Digit shortfall by 2030?

Fear not, there is no imminent prospect of running out of numbers.  To the best of my knowledge, there are no immediate plans to cut eight from the available digits as a cost-saving measure nor to sell nine to a shady Russian billionaire to keep the economy afloat for a few more milliseconds.  Then again, looking at the current government and the roster of pantomime villains vying to become its titular head, you may have heard it here first: the future is bright, the future is octal!

J Alfred Prufrock, or at least his chronicler (on his behalf), counted out his life in coffee spoons.  I don’t drink coffee and so have little use for such single purpose cutlery.  Worse, due to what I am forced to assume is an administrative error, I have been forced to chronicle my own life.  So, I use a range of alternative metrics to count out my life (briefly ignoring the possibility that it is a continuous process and so intrinsically uncountable) but this post will focus on just one of these.

Since the second half of the 1980s, I have been giving blood on a somewhat regular basis.  If I’m honest, it is the only one of the fluids produced by my body for which I have found a ready market: others are available and are priced (I like to think) competitively.  There have been gaps in my donations caused by my own organisational failures, a few caused by illness and, in more recent years, those caused by the slower pace at which my body seems able (or at least willing – I fear my laziness is very deep-rooted) to replenish its stocks of haemoglobin.  I’m not sure if this last is down to age, lifestyle or the greater frequency with which I am now permitted to donate: and I do like a lie-down and free bikkies (especially if I can convince myself that these activities are somehow selfless).

Last week, a year’s worth of low-haemoglobin-related time on the bench came to an end and I made my triumphant return to the first XI: my blood falling confidently through the copper sulphate (aq) to ensure my recall.  As a result, I was able to take my place on the reclining blue throne and a proportion of my blood was able to escape – via a needle – in the hope of a better life in a new host.  As I lay back ex-sanguinating, I had a few scant minutes of recumbency to consider the changes I’ve seen over the past 30+ years to the system that are set up around the giving of blood.  Much has changed over the years: I can remember the days of loose biscuits, being allowed a full lie down and (maybe) my arm being given nothing more than a quick wipe with an oily rag before the needle was inserted.  These days there are much stronger systems in place, with even the wiping of the arm timed electronically to ensure it is properly clean (or at least is two minutes worth of clean).

When, after five minutes or so, the needle is removed, the donor is expected to press down a small cotton pad on his fresh perforation as he waits for fibrin, platelets and their fellow surfers of the crimson canal to do their work and coagulate to seal the breach.  I’m sure in the early days, this involved one finger and am confident that this became two fingers and then three fingers.  Last week, I was required to use three fingers and my thumb to apply suitable pressure.  At the current rate of escalation, all my available fingers will be fully committed to preventing me from bleeding-out by 2026.  By the early 2030s, I will need a friend, small Dutch boy or suitable robot companion, to lend their phalanges to guarantee sanguinary containment.

Despite the risky practices of the early years, I have survived – and last week marked my 98th time in the chair.  In the absence of any stronger drivers, I found myself with a strong incentive to remain among the quick for the next eight months (or thereabouts) to enable me to hit my century and bask in the polite applause of the audience and from my team-mates back in the pavilion (and a telegram from Nimue?).

While one is lying back and thinking of a geopolitical entity of one’s choice, my thoughts turned to the short-lived Septinsular Republic, screens relay the horrors of daytime television to the captive audience.  As I bled into a bag last week, it was one of these shows where a wealthy couple are shown round very expensive houses in a rural setting in a form of filmed estate agency which I will freely admit I would not have predicted.  This appeared to follow all the usual tropes of such a programme – so far as I could tell via five minutes of inattention – but was rather local, the search being conducted near Lymington.  I was struck that I had never visited Lymington, nor its environs, and probably ought to do something about this at some stage: as they are (by timetable at least) less than 30 minutes away by train.

Normally, we could now all go off and live our lives for a couple of decades before I brought this tiny blastocyst of a plan to term and was in a position to report back.  However, in an unexpected development – which perhaps gives a modicum of hope to procrastinators everywhere (though I lost interest in crastination once it lost its amateur status and big money started pouring into the game from questionable sources) – I actually went to Lymington on Saturday.  The town itself is nice enough and certainly boasts houses only available to the very rich.  Interestingly, it also exists in a super-position of being both over- and under-provisioned with car parking.  However, it is as one strolls away from the town and along the sea defences towards Keyhaven that the true beauty of it as a destination are revealed.  Glorious views across the Solent to the Isle of Wight are granted to the idle saunterer, while the adjacent marshes played host to a greater variety of birds than I have had the joy of seeing and hearing for many years.  They also played host to my first, definite sighting of an avocet (and my second).

