Health Checkup, Rural Style

June 19, 2017

To the clinic for my annual checkup, where my weight and blood pressure are measured (no signs of damage from my cake-based lifestyle), and then the usual three questions:

“Do you smoke at all, and if so how much?”

“Do you drink at all, and if so how much?”


“No need to ask you that question, you’re out on your bike all the time.”

It’s nice to know someone’s noticed…



September 3, 2014

As I’ve mentioned before I have what I thought was a Brompton-induced hernia, although my mother now informs me that she and both her siblings had exactly the same thing, so the Brompton may be innocent after all. After a bit of a nonsultation with the surgeon (‘I’ll have to fix this,’ he says looking at my notes while I sit at the other side of his desk wondering if I have any say in the matter) I have now been fed into the NHS’s slow-but-inexorable (there are targets to be met) conveyor belt towards surgery. Today I had my pre-operative assessment, conducted over the phone with a nurse, which consisted mostly of me saying ‘no’ to a long list of conditions I might possibly or impossibly be subject to, from Creutzfeldt-Jakob syndrome downwards. Having established that I was the healthiest person ever to require the attentions of Bigtown Infirmary, I was then asked if I had any questions.

‘How soon will I be able to ride my bike again?’

Another set of questions followed – how often did I ride my bike, what sort of bike was it, how far, what kind of cycling was it – and I tried to convey the utterly innocuous and pootly nature of my bicycle riding, but to no avail. Nurse goes away to consult with her colleague and comes back with my sentence:

‘All patients are different, but it will be at least six weeks and then it will depend.’

Six weeks! Six whole weeks! This is a nightmare. Quite apart from my mental health and the maintenance of my cake-based lifestyle, that’s my means of transport gone. I am a mile and a half from the nearest bus stop, five miles from the nearest shop and eight miles from town. We do have a car and I can technically drive it, but the other half will likely need it. So I’m going to be monumentally stuck. Not only that, but I’ve got a vegetable plot to look after and that means a ton of muck to shovel (I didn’t even dare ask how long before that was going to be an option). Suddenly this whole rural idyll thing we’ve got going on is looking a bit fragile and dependent upon robust good health, which I’ve tended to take for granted. Maybe living in London with its plentiful public transport wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

Turning to twitter for reassurance wasn’t much help. I was hoping everyone would say ‘nah, it’s nothing, you’ll be back on your feet in a week,’ but it seems the best case scenario might be four weeks (the worst-case was ‘borderline suicidal’) (that was from the cyclists; my unsympathetic writer friends just suggested I might want to take the opportunity to finish my book). I’m holding out for a busy autumn for the health service delaying my surgery as long as possible. According to the aforementioned targets, I will be scheduled to have the op by early November at the latest ‘but possibly sooner’. Six weeks off the bike in November and January doesn’t sound anything like as bad as six weeks in September and October. I wonder if it’s at all possible to ‘unjump’ the queue in the NHS?

Meanwhile, if you want me, I’ll be up in the vegetable garden shovelling manure. Or out on my bike while stocks last.

Don’t Just Sit There…

February 9, 2012

Blogging material is a bit light at the moment due to a combination of actual paid work keeping me stuck in the house and utterly miserable weather today making cycling problematic. (Freezing rain – I ask you, what is the point? I was supposed to cycle up to the doctor’s this morning but wimped out after the radio was full of the usual dire warnings of icy roads. The other half scoffed as we drove there along reasonably non-dicey roads but I felt somewhat vindicated when I got out of the car just outside our gate and nearly went flying. A broken bone would have been nasty, of course, but at least I would have been proved right…)

So by way of a public service – and this time for anyone who doesn’t have a mallet finger, but does have an office job – I give you this*, via Doctor Mama. And I would add as my own top tip that you should immediately move to Scotland and start heating your work space solely with a wood burning stove burning not-particularly well-seasoned wood. Not only will you soon be too cold to sit still for long periods of time except under a blanket, but you will need to get up at least every hour to refill it…
* I was pleased to note that the comment thread beneath it was immediately diverted into an unrelated discussion on cycling to work. I have been noticing for a while that the internet is increasingly made out of bicycles. I had thought that that was mostly thanks to Google’s uncanny ability to serve you up what you want and Twitter’s echo chamber effect but maybe it really is. What’s your internet made out of?

Digging Done

March 4, 2011

Oof. After a final two-hour session this afternoon I can finally declare my vegetable empire completely dug over a shade under four months after I started, and only three months behind schedule. Hurrah (I used to work in IT so that counts as a bit of a result). The last couple of weeks the weather hasn’t been too bad and while not always fine – I knew I shouldn’t have mentioned our glorious sunshine – at least it’s been not raining more often than it’s been raining and I’ve been able to get out regularly and really make some progress. Now all I have to do is mark out the new beds and decide what goes where, get my seed potatoes (it’s Potato Day on Sunday) and I’m all set for spring.

One side-effect of all the digging was that I managed to look extremely virtuous on Monday when a very nice man came round to survey us for the Scottish Health Survey. Digging counts as exercise you see, although we didn’t do as well on the veg consumption as we would have done back in the summer when we were attempting to keep up with our salad crop. In fact, as we went through the rest of the survey I began to wonder whether we wouldn’t be throwing out their stats a little bit. I’m sure they interview enough people that it won’t be too much of a factor but we certainly haven’t been pulling our weight when it comes to consuming alcohol (there was one moment when we were both trying to remember when we might have last had an alcoholic drink). And when the questioning turned to cycling – well, put it this way: if you hear about a sudden surge in cycling among women in their forties in Scotland, you’ll know who’s to blame.

Living Dangerously

June 12, 2010

I’m grateful, I think, to Mike, for pointing me in the direction of the research showing 97.5% of Scots are living unhealthy lifestyles, which has occasioned much amusing commentary in the press along the lines of deep fried Mars Bars, Irn Bru and the like. Now we were just chatting about this with a friend and we thought it seemed pretty unlikely, for while you do see a fair few overweight people around here, you also see a lot of pretty sprightly ones. Surely the 2.5% of non-unhealthy Scots can’t all be living in this little corner of the country, can they? So I had a deeper dig*, and discovered that 97.5% of media outlets shamelessly regurgitate any old press release without properly reading it.

Fair play, then, to the Daily Mail which not only pointed out that, using slightly laxer criteria, 94% of the English were similarly at risk, but which also gave enough details to allow me to track down the actual study itself.

Now I’m no Ben Goldacre, but I do wonder whether any of the journalists and opinion piece writers banging on about the unhealthy Scots actually went as far as reading the actual research and finding out just what those five risk factors were. And how many of them can place their hands on their hearts and say that they:

  • Don’t smoke,
  • Have a body mass index of less than 25,
  • Drink less than than 14 units (for women) or 21 units (for men) of alcohol a week,
  • Take 30 minutes of exercise at least five times a week,
  • Eat five or more portions of fruit and vegetables every day.

The fact is we’re pretty much all unhealthy. I know I struggle to get my five a day, so I can’t place myself among the elect, much as I’d like to. Do you tick all those boxes? Really? Please make sure you do before you add your carefully crafted quip about neds and Buckfast Country Wine to the comments box.