Dream Time

Somewhere in the North of England.

Sunday. My trip is over, and it's time for me to go. I can feel the minutes rumbling past, as only a procrastinator can. It's now afternoon. I have of course been putting the return journey off. I am all too aware of the clock turning past 1pm. I've a long journey ahead of me, around six hours. I look at my mum in the kitchen, her soft smile invites me to stay, at least that's what I want it to mean. If I leave now I'll be home around 7pm. Plenty of time. And yet...

The sky dims ever so slightly, it's later, I think around 5. I can still get home in time for bed. I'll have to drive in the dark, but it's not really a problem, but then I realise I have to retrieve my car. I know it's parked further away, for whatever reason I couldn't park closer to home. Where did I put it? I can picture the street. It's somewhere in Pimlico, in London. I need to go and find it, so I set out, the journey and the confusion about the whereabouts of my car and the anxiety of the long drive ahead race around in my head. Do I even know the way home? I've done it so many times, but suddenly I am unsure.

London is about 300 miles from where I supposedly am. I don't question the geographical anomaly. I don't question the fact my mum's alive.

If I leave now, I can just get home in time for work tomorrow morning. Maybe I'll drive through the night. I just need to find the car. The dream becomes all about finding the car.

In the dream the journey never actually starts. Other times it starts, but I never get to where I'm supposed to go (I remember being stuck at a motorway service station, a literal nightmare) It is the state of needing to be somewhere that prevails. The missing car is funny; this is a common theme, in another dream it was in a parking garage so tall and labyrinthine It was like a Terry Gilliam creation. There is always some obstacle to making progress.

I've never felt these problems that much in real life, but I have always had butterflies about travel, a restless urge to get going. Friends have said when I have somewhere to be I get antsy.

London, somewhere on the underground.

I have to get to Waterloo railway station,I know I've got to change trains, this London Underground station is vast, with seemingly endless stairs and walkways. There's people everyhwere. I need to get a through ticket to Southampton, too (why don't I have one already?) I go to the ticket office but it's all confusion and queues. I am certain that if I join a queue I'll never make the train I need. I decide to go upstairs and outside. The outside of the station feels familiar but I don't recognise it at all, it's open like a city square, spacious and absolutely not anywhere real. A constant of my dreams is all these places are weirdly proportioned - cities are too spacious; streets too wide. I am now very worried about missing my train to Southampton. It is a Sunday, I am in the window for the last train already, surely? should I just go back to my parent's flat? I return to the inside of the station (I don't know why), and descend deep into the the station, to the platform level. The platform is massive, more like an overground station. I get on a train. I am anxious and I don't know where it is even going.

Spain

I have to get to the airport. I habitually like to leave a couple of hours in hand for the flight. I haven't really packed anything, so I tell myself to get on with it. Imperceptably, time passes and I realise time is now very tight. I am in the car with my dad, I don't think we're going to make it. What flight is it anyway? I don't remember. I'll find out when we get there. I get to the airport and realise I didn't even book a flight, so I set about organising one, as if it is like taking a train. The lines for the counters are so massive that I wonder if I will ever leave that airport. Sometimes i get on the plane, and the dream breaks completely; we have to drive down the road because there's a problem with the runway.

At some university

I'm in a hall of residence, my room feels familiar, but I do not know this place. It is an amalagamation of many places I have known, but again large in the way only an imaginary location can be. I can hear my neighbours running around. They're all aged about 20, and apparently, so am I. I remember that I haven't been going to class for weeks on end, and at some point somebody is going to realise. I've got a mathematics class this morning. I decide not to go. I don't know if I've ever been, It's impossible for me to pass the year now, as far as I know. What am I going to do? I walk out into the corridor and chat with friends. I am extremely anxious about explaining all of this, when the time comes, and come it will. I'm sure of it, and it is the only thing I think of as I contemplate the magnolia walls and linoleum flooring. There is a smell of carbolic acid and stale beer coming from the kitchen, which doubles as a common room. I've never had a recurring dream that actually goes anywhere near a classroom, it is always a version of this place, but the place is different every time, but it has the same look and feel.

sullybiker on #dreams,

Happy Trails

April 9th, 2018. Saleres, Andalucia

It comes round quickly enough. I tell myself that at the start of any holiday. If you're there a week, by Tuesday you can feel time slipping away. Thursday, it's all but over.

