Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Review of the Year

That, then, was 2007. A year of ups and downs, mostly, it has to be said, for my trousers.

JANUARY
Little did I know what awaited me just around the corner. If I had known, I may well have concentrated all my efforts on inventing a time machine, and whenever 1st February approached I would set the dials for 1st January 2007, and forever live in that peaceful, illness free month.

FEBRUARY
The Return of the Blood, Part III. I assumed everything would sort itself out in a couple of weeks just as it had on the two previous occasions. It didn’t. But up my sleeve I had a secret plan of attack that couldn’t possibly fail; I would ignore the problem until it went away. Oh, the naivety.

MARCH
For my birthday I had a trip to New York planned, and not wishing to take my ulcerative colitis along as a traveling companion, I finally went to the doctor. So, armed with mesalazine I looked forward to a Guinness or two on St Patrick’s Day in NYC. I had my Guinness, but I also had a mouth full of ulcers, night sweats, crippling fatigue and the usual bloodbath in the bathroom. It was starting to feel like I was fighting a losing battle.


APRIL
The month the full force of my Flare Up rode into Tum Town looking for trouble; all outlawish swagger, lock-up-your-daughters menace and tobacco chewing bravado. I shat meself I really did, both metaphorically and literally. Mr Bottom was starting to get a little too acquainted with Mr Toilet-Seat. They met up about 10 times a day, with Mr Bottom doing most of the talking. Meanwhile I ping-ponged back and forth between doctors, growing weaker and more frustrated with each visit. I ended April in hospital.

MAY
The NHS released me back into the wild, or as the London A – Z prefers to call it, Walthamstow. Looking back now it seems crazy that no one really sat me down and gave me the UC version of the ‘Birds and the Bees’. I was as much in the dark about ulcerative colitis as ever. Google to the rescue, I started to piece together the jigsaw and a picture emerged of what life with this disease might be like. It was odd to think of myself as someone with a chronic illness. Arrogantly I had always considered myself a bit too rock and roll, windswept and interesting for something as mundane as a long-term health problem. Turns out I was wrong. (And according to my girlfriend I’m deluding myself about the rock and roll, windswept and interesting bit, too.) Ego firmly in check, I began making a record of my daily doings. I find there’s nothing more grounding than writing down how many times a day you do a poo.

JUNE
Back to work, but otherwise living life at a pace more suited to a remote Scottish island than London. Even the smallest of tasks sapped my energy. I became the local mini-cab firm’s number 1 customer. Life was little more than work, sleep, work, sleep, work, sleep. On a positive note, I was making fewer trips to the toilet, but I was also making fewer trips anywhere. I made Howard Hughes look positively sociable. Boring, boring, boring.

JULY
Messing about on my computer one night, and without really thinking about the consequences, I lost my blogging virginity. The name of my blog was the first thing that came into my head; I thought I might change it to something wittier at a later date. Clearly that never happened. I had no grand plan, other than I was going to write about my life with ulcerative colitis and just in case anyone were ever to read it, I should probably try my best to be honest.

AUGUST
Coming off prednisolone was my goal. As my pred intake reduced, my visits to the bathroom increased. It became clear the drugs merely kept the symptoms in check. I had to come to terms with the fact that I might be dependent on medication for quite some time to come. Things pottered along and popping pills became as much part of every day life as brushing my teeth and cursing London Underground.

SEPTEMBER
My girlfriend and I took a 2 week holiday in the Italian countryside. My ulcerative colitis tagged along for the ride, but pretty much kept a low profile and didn’t spoil a single sun-blessed moment. I had my first beers in 5 months, though I rationed myself to 2 a day. We swam and walked and read and listened to music and ate nice food, and I think all 3 of us thoroughly enjoyed our break. Unfortunately my UC decided after much deliberation, that nice though Italy was, it’d prefer to return home with us.


OCTOBER
I tried and failed to come off the prednisolone. I think it was my 2nd or 3rd attempt. I had hoped that if ever I were to become addicted to drugs it would be something marvelously decadent, literary and mysterious, like opium, administered by a snaggle-toothed Chinaman called Ming, but no, I get my fix from a grandfatherly man in a white coat on the High Street. Pete Doherty I am not.

NOVEMBER
I’m not saying the doctors have chucked pills at me willy-nilly, but at times their eagerness to dish out new tablets has been a bit billy-nilly, willy-nilly’s slightly less slap dash cousin. And so it was I came to be prescribed azathioprine. Only time will tell if it’s a success, but if nothing else I’ve learnt a new word.

DECEMBER
The season to eat, drink and be merry. Throwing caution to the wind I have indulged a little in the festivities, resulting in, rather appropriately, quite a lot of wind. Though I somehow doubt I’m the only one trumping profusely at this time of year. So, it’s been a funny old 12 months, really. My body has had me reeling at times, on the ropes I was, bewildered and befuddled and bloodied. But despite all the pain, confusion, worry and stress, I wouldn’t say it was a shit year per se. A year of much shitting, granted, but there have been many positives too. I no longer abuse my body in such wanton fashion, I’m far more respectful about what I put inside myself, and without wishing to get all evangelical and ‘born again’, ulcerative colitis has made me reevaluate my life. I have a better understanding of what’s important to me than I did this time last year. (Don’t tell anyone, but I think I might have grown up a bit.) And finally, without my UC I would never have started this blog. I’m quite proud of the fact I’ve written something like 27,000 words, mostly about poo. Before Christmas, I got speaking to someone who has written and published a book, and thinking he might have some advice that might help me write this blog, I asked him if he had any tips. He said the most important thing is to edit ruthlessly and cut out all the crap. I thought, that’s alright for you to say, mate, but if I cut out all the crap there’ll be bugger all left.

Happy New Year from Switzerland.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Ulcerative colitis travel tip

I’m off to Switzerland today for the New Year, but before I go I’ll leave you with a little travel tip. Take all your medication onto the plane with your hand luggage. That way if your bags don’t arrive at the same destination as you, at least you’ll have your tablets. Sounds a bit bleedin’ obvious, I know, but sometimes them’s the things you forget.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Boxing Day's diary on a Thursday 2.4

Turkey, stuffing, roast potatoes, roast parsnips, chipolata sausages wrapped in bacon, sprouts, some other vegetables, erm, new potatoes, gravy, Abbott Ale, Christmas pudding, brandy butter, chocolates, stilton, cheddar, biscuits all went in...now let's see what came out...
Wednesday 26th December:
9.55am Loose stool, light blood
4.15pm Firmish stool
9.50pm Firmish stool

Medication:
6 x Mesalazine 400mg
3 x Prednisolone 5mg
3 x Azathioprine 50mg
3 x Ferrous Sulphate 200mg
2 x Calcium Carb 1.25g

Comments:
As I loosen my belt a notch I worry for my Vivienne Westwood shirt.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wednesday's diary on a Thursday 2.3

I found this quote from some UC website or other. It's quite a good way of explaining how food can affect things, I think.

As an analogy, think about a cut on the skin. If lemon juice is squeezed over the cut, the cut will burn and hurt. The cut skin is not necessarily worse in terms of inflammation nor will it take longer to heal, it just temporarily hurts more because of the lemon juice. The same is true of various food effects on the colon in UC. When the colon is inflamed, ingestion of gas producing foods containing lactose or high fibre products may result in abdominal cramping and discomfort. These foods, however, will not cause the lining of the colon to develop more ulcers or bleeding.

Well, on Tuesday night I squeezed lemon juice over the cut. My girlfriend and I had our Christmas early because she's going back to Germany for the holidays. So we had a very nice, fancy-pants meal out, which included a whole host of things I shouldn't really touch with a barge pole, let alone a knife and fork. And yes, the dreaded sprouts were consumed, along with a few pints of Christmas Ale. I paid for it yesterday mind, but what the heck, Christmas only comes once a year. Or in mine and my girlfriend's case, twice.
Wednesday 19th December:
4am Loose stool
5.30am Loose stool
7.30am Loose stool, light blood, mucus
12.10pm Loose stool
11pm Loose stool

Medication:
6 x Mesalazine 400mg
3 x Prednisolone 5mg
3 x Azathioprine 50mg
3 x Ferrous Sulphate 200mg
2 x Calcium Carb 1.25g

Comments:
Bah, humbug.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I'm all ears

For many years I stubbornly refused to listen to what my body was trying to tell me. My standard response to any niggle, itch, twitch, twinge, throb or ache was la-la-la-la-la-la-la-can’t-hear-you- la-la-la-la-la-la- can’t-hear-you-la-la-la-la. My body’s cries for help would go unheard. Like many a man before me, I cocked a deaf ‘un. It’s what us boys do. Rather than face up to reality, we’d prefer to slip out the back door unnoticed, preferably to the nearest pub. But just as the habitual flat-capped drinker never escapes his rolling pin wielding wife for long, one can never truly hide from a nagging body. So it was only a matter of time before mine caught up with me and forced me to listen to what it had to say. Now this is where it can get tricky. If your body could sit you down and explain in plain English, maybe over a cuppa and a Rich Tea, exactly what was on its mind there would be no confusion. But your body doesn’t speak English. Instead it communicates in its own curiously oblique fashion. It’s a form of sign language, I guess. Like, you’ll suddenly get lots and lots of eye-wateringly painful mouth ulcers. This is your body speaking to you. But what’s it trying to say? That you have a problem in your mouth? Oh no, no, no, no, that would be far too simple. No, mouth ulcers might not have anything to do with your mouth at all. It could be anything. Imagine a red warning light appearing on the dashboard of your car, but it doesn’t tell you if it’s oil, petrol, water, brakes or the bag of Murray Mints in the glove compartment you should be worrying about. That’s how your body talks to you. So now every time I get a spot or blemish or my hair starts falling out, I have to try and interpret what it means. I haven’t the foggiest half the time. My body could be trying to tell me I’ve got bird flu for all I know. It seems mastering German is the least of my worries, first I need to understand body language.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A hairy tale