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Needles that don’t require a trigger warning (but may require magnification)…

So, an unexpected bonus to counting out my life in major ex-sanguination events: activity ideas!  Even better, given my desire to find thematic unity,  n experience with a needle led to me enjoying a view of the Needles!  Now, I just need to get a version of (N)YTMG screened to those needle-tethered to their chairs and maybe we can get some people to donate their whole bodies to the city’s cultural riches…

A new light

As the last post revealed, Southampton has recently been covered by a blanket of snow.  The combination of rising temperatures and (a bumper crop of) falling rain have cleared it from even the best protected of natural pockets (though, for all I know, some may have been preserved in the freezers of the city’s more eccentric residents).  While it lasts, and before it is transformed to filthy black slush by the action of salt and tyres, it rather transforms the landscape. Many of the city’s imperfections and the litter and detritus of daily life are hidden from view. Larger objects, and especially buildings, that remain unburied are garnished with snow: highlighting features that the eye might fail to notice under more normal conditions.

A good layer of snow changes the soundscape of the city too.  Traffic was much lighter than usual, leading me to wonder if there was a snow-related boost in local air quality: though, oddly, it made my sneeze more than normal (my natural cussedness revealing itself once again!).  The traffic which remains leaves a very different sonic trace as do pedestrians with their footsteps crunching through the crystalline white.  Snow acts as the city’s soft furnishings, smoothing the harsh edges off sounds.  I feel someone should have developed a filter or effect to apply to electronically reproduced sound, so that music (or anything else) gives the acoustic impression of being listened to while surrounded by snow.  A project for any sound engineers with time on their hands…

A covering of snow also presents everything in a more literal new light, with objects lit from both above and below.  I suspect this is a great time for those with a double chin to capture an al fresco selfie: though as a man with barely one chin, I have been unable to test this theory myself.  Also, I’m not sure any lighting (other than total darkness) would overcome the terribly awkward appearance that overtakes my face whenever I attempt to capture a selfie.

Having now justified the title in a literal (as opposite to literate or literary) sense, I can now neatly segue into the land of metaphor (or, if you prefer, wander off topic).  The past few days have caused me to see a few other things in a new light.  Even as I sit here, I can see that my music stand is branded “Tiger”: nothing unusual there (if any animal springs to mind when seeing a music stand, it is clearly the tiger) except that I have owned this music stand for many years but only noticed its link to Frosties  about 48 hours ago.  I would make a terrible eye witness!

There was something of a dearth of gigs while the snow lay deep and thick and even (well, lay at least) at the end of last week.  This was bad news for me, I had to fall back on Netflix and staying in, but also for a lot of musicians and music venues (and I suspect other small businesses) that lost out on expected revenue and, which given the generally parlous financial state of such bodies, could be catastrophic.

As well as offering my couch some unplanned quality time with my buttocks, I used some of the time released for an especially long piano lesson.  In general, the hour-long length of my lessons is more of a notional concept than a reality but even by our standards this was a marathon session.  I’ll admit that I did arrive a few minutes late as I was distracted by a pair of long-tailed tits playing in a tree on the way over (I think the long-tailed tit is the most charming of all the local wildlife and it is always comedically pleasing seeing a brace of them).  There is something of the mountain climb (or more hike – I’m not using ropes and pitons) about learning the piano.  At each stage when I feel I am approaching mastery of a set of skills, I discover that what I have been seen laboriously ascending is not the main peak but a very minor foothill and a whole vista of far higher peaks is suddenly revealed.  This happened again on Friday and I am now trying to play a series of chords in a more legato fashion, involving exceeding cunning application of different amounts of pressure and speed of movement from adjacent fingers on the same hand.  I may also wish to start ‘feathering’ the pedal.  The acquisition of these skills is complicated by the relative poor haptic simulacrum of a grand piano which I use for practice while at home.  I am contemplating applying my gymnastic skills to the career of a cat burglar: however, rather than stealing jewels I will use my ability to slip into buildings containing a grand piano for a little practice.  Juxtaposing my hobbies, if you will.

