Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hernia update

Last night, in advance of my hernia consultation today, I was thinking, "I hope it's only one and not a double." The woman on the phone last week had told me that some patients come in thinking they have a hernia and go away realizing they have two. "He's very good at detecting them," she says.

I share this fear with Red. "Pah, you'll probably go thinking you have one and be told you have none."

Wishful thinking...

So, at 6:30 this morning, the alarm goes off. It's an early start. I have to be at the British Hernia Centre for 11am.

By 8 the missus and I have breakfasted, and we are out the door by 8:30am for the 8:49 train to London. It's due in at Victoria at 10:05, giving us just shy of an hour to get to Hendon. It's gonna be tight-ish but doable.

Doable if all runs smoothly, that is. Which it never does when you're dealing with London trains and transport. The train pulled in at Victoria at 10:17. Bad start. By the time we took the Tube, had to get off because of delays, took another, and ended up at our destination, we were about 15 minutes late. I had the courtesy to call ahead and warn them, but I hate being late nonetheless.

For my consultation I had prepared a list of questions.

Can I really leave the same day as the surgery?
What about taking the train the same day? And therefore getting to the station etc? Or is it best not to move much?
How long does the operation take? And if they use local anaesthetic, can my wife be present to help take my mind off things?
How soon can it be done?

Theses questions seem so lame, but I tried to write down any thought that occurred to me. And besides, I'm such a big girl!

First things first, though: drop trou. The surgeon has a feel. He asks me to cough. Ditto. Ditto. Ditto.

"So, where is this lump you see?" he asks. I show him. We discuss the visit to my family doctor and the fact that Red doesn't even see the offending lump, even though my doctor had agreed it was a hernia.

"I side with your wife," he eventually says. "I don't believe that's a hernia."

Now this dude is (or was) in The Guinness Book of Records for the most hernia surgeries in a five-day week, so I figure if anyone knows a hernia, it's him.

He was reluctant to put a name to it, and that's fair enough given that he specializes in hernias, which this apparently ain't. But he said to leave it alone, to "forget the word hernia". And if it gives me any trouble later on (it doesn't really right now), then we can talk again.

I'm confused.

And Red insists I call her Master, cos she was right all along.

I do so, though I'm no less confused. But I am happy.

Then we headed into Soho for burgers, and who should walk past our window seat three times talking on his phone, but Andy Serkis of Gollum fame. Bless him.

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

A problem of perception

My mother-in-law is German. She also eats at restaurants sometimes. I know that's something of a non-sequitur, but bear with me.

So, I've noticed in the past few years that she's never been mad keen on my having tattoos visible at restaurants we go to when in Italy. More specifically, on me wearing a vest-type top at a restaurant. But I sometimes have, cos it's been summer and warm and, well, I like to keep things a bit rock 'n' roll.

The funny thing is, often in these same restaurants, of whatever standard, the waiters and waitresses also have tattoos and sometimes engage me in conversation about them. I may occasionally catch her looking disgusted or, sadly, uttering schifo ("disgusting") under her breath, utterly bemused at why anyone would find tattoos appealing, interesting, or attractive even.

So it was that, on a not-particularly warm evening while in Italy last week, the family and a couple of family friends headed out to a nearby pizzeria. While eating, it warmed up a bit and I rolled up the sleeves of my sensible pullover.

Soon after, one of our number, a young woman who I'd not met properly before, asked me about the visible tattoos. She seemed interested, probably never knowing anyone with much tattooage, and so I indulged her and answered as best I could. She asked how many more I had, and among others I mentioned that my entire back was tattooed. She asked what it was.

Given that my Italian is about okay but not great for in-depth explanation of a tattoo, I turned to Red and asked, "Do you think it's okay to show my backpiece?" I should add that I don't usually strip on demand, and I would not normally do so in a public place, but we made up about half of the pizzeria's entire client base at that point in the evening, and nobody beyond our table would be seeing much in the way of skin.

Red approved, so I turned around in my seat and lifted my top (trying to keep my belly as out of view of other punters as possible!). Much gaspage ensued, since it was the first time my back had been seen by five people at the table, but Red's mum was not happy. This didn't surprise me, because apart from her not liking tattoos, she probably thought it was rude to flash. Which is kind of fair enough.

Then the conversation took a most unexpected turn, much of which I could either not hear or not follow. But it seems that she was concerned. She, as a German, seemed to think that most people believe those with tattoos are Neo-Nazis. This was an interesting twist! It had never occurred to me -- and nor, frankly, should it have, since it's really quite an absurd notion.

Other people interjected that there was a clear difference between fascist tattoos and (for want of a better term) art tattoos or enthusiast tattoos -- i.e., the sort of bright, colourful, well-executed, luxury-item tattoos that cost a lot of money.

Of course, even in Germany, which does have its share of Neo-Nazi problems, there are some of the world's best tattooists these days. They are certainly not filling their days making swastikas on people's skin.

I know it's just an age thing on the mother-in-law's part, but I was kind of shocked. And while I assume she doesn't actually believe I'm an undercover skinhead, it's a bit sad that she worries others might think so.

So, I'm interested: Do you know anyone, in this day and age, who might jump to the same conclusion if they saw a fairly heavily tattooed man in their vicinity? Would you? And/or would that opinion change according to the length of their hair?

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Mister Rascal

I love this. It makes me smile.

And here's a version that my American cousins should be able to see, albeit in a longer version:

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

U.S.A., New S.A.

Well, I can hardly let this momentous occasion pass without thought and comment.

Back in the early part of the year, I must say I was supporting Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama for the Democratic choice. I felt Obama lacked drive in all the speeches I saw. But since he defeated her and became the blue candidate, he seems to have come alive.

And of course, for me the idea of another four years of US Republicanism was unthinkable.

It's odd to think that, had the world been voting, rather than US citizens, there would never have been even a seed of doubt about who would win. For us, George Bush has ruined America, making it a land of ridicule. We wonder who would not only vote for someone like Bush in the first place, but furthermore why they would then vote him in again. He is, we mostly believe, a complete idiot with no redeeming qualities.

But his second term was surely his undoing. Not content with having taken the nation -- and the world -- into unjustified war, he has now seen his country fall into financial ruin. His reward: bye-bye Republican leadership.

And for whom does the USA vote? As George Costanza would put it: the opposite. Not an old, unintelligible, white fool, but a young, articulate and intelligent black man. I couldn't be happier about the prospects for America's future right now.

For the past six and a half years, the wife and I have been waiting to return to the United States but have been loath to give money to a Bush regime. (I apologize to my American friends for not helping their economy, of course.) Now, finally, we can return. Not right now, and not until after the inauguration in January -- but it's there, on the horizon, as a place we can now visit again.

FTW: "fuck the world" or "for the win"? Well, Bush fucked the world, and now Obama's for the win.

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