Could this be a precious lock of my truelove’s hair, kept inside a locket worn around my neck, a keepsake of our fervent union pressed tenderly against my fragile, fluttering heart for all eternity? Nope, I fished this little lot out the plughole this morning. They’re my hairs. By all rights they should still be on my head. That’s where they were when I got in the shower, but by the time I got out, they’d jumped ship. I haven’t counted them yet, but it’s a good old clump; more than an Action Man’s handful. At the very least a Bobby Charlton combover’s worth of hair. And this is from just one shower. If I carry on at this rate I’ll be able to re-thatch Right Said Fred before the year’s out. But why is my barnet doing a bunk? Naturally I’m keen to get to, ahem, the root of the problem. Is it a side effect of one of the drugs I’m taking, for instance? And if so, which one? The way I’m golliping down pills it’s hard to isolate a particular side effect and attribute it to any one drug. One thing I have noticed though, is since I started losing the hair on my head I’ve started growing it on my cheekbones. You may laugh at the irony of my predicament, but spare a thought for me. I’m the one who is going to have to go through life with the face of Teen Wolf and the head of Kojak.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wednesday's diary on a Thursday 2.2

If anyone ever finds my 2007 Diary in a hundred years time it's going to make for very strange reading.
Wednesday 12th December:
6.50am Firmish stool
4.10pm Firmish stool

Medication:
6 x Mesalazine 400mg
4 x Prednisolone 5mg
3 x Azathioprine 50mg
3 x Ferrous Sulphate 200mg
2 x Calcium Carb 1.25g

Comments:
Can't complain, but I have been here before...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

And your nearest toilet is...

I thought I’d give SatLav another whirl. So I’m on Oxford Street and I text ‘toilet’ to 80097. A few seconds later this helpful little message drops out of the ether into my Inbox.

Yr nearest toilets: Oxford Circus 0730 – 0000, Gt. Portland St 1000 – 1800. Leicester Sq & Covent Gdn toilets open 24hrs

All very impressive. Then after work, back in Walthamstow, I realise I haven’t thanked SatLav for their help, and not wishing to be rude I text ‘thanks!’ to the usual number. My phone beep-beeps, announcing the arrival of a reply.

Yr nearest toilets: Strand 1000 – 1800, Strand APC 24-hr. Leicester Sq & Covent Gdn toilets open 24hrs

How queer. SatLav must have mistaken my ‘thanks!’ for ‘toilet’ and according to them the nearest toilets are about 6 miles away. That doesn’t sound right, in fact I know it’s completely untrue, so I text back ‘you sure?’ Beep-beep.

Yr nearest toilets: Strand 1000 – 1800, Strand APC 24-hr. Leicester Sq & Covent Gdn toilets open 24hrs

SatLav are sticking to their guns. They’re adamant that my nearest toilets are in central London. That would mean having to take the Victoria Line to Kings Cross and changing onto the Northern Line to Leicester Square. Only a 35 minute journey, then. That’s not going to a problem at all if I desperately need the loo, is it? Not wanting to get into a pointless texting argument with a satellite, I decide not to text SatLav back. And in future, if I need to find a toilet I might do things the old fashioned way and ask a policeman.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Poo

Treacley black ones, slimy ones, scarily bloody ones, spluttering ones, gassy ones, embarrassingly noisy ones, painful ones, encouragingly solid ones, disappointingly runny ones, did-that-really-come-out-of-me ones, Malteseresque ones, explosive ones, stinky ones, just-made-it-to-the-toilet ones and good old fashioned ploppy ones. Yup, it’s fair to say I have produced a wide range of faeces this year, but so far I have not had a virtual poo. But if I do, worry not, I am prepared.

Monday, December 10, 2007

A letter of complaint

I just wanted to mention the noise between the two flats as I think the ceiling is obviously very thin but I have been woken up several times when you’re moving about. Sorry to mention this and I know it is probably something you’re not aware of but I thought I had to say something.

This is an extract from a handwritten note stuck to my girlfriend’s fridge. It’s from her neighbour who lives in the flat below. When I read the letter two things occurred to me. One (pernickety): my girlfriend’s neighbour’s hearing is far better than her use of punctuation. And two (panicky): if she feels she has to complain about the noise my girlfriend and her flatmate inadvertently make “moving about” what on God’s Earth must she make of the hullabaloo I make when I’m moving my bowels? Because she’s absolutely right in saying the ceiling is very thin. Sometimes when I’m sitting on the toilet in my girlfriend’s flat, I can hear the neighbour switch the light on in the bathroom below. Now this is the sound of a light being switched on. An ordinary household light switch; we’re not talking powering up the generators at Eddystone Lighthouse here. It is not what you would describe as a loud noise. As far as noises go, it’s quite unassuming. Probably a little louder than a mouse’s fart but not quite as loud as a stoat’s sneeze. Certainly no one was ever deafened by the sound of a light being switched on. It’s not the kind of noise that warrants you sticking your fingers in your ears. But if the sound of a light being switched on downstairs is clearly audible to me upstairs, then it stands to reason that whatever noise I make must also be heard downstairs. And believe me, when I use the toilet I make a lot more racket than a light switch. Imagine a Tiger Moth biplane crash-landing into the world’s largest Whoopee cushion phut-phut-phut-phut-parrrrrp-parrp- parrrrrp-parrp. So if my girlfriend’s neighbour is looking for someone to blame for the noise, then I hold my hands up. It’s a fair cop. I am public enemy number one (or should that be public enema number twos?) If she had perhaps been more honest, the neighbour’s note may have read something more like this…

I just wanted to mention the noise between the two flats as I think the ceiling is obviously very thin but I have been woken up several times by what I can only describe as something akin to a volcanic eruption. But given we live in Peckham, not Krakatoa, there must surely be some other explanation? You’re not trying to land a Tiger Moth biplane on the world’s largest Whoopee cushion up there, by any chance are you? No, that’s just crazy, forgive me, I haven’t been getting much sleep of late BECAUSE OF THE EVIL CACOPHONY OF BEELZEBUB’S RAMPAGING ARMY RISING FROM THE BOWELS OF THE EARTH. Sorry to mention this and I know it is probably something you’re not aware of but I thought I had to say something.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Wednesday's diary on a Thursday 2.1

Hawk-eyed pill watchers will notice I'm now taking azathioprine. This means every day I have 18 tablets rattling around inside my belly. I am the human maracas.
Wednesday 5th December:
6am Loose stool
10.25am Firmish stool
4.40pm Firmish stool, gassy


Medication:
6 x Mesalazine 400mg
4 x Prednisolone 5mg
3 x Azathioprine 50mg
3 x Ferrous Sulphate 200mg
2 x Calcium Carb 1.25g

Comments:
Chica-chica-chica-chica-chica (that's the sound maracas make, I couldn't find an mp3.)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

What's in a name?

There’s a bloke who drinks in a bar in Walthamstow called Mike, and to his friends he’s known as Funtime Mike. I think Funtime is a great prefix to be given; it’s the Ronseal of nicknames and tells you right up front exactly what to expect. It says this is a man who is going to be a bit of a laugh, a joker, a wisecracker, a raconteur, a wit and master of the art of barroom banter. He’ll probably know a few magic tricks involving matchsticks and beer mats too. Funtime Mike is going to be a riot, for sure. I have no reason to believe Mike was given his nickname ironically, as other nicknames in the bar are Big Paul, who is big (he’s also known as Roofer Paul, which is what he does), there’s Big Mo and Big Chris, they’re both big as well, there’s Drunk Dave, who is always drunk and there’s a teacher called Stephen that everyone calls Harry, because he wears little round glasses and has a scar on his forehead. Nicknames in The Stow (that’s Walthamstow’s nickname) tend to be quite unimaginative. Even Walthamstow’s most famous sons, East 17, named themselves after the postcode. It’s very much a literal ‘say what you see’ thing. “Paul’s a big lad, I know, let’s call him Big Paul.” So it came as a bit of shock to discover that I was known in the area as The Pervert. This, I learnt, is what the locals began calling me because when I first went in the pubs in Walthamstow I would sit on my own and scribble things in my notepad. And that in their eyes made me The Pervert. Not The Scribbler, The Jotter or even Padman. No, to all and sundry I was The Pervert. Talk about unfair. Mike gets Funtime on account of him being a fun guy and I get The Pervert on account of what, that I occasionally write things down in a pad? You figure it out, because I can’t. Anyway, what has all this got to do with ulcerative colitis? Well, there’s another bloke I know in Walthamstow called Mouse (don’t ask), and he phoned yesterday to tell me he’s just been diagnosed with UC. And aside from the good people that leave comments on my blog from time to time, Mouse is the only living, breathing, real person I actually, actually know with ulcerative colitis. So it now looks like I’ve got a partner. Pervert and Mouse. Got a kind of Batman and Robin ring to it, don’t you think?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Small blessings

Having a rough time at the moment?

In a flare-up?

Diarrhoea?

Up and down to the toilet constantly?

6, 7, 8, 9 times a day?

Stools look like redcurrant jam?

Runnier than that?

Just blood?