I was standing on the roof terrace of my dad's home in Andalucia. I would wonder up there and just stare at the world before me. God's splendour, a more religious person might have it. Directly across from my vantage point on the terrace there is a hillside. It has an atoll on top. I liked to take the burro track up to the road that ran along the top of it, and walk the long way back down. Sometimes it was just to break my days up, but I also enjoyed the solitude of it. So far on this trip, I had not been up there, and on my last day I was determined to take the walk. It had become my habit on previous visits, selling myself some bullshit about how it would offset the thousands of calories I'd been merrily consuming in beer and tapas.

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This time, something strange would happen.

The track up the hill feels similar to a fire escape staircase, a steep track with serpentine bends. I don't know how high the climb measures, but it puts you well above the village, and entirely out of breath.

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Thirteen years earlier I walked it every day and by the end of the first week could do it without stopping. It's not that high, but in 38C heat any exertion is tough. April is much cooler.

As I approach the top, the trail becomes crudely poured concrete, which the farmers apparently like to do here, and in just a few metres I'm up on the road. I looked back towards the village and the hills beyond, and that's when it happened: I burst into tears. Time tumbled backwards, and suddenly I was back in April 2005. it all looked the same, and for a brief thunderclap, I thought it was the same, that I had gone back in time. I was transported back to a week in this very spot, the first time I walked this hill. I was also utterly consumed with the notion that I wanted to stay there. In Spain. My life, my family, the last decade, had all momentarily vanished and all I wanted to do was stand on that road on that hill. It was completely irrational, and yet felt totally real. Had I over-exerted myself going up the hill? Induced a little lightheadedness? Maybe. I think it was my reaction to the feeling of running out of time. It was an unusual thing, I am not remotely spiritual but it's the closest I've come to what I think is that sort of experience, being so completely present that there is an illusion of timelessness.

I remember being a little shaken as I started down the road back to the village, then as soon as it arrived, the feeling vanished. My head was back in a world of flight times and what I'd be doing at work next week.

There is a dense emotional mass in that spot. My mother's resting place is the cemetary on the opposite hill, and I would walk around there to be alone with my thoughts in the visits after she died. It was quiet up there, nothing but the wind and the ubiquitous barking dog, and you'd feel like there was nobody else in the world.

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Clearly my thoughts were not finished with me.

Time marches, and the hour arrives. It's time to go. I have already packed, it's a 90 minute drive to the airport. I say my goodbyes and take the road out. Before I leave I run up to the roof, feel the cool morning breeze on my face, bathe in the blue light. A dog barks somewhere in the distance, the sound carries on the breeze up the darkened valley.

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I want to come back, but I don't know when that will be. A full day in aeroplanes awaits me, and at the setting of that same sun, I'll already be in Boston, waiting for my connecting flight home, and what would turn out to be the most testing two years of my life.

I still haven't been back.

sullybiker on

The Sound of Memory

November 1999, or thereabouts.

Have you ever heard a song or a sound that has put you somewhere very specific? So strong even your senses are momentarily transformed and you remember details beyond time and place and it practically moves into the realm of an actual experience, right in the present moment.

Remember the old Windows 98 startup sound? I'd forgotten it, I'd heard it somewhere out of the blue a while ago and was struck with a very specific memory.

It took me back to my mum's flat in York, late 1999. I didn't think I had a close attachment to the place. I was living down South at the time and would visit periodically,although in that classic son's lament, perhaps not enough. That sound reminds me of sitting at my mum's computer (an AMD K6-2 333Mhz, pretty decent for the time) and pottering about. Sun coming through the windows, the gentle patter of the cat's paws on the floor, and the smell of shoe leather and polish from the cupboard next to the computer desk. My mum wasn't there, I think it was one of those moments she went out and left me to my thoughts (and Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six, the original one, not the shite you have today). The cat would fuss, missing her and letting me know all about it.

I tried to understand why it was such a strong and specific memory. There's some obvious things. My mum isn't around anymore, she died of cancer 16yrs ago. The place is meaningful though, it was the last home she had in York - the city of my adolescence - before moving to London, effectively severing my last link to the city. It was at at time when I was listless and I think contemplating coming back North, but that never got beyond a thought.

There's a lot of memories associated with sound, but I think I like to hang on to this one because it is a moment representing something that is otherwise lost to me.

Megadeth's Best?