Saturday afternoon, witnessing three virtuoso guitarists in action at the Art House, also suggested that my hard fought ability to mostly play the chord sequence G C Am G D G broadly correctly (if not necessarily quickly) has left me mere millimetres above the valley floor.  Will McNicol, Steve Picken and Clive Carroll were doing things with their fingers that I’m not convinced mine will ever be able to replicate.  Nevertheless, and in common with improving on the piano, it is going to be a lot of fun trying and if recent years have taught my anything it is that an old dog can (eventually) learn new tricks.

The final use of the shoehorn to fit an ugly sister’s foot of an idea into the glass slipper of the title will turn to my blood.  Just before the snow descended, I cycled the steep hill to the General Hospital to give of my corpuscles (and associated fluids) for the greater good (and a mint Club).  In the last year or so, NHS Blood and Transport have begun to text me a few days after each donation to say where my blood had been used.  It is always interesting to imagine a little bit of me living a new life in another town or city, but the text over the weekend was particularly exciting.  My armful has been issued to Birmingham Women’s Hospital and so a small part of me is now living as a woman!  This may have happened before, but this is the first time I can be certain that some of my cells are properly in touch with their feminine side.  In our unequal society, their earning potential and life opportunities have probably taken a bit of a hit, but they will probably feel this to be a small price to pay for escaping my company.  Some of me is experiencing the world in a new light (at least for a few weeks until it is replaced by the new host’s own cells) which is lovely reminder of how much we have in common.  It is oddly miraculous that we can share such an essential (personal, even) part of ourselves to help another – and be rewarded with biscuits from my childhood for the privilege.  It’s nice to know I have some vague utility in this world, even if it is provided by the entirely autonomous operation of my body.

A quick pre-lunch pint and its reward!

Without me

This post will enter dangerous new territory to consider a world without the author.  The whole ethos of this blog is structured around the centrality of the author to his own little world and the implicit assumption that this view is shared by a wider demographic.  The unexpected number (i.e. the fact it exceeds zero) of visitors to my digital domain has only worked to reinforce my opinion that my life, ramblings and bad jokes are far more important than could be justified by a more reasonable, objective measure.  The last post (not the Bb bugle call, but the post whose production directly preceded this one when viewed from the light-cone of the author) has proved alarmingly popular: though I would explain this by reference to its sharing be a young(er) person, rather than by ascribing any particular merit to it.

I cannot be alone, among those who have accepted that they are not (and would not wish to be) immortal, in wondering how the world (and indeed, the wider multi-verse) will muddle along without my presence.  I strongly suspect it will be fine (or at least largely unaffected for good or ill – fine might be overstating matters given recent current affairs) when the long awaited decree absolute in the divorce between me and my mortal coil is finally granted.  I have worked hard to ensure (OK, have wandered through life in such a way) that any ripples that I make in the pond of existence have minimal amplitude and soon dissipate.  The odd pub, cake shop and cultural venue may notice a brief dip in income but I like to imagine that they will survive my demise.  Though, frankly, once I’ve paid by obols to Charon and taken my terminal boat trip, you’re on your own folks!  My responsibilities (and insomnia) will be at an end!

Obviously, as part of my departure I shall be establishing a series of amusing (hopefully, flaming) hoops for those who wish to inherit my billions (currency to be confirmed) to jump through.  I fully intend for my will and funeral to be as far from plain vanilla as I can legally accomplish: is a tontine still possible?  I want them to be discussed for years to come as simultaneously a high and low watermark in the art of dying.  I want Hollywood to be fighting over the 18 certificate movie rights!  I want outrage in the Daily Mail and the Socialist Worker!  Actually, I’m making this sound rather good: I may have to fake my own death just to enjoy my funeral and the reading of my will.  I knew there was a good reason for moving closer to the sea!

You may wonder why GofdDM has suddenly taken a turn to the macabre or morbid. Others may, long ago, have decided that beneath the shallow veneer of self-obsessed whimsy it is darkness all the way down.  I couldn’t possibly comment on this theory, but am quite pleased that you might imagine that anything at all lies below intellectual shallows displayed in this forum.  However, there have been a couple of recent events which have made me realise that elements of my life continue without me.  Also, the previous post considered my position if a huge proportion of humanity were to be wiped out, so it only seemed fair to consider the position of the rest of humanity if it should (contrary to all natural justice) be that me that bites the bullet!

earth without me

The earth without me – spot the difference!