Lots and lots of blood?

Well this may not be much consolation, but count yourself lucky.

You could be a gerbil.

A gerbil with ulcerative colitis.

Gerbils don’t have flushing toilets.

They’ve got walk-in lavatories that are stuffed floor to ceiling with shredded paper.

Not Andrex, newspaper.

Once inside they defecate anywhere.

Now imagine if you had to tunnel your way into a small room filled with poo-soaked newspaper every time you needed to answer the call of nature.

Euch, indeed.

Let’s face it, after a couple of trips it’s not going to be pleasant.

After a few days you’ll be wishing your nose would drop off.

On the up side, with all that newspaper lying about there’s always something to read.

Monday, December 3, 2007

It’ll be alright on the night

I’m on Great Castle Street just round the corner from Oxford Circus and I find myself in the rather unusual position of pretending that I urgently need to find a toilet. Having spent much of the year actually needing to find toilets urgently, it’s a role I think I can just about pull off. So there I am, method acting in central London with Gielgudian aplomb. I’m wringing my hands dramatically, biting my fist, criss-crossing my legs, hoppety-hopping from one end of the street to the other like a daddy longlegs. Hurrying office workers hunch further over their steaming coffee cups to avoid eye contact. A couple of secretaries link arms and cross to the other side of the road. A crowd of concerned faces appear alongside the shiny Christmas baubles in the window of Café Lido. Perhaps my performance is erring more towards ‘lunatic Macbeth’ than ‘man looking for loo’. Nonetheless I remain in character and unsheathe my mobile phone in theatrical fashion. Exercising poise and technique rarely seen in British acting, I deftly text ‘toilet’ to 80097. I fall still and wait. Beep-beep. Hark, a reply.

Sorry, we cannot locate your current position. You have not been charged for this reply.

That wasn’t in the script. I reread the message and give the screen a withering Oliver Hardy look. This new toilet locating service I’m trying out, or SatLav as it has been dubbed, is supposed to locate the texter and text back directions to the nearest public toilet anywhere in Westminster. But in this instance it appears they can’t. Looks like they're having teething troubles. So it’s fortunate that today is just a dress rehearsal and I’m only pretending that I desperately need the loo. Hopefully by the time I come to use SatLav for real, they’ll have got their act together.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Apparently now I'm 'special'

SPECIAL CONDITIONS
• Premium increased on Life Cover due to ulcerative colitis.


That’s what it said on page 2 of the letter I received yesterday detailing my Mortgage Protection Plan. Premium increased on Life Cover due to ulcerative colitis. Marvelous. Fan-bloody-tastic. Really, I’m tickled pink. Cock-a-hoop, I am. No I’m not. I’m in shock; pass the salts. They’ve only gone and hoicked the monthly premium up by about 50%. I’m not that much of a risk, surely? Am I really that ill? They obviously want to get their money’s worth before I pop my clogs. They want to take their pound of flesh before I take my last breath. And considering they only pay out on the event of my death, I’m no more keen for them to cough up than they are. So we’ve both got a common interest; neither of us wants to see me pushing up the daisies just yet. I’m 35 for chrissakes. In my prime. I’m not planning on checking out for a while yet. Okay, so I’ve got a bit of tummy trouble, but come on, I’m hardly ready to meet my maker, and here Friends Provident are sending me letters that make me feel like this. Friends Provident: harrumph, they’re no friends of mine.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Wednesday's diary on a Thursday 2.0

Like the going at Newmarket, things are good to firm.
Wednesday 29th November:
6.15am Loose stool, slight blood mucus
1.30pm Loose to firmish stool
9.35pm Loose stool


Medication:
6 x Mesalazine 400mg
5 x Prednisolone 5mg
3 x Ferrous Sulphate 200mg
2 x Calcium Carb 1.25g

Comments:
I'm off for a Tom Tit.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I have a dream

I had lofty ambitions for this blog. My objective was to shine a light on ulcerative colitis, to illuminate this most idiosyncratic of diseases, to delve into the minutiae of life as a sufferer, to tap-tap away at the inconsistencies, anomalies and misconceptions, mining only the truth, with diligence and pure, unblinkered 20/20 vision and searing honesty, without censorship or shame, uncovering the realities, the cold diamond-hard facts, and to deliver them neatly packaged for the reader in a wrapping paper of candidness and tied with a ribbon of wit. Well, that was the plan, but now I find myself posting this.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The nightmare before Christmas

“Belong to you does he?” asks the security guard. “Bit hard to say from this angle,” replies Amanda Eyre, head of human resources at law firm Hull, Lewsey and Pearce, “but I imagine he is an employee, yes.” The two of them are standing in the Great Hall of the Natural History Museum peering up at the body of a man curled up asleep inside the ribcage of the diplodocus skeleton. The company has hired out the museum for their Christmas party at great expense. And now it seems, great embarrassment. With a murmur the mystery sleeper shifts, dislodging the festive gold paper hat from his head, which falls to the floor like an autumnal leaf. The dinosaur creaks. “Well he can’t stay there, luv. It’s a good job the diplodocus isn’t alive to see this, that’s all I can say.” Amanda Eyre gives the security guard a sideways look. “Vegetarian weren’t they.” offers the security guard by way of explanation.

Oh yes, the office Christmas party season is upon us. Ho-ho-ho. Or rather, hic-hic-hic. Festive Rudolf ties will be worn around heads, mistletoe will be hung from trouser flies and countless middle management types will tipsily stumble into mid-life crisis with an inappropriate grope. Company credit cards will splash out on rivers of alcohol; let it flow, let it flow, let flow. Karaoke will be sung, tables will double as dance floors and testosterone pumped team leaders will get all competitive over who can moonwalk the best. Lager-loosened lips will say something they shouldn’t to someone they really, really shouldn’t. Predatory alpha males doused in aftershave will slip off their wedding rings. Mince pies will be thrown and there will be projectile vomiting. Ah, the joys of yuletide. Well, this year will be a bit different for me. I won’t be, how can I put it, ‘going for it’ with quite the same gusto as in previous years. Thanks to the ulcerative colitis I’m going to have to get into the Christmas spirit without the spirits. And I don’t think I mind all that much. Though it will be an odd experience to observe the post-Christmas party casualties jabbering and dribbling on the Tube, and for once not be one of them. Yup, December is shaping up to be a sober, hangover free one for me. Now that probably is something worth celebrating.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Queen Victoria's thrones

The ornate gates are now rust-flecked and chastened by a tightly wound knot of cold chain, denying public access to the public lavatory below. Like frozen Slinkys, discarded beer cans litter the steps which descend to a stubbornly padlocked door. It’s a common sight on the streets of London these days. These once magisterial, Victorian conveniences are no longer convenient. Shut. Locked. Permanently engaged. In the last 10 years around 5,000 public toilets in England and Wales have been closed down. Which is a rather buttock-clenching statistic if you happen to have ulcerative colitis. The last thing you need when your bowels want to open is to find the toilets closed. But if you happen to be in leafy, deer-loving Richmond in south-west London and you urgently need a poo, you could be in luck. All you have to do is look out for Community Toilet Scheme stickers in the windows of cafes, pubs and shops. Any business displaying the sticker will allow non-customers to use their toilets for free and with no obligation to buy anything. It’s all part of a new initiative backed by the imaginatively named British Toilet Association (BTA). Businesses that sign up to it will be paid £600 a year, which comes out of the budget formerly spent on maintaining public toilets. Which is a pretty penny for just letting someone spend a penny on your premises. I think the Community Toilet Scheme is an admirable idea, but I’m just not sure if it actually came to it and I desperately needed a loo I’d have the necessary chutzpah to burst into a florists, point at the sticker in the window with a nod and wink and march out the back for a ten minute, noisy crap. No, I think I’d find that a tad awkward. Being terribly English and all that, I’d have to buy the florist a bunch of flowers to make up for the intrusion.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Wednesday's diary on a Thursday 1.9

Stress isn't good for ulcerative colitis, therefore watching England play football isn't good for ulcerative colitis. The results from yesterday, then.
Wednesday 21st November:
5.35am Loose stool, slight blood mucus
1.30pm Loose to firmish stool
6.50pm Loose to firmish stool
10.40pm Loose stool, blood mucus

Medication:
6 x Mesalazine 400mg
5 x Prednisolone 5mg
3 x Ferrous Sulphate 200mg
2 x Calcium Carb 1.25g

Comments:
I blame McClaren.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Turn your loo into a library

When you spend as much time sitting on the toilet as I do, you will read anything to relieve the boredom. And I do mean anything. Shampoo labels, money off coupons on packs of toilet rolls, the washing instructions in your underpants, whatever you can clap your eyes on. On occasion I have even tried to decipher the cracks in the paintwork. Fortunately The Observer newspaper has come to the rescue of bog dwellers everywhere. Each month they have been giving away a little book of facts on various topics. So far I’ve collected The Observer Book of Scandal, The Observer Book of Money, The Observer Book of Rock and Pop and The Observer Book of Space. And what a sight for bored eyes they are. They’re perfect for reading on the toilet. Well designed, nicely proportioned, not too heavy and cram-packed with fascinating bite-sized nuggets of information. It’s trivia heaven, pub quiz gold dust. These tiny tomes will educate whilst you defecate. And for those who don’t read none too good, in the bottom right hand corner there’s always a flip-book style animation. Look out for them, every bathroom should have a set.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A nightmare start to Tuesday: Update

8.48am receive text message from my girlfriend:

Hello. I dreamt about you this morning.x

8.49am send text message to my girlfriend:

Ha ha. Funny you should mention dreams. Read my blog.x

At 8.59am I call my girlfriend, and contradicting everything I said earlier, there's a question I'm itching to ask, “So what did you dream about me?”