The first 'proper' metal concert I went to was Megadeth, March 1991 at the Apollo in Manchester. They were supported by The Almighty and a just-breaking Alice in Chains. Great night. I was 17. They had what many consider to their finest line up, Dave Mustaine, David Ellefson, Marty Friedman, and the late Nick Menza.

That lineup would last - by Megadeth's standards - a long time. from 1990 to 1999, before finally changing in what were metal's post-grunge post-black album lean years.

There's a video on YouTube of a soundcheck where 'Five Magics' from Rust in Peace is played. I don't know the date or the location, it isn't provided, but it's likely sometime '90 or '91.

There's some interesting details. As The camera moves around the microphone captures acoustic bleed-through from the drums and monitors, so you hear what the band hears on stage. You can clearly hear Friedman's guitar amp switch channels between lead and rhythm, and the drums gain more volume as the camera nears the PA.

Menza's drumming is spectacular. As someone in the YouTube comments observes:

"I love that Nick is playing like if the stadium was already full with people haha"

That was Menza. He was flamboyant and fun, and had that holy triad of power, timing, and virtuosity. Such a shame he was not able to rejoin Megadeth before his untimely passing. I've seen Megadeth three times, and it was always this lineup. For that I'm grateful.

The Wages of Spin

November 2020

As part of my long term treatment post-immunotherapy, I go to the doctor frequently. This comes with data collection, namely vitals. Blood pressure, temperature, and...weight. 254lbs. That's 18 stone in British money, or 115kg in enlightenment units.I have never been that heavy. How did I get there?

Slowly.

Putting on weight is like getting into debt. Very slow at first, and then frighteningly quick. I felt this was a fulcrum point. If this continued I would very soon tip into morbid obesity. Since the pandemic started I'd been working from home since Spring. Almost one year ago! As Winter came along I'd developed the habit of sitting around working all day, then sitting around drinking beer and watching telly. I'm 6'3", so I can carry the weight without too much external change, but I'd noticed the tightening belt and the touching thighs. I had become...a fat bastard.

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Getting some in

In 2018 I'd developed a good routine at the gym, before I got sick (detailed extensively on this blog if you're curious) and had to stop. I knew I could stick the routine with a bit of effort. I'd got myself an inexpensive spin bike to help out (I used to like to do steady cardio in the gym on the bikes) and decided to pick up that routine again. I targeted 30 mins every other day, as this was close to what I did in the gym. The problem is, it's not enough. I knew that was well short of what the average commuter cyclist does every day. I started to drop days, and pretty soon I wasn't doing it all. Reset.

I resolved to try harder, and decided I'd attempt 30 minutes every day. The problem with the indoor bike is that it does get boring - there's no way past it, it's a simple fact - so rather than do the cardio bunny low-resistance thing while watching Netflix I thought I'd better challenge myself. That's when I discovered GCN's YouTube videos.

Global Cycling Network (GCN) is the 1000lb gorilla of the cycling world on social media. Based in Bath, Somerset England they pump out an incredible quantity of content, and have an international presence, with staff from all over the world. I've counted American, Spanish, and German contributors so far. For me, it was their High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) videos that really helped. Here's the 30 minute one I use a lot:

The first time I tried this it beat the hell out of me. I could only do 15 minutes before an attack of fuck this came over me. I knew it would get better, and the next day I was able to complete it, with the simple trick of slowing down deliberately in the rest periods. I was able to do two weeks of this with 5 on, 2 off, although I felt I could do 6/1, but in the fourth week I started to sense some fatigue in my legs. I have not sensed any injury so for now I'm pressing on.

Measurement

I realised early on I was short of the sort of metrics that everyone in cycling seems to love, namely:

  1. Cadence

  2. Watts

  3. Heart Rate

I had a simple 'spin bike', with a weighted flywheel, variable resistance via a brake, and a head unit that displayed time, speed, calories, mileage, and odometer. Quite standard for this kind of bike.

Yosuda spin bike

The exercise videos don't expect you to have anything but a bike, which is really quite excellent. They rely on Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) which is a scale by which you estimate your effort from "I can do this all day to "I am going to die" [CDC]. The problem I encountered is '1' is easy enough, and '10' is easy enough, but distinguishing between 6-10 is very difficult. In my own experience the difference between a maximal effort and nearly maximal doesn't feel that big, but the physical effect is profound.