A much earlier post established that one of my nicknames appeared to by living an existence independent of me – and I like to imagine that this has continued.  However, this was merely a world 2 object (to mis-use the work of Karl Popper) and recent events relate to world 1 objects.

Of late, the National Blood Service has started to send me texts identifying where my blood goes after it has been donated.  To be honest, I’d prefer a postcard – but I will admit that their budget is probably better spend on their core business of blood collection and distribution.  When I say where it goes, they don’t send me the name, address and vital statistics of the recipient, merely the hospital where it was returned to a human host (or, depending on your point of view, first introduced to a human host).  Donation 92 went to Frimley Park – I place the rest of me has never visited – and donation 93 to Stafford (which I have visited but once).  It has been good to see that once it has left its fleshy prison (something which it seems increasingly keen to do given the rapidity with which my lie-down is overtaken by lemon squash and biscuits), my blood is getting out and about and exploring the country.  If only it retained some psychic link to its original home, I could deal with the challenge of too many gigs to attend and only one body to do the attending.  Equally, were it to be given to an EU national (something I would encourage, it would be nice to think a small part of me is living in Paris or Barcelona), could I reverse-inherit an EU passport?  Would any of the new host’s skills somehow rub off on me?  I fear I may have jumped the Lamarkian shark here and will stop before my scientific credentials are completed destroyed.

I am (tomorrow) going off to the Cambridge Folk Festival.  This will be my first, real multi-day festival which is likely to involve a field and mud: though I do feel a muddy field makes a more appropriate substrate for folk music than it does for grime or emo (to name but two).  Wish me luck, I may need it!  I am not camping, but staying in the relative luxury of student halls – and if it all gets too much for me, I can easily retreat into the city and its own cultural delights.  So, I like to think this is very much a halfway house to full festival-going and an approach commensurate with the dignity of a man of my advanced years (though clearly not to me, I have largely outlived both my dignity and my shame by this point.  They have very much played the same sacrificial role in my life that a painting did in that of Dorian Gray).

While I am away, my guitar will be gigging without me.  Interestingly, it has never gigged with me – though today I did use a capo for the first time (and my capo is very fine, a real capo di tutti capi) and learned to bend.  Nevertheless, I am far from ready to take to the stage – unless you wish to clear a venue – so I am leaving it the hands of a far more capable performer.  I feel that it is good for my instrument to get some proper gig experience in -well before its owner.  It’s probably best if we don’t both have first gig nerves at the same time – and I’m pretty sure I can internalise enough stress for the both of us.

So, even while I’m very much alive (or am I?) my possessions and even my very substance are already learning to live without me.  I suspect there is an important lesson here about our own unimportance – even in our own home and as its sole resident.  But I shall leave that for my readers to draw, I’m having fun here in the shallows!

Determination

This blog may have given the impression that I am some vague sort of cove who just drifts through life like snow in a stiff breeze.  Yes, my attempts to empty a small storage unit may be close to reaching 3.5 years (though some progress has recently been made).  OK, I may have taken 6 months to fix my bookshelves to the wall to enable them to carry the books from the aforementioned storage unit without the risk of their owner being crushed beneath his library (though, what a way to go!).  I’ll admit it took more than 21 years to organise a guitar lesson.  However, occasionally my cup of motiviation is filled to overflowing with dedication and purpose.

This last week has seen two examples of my commitment to a project going well beyond the point of sanity or common sense.

The first relates to my guitar.  In an attempt to make up for the rather dilatory start to my life as a guitarist, I have been practising regularly.  If I’m at home, I normally manage to put in a few minutes of practise every day.  Only a very few minutes each time  (around five) as the fingertips on my left hand can only take so much punishment.  In an attempt to toughen them up, after Christmas I moved to practising twice a day: morning and afternoon.  This is having the desired effect and my fingertips are hardening and the dead skin is starting to peel as the necessary callouses form.