“I’m not telling you. You don’t like hearing about other people’s dreams.”

“I know, I know, but I’m asking.”

"No, you're not interested."

"Please tell me."

“Oh, it was nothing, you weren’t very well and you had to have an operation on your penis.”

This is exactly what I mean; dreams are just brain poo. Complete and utter brain poo. And she's not even on prednisolone.

A nightmare start to Tuesday

The time is 5.29am. I awoke from a bad dream about an hour ago and haven’t been able to get back to sleep since. Like that last olive you chase around the plate with a cocktail stick, never quite able to spear, sleep evades me, teasingly just beyond reach. And as I lay in the dark playing cat and mouse with sleep, listening to the sounds outside my window, probably of real cats and mice, it occurred to me that since I’ve been back on the prednisolone my dreams have been a lot more vivid. Now, if there’s one sentence in the world guaranteed to make my heart sink it’s, “I had this really weird dream last night.” Having to listen to other people’s dreams is my worst nightmare. I’m not even particularly interested in my own dreams, so the idea of having to grimace my way through the nonsensical nocturnal brain ramblings of George from accounts who ate too much Red Leicester before bedtime fills me with utter dread. So you had no body hair whatsoever, not even eyebrows, and you were being chased by Simon Antrobus who you haven’t seen since you were 11 when he went to live in Sheffield, but it was more like Simon Antrobus in medieval bear form. I. Don’t. Care. It’s muddledy-up claptrap. It doesn’t mean anything to George from accounts, why oh why oh why should it mean anything to me? Tell me, do you still speak to the ex-wife, George? Has she forgiven you yet for losing the family home because you got addicted to online poker? That’s more fun, that I am interested in. You can tell me about that, George, I’ll pull up a chair, George, cup of tea George? No it’s fair to say, I’m not a big dream fan. Dreams are just brain poo; the stuff your mind doesn’t need. It would therefore be most hypocritical of me to bore you with the potent whimsy and dazzling theatrics of my recent dreams. All I will say is I do seem to be dreaming more. And I wonder if that has anything to do with the 25mg or so of prednisolone I have whooshing through my bloodstream every day? Whatever, I'm not going to lose any sleep over it.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Guess who?

Today I came up with a new game to pass the time whilst crapping in public toilets. I know I’m supposed to be learning German, but I don’t always have the books with me. So anyway, it’s called ‘Guess who’s in the next cubicle’. This was my guess from a visit to the toilets near Great Portland Street tube:

Edek is Polish.

Edek has a job working for the council cleaning graffiti off the walls in public conveniences.

He has a girlfriend called Betsy who paints fingernails in a nail salon.

Betsy has very long nails with shooting stars painted on them.

Edek wishes he could scrub away the shooting stars just like he scrubs away the toilet graffiti.

He and Betsy aren’t getting on.

Today Edek isn’t in the toilet cubicle scrubbing graffitii.

Today is Edek’s day off and he is waiting in the toilet cubicle to meet a man.

Yesterday Edek was removing graffiti when he saw a message scrawled on the wall by someone calling himself Johnny.

The message simply read ‘All I ask of you is please don’t fall in love with me.’ And there was a number to call and the name Johnny.

Edek didn’t call the number straight away but he did store it in his phone.

Edek was intrigued to know who this Johnny was and why he was so confident of someone instantly falling in love with him that he had to pre-warn them not to.

Edek called the number later that night, mainly because Betsy’s fingernails were annoying him.

Edek and Johnny arranged to meet the following day at 2 o’clock.

Edek had thought Johnny had a very nice voice.

The kind of voice he could easily imagine falling in love with.


That was my guess. I could be way wide of the mark, of course. The person in the next cubicle might just have been having a poo, like me.

Wednesday's diary on a Thursday 1.8

Now we're talking, solidish stools, shits with shapes. All hail the power of the pred.
Wednesday 14th November:
6am Loose stool
4.20pm Firmish stool
9.30pm Firmish stool

Medication:
6 x Mesalazine 400mg
6 x Prednisolone 5mg
3 x Ferrous Sulphate 200mg
2 x Calcium Carb 1.25g

Comments:
Best WDOAT in weeks. Fact.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Kinky

Ray Davies of The Kinks wrote Waterloo Sunset about a childhood recollection of lying in his sickbed in St Thomas’s Hospital in London watching the comings and goings of rush hour commuters through the window. If Ray had been propped up in a hospital bed in St Thomas’s this week there’s a chance he might have been inspired to write another song by something he observed out the window; three little test tubes of my blood arriving. I don’t know whether they got there by courier, carrier pigeon or horse drawn carriage, all I know is three test tubes of my blood have been sent to St Thomas’s for tests. I think that’s worth penning a song about, don’t you? Sod all that Terry meets Julie schmaltz though; let’s get a bit of blood in there. Go a bit Marilyn Manson with it. That’s what the record buying public want. They don’t want pretty little vignettes about some bloke called Terry and his bird Julie. They’re baying for blood these days. And it may as well be my blood we give them. In the medium of song, of course. So I’ve had a bash at some new words to go with the tune to Waterloo Sunset. I kept Ray’s first two lines in, because they set it up quite nicely. (He’s not too shabby when it comes to lyrics, actually.) Anyway, see what you think. Ladies and gentleman, probably the world’s first song inspired by an ulcerative colitis sufferer’s blood arriving at hospital…
Waterloo Bloodfest

Dirty old river, must you keep rolling,
Flowing into the night,
Look at these test tubes, makes me feel dizzy,
All that blood gives me a fright,
But I think I’ll be okay,
As long as I don’t go and drop them,
Everything’s cushty.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Smooth

According to my girlfriend my skin glows when I’m on the prednisolone. I’m guessing this is a good thing. I presume she doesn’t mean I glow in the same way as someone with a Chernobyl postcode might. No, I think she means my face is silky smooth and blemish-free like a newborn babe’s. Still manly, of course, very rugged in fact, like chiselled granite, an Easter Island statue sort of thing. But softer. More lustrous. And I suppose if caught in a certain light my skin might give one the impression that I own and regularly use moisturiser. A good moisturiser at that. With a French name probably. Expensive. None of that cheap muck that you get in a sachet stuck inside FHM. I mean, now I’m thinking about it my skin is very good right now. It does look healthy. Which is slightly ironic given the fact it’s all entirely due to chemicals and has nothing to do with clean living at all. It’s the pred that makes my skin pretty. It also stops me shitting seven times a day. And whilst I really don’t like the idea of being drug dependent, I’d much rather pop a few pills than have to keep popping to the toilet. I am reducing my dose by 5mg every two weeks, and hopefully this time at the end of it all I’ll come off the prednisolone for good. Until then though, I’m going to enjoy my lovely glowing skin and all the compliments it brings.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

And the good news is

My doctor is wearing his surgical gear. He looks like a Guantanamo Bay inmate who got given blue instead of orange. I’ve never seen him in anything other than his usual uniform of khaki trousers, plain shirt and sober tie. It’s a bit of a shock. He looks a lot younger in his loose fitting clown pyjama get-up. As he greets me we share an awkward moment and he smiles as if to say, yeah I know I look daft. I can’t look him in the eyes. No good looking at the floor either, he’s wearing plastic sandals. This is not a good look. My doctor is not coming across like a man who saves lives for a living; more like someone who makes balloon animals at children’s parties. He directs me through a door, “We’ll go in here. It’s the room we break the bad news in.” Whoa, back up Coco, whaddaya mean the room we break the bad news in? My mind revs into action. “Take a seat, Martin.” This is it, this exactly how it happens on TV. I take in my surroundings. There’s the box of Kleenex on the coffee table. Oh God. I mentally brace myself for the worst. Next to the Kleenex is a plastic model of the intestines, to help explain things probably. I know the drill; I’ve seen Casualty. In the middle of the coffee table is the ubiquitous bunch of flowers. Come on, balloon bender, give it to me straight. Don’t pull any punches. The pictures on the walls are all generic pinks and lilacs. Tell me! Tell me! Tell me! My doctor smiles beatifically and I snap to my senses at once. There is no bad news. How could there be? I haven’t had any tests done recently. I’m not waiting for the results of anything. The ‘bad news’ room just happened to be convenient. I’m only here to pick up a new prescription and talk about swapping to different tablets. I sink back into my chair, no longer condemned. I’m lucky; I got to see the ‘bad news’ room without getting the ‘bad news’. It’s not a nice place. I know they’ve tried to make it look homely and peaceful and unscary, but for me the décor is just a bit too, well, 1989. That’s just my feelings though. Maybe psychologists somewhere have proven that 1989 is a particularly good antidote to terrible news?