Cadence is simply crank RPM, or how fast you're peddling. You can estimate it by counting the rise of one knee over 10s, then multiplying by 6. I was able to tally that with displayed speed saving me the count, but the digital speedo had slight latency and with my eyes in low light I could strain to read it.

Watts (power, essentially) is the gold standard. The cyclist and bike are basically a system - an engine - and measuring the power output of that system is the most effective way to evaluate fitness. This is typically measured with a meter at the crank, a small strain gauge altering it's own electrical resistance due to deflection and this allows calculation of torque. Multiply that by RPM and you get power. More expensive bikes and 'smart' trainers have this included, or you can purchase pedals that measure it where the pedal fastens to the crank.

I bought myself a fitness 'tracker' for Christmas, which has been very interesting, especially if you like data. I wanted it mainly to capture my heart rate, but it also measures my sleep, and estimates blood oxygen saturation during sleep. These are helpful indicators of systemic health.

To measure is also to pay attention, and I'd realised how much I'd been overeating. I don't count calories, I tried (I really did) and found it frustrating and boring. I do pay attention to food labelling though. Having children about means there's no shortage of very tasty snacks (crisps/chips, cereal bars) and they're right there. I cut the beer to one night a week too. After the first fortnight I stopped trying to train after drinking because it just wasn't working for me, so I organised my time to not have to worry about that.

Winter riding

My wife kindly gave me her bicycle. It's a 'hybrid' bike, which means it's a road bike with fat tyres that can do some limited off-road, and it has an absurd amount of gears, 21, with a 28/38/48 crankset. It also has sprung forks and a sprung seat post. It fits me nicely and has an aluminium frame, but it's pretty stout and doesn't feel much lighter than bikes I owned as a teenager.

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The housing plan I live on has a convenient loop that's about 700m long. This forms a nice circuit, but it's on a slope, so one side is entirely uphill with the other, er, down. This has the effect of creating a very short interval between climbs. The first time I tried it was a bucket of cold water. I got completely out of breath after about 20 minutes and had to stop. I was disappointed as I thought I would do better with a couple of weeks spinning under my belt. I just wasn't able to climb well, and it wasn't even that steep. I had tried to maintain a cadence of around 75-80rpm in a midrange gear (why, why? I still don't know why) and it just destroyed me.

The 2nd time out I decided to use the appropriate gearing and simply slow down if I felt my heart ringing in my ear, and managed my 30 minute goal without drama. The third time was similar but I really struggled with the cold. I can't wait until spring when I can take the bike to the park and some trails.

A late convert is a fanatic

I haven't even thought about a bike, because I rather like the one I have, but I have been buying things. I got a chest-strap heart monitor because I can output it to my phone/tablet with pretty much every cycling app. My Fitbit wrist tracker is great but I do find it hard to read during exercise. it's also proprietary and doesn't talk to other apps. Come on, Google. I also splurged on a power meter (I told myself I was going to want one, so just get it over with) and that meant shoes because the pedals are 'clipless', meaning they do in fact, have clips. The whole shoes/cleat situation is utterly confusing, cycling industry. Sort it out. It also gives me cadence, so ya-hoo.

The power meter (Favero Assioma, if you're curious) has opened up a whole world of apps and fun. That's another blog post.

Fat bastard does Zwift

I have no idea what I'm doing why is my heart beating so fast

Reference

CDC

(Perceived Exertion (Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion Scale) | Physical Activity | CDC) https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/measuring/exertion.htm.

Senna and Mansell: For the last time

November 1992, Adelaide Australia.

It had been Nigel Mansell's year. Having come close in 1991, the technical triumph that was the legendary FW14B was unstoppable in Mansell's hands. If you're new to watching Formula 1 and lament the Mercedes dominance, understand that nothing lasts forever. McLaren were champtions in 1991, 1990, 1989, and 1988. They started 1991 with four straight wins, and following a mid-season slump where Williams found form, McLaren surged back to take the title.

The Adrian Newey-penned (I think he might go places..) FW14 was an excellent chassis. It was arguably superior to the McLaren MP4/6, but had terrible reliability at the beginning of '91 with persistent transmission failures. The same chassis design was good enough to compete in 1992, but with the addition of active ride (or platform control) which was decisive in optimising the cars aerodynamics. Mansell had a particular feel for it (unlike his teammate Patrese whom never got along with it [Motorsport]) and was extraordinarily quick every Grand Prix weekend. He would take an amazing 9 wins in 1992, and seal the driver's championship in Hungary.