The upshot of this process was that at my guitar lesson last week, I was able to spend a much larger portion of the hour actually playing the instrument and much less time talking about it.  This was wonderful and there were very brief sonic glimpses of something Spanish or Latin American emerging from the instrument (though they are still swamped by the dross).  I even managed to produce an F successfully for the first time!  This may not sound like much, but my index finger has to hold down two strings (on the first fret) at the same time.  Previously the squidginess of my finger had rendered this impossible.  It’s always nice to make a break through while your teacher is watching. In fact, guitar-playing is becoming much less of a white-knuckle experience all round and I no longer give the impression that I am trying to throttle the life out of my guitar.

This may have led me to get a little carried away, so by the end of the lesson the tops of fingers 1, 2 and 3 were completely shredded.  My attempt to practise the following day had to be aborted very quickly and I needed another two days of rest (while I was over the Irish Sea) before I next braved the guitar: even typing on a laptop keyboard was somewhat of a challenge.  Still, today my fingers were up to a full session on the strings and producing an F is almost second nature.

My other main physical project is on the bar: an attempt to master the muscle-up.  Yesterday, I was attempting the tricky transition from being under the bar to being over it and pushing myself up.  This is starting to go really quite well and I can gain a lot more height over the bar with relative ease (still aided by a thickish rubber band), though synchronising the switch of hand position and the movement from pulling to pushing up is more tricky: but I did manage it a few times.  Again, my determination rather overwhelmed any sense and after twenty minutes or so attempting the maneouvre I noticed my right hand seemed a little damp.  On closer examination I discovered it was bleeding (from an unknown source) and it had a sizeable blood blister where my little finger joins onto the hand.  My left hand had another two blood blisters: also where the fingers join onto the palm.  The left hand blisters are already mostly healed, but the right hand one is still pretty impressive looking and rather painful.  It would seem my life of desk-jockey, clean-fingernailed ease has not prepared my hands for this sort of high-pressured, frictional punishment.  Still, no can doubt that I am committed to this project.

I think the problem in both cases is that (a) I don’t like to be defeated (or so it would seem) and (b) it feels so good when the thing actually works.  I also suspect my brain is quite good at ignoring pain signals from the rest of my body when I’m concentrating and it’s only when I stop (or am forced to) that it deigns to notice the damage inflicted.

Actually, this isn’t the first time I’ve found myself to be bleeding recently.  Not even the second – which was a couple of weeks back when I mounted the bike rather ineptly and scraped my leg on the rear mud-guard.  I thought nothing of it at the time and cycled off to my appointment.  On arrival, I was asked if I knew my leg was covered in blood: to which my answer was, “No”.  A few weeks earlier, I had just given blood (deliberately) and was tucking into my celebratory lemon squash and chocoloate biscuit (or several) when I noticed my arm was wet.  My first thought was that there must be a drip from the ceiling, but after a while I moved my attention away from my book and macaroon and noticed that I was coagulating rather slower than normal and that my arm and (white) top were covered in blood (mine).  This was quickly rectified by the NBT staff, to be honest I think the flow has staunched itself, but it did make me wonder if, were I suitably distracted, I could bleed-out without noticing.  After three such incidents now, I am beginning to suspect that the answer is “Yes”.

So, if you spot the author out-and-about and notice he is bleeding, please let him know as he probably won’t have noticed.

Lifelong learning

Lifelong learning has intermittently been popular with our political masters, so long as it doesn’t cost them anything in terms of either effort or money (and certainly does not cause us to start thinking for ourselves).  For me, the discovery of new knowledge provides much of the grease which eases my way through this veil of tears whilst retaining at least a nodding acquaintance with sanity.  For you dear reader, matters are far less sunny as I feel the need to share at least a proportion of this new learning with you via GofaDM.  Still, in the words of Westley (aka The Dread Pirate Roberts, at the time), “life is suffering, Highness” and so I shall continue unabashed (as previously noted in this far-from-august organ, I have largely out-lived my shame).

Given recent posts have covered Philosophy, Politics and Economics, readers may fear that I am trying to become a rather elderly SPAD (or am hoping for the call to help out in Westminster) – a fear that may not be helped by the knowledge that I studied at Oxbridge (or Camford, if you prefer – though no-one does).  Fear not, gentle reader, my preferred reading of PPE is Personal Protective Equipment (give me a helmet and some goggles any day!) – if only this were more generally the case in the corridors of power!