Friday, November 9, 2007

The ideal Xmas gift for the ulcerative colitis sufferer in your life

This is a bin for the bathroom, which holds your magazine for you whilst you read on the toilet. Which means you’re hands-free. So you can forget the whole archaic rigmarole of putting the magazine down on the floor for the wiping stage. Oh no my friends, this little chrome beauty means you can read and wipe at the same time. Read and wipe. At the same time. This is 21st Century living. I bet The Jetsons didn’t even have a bin like this. If there’s a bathroom bin, anywhere in the world, better suited to the needs of someone with ulcerative colitis, I want to see it. There won’t be one. This is it. This is the bin we’ve been waiting for. Bathroom waste disposal/reading aids don’t get more exciting than this. Speaking of bathroom bins with dual use, have you ever noticed how girls’ bathroom bins would make perfect nests? With all those fluffy cotton wool ball things, soft make up removing pads, scrunched up tissues and loose hair from the hairbrush, I reckon they’d be an ideal place for an Arctic Tern to snuggle up in.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Wednesday's diary on a Thursday 1.7

Ta-da! Back on the prednisolone.
Wednesday 7th November:
6am Loose stool, blood
7.45am Loose stool, blood mucus
1.50pm Loose stool
3.50pm Loose stool
7pm Loose stool, light blood
8.40pm Blood mucus

Medication:
6 x Mesalazine 400mg
6 x Prednisolone 5mg
3 x Ferrous Sulphate 200mg
2 x Calcium Carb 1.25g

Comments:
Going to the toilet more, not as tired, joints don't ache as much.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

In loving memory

When she laughs she tilts her head back, reminding me of a photograph of one of Jack the Ripper’s victims I saw in a book once. It’s six thirty on a Saturday morning and I’m watching Liz, the landlady of The Old Crown pour me a whiskey, no ice; that melted hours ago, like a polar bear’s worst nightmare. I’m thinking that for a single woman living on her own, Liz’s dressing gown and nightie are not what you’d expect. There’s nothing practical or comfortable about them. She's still buying clothes with a second party in mind, the game old bird. It’s all a bit Carry On Up The Old Crown. Me perched there like Sid James Junior. Liz puts my drink in front of me and seats herself opposite. I start talking. I use a catch phrase from a new comedy on telly. Liz’s face hardens briefly. She doesn’t get the reference and winds a stray thread from the hem of the curtains round her finger and yanks it off. Doesn’t have the time to watch a lot of telly she says. She did have a TV in the bar for a time, but the old boys only used to argue about what channel they wanted on. It’s a public house not a television room in an old folks home she told them. Liz’s laugh ended life as a sigh. I start telling her about my brother Warren. She must have seen me about with him, I tell her. Big lad. I get onto how when our mum died it knocked Warren for six. The both of us really, but especially Warren. Mum really looked after him. Warren needed looking after. But when she died he withdrew into himself, I was left to organise everything. Warren didn’t speak for a week after the funeral. I tried talking to him, but in the end I left him to it, figured he’d work it all out in his own time. Which he did, to his credit. He came bounding up to me in The Wheatsheaf, big grin on his face, saying he’s had an idea and wants to apologise for being a useless so-and-so. Never swears, Warren. Good like that. He’s tripping over his words, about how he went for a walk in the park, because mum always loved it there. That’s where he got his idea. He’d noticed that all the benches had little brass plaques on them in memory of people. You know, like ‘In Loving Memory of Mary Hedger, who spent many a happy hour in this park.’ Warren wants to get one made up for mum, which is a terrific idea because mum really did love that park and all the flowers. So, I buy Warren a Pepsi and tell him that I’ll leave it all up to him. He can choose the words, the lot. The big lump’s made up, he wants to do it so bad he doesn’t even finish his drink. I’m telling Liz all this and she’s nodding her head, squinting her eyes now and then, in that kind of sympathetic way some people have. Then, I say to her, you’ll never guess what, a week later Warren comes and finds me again. This time I’m in The Coach & Horses. Warren’s eyes are all red and his top lip is all snotty. I sit him down and tell him to take his time. He dutifully ignores me and blurts out this story about how he’d been up the park to take a look at mum’s plaque. He liked to go up there and read it. He was that pleased with himself. He’d done something for mum and he was proud as punch. But this time when he got up the park mum’s plaque had gone. It wasn’t on the bench any more. Someone had only gone and unscrewed it and stuck it onto a nearby litter bin. It broke Warren’s heart, and I wasn’t best pleased either. Who’d do that? Why? No respect some people. I finish my pint and we head up the park to see if we can’t sort this mess out. Warren takes me to the litter bin and sure enough there’s mum’s plaque firmly fixed to it. They’d done a nice job I had to admit. Next Warren leads me over to mum’s bench and things start to become a bit clearer. There are four vacant screw holes where mum’s plaque had been, but next to those four holes is another, older plaque for someone else. Warren had only bloody gone and fixed mum’s plaque to someone else’s bench. The dipstick hadn’t realised you had to have your own bench. You can’t just go and stick your plaque on someone else’s and hope they don’t mind hotching up, I told him. My guess is the family of the old dear had been passing their mum’s bench only to discover she’d got company. A lodger. Our mum. And they must have been the ones who stuck mum’s plaque on the bin. I couldn’t laugh because Warren was upset by it all. I took him into a nice little pub I know nearby and had a bit of a chat with him. Told him that maybe mum’s spirit had been up the park and moved the plaque to the litter bin. He quite took to that idea because mum had always been tidy. Never one to drop litter. She always had a handbag full of sweet wrappers did mum. Cheered Warren up no end as it goes and he soon lost himself in a bag of peanuts. Now, every year if you go up the park on the 5th April you’ll see a big, lanky lad placing a bouquet of flowers carefully and respectfully into a litter bin. And that is my brother, Warren. Liz smiles and I drain my glass. I launch into another story. The words keep tumbling out, whilst behind my eyes, deep in the back of my mind there’s a little voice fighting to be heard above the torrent of half truths and lies…what sort of person opens their pub up at six in the morning for someone they barely know? Who wakes up the landlady of a pub at six in the morning for a drink? And since when did I have a brother called Warren?

I do miss pubs and the people that populate them. This story is dedicated to a certain breed of man common to the great British boozer. He may not tell you the truth, but he will tell you a tale or two.

Drum rolls and toilet rolls

I do really want to learn German. I do. But there’s something niggling away at me. I kind of wish I’d decided to learn drums on the toilet instead. It would’ve been perfect. You can do it sitting down for a start. The din of my paradiddles would also conveniently drown out the sound of my pooing. And Keith Moon has always been a hero of mine. Not only am I in awe of his insane drumming, but his life, like mine seemed somehow welded to all things lavatorial. Legend has it Moon liked to drop cherry bombs into hotel toilets. I too drop things of a destructive nature into toilets. The cover of his only solo album Two Sides of the Moon features Keith ‘mooning’ out of a car window. Just as I have in my time had to show my backside to a fair few folk. The similarities between us are uncanny. Okay, I’m just procrastinating. I know it's much easier to take a German textbook into the toilet than a full drum kit. It’s just German seems so hard. And Keith Moon makes drumming seem so effortless and fun. Maybe what I need is a German Keith Moon to inspire me?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Putting faeces to names

I wonder if Paul Whiteman missed out on any Halloween parties because he thought he’d find it difficult without having a drink? Did Sophie Atkins decide against going to the fireworks display because there wouldn’t be any toilets nearby? Is David Offland sick and tired of being too exhausted after work to help his kids with their homework? Does Gill Palmieri use the public toilets down the road from her office because she thinks her colleagues will hear her if she uses the ones at work? Is Mike Wellum worried that his new girlfriend thinks he’s got a coke habit because he’s always nipping off to the toilet and is gone for ages? Is Beth Breton scared she’ll lose her husband because she finds sex a bit too uncomfortable? Does Joe Higman find it less embarrassing to just not go back into the lecture that he had to leave halfway through to go to the toilet? In the back of her mind is Angela Fenn afraid the baby she is carrying will grow up to have ulcerative colitis like her? For the first time in 18 months did Colin Howlett see blood in the toilet today? The Ulcerative Colitis UK petition now has 196 signatures. The names I used above were ‘borrowed’ from the list. 196 probably isn’t nearly enough to make a difference yet, but it is the biggest group of people affected by UC I’ve ever seen gathered in one place. Seeing all those names like that made me think a bit. Between them every British accent will be covered. There’ll be Brummies, Scousers, Geordies, Welsh, Glaswegians, Cockneys and maybe even someone from Nuneaton. Every faction of our ever-resilient class system will be fully represented. I did note there were one or two double-barrelled names adding an air of grandeur to the list (evening, m’am.) There will be florists, roofers, accountants, IT people, call centre workers, shopkeepers, plumbers, drivers, sales people and managing directors, but probably no Punch and Judy professors. Different people from different walks of life. You can be a cabbie from Tooting or a member of the Royal Family ulcerative colitis doesn’t appear to be choosey. Names on a list. People with lives. People like you and me.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Wednesday's diary on a Thursday 1.6

You know what, I've been thinking. I should just call this The Groundhog Day Diaries.
Wednesday 31st October:
6.35am Loose stool, blood mucus
11.25am Loose stool
1pm Loose stool
4.30pm Loose stool
9.10pm Loose stool

Medication:
6 x Mesalazine 400mg
3 x Ferrous Sulphate 200mg
2 x Calcium Carb 1.25g

Comments:
Phil! Phil Connors! I thought that was you!

Monday, October 29, 2007

See anything you recognise?

The year is 1956. It’s Monday morning in the New Cavendish Street offices of Associated London Graphical Artists Ltd. Roger, a promising young illustrator is perched beside his drawing board filling his pipe, when Frank Milward-Taylor, the Managing Director appears in the doorway.

“Roger, glad I caught you old boy, got a little job I’d rather like you to look at.”
“Of course, Sir.”
“It’s another one of those pictorial charts for the medical chaps down at Bristol.”
“Super.”
“Yes, indeed. What they want is a chart illustrating different kinds of stools.”
“Stools, Sir? I’m afraid I don’t quite follow?”
“Shits, Roger, shits.”
“So you’re asking me to draw—“
“Human, Roger, remember they must be human.”
“Human, right.”
“It shouldn’t take too long, the medical boys have provided all the words.”
“I’ll get my brown crayons out then, Sir.”

