Monday, 29 July 2013

Water Water Everywhere

I never understood why drinking seawater would turn you mad, but I do now.

Before I moved in here, it was explained to me that the owners put some salty thing in the water supply to soften it.  Ah good, I thought, no more crunchy tea.  I habitually leave the last half inch in a cup of tea after to avoid getting a gobful of limescale.  I didn't really think more about it, but did notice on occasion that my shower tasted like the sea.  Not that I habitually drink the shower, but you know.  And then one day I made a cup of tea that was so salty I spat it out.  So I would run the tap and put water across my tongue before filling the kettle, to make sure it was ok.   I kind of got used to the faint tang.  Being quite the salt lover it actually didn't bother me that much.

And then the hot weather came and my feet and ankles swelled up.  I could no longer see the bones of my feet.  While in Paris the swelling went down, and it came back when I returned.

By this point I had done a bulk order of bottled water from Delhaize.  But it was due to arrive on Saturday which meant using the water supply till then.   (Yes, I could have gone out, but it's the Gentse Feesten and I get weird in crowds.  Even weirder than normal.)  Now that I'd thought about the water, it was unbearably, if only subtly, salty.  And the salt made me thirsty, which made me want to drink the only water available, which was salty.  Now you see how the madness sets in.

So now there are lots of bottles of clean, nice, lovely water.  And it's weird how careful you become with it when the quantity is visible.  I'm using it for drinks and to cook.  Not to shower, obviously.  I'm not like Demi Moore or something.

Feet are starting to subside again, although cramp in the top of the foot is not a nice sensation.  It does set me wondering:  my asthma and the back of head bastard itchy eczema thing started after I moved in here.  I may well have been slowly poisoning myself with some salty chemical shite. 


Monday, 22 July 2013


It's an historic day.  A new heir to the throne has fought its way rather belatedly out of the Duchess's flange and the world is rejoicing.  I wish you something very cooling for your royal fanny, ma'am.

In Gent, the Feesten are in fullest swing.  The stage nearest me seems to be mainly cover bands.  Which could be interesting, except that Sweet Caroline, Living Next Door to Alice, Valerie, and Copacabana are played on a loop.   I'm so close to the stage it feels like being locked in the back room of a pub that does live music for twelve hours a day.  Actually tonight has been a bit more interesting and metally.  I listened patiently (not much choice really) to see if they would do the walking bass bit in Hey Joe, or just fluff it.  They did the walking bass!

I've been hanging out the window a fair bit, watching the parade, watching people, looking at the river (yes, it's a river apparently, not a canal), and watching the fireworks.  I'm the still, quiet bit in the middle.  It's taken a sprawling festival to make me feel that this is my home.  I'm part of it, without actually taking part in it.

The heat prevents me seeing much of it: during the day it's lower-thirties outside.   Also, I'm off to Paris, where it is hotter.  I intend to find shade.  And not move very much.

Oh, the lady from downstairs came up to apologise.  She said she had called the police because a friend of hers was killed in a domestic violence situation.   I grasped her arm, gently but firmly, and asked her never to do it again because there was nothing going on.  Oddly, I haven't heard the warring brothers since but I will record them next time, just in case.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Before The Parade Passes By

As a seasoned loather of all things estival AND festival, today is the nadir of the calendar.  Hot, humid, heaving and loud: the first day of the Feesten.  Barbra Streisand sang so memorably about wanting to get some life back into her life, before the parade passes by.  For those of us who live on the route, it's more about getting to the post office and the pharmacy and back before you get cut off from your front door by the parade.  There is nothing symbolic about this parade.  It's an actual parade.  People are lining the streets like arterial plaque.  I needed to climb over people to get indoors.  Windows are open because it's 28 degrees indoors and it rather sounds like a crowd gathered for a good hanging.

I'm not what you'd call a summery person.  But I wonder what sort of person I am.  The police have now been round three times in the last week; different policemen, same questions.  Last night they said that it was the woman downstairs who had called them because she was worried and could hear a man and woman shouting and screaming.  Every time I tell them I live alone, and no, nobody has been here and no, nobody was shouting and no, I wasn't on the phone or watching an action movie.  Innocence is a funny thing because the more you protest it, the less convincing it sounds.

In London I had the rare good fortune to live under a woman who complained about me constantly - and most of the things seemed to be completely fabricated.  But gradually you start to wonder if you are who you think, or if you are who they think.  Now I appear to live above a woman who is imposing on my quiet and slothy existence some great imaginary domestic ruck. 

The noise she hears is coming from the building behind my (and her) bedroom.  Since windows have only recently been opened to let the heat out and flies in, none of us have heard it before.  There appear to be two brothers, I would guess about 10 and 14 years old, who argue violently and loudly.  One has an indignant shrill voice, the other a balls-dropped lower register roar.

After last night, I went down to try to sort it out with the neighbour and rang/knocked for five minutes.  She would not open the door.  I put a note under her door.

Next time, for I suspect there will be a next time, I am going to record the boys so that I can play it back to the police.  If I'm recording it, it is unlikely to be me.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Carry On...

They say the darkest hour is just before dawn.  Similarly the filthiest days are just before you get a washing machine.  Yes, I'm going to be a proud washing machine owner.  And because I really don't want to do one last big ceremonial trip to the Wassalon I am recycling.  And doing a little handwashing.  I just pick up the thing that I wore longest ago and see if it has food on it.  It's no good sniffing them because my sense of smell is still absent.  I should point out that I shower every day and pour on some lemony cologne.  I would hate to be smelling like a three day old pizza and not know.  The washing machine is due next week, provided that the Gentse Feesten don't get in the way. 

