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.”
“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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.