And here is what Roger produced that morning back in 1956. The fantastically titled Bristol Stool Chart. (I'm mostly a number 6, by the way.)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

When I were a lad...

I don’t remember ‘doodlebugs’ and The Blitz or food rationing, I’ve never worn a gas mask, ‘We’ll Meet Again’ doesn’t move me to tears, I’ve never described anything as being ‘wizard’, a tin bath hanging on a rusty nail in the yard means nothing to me, I don’t remember a time when there was a cinema on every corner and I’ve never smoked a pack of Pall Mall’s. The sight of Winston Churchill doesn’t bring a lump to my throat and I wasn’t given driving lessons by ‘a chap’ called ‘Bomber’ McLean in a vehicle that had tracks and a gun turret. Nor would I know whether to boil, poach, scramble or snort powdered egg. I was born in 1972 see. So I have absolutely no right to be saying things like, “You’ll have to slow down, I don’t get about as quick as I used to.” But I have said those words. Those words do belong to me. And there’s plenty more where they came from. “Hang on a minute, I’ll just have to sit down for a bit.” Classic grandpa-speak coming out of my 35 year old mouth. “I’ll be alright once my legs get going.” I can’t seem to help myself though. My joints get a bit stiff, you see. They ache as well. Mostly the hips and lower back and round the knees. So it does take a little while for me to get up a good head of steam. A good head of steam! I’m making steam engine references! My god, this is worse than I thought. UC is turning me into an old man. And most people just think ulcerative colitis is some sort of weird pooing thing. Well just for the record I’d like to put things straight. Ulcerative colitis is a weird pooing thing, but it can also make you feel as rickety as a veteran of the D-Day landings. Now if you'll excuse me, I'll have to stop now because sitting at the computer is playing merry hell with my back.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Sign up! Sign up!

The people at Ulcerative Colitis UK are petitioning the Prime Minister to introduce free prescriptions for patients diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. If you’d like to add your signature, you can do it here (UK residents only). It’s really easy and quite interesting, because the place where you sign is on the official 10 Downing Street website. Yes, 10 Downing Street has a website. I don’t know why, but I felt a bit naughty being on there, like I was snooping round while Gordon Brown was eating his Coco-Pops in the other room. But after I’d signed the petition I couldn’t resist a quick shufty. So I slipped off my shoes so as not to make a noise and had a look around. There’s a lot of boring stuff, but I did manage to find some old historical news films of bygone Prime Ministers. One that caught my eye was called Mr Baldwin and “Old Berkeley”. My mind boggled. What or who was “Old Berkeley” ? And more to the point what business did the Prime Minister have with this so-called “Old Berkeley”? And to get caught on film! I could sniff scandal. This was the Conservatives, after all. My hunch was correct, take a look at the film for yourself, although I must warn you it’s not for the fainthearted. You will be viewing scenes of depravity involving the Prime Minister and animals. Frisky, clearly excited animals. At one point Mr Baldwin affectionately pats a horse on the bottom. Could this be “Old Berkeley” ? Later on the Prime Minister appears to snog a dog. Maybe this is “Old Berkeley” ? We may never know the answer, but one thing is for certain though, we know exactly where the government of 1926 stood on fox hunting.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Trial and errorgghh! (Or why having UC is kind of like being a caveman)

You’re a sort of early primitive man; a heavy set, hairy backed, lowbrow kind of creature. Not quite the full shilling in the brain department, but it’s early days and you’re slowly evolving in your own time. Well, you’re sitting there in your cave entrance minding your own business, picking at a toenail and thinking how best to cover your naked body to keep out the cold. You’re thinking something along the lines of a skirt – but not a skirt – kind of like a skirt but longer and sewn up down the middle – trousers you could call them. You’re just wondering whether leghuggies might be a catchier name than trousers when you hear one of the elders wheezing up the beaten track towards you. At the great age of 24 the elder is known all around for his wisdom. Personally you think he’s a bit full of himself, but who’s going to listen to you, a mere chimplet of 11? Oh-oh, what’s this the elder is carrying? Not more berries surely. The elder does this from time to time. He finds stuff out in the forest and then he brings it back and makes you eat a bit to see if it’s alright. He’ll give you one berry, then he’ll sit and look at you with those beady, wizened eyes, waiting to see if you change colour or you’re sick or have to run off to the lavatory bush for a runny poo. If you don’t suffer any ill effects, he’ll give you two or three berries. The elder repeats this over and over, increasing the amount of berries each time, until you either die or he decides the berries are edible. He uses the youngsters as guinea pigs because they’re usually more resilient. That and they’re less likely to tell him to eff off. As luck would have it, everything he’s given you so far has turned out to be okay. Cousin Carl wasn’t so fortunate. The elder gave him a mushroom, which made his lips swell up like sausages. It would have been fine, but sadly when Carl invented fire he sat to close to it and his lips burst. If only he had pricked them first. The elder is now kneeling before you motioning for you to open wide. No sense in stalling, so you flash him your tonsils and he pops a berry on your tongue. Here goes then. You start to chew, the sour juice hits your taste buds and you feel your cheeks pinch…one…two…three…swallow. Now all you have to do is wait and see what happens.

Now lets take a Kubrick style leap into the future. The date is 25th October, 2007. A man sits at a table staring at a tin of sweetcorn. He opens the tin and with a fork digs out a tiny mound of the plump yellow kernels. He empties the fork into his mouth. He begins to chew. It tastes good. One…two…three…he swallows. Now all he has to do is wait and see what happens.

Wednesday's diary on a Thursday 1.5

You know what, I've been thinking. I should just call this The Groundhog Day Diaries.
Wednesday 24th October:
9am Loose stool
10.50am Loose stool
1pm Loose stool
7pm Loose stool

Medication:
6 x Mesalazine 400mg
3 x Ferrous Sulphate 200mg
2 x Calcium Carb 1.25g

Comments:
Phil! Phil Connors! I thought that was you!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

My German History

My German teacher at school was Mr Buxton. A ruddy faced schoolmaster of the old fashioned tweedy variety that became extinct with wooden pencil boxes, inkwells and caning. Our nickname for this relic in tan Clarks shoes was Cabbage. The reason we called him Cabbage is far too cruel to go into here. But let’s remember children can be cruel. And anyway when it came to cruelty we had an extremely good teacher: Cabbage himself. If you’ll excuse my French, my German teacher was a right bastard. His favourite trick was to pull you out of your seat by your hair. If you failed to hand in your homework on time he would physically throw you around the classroom. (Back then bouncing 13-year-old boys off walls was regarded as a legitimate teaching method.) Cabbage also had an obsession with the colour of our socks. If he caught us wearing white socks, which in 1985 was very cool, Buxton would make us take them off and put them in the waste paper bin. We wouldn’t get them back at the end of the lesson either, so we had to spend the rest of the day with no socks on. This was not so cool. In fact it was a bit chilly. German then, wasn’t exactly my favourite subject and I dropped it as soon as I could. As a result my grasp of the language is pretty rudimentary. Though thanks to a youth spent watching Saturday afternoon war films, if ever I find myself in a WWII German prisoner of war camp I have gleaned enough German to scrounge important travel documents from gullible guards called Fritz. But now I have 37 minutes 7 seconds a day to dedicate to learning German once and for all. 37 minutes 7 seconds. That was the result of my experiment last Tuesday when I timed how long I spent on the toilet. That’s not bad, is it? Plenty of time to get to grips with a few verbs or whatever. And this time round I’ll be able to study German without having to worry about being yanked by my hair or having my socks confiscated. Compared to Cabbage’s lessons, it should be a breeze. Alles Gute!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Wednesday's diary on a Thursday 1.4

Look, no Pred! Now what? Is this it? What's supposed to happen next? I'm still going to the toilet four or five times a day. Never a solid stool. Blood from time to time, though not a lot. What are you meant to do when your normal isn't normal?
Wednesday 17th October:
6.20am Loose stool
8.40am Loose stool
1.40pm Loose stool
4.45pm Loose stool

Medication:
6 x Mesalazine 400mg
3 x Ferrous Sulphate 200mg
2 x Calcium Carb 1.25g

Comments:
Very tired in the evenings, which in turn is very boring.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

On your marks, get set, poo!