Honda were McLaren's engine supplier throughout their championship winning years, and in '91 they decided to switch to a V12, which was against the trend they themselves had embraced previously. Senna had concerns about the V12. [Primotipo]

Honda V12

The RA122E. License:

A V12 is longer, heavier, thirstier, and requires more cooling. The tradeoff is greater power. Senna did lots of work on the driveability of the Honda and ultimately used it to great effect, so one can't say Honda were wrong to go in this direction. However Renault had done a better job, and were getting similar performance out of a lighter package.

By the Australian GP at Adelaide, the championship was long decided. Mansell would not even be in F1 the following year as Alain Prost had outmaneuvered him into the Williams seat for 1993. He would be denied a record breaking 10th win at the GP after a rather silly collision with Senna.

Senna would stay with McLaren for 1993. They would lose their Honda deal and would be running the Cosworth V8 for what would turn out to be one of Senna's most memorable years. 18 months later, he'd be lost to us.

Enjoy this slice from the apogee of F1's 'gizmo' era, courtesy of Formula 1's official YT channel.

Reference:

Motorsport

Head, P., 2021. Mansell's perfect ride - Motor Sport Magazine. [online] Motor Sport Magazine. Available at: https://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/march-2012/66/mansells-perfect-ride [Accessed 15 February 2021].

Primotipo

primotipo... 2021. McLaren MP4/6 Honda V12 1991…. [online] Available at: https://primotipo.com/2018/10/16/mclaren-mp4-6-honda-v12-1991/ [Accessed 15 February 2021].

Metallica Fighting Fire With Fire

Metallica were one of my major adolescent musical influences. This is a live performance of Fight Fire With Fire from 1984's Ride The Lightning, and it really gives lie to some of the popular misconceptions about latter-day Metallica.

Firstly, Lars Ulrich is absolutely on form here, check out the double-bass in the coda. Ulrich has had a lot of shit for his form in recent years and a lot of it is at best unfair and at worst plain disrespectful. Lastly, James Hetfield can fucking shred. Enjoy!

New Beginnings ..

February 15th, 2021

The time had come for me to move my blog of the basic hosted Wordpress (WP) service. Wordpress was wonderful, but I wanted to self-host, and I was hesitant to go into WP self-hosting because frankly my web administration skills aren't really good enough. PHP scares the shit out of me, and I did not want the arse-ache of keeping on top of a WP installation.

So I discovered Nikola, which this is hosted on. Nikola is a static web-page production tool which spits out a ready made web directory you can then host. It doesn't get much simpler than that. It's built on Python 3.* and is really delightful to use.

There's a really good Wordpress import tool, and my blog is largely intact, save some link niggles which I am well aware of and will get to, in good time...I haven't yet started to really mess around with it, and there's some not-quite-perfect things I want to look into (comments, mainly. I'm using Disqus for now, it served me well for a long time elsewhere and has decent social media integration.

sullybiker on #life,

Death and all his friends

February 16th, 2005

I'd got the call from my sister. "You'd better come". My mum had been fighting terminal cancer since the previous August , and over the new year we were waiting for the other shoe to drop. She'd become increasingly frail and had lost a shocking amount of weight. A couple of days earlier - Valentine's Day, just to twist the knife a little - she'd had a precipitous decline. I didn't fully understand the biological mechanism, but her failing liver being slowly consumed by cancer (which would go on to kill her) meant she was slowly poisoning herself, most evident of which was the loss of mental faculties.

I had understood some of this when I arrived in Southwark, but not the extent of it.leaving the underground at London Bridge and walking to my parent's flat, I did not know what to expect.

My sister opened the door. As I walked into the vestibule I caught sight of my mum moving upright in bed, apparently trying to get up.

Is that my boy?

"Is that my boy?" It would be the last coherent thing she said to me, and through the cell her body and mind had become she had somehow managed to put on appearances for my benefit. I sat next to her on the bed to cuddle up to her tiny, emaciated frame, and realised something was very, very wrong.

want to trip inside your head Spend the day there To hear the things you haven't said And see what you might see I want to hear you when you call Do you feel anything at all? I want to see your thoughts take shape and walk right out

There was no life in her eyes. I remember looking deeply into them to see If I could see any remnant of my mum in there (that U2 lyric would be swimming around my head for days. I still cannot listen to that song.) I was visited by the thought that his person - my mother - was no longer there; that all she was and ever had been had been taken from me, leaving just an automaton, an empty shell. It sounds dramatic, but I had about 15 minutes alone with her and the memory is still devastating to me. The slow destruction of a person is a terrifying thing to behold. In time I recognised this was worse than anything that followed. I wanted to scream, I was so upset, but I kept it all in, because i was trying to reach her.

