Shaving; how not to lacerate your face.

It’s all in the choice of gel, and the choice of razor.

For some reason, back somewhere in my early twenties, I went from being able to shave in two minutes with disposable blades to taking ten minutes and requiring a fairly sharp razor to do it with.  Maybe there was a threshold toughening point in the bristles that I wasn’t fully aware of occurring, but when I look back on how I used to shave, I wince.

Additionally, I can’t shave on consecutive days now.  If I do, I end up cutting myself horribly.  While I’m not working (and, lets be honest, sometimes when I was working) I let myself foster a good few days growth before I shave, just to let my skin recover a bit.  It saves on hot water, and I seem to get fewer issues with ingrowing bristles because of it.

I can’t bring myself to stay beardy.  It’s just too itchy, and Lisa hates it.

Anyway, I ran out of shaving gel while on holiday, so I had to buy new stuff.  The supermarket was out of my normal choice, but there were other King of Shaves brands available.  Normally would have just waited, or gone to another shop, but I’m willing to investigate the rest of the KoS line.  I’m not massively into brand loyalty, but through investigation of various different types, it really is one of the few instances where one brand stands head and shoulders above the rest of its competition.  I even tried Clinique shaving foam for comparison.  It was terrible.

So the brand I bought this time was called “Azor”.  see, they’ve taken the word “razor” and removed the “r” to make it seem space-age and cool!  How awesome is that?  This, everyone, is what happens when you name things by committee.  Shit like that starts to seem plausible.

Irregardless of stupid naming conventions, the gel is actually really good, although the company seem to be heading the way of Pantene Pro-V.  With each further generation of their product, they slowly move towards something that has the colour and consistency of male ejaculate.

For the first time in about seven years, I shaved in under two minutes.