Today I will be timing how long I spend on the toilet. I’m doing this, not because I’m some kind of weirdo, but because I want to know roughly how much time I will have every day to learn German. Yes, I really am going to try and do something in the bathroom that I failed to do in the classroom. It’s time to put those childish mobile phone games behind me and knuckle down to a bit of self-improvement. So let’s say I spend half an hour on the toilet a day, that’s three and half hours a week. That’s quite a lot of lesson time. Why, I should be fluent by Christmas 2015. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to time a poo.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Sporting heroes

Okay, okay, so Sir Steve Redgrave has won 79 gold medals at the last 48 Olympic Games, most famously beating Hitler and Jesse Owens in the coxless pairs at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. And now it turns out he managed all this whilst suffering from ulcerative colitis. Oh, and diabetes. And an ingrown toenail. Probably. But against all the odds, with grit, determination and a Darwinian doggedness to be the best sportsman the world has ever seen, Sir Steve jolly well became the best sportsman the world has ever seen. What a trooper. He reminds me a lot of myself actually. Yes. He. Does. You see, I’ve been in training myself recently, putting in the hard hours, pushing myself to the limit, honing my skills, perfecting my game, giving it the big 110%. And on Wednesday it all paid off. I got a PB (that’s personal best, non sport fans). I scored a staggering 300 in the ten pin bowling game on my Nokia mobile phone. That’s the most you can score. You can’t get a higher score than that. So, basically I am Kingpin. But unlike Sir Steve, who achieved his extraordinary successes despite ulcerative colitis, I achieved mine because of ulcerative colitis. Without UC there would be no PB. Let me explain. As you may have gathered I spend quite a lot of time sitting on the toilet, and I don’t always have something to read, so I’ve taken to playing this ten pin bowling game on my phone. And of course, over the months I’ve become quite good at it. See for yourself, these are a few of my highest scores:

10/10/07 – 300
08/08/07 – 291
20/8/07 – 273
31/8/07 – 255

So now I’ve mastered bowling, I’m wondering what next? How can I put the time I spend on the toilet to better use? I’m thinking languages. Maybe I can learn German on the bog? So if you’re ever in a public toilet and you hear someone in the next cubicle speaking in a really bad German accent, “Haben Sie auch Getranke ohne Alkohol?”, that’ll be me; Herr Kingpin.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wednesday's diary on a Thursday 1.3

I've been recording my daily doings since 30th April this year, which was the week I left hospital and it's interesting to note I was going to the toilet four times a day then. I felt rubbish and I was in a lot of pain back then, but as far as everything else goes it doesn't seem like I've progressed very far at all. Hmmm.
Wednesday 10th October:
6.30am Loose stool
10.20am Loose stool
1.20pm Loose stool
7.30pm Loose stool

Medication:
6 x Mesalazine 400mg
1 x Prednisolone 5mg
3 x Ferrous Sulphate 200mg
2 x Calcium Carb 1.25g

Comments:
Not the worst, not the best. That's about all you can say really. Life goes on.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Quote unquote

On my wall is this framed postcard of a Charles Bukowski quote. This is what it means to me.

If you let ulcerative colitis grind you down, make you sad, embarrass you, frighten you, make you feel insecure, affect your relationships, humiliate you, stop you doing things, prevent you travelling, make you feel bitter, worry you and stop you having the occasional pint of Old Speckled Hen whilst watching England beat the Aussies at rugby, it will.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Dial C for colitis

Stored in my contacts on my mobile phone, between Colin (an ex-boyfriend of one of my ex-girlfriends) and Dad (roughly 50% of my parents) is the Colitis Support Line. I keep it in there just in case. I called them once. It was earlier in the year when I seemed to be suffering all the classic symptoms of a good old-fashioned demonic possession. Ghostbusters were fully booked until Christmas, so I dialed the number for the Colitis Support Line. I’d never called a help line before, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I wasn’t even sure if I’d actually be able to speak. Thankfully a woman’s voice answered. I’d been dreading having to speak to a man and getting caught up in some sort of macho Escher-esque conversation, “I’m alright, you alright?” “Yeah, I’m alright, you alright?” But it was a woman who answered and she sounded like she’d been expecting me, or at least someone like me. As we were total strangers we quickly skimmed the pleasantries and moved onto business. My big question then is much the same as my big question now: how (insert expletive) long is this going to (insert extra expletive) last? She didn’t laugh at my question. And she didn’t squeal with villainous glee and cackle, “Never, foolish one, don’t you see, it never ends…” No, she told me it varies from person to person. She told me she knew of people – the special ones – who had gone for years without any symptoms. She told me some flares last a couple of weeks and clear up with the usual sorts of medication and she told me some flares don’t. If I’m being honest she was a bit vague. But ulcerative colitis is a hard illness to pin down. She was happy to answer all my questions though, but when I mentioned my skin flap I sensed I'd overstepped the mark. I’d taken up enough of her time anyway, about ten minutes in all. The soup I imagined her to be stirring whilst talking to me would have been ready. So I thanked her for her help and said, “Enjoy your soup.” I just heard her say, “What?” before I hung up.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Cubicle number two

A bag of shopping sits at my feet, some ham, Marmite, toothpaste, bin bags; the weird supermarket harvest of a man who lives alone. I’m in the middle cubicle of a row of three in a public toilet. My fingers are busy pruning my mobile phone of old texts when I hear a woman’s voice, “Hello cubicle number one, tell us your name and where you come from.” It sounds like Cilla Black. Here in the gents. A voice pipes up in the cubicle to my left, “My name is Seb and I’m from South Kensington, here in London.” “Ooh-eh, doesn’t he sound posh?” says Cilla, “Cubicle number two, tell us your name and where you come from.” Cubicle two, that’s me. I hear stiletto heels cross the floor and stop outside my door. A strong smell of hairspray wafts into my cubicle reminding me of mad aunties and Christmas. “Don’t be shy number two.” What the hell… “My name is Martin and I’m from Walthamstow.” “Aaaah, Marty from Walthamstow. Have you got a cold, chuck?” “No, I always sound like this.” Cilla has already moved on, “Last but not least, cubicle number three, what’s your name and where do you come from?” The voice from the cubicle to my right sounds like Kermit the Frog, “I’m Paul and I’m from Northampton.” Full marks for the Kermit impression, Paul’s got it nailed. “That’s the fellas, then, now let’s meet the lucky gal who has to pick one of them.” More stiletto heels. Cilla coos, “Oooh, doesn’t she just look like her from Basic Instincts, you’ve got all that lovely hair going on. Now tell us your name and where you come from?” “Hiya Cilla, I’m Tina and I’m from Cardiff.” Tina speaks like she’s gargling cheap gin, her voice somewhere between a Dalek and a pack-a-day bingo caller. “Now Tina, I hear you go for men with that dishy Mediterranean look, the dark mysterious eyes, the lovely dark hair, the tanned body…” “Moroccans. I like Moroccans mainly,” says Tina. “Well I don’t know if we can find you a Moroccan tonight, but we have got three smashing lads waiting behind them doors for your first question.” Tina calls out, “Hiya, boys!” Cubicles one and three respond chirpily. I attempt to stifle a bit of escaping gas and cover it up with a strangulated, “Hey-hey- ya-ello!” Parp. “Shit.” Parp. Kermit giggles next to me. Tina gamely continues, “I like Moroccans, what would you say was your most Moroccan feature? And that’s for cubicle number one.” Seb clears his throat as if he’s about to address the House of Lords, “Well of course, I consider myself quintessentially English, with just a wee dash of the Scottish laird going back on my father’s side.” “Doesn’t he go on,” interjects Cilla, “Carry on your Highness.” “Nice one, Cilla,” croaks Kermit. “But like a Moroccan stew I am hot, spicy and I pack a lot of meat.” concludes saucy Seb. “Oooh-ey, I can see you’re licking your lips there, Tina, but don’t make your mind up just yet.” Tina directs her next question at me, “Okay, number two, same question.” Quietly I take the Marmite jar from my bag and unscrew the lid. Then I begin to smear the brown sticky goo all over my face, “Funny you should ask, Tina, because just yesterday I was speaking to my brother Abdelmouqsit in Marrakech, and I said to him, Abdelmouqsit, you’re my brother, you know me well, what is my most Moroccan feature? And he said, you have a very Moroccan nose, very Moroccan indeed.” “Marty, I had no idea you were…Moroccan” says Cilla. “I know, what are they chances.” I reply, just applying the finishing touches to my face. I hear Tina whisper her approval, "I'll have a bit of him." “I can see Tina is eager to get cubicle number three out the way, so number three, same question,” says Cilla hurrying things along. I can tell from Kermit Paul’s voice he’s a broken man. He knows it’s a foregone conclusion. “I haven’t really got any Moroccan features,” he says, his heart not in it, “I’ve got mousey hair, I come from Northampton.” “Ah-eh, never mind, Paul chuck. Can you do any other impressions though? Can you do Miss Piggy?” “This is my normal voice, I’m not doing an impression.” “Oh, our Paul, I am sorry. Eh, at least you don’t sound all bunged up like Marty here.” “Yeah, I suppose.” Thanks for that, Kermy. “Tina chuck, so who’s it going to be? Don’t tell us just yet, because here’s our Graham with a reminder…”

Bang! Bang! Bang! Someone is knocking heavily on my door. “You gonna be long in there, mate, ‘cos I’ve got a shite in the pipe and it ain’t gonna take no for an answer, know what I mean.” That doesn't sound like our Graham. It isn’t Cilla either, or Tina or Seb, and it definitely isn’t Kermit Paul. I put a Marmite coated hand out to hold the door firmly shut. How perculiar, I think to myself.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Wednesday's diary on a Thursday 1.2

So, WDOAT is 12 weeks old. Quite a milestone. And what a scintillating 12 weeks it's been, full of drama, intrigue and suspense. Edge of the toilet seat stuff. Take this classic entry from WDOAT 0.4:
10.10am Loose stool
Great stuff. Let's see it again.
10.10am Loose stool
And what about this little gem from WDOAT 0.7:
6.35am Loose stool
It's a belter. They don't come much better than that. WDOAT 1.2 certainly has a lot to live up, let's see if it does or not...
Wednesday 3rd October:
6.30am Loose stool, gassy
8.15am Loose stool, light blood
10am Loose stool
5.15pm Loose stool, light blood
10.30pm Loose stool

Medication:
6 x Mesalazine 400mg
1 x Prednisolone 5mg
3 x Ferrous Sulphate 200mg
2 x Calcium Carb 1.25g

Comments:
1 Prednisolone = 5 poos, that seems to be the case. It really doesn't feel too pleasant right now, kinda aches, grumbles, twinges, nothing too bad, just uncomfortable. And I reckon I could single-handedly inflate a zeppelin. Enough said.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Keep this under your hat

Postsecrets is an art project where people are invited to share a secret they’ve never told anyone before. They’re posted on the internet here. This one caught my eye for fairly obvious reasons. I had to laugh. They don’t know how lucky they are. Oh, to be able to choose where to poop! To be able to hold it in until you get to work! It seems to me that whoever posted this card wasn’t so much making a confession, but damn well showing off. Jammy git.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Wednesday's diary on a Thursday 1.1

Another day, another batch of dumps from the diary. Not exactly Adrian Mole, is it?
Wednesday 27th September:
6.10am Loose stool
10am Loose stool
3.20pm Loose stool
10.30pm Loose stool, gassy.