She would hang on for another 9 days, before passing away with us all there around 6.30pm on February 25th, 2 days after her 62nd birthday. Fuck this fucking disease.

I swore at the time that if anything like this happened to me I would not let it go that far, that I would not want anyone to see me like that. I have no idea what that might have entailed. Maybe I would jump off Beachy Head, or go and walk into the sea somewhere, let the waves claim me. I was, of course, completely full of shit, because I would get to find out.

Who said God had no sense of humour?

Fate would have its way with me. I would get get the disease, not the same kind and mercifully not as severe. I may be half-blind, but in all likelihood it's not going to kill me (if it ever looks like it could, remind me I wrote this. I will laugh, I promise)

it's easy to retreat into solipsism and self-pity, and I have definitely had those moments ("why me?") but you have to just keep going and be there. It's a different story when you have a family; . You have to learn to eat some shit and smile, then eat some more. Every day is a small victory. I know that if the worst were to happen to me, my family would be there to the end, and they would deal with everything that followed, because when the time comes, people find it in themselves. Every three weeks I sit down and get 200mg of immunotherapy drugs. The people there always impress me. Some are very much in the trenches with their illness, but they have such incredible spirit. It's not at all what you might imagine a chemo treatment centre to be.For obvious reaons, I've a bad association with hospitals - carbolic acid and death - and I've come to realise it's not like that at all.

This helped me understand what happened with my mum that day, finding that last shred of strength and dignity to try and show me that she's okay; that through all she was enduring she would stand tall for her son.

I recently started to dream about her pretty regularly. The illusion of dreams is that you don't really question context - "What am I doing here? Why can I fly?" I never question that she shouldn't be there - although I had those dreams in the past. It's just normal, she's alive and we're doing mundane things. I don't question it too deeply, but it's a pretty nice thing for my brain to do.

LON_0023_1024
MCT, 23/02/43 - 25/02/05

I hope for a lot of things. I hope my eyes recover, I hope to be completely clear of cancer, I hope my wife gets a break. Most of all, I hope it stops at me.

45 pt. 2

Eyes

By March my vision had continued to deteriorate to the extent I was becoming quite afraid. I made an emergency appointment to try and figure out what the hell was going on. I got a visit with an ophthalmologist that just happened to be a retinal specialist. She is French, had only been in the country a few months, as luck would have it, she was absolutely brilliant.

Generally speaking, nost of the senior female medical professionals seemed better listeners, and thus far I wasn't convinced I was being heard. My wife describes this as a 'specialist trap', in other words if a doctor can't diagnose a problem, they become indecisive and fail to advocate for the patient. You must see the right people. The right doctor at the right time makes all the difference. In the US system in particular, you must learn to stamp your feet. It's very hard for me, as I am a classic British never-complain type, but when you're really sick, that attitude can kill you.

This particular specialist took complete ownership of everything, and the more difficult the case got, the more interested she was.

I had some images taken of the eye, and she immediately identified inflammation of the nerve bundle behind the retina. This is generally known as posteriour uveitis, and it's potentially very serious.

I had to undertake a lot of tests, includng tuberculosis and syphilis,(symptomatically similar) which amused me (yes it came back negative, you shits).

I ended up being prescribed an oral steroid (prednisone) in a shock dose, tapering off as time went on.

Steroids do odd things, it felt to me like I was highly caffeinated; I couldn't sleep, put on a load of weight (yay!) but avoided going crazy -Apparently some people don't respond well to them.

My vision stabilised, you wouldn't call it good but at least it wasn't getting worse. Uveitis is idiopathic in about half of the cases. In simple terms, it it not known what causes it. At this point it was purely hypothetical that my vision problems were linked to whatever was growing under my arm, immunology is complicated and requires highly specialised domain knowledge, there isn't a magical test for it. The test is basically ruling out everything else.