Sometimes new knowledge comes upon one unbidden – at times answering an earlier question or a seed which may have grown into a question – and at others I actively seek it out.  I think I prefer the former – as a single chap, too much of my life is self-directed (by a fool) and a bit of serendipity is welcome – but both can be fun.  This post will share some of each from the last few days…

Over the weekend, the peerless Ella Fitzgerald came up on my MP3 player while I was working out.  For some reason, I seem to have been paying more than my usual degree of attention to the lyrics of The Lady is a Tramp and so discovered that included in the list of indicators of being a tramp is “I go to opera and stay wide awake”.  On this basis (and no doubt many others), I am a tramp – though most of my opera-going lies a few years in the past now.  Actually, in this specific case it is quite hard to separate being a tramp from chronic insomnia – so perhaps I should withhold judgement for the time being.

Whilst listening to a recent edition of The Verb (an activity I heartily recommend to all readers) I think I discovered the answer to a question I had yet to ask.  In my younger days, every train and airline seat was fitted with a rather cheap and nasty antimacassar – whilst cheap, these were presumably still too expensive for the privatised rail companies as they do seem to have vanished.  Well, the guests on The Verb discussed macassar oil which styled the male Victorian barnet long before the days of L’Oreal Studio Line and its range of gels, muds and fudges, before even Brylcream.  This was made from coconut or palm oil and would make a terrible mess of a seat if the head were rested against it – hence the need for some sort of countermeasure.  I am slightly worried that if macassar oil were brought into contact with an antimacassar they would annihilate with a release of significant energy – or perhaps the Standard Model does nor offer a good description for haircare products?  Time for a Large Hairdron Collider?

Age brings many things, including a modest degree of self-awareness.  As a result, I know that I am far from being an original thinker – but sometimes this is brought home rather forcibly.  On this very blog, I have noted the advantage to be gained by avoiding use of my glasses in conjunction with a mirror (or other reflective surface) if one wishes to retain some illusions about one’s continued contact with fleeting youth.  Last night, I was reading Letter from America by Alistair (né Alfred) Cooke and found he has beaten me to my observation by almost 50 years.  Way back in 1946, he noted that “the great gift of astigmatism is to rob a face of its peculiar lapses from the ideal”.  Whilst he was talking about girls as viewed by his teenage self he had clearly beaten me to the punch.  Given the style of the essays which make up GofaDM, I rather fear astigmatism (and a Y-chromosome) may be all Mr Cooke and I have in common (and I still haven’t left the 1940s).

On Monday, I was able to give blood again for the first time in twelve months – and for the first time in Southampton.  Once again, my blood fell stone-like through a vial of copper sulphate – and so my haemoglobin is officially back to pre-lapsarian levels.  As I lay back, flirting with the NBS staff, I noted a bottle of the fluid used to clean the hands before they are used to puncture the donor with a needle.  This promised to have both an antibacterial and fungicidal action – which left me wondering about the third great realm of prokaryotic life: would it deal with any unwanted Archaea?  Does archaea eschew the hospital environment?  Perhaps it’s squeamish?  Nobody knew, and so I have had to research it myself using Dr Internet.  It would seem that, in general, antibacterial agents do not affect archaea as their cell walls are rather differently constituted – and they are also generally proof against antibiotics.  As a result, long after we have gone, I suspect the fate of the Earth will be decided in a knock-down, drag-out fight between antibiotic-resistant bacteria and archaea – and the archaea may have something to prove having previously been enslaved by bacteria to form the eukaryotic cell and put to work as mitochondria.  If there were any way to collect my winnings, my money would be on the archaea as they have already had a billion years to plot their revenge for past indignities.

So, GofaDM may not be as well written as Letter from America, but to Hades with the quality just feel the width of topics covered!

My heart will go on

Fear not, no ocean liners (or icebergs) were harmed in the making of this post.

Those with a long memory – and perhaps a slightly obsessive interest in the author – will recall that at the end of April last year I discovered that I had low haemoglobin and should seek urgent professional medical attention.  Well, last week I finally got around to doing this – s0 well within 10 months (virtually instantaneous in geological terms) – and had various samples of my blood taken and sent off for analysis.  This was quite traumatic for me – not the blood extraction itself, this is no trouble – but the need to fast for 12 hours before hand.  As a result, my blood letting procedure was booked to be as early as possible (9am) and I planned a very major meal at 20:30 the previous e’en.  With these precautions (and pockets full of food to consume the instant my blood had been taken), I managed to make it through this very difficult time.