Medication:
6 x Mesalazine 400mg
2 x Prednisolone 5mg
3 x Ferrous Sulphate 200mg
2 x Calcium Carb 1.25g

Comments:
I don't know for sure, but I reckon as the dose of Prednisolone gets weaker the UC gets a bit stronger. It's hard to describe how it feels down there, but it's just not quite right. And it's down to one Pred on Monday. Whoopee-doo indeed.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A reply, but don’t get too excited…

I’ve been on the receiving end of enough polite yet hollow emails in my time to recognise one when it drops into my inbox with a weary sigh. Reading between the lines I don’t think Max Clifford’s PA could really be bothered. But then why the hell should she? A reply is a reply though, and at least we have found out something: UNFORTUNATELY none of Max Clifford’s clients have ulcerative colitis. That’s not what I asked. But now we know. For a fact. It’s there in black and white. What can’t speak can’t lie.
Dear Martin,

Thank you very much for your email, unfortunately none of our clients suffer from the same condition as yourself and so I'm afraid that we will not be able to help you further in this instance.

Wishing you the best of luck and health in the future,

Kind Regards,

Kate Burgess
PA to Max Clifford.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Celebrity in ulcerative colitis shocker!

I was just wondering if there were any famous people with ulcerative colitis? And if there were would they be willing to talk about it in public? For instance, would Victoria Beckham risk tainting the precious Beckham brand by coming out and saying she has a slightly funny sounding bowel disease? But let’s say she did reveal she suffers from ulcerative colitis, could that really, actually, actually damage her image? Can you still be seen as sexy when you’ve told the world you sometimes have to go to the toilet ten times a day? And it can sometimes be a bit noisy. And there’s blood involved. And sometimes you don’t make it in time. I suspect she’d prefer to remain known as Posh Spice, rather than Poo Spice. Much more marketable, wouldn’t you say? I was interested to know what an expert had to say on the subject, so here’s an email I sent to PR guru Max Clifford:

Dear Mr Clifford,

I don’t wish to take up too much of your time, but I wonder if you could spare a minute to answer a question I have?

I suffer from an inflammatory bowel disease called ulcerative colitis, which is one of those slightly embarrassing problems that few people feel comfortable talking about. (Although it’s the only thing I talk about on my blog, www.numbertwos.blogspot.com)

So, my question, then: if a celebrity, perhaps someone young, glamorous and sexy, maybe in the pop world, had ulcerative colitis, do you think it would be detrimental to their image to talk about their disease? If that celebrity were a client of yours would you advise against it?

I’m not aware of any famous UC sufferers, although there must be some out there. I think if a celebrity were to come out and talk about having ulcerative colitis it might make it easier for the rest of us to be more open. Certainly I think it would really help younger sufferers.

Any thoughts you have would be of great interest. Many thanks for your time.

Martin


I'll keep you posted...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

On the toilet trail

A congregation of cripple-arsed olive trees clings to the hillside, which falls away into the valley below. A squiggly dot-to-dot network of dusty, rock-strewn tracks connect a few isolated crumbly stone farm buildings. Bluey-green mountains rise up to meet a holiday brochure sky, dabbed with childlike fluffy white clouds, whose shadows trail across the landscape. God was having a good day at the drawing board when he created this part of Italy. It is quite simply stunning. “Not one flaming toilet as far as the eye can see.” I turn to face the Abbazia di Farfa. “And they named that place well. Farfa from the nearest bog.” According to the guide book the Abbazia di Farfa has been a place of pilgrimage for many centuries. Great if you’re looking to find God, then, but not, if like me you’re looking for a toilet. Blug-blug-blug gurgles my tummy in annoyance. My knees lock instinctively and my buttocks clench. I slowly approach the hire car, one careful step at a time, like I’m balancing a four pack of Andrex on my head. As I lift the car door handle I have a fleeting fantasy that it’s actually a toilet door I’m opening. It feels good, I feel safe, mmmmm…but alas it is just a fleeting fantasy, and a heartbeat later I’m back in the car scouring the map for the next nearest town. I want to say something like, “Step on it!” but my girlfriend has read my mind and where once our car had been parked a small cloud of dust is left hanging in the air. We zip along the winding mountain road, which on the map looks suspiciously like the lower intestine. Roccantica is a small town plonked precariously on top of a mountain. Unless you have wings and can fly, there’s only one road into Roccantica. We park outside the town wall and scurry into the maze of streets. The place is deserted and reminds me of the settlement of Mos Eisley in Tatooine from the Star Wars films. But unlike Mos Eisley there’s no sign of life. Roccantica is a beautifully eerie Mary Celeste of a town, mercifully adrift from our 21st century Starbucksian world, which is a rare and wonderful thing, but really, is a public toilet too much to ask? Blug-blug prompts my gut, impatiently. I consult the map, which I’m beginning to fear may have to be commandeered as makeshift toilet paper. Casperia is the next town. The scenery smudges into one long blurry tableau as we climb towards our destination at a rollicking speed. Casperia instantly looks more promising. There’s a small petrol station-cum-café for a start. I’ve got a nose for toilets, so I follow it inside, under the watchful gaze of a handful of locals. Cue choirs of heavenly angels; there it is, tucked away to the left of the counter, the Holy Grail, a toilet. I want to punch the air, do a jig and holler, “Yes, you little beauty!” at the top of my voice. Until my eyes come to rest on the sign taped to the door, which reads PRIVADO. The Translating Dept. of my brain sends me a message reporting, “We don’t know for sure, but we think it might mean ‘private’. Sorry.” Whatever a ‘crest’ is, mine has definitely fallen. Despondent I slink out into the unrepentant Italian sunshine. Blug-blug-blug. I lift my chin bravely. Blug-blug. Casperia rises before me. Blug-blug-blug. I survey its ancient walls. Blug-blug. I don’t need to go any further. Blug-blug-blug. There’s no toilet here.

Wednesday's diary on a Thursday 1.0

Thursday always used to be the start of the weekend for me and my friends, which would usually mean a few post-work drinks that would often continue so late they'd become pre-work drinks, but now Thursday means an altogether different thing...WDOAT!
Wednesday 20th September:
7.15am Loose stool
1.25pm Loose stool
6pm Loose stool

Medication:
6 x Mesalazine 400mg
2 x Prednisolone 5mg
3 x Ferrous Sulphate 200mg
2 x Calcium Carb 1.25g

Comments:
Down to a mere two Prednisolone tablets, but I think the UC has cottoned on and is gurgling his complaint. Still, it's not too bad and doesn't interfere with day to day life that much, really.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Which type are you?

I’ve got a hunch that there are two types of people in this world: those who inspect their own poo and those who don’t. There’s no two ways about it, regardless of gender, you’re either one or the other. You’re either a looker, that is to say someone who has a good long shuftie at their doings or you’re a flusher, someone who displays a far more carefree attitude towards their ablutions and pays not a blind bit of notice to what lies below. Needless to say I’m a looker, but there was a time when I was a flusher. A born and bred flusher, I was. Never felt the need to peek between my legs. Just didn’t have the inclination to view my poo. It wasn’t in my nature. I was never even curious. Didn’t give a shit to be perfectly frank. ‘Flush it and forget it’ would have served as a suitable motto had I ever felt in need of a catchy toilet based adage. Oh yes, I was a happy flusher until ulcerative colitis came along and my transformation into a looker began. On my very first morning as a looker I saw blood in the toilet. A lot of blood. Which is quite a grisly sight for any looker let alone an apprentice one. But here’s the thing, once you start looking there’s no looking back, only down. What started as an idle glance south has become something akin to a scientific study. Now when I peer into the bowl I’m checking for the three C’s: colour, consistency and content. From peachy blush to rustic terracotta, I’ve produced enough shades of reds and browns to keep Dulux inspired for a lifetime. At the moment though my iron tablets mean that everything comes out the colour of a polar bear’s nose. Consistency is consistently loose, what I would term runny. Good firm stools are hard to come by and the sight of a floater is a rare and eagerly anticipated event; a bit like Haley’s Comet. Content is where we get into the nitty-gritty. This requires a keen eye and a willingness to get down and dirty. Much like gold prospecting, patience and perseverance will be rewarded, often with the glimpse of a glistening tomato seed. All good stuff. Keeping an eye on the three C’s is essential if you’ve got UC. The three C’s give you an insight to the well being of your insides. So I’m happy to place myself in the looker rather than flusher camp. There is though perhaps a third category, a rarely spoken of, more secretive sect. Little is known of them, and outwardly little distinguishes them from you or I. You may be sat next to one right now and you wouldn’t know it. But they know who they are, and they and only they know what they do behind closed bathroom doors; they’re the sniffers. And the less said about them the better.