Tumour won't wait

The mass under my arm was no longer leaking, had fully re-accumulated, and was now starting to press on surrounding tissue, which caused pain. Around 1am on the 3rd of Aoril, I realised I could no longer sleep. Heat, painkillers and and ice-packs did nothing. I remember sitting on the bed in front of the wardrobe mirror thinking that I have to do something.

My wife had a continuing concern that it might burst, which could be life-threatening. My plan was to go to the ER, perhaps they could drain it, or at least get me some pain relief.

The emergency room reception wasn't busy, a TV played one of house-hunting shows where a couple have an incredible budget. It was set in Fareham, just a few miles from my previous home, which made me laugh at least. I got triaged quickly. The feeling of the nurses - rarely hesitant to give an opinion - was that this thing needed to be out. No shit. A young doctor told me she couldn't do anything invasive as if it was potentially malignant as that could be harmful. so, no drain. In the meantime she saw me wincing with pain and suggested an analgesic. I got a long lecture about opioids "You've seen the news, right?" And then they injected something with a long name into my IV

It felt a bit like the drop off the lift-hill on a rollercoaster, I actually held on to the sides of the bed, I felt a kick of nausea, thought I might throw up, then it passed. I was now, to use the medical term, as high as fuck.

The doctor got on the phone to the surgeon (I think it was 3am) and got it done - I would be operated on the next day. My bed was moved to a remote end of the ER and I entertained myself sending Beavis and Butthead gifs to my sister.

Beavis_Butthead

I don't really know why, when you're stoned everything is funny. It had to bag up my clothes and belongings and put on a gown.

.

Dark, dreamless sleep

I got visited by the anaesthetist, who explained that I would be asleep through it all, and a reflexologist, as the surgeon was concerned my nerves were getting damaged by the tumour, but this was luckily not the case.

My abiding memory of 'serious hospital stuff' is the flourescent lighting scrolling overhead as you are moved on a stretcher,that and the smell of alcohol swabs and the chirp of ringing telephones. The operating room actually resembles a hotel kitchen, lots of stainless steel, aluminium, and dark tiling. Only the huge overhead lights set it apart, and large pieces of equioment that go 'beep'. I had to move laterally onto the OR bed and had my inflatable stockings switched on, which feel a bit like a python constricting around your shins. That's all I remember

Waking up from a general anaesthetic is abrupt, it sounds like people are shouting.You wake up with a start, It's such a deep sleep. I wasn't aware of any pain, but my armpit felt like it was completely gone, which was weird but also a relief. My treat was a cup of crushed ice. I hadn't eaten in about 17hrs.

I spent a night in the hospital in a very pleasant room, and stood up for the first time in hours. I had a drain fitted, which is a plastic line from the surgical wound terminating in a rubber bulb.

surgiclvwound
Wound and drain line
This fucking thing would be the bane of my existence for a week. A fwwnurse ran in and told me if I needed to urinate it had to be into a plastic flask about the capacity of a litre. I filled that fucker to the brim, handed it to her and said "enjoy". She didn't even smile- heard it all before, I expect.

The surgeon visited and instructed me to monitor the drain, as he did not want it in there any longer than necessary, as it's an infection hazard. He also explained the surgery was a success apart from having to leave some tissue which had tied itself around a vein. This would cause almost 5months of discussion as nobody seemed to think anything should remain in there, given how fast the tumour developed, but that story will have to wait.

At home, I had to learn to live with the drain, which was a great annoyance as the slightest pull on the tube was sharply painful. I had to sleep on my back (which I never do) so it was a tough few nights. On the very day I had just got used to it, I made the appointment to have it taken out.

It would be many weeks, and several labs before the tumour's classification was known. In the meantime my oncologist wanted to discuss options. At that time it was possibly some radiation therapy along with some chemo. Great.

Black May

I had so many appointments in May I lost count. I'd had my drain and stitches out, my oncologist informed me that the mass was classifed as a 'metastatic melanoma of unknown primary' in other words, skin cancer, but no skin lesion would ever be found. This supposedly true in 10% of cases. I had the feeling the onvologist was not that convinced, but genetic markers gave him treatment options. I would be put on immunotherapy, which had the reputation for miraculous results.

I would require immunotherapy every three weeks for a year. I watched an educational video about chemo, and I mostly learnt to be grateful I wasn't having chemo. The treatment building is a squat, brutalist structure near the mall. It struck me that nearly all of the people there looked very worse for wear. I asked the nurse if they looked like me when they walked in, but I don't think she saw the funny side. </p

To be continued