Well, this morning I received the results – and you may be pleased to know that I passed!  My blood is entirely normal – though my HDL (aka “good”) cholesterol is somewhat higher than the norm but this is a “good thing” (I do wonder if the medical profession are dumbing-down their analysis for our benefit) and a result of exercise.  In conjunction with my blood pressure, BMI (now a part of Lufthansa, I believe) and honest answers to the lifestyle questionnaire I can now confirm that I am officially immortal.  OK, that may be a slight exaggeration – but according to NHS statisticians I have only a 3% chance of a heart attack in the next decade (this seemed quite a big chance to me, but apparently is very low indeed).  So, any of you hoping that this stream of drivel would be brought to a sudden close by some sort of cardiac incident look likely to be disappointed.

So, it would seem that I am in excellent physical health (which I had always secretly suspected, but one doesn’t like to boast).  No test was made (or will be, if it’s up to me) of my mental health and so I continue to evade the attentions of the men (and women) in white coats, my jackets remain far from strait and walls remain unpadded.  I now feel strong enough to turn 100 (in base 7, which is NOT the same as dog years) at the weekend.  Huzzah!

Sucking on a rusty nail

In an attempt to head-off at least one source of disappointment at the pass, I would like to make clear that this post will not discuss cocktails – so please put your whisky and Drambuie away (unless they help you make it through the day or this blog).

In recent days, this blog has been concerned with the possibility that I may be one of the undead – an idea which I had largely discounted, but recent events suggest I may have been too quick (pun fully intended) to judge.

As I may have mentioned, I am part of a large scale medical experiment to see how frequently one can gorge on biscuits after a brief siesta without adverse consequences.  OK, I’ll admit the nap and biscuit feast are only side-effects of the real process – the giving of my blood (470ml – or a whole armful as I believe it is in Imperial units – per session).  In the old days, this could happen every 16 weeks, but in recent years has increased to every 12 weeks.  As part of the Interval Study, volunteers were randomly assigned to a group giving blood every 8, 10 or 12 weeks to see how well this works.  I have been part of M10, giving my blood every 10 weeks for the past 18 months or so.

On Thursday, I went up to Cambridge for my latest donation – but when the tiny sample from the pricking of my thumbs (OK, middle – or bird – finger)  was popped into a tube of copper sulphate it floated (rather than rapidly drowned as usual).  This indicates that I may be a witch, but in these modern times one is not condemned quite so easily and so a larger sample was subjected to a spectrometer test.  This too confirmed that I was a witch – or at least that my haemoglobin was too low.  It was even too low for a woman (sorry ladies, but biology is no respecter of equality) and so my blood is off-limits – in fact, I have been placed on the bench for a full twelve months (a long time to go without a Bourbon or Club).  Still, in the olden days I would have been burnt at the stake, so I guess I shouldn’t complain too much.

It is unknown why my haemoglobin is so low – we have established that it is not because I am a marathon runner (as if!) nor because I drink too much tea (the tannin in which can line the stomach and prevent absorption of iron) as my peak consumption of three cups per day is very low (by UK standards at least).  Whilst I am (mostly) vegetarian and so do not obtain much iron from the flesh of others, my balanced diet is rich in sources of iron from the plant kingdom (perhaps rather too rich in some cases) usually accompanied by something rich in vitamin C (and quite a lot of cheese).

I have to say that without the test, I would have had no idea that I was low on iron.  I have not been finding it any harder than usual to find the north – though I do seem to have been (even) more clumsy than usual of late, could this be haemoglobin related?

Still, despite my lack of symptoms (except this strange craving for human blood), this coming week I shall go and see my GP (having first obtained a GP) to discover what, if anything, I need do to restore my iron levels.  Well, it’s either that or avoiding sunlight and garlic and taking an interest in virginal necks.  I suppose that I do wear quite a lot of black and am permanently hungry, so I have some of the basics for life as a vampire.  Plus, I’m pretty sure that if anyone drove a stake (or even a steak) through my heart it would kill me.  However, I am generally of the view that immortality is even less desirable than the alternative, so let’s hope that a new career as a blood-sucking fiend is not in the offing.