Oh yes.  Gentse Feesten.  For 10 days the entire city goes barmy.  I will disappear to Paris for part of it, picking my way over discarded bodies and empty tins of Jupiler to find the slightly displaced tram.  I have no idea what to expect but, suffice to say, I am close enough to feel the sweat-spray from the nearest stage.  I think it will be like the storming of the Bastille, but without the storming or, indeed, the Bastille.

In home news, something a bit odd happened the last couple of nights.  On Monday night some police turned up.  They said somebody in a neighbouring building had heard screaming and they were checking to see if people were ok.  I assured them I lived alone, was watching a film, and had not been screaming.  On Tuesday night some police turned up.  Again with the screaming.  This time they asked to come in.  Now, while I am always happy to entertain young golden skinned men who have guns, it was beginning to feel a bit odd. 

They asked if I lived alone and did I have a boyfriend.  Seems a bit of an extreme way to meet women if you ask me.  THESE ARE MEN'S SHOES, shouted one, the scent of a perp in his golden nostrils.  THEY ARE MY SHOES.  I HAVE BIG FEET.  Bloody hell.  I told them there was no-one here but they insisted on looking around.  At this point I got on my quite high horse and told them it was not nice not to be believed.  They said that it wasn't unusual for women to say they were ok, but for the abuser to be hiding somewhere.   And off they went again, probably not quite satisfied because of my dodgy footwear.

So now I'm expecting them to turn up.  Thing is, I've lived here nearly eight months and I've heard a lot of things: trams, stag parties, rubbish music at 2am from upstairs, the kids above the Chinese restaurant behind me having a sibling barney, rapid chopping (from one of at least two restaurants) and the general noise of central city life.  But I have heard no-one screaming.  Granted, the last two nights I've been watching films with my headphones on.  So tonight I am headphone-less, cocking my ears to hear, above a terrier yapping and my dishwasher, and the trams number 1, 4 and 24, and various al fresco diners, a scream.  So far, nothing. 

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Under the Weather

As a seasoned loather of all things estival, I'm sure I will be in a very small and dissonant group when I say "I wish it would fucking get cold and then rain".

Standing in the European Parliament today, posting things into the poorly arranged pigeon holes of MEPs, sweat ran down my back like an insect invading my pants.  And this was in the spacious and conditioned atmosphere of the EP.   You will be pleased to hear that I resisted gobbing into the pigeon holes of Jean-Marie and Marine le Pen, even though they were at the perfect height to do so.

It always amazes me that people can manage to look cool and elegant during hot weather.  The ladies of the EP are on the whole very well dressed and propped up on perilous shoes.  (Brussels is both very cobbled and very potholed.)  And they have that effortless matt tan as if they have been spray-painted which, on reflection, is likely. 

I am cultivating the usual pale and surly look, as far as the sun will allow, although walking from the station has been left one a bit pink.  The sunshine has also doubled the number of circus performers which leads me to believe they multiply in hot weather like bacteria.  Yesterday morning there was a face-off.  Three indian-club jugglers stood idly on the pavement, idly juggling indian clubs.  I was damned if I was going to walk into the road so aimed at them and refused to break my step, although this did carry with it the risk of being clubbed.  At the last minute they stopped and parted.  Small victories. 

The worst thing about summer, apart from trying to avoid it like a fat and stroppy vampire, is how other it makes one feel.  I know there are other people who get really unwell in the sun,  but we are few.  And to be honest it's easier to go along with the "isn't it lovely" recitation that you hear from normal folk because everyone loves summer don't they?  So this is for D and for T, who I know are enervated miserable bloody sun-dodgers too.   

Thursday, 4 July 2013

A Pill For Every Ill

I wanted to write something about medication.  It's a new piece of furniture in my life really, and I'm still finding out where it goes and how to use it.  If you have several unrelated conditions - and as we get older, it's more likely we'll have something - it starts off being about managing the conditions.  And gradually as the conditions come to heel, it becomes about managing the medication.  From the logistics of making sure you don't run out of anything, to making sure all the drugs are compatible, to remembering when to take what; it keeps one busy.  I could almost say it was a hobby.  I've done a little chart.

What I wanted to talk about also was managing expectations.  There is an expectation that, once the condition or conditions have been identified, it just needs some tinkering with the meds to hit the right combination, and we're all happy bunnies.

A couple of years ago I went indoor climbing for the first (and possibly last) time.  I needed to see off the lumpen ten year old who couldn't climb up on a flat roof.  Anyway, you get all harnessed up and you have a partner who remains on the ground keeping your rope taut.  This harness and rope business lends an amazing sense of invulnerability.  I scaled the wall like a rather cumbersome spider and abseiled down cockily.  A bit later, half way up a wall, I slipped.  Despite the harness and rope, you can fall.  Because the rope was taut my toes didn't quite touch the ground and the underneath straps went painfully up my chuff.

Similarly, you can be on medication that seems to be working; that becomes a routine way of staying normal.  But despite that safety harness, you can still fall.  It's scary when it happens because it feels like the sick, mental you has escaped again. 

I don't think increasing the medication is necessarily the answer.  You don't just keep turning the music up louder and louder to hide the sound.  On the whole, the Amitriptyline works.  It gives good normal, and anxiety seems to have gone, and the side effects are minimal.  What it doesn't do - and what no medication can do - is stop up deep feelings of loss and lack.  These things have to be handled some other way, not just be blotted out with more or different tablets.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Dog With No Nose

The medium of blogging was invented for one reason: to have a bloody good moan.  Sometimes this bloody good moan is wrapped in polemic, but most often it's just a mis-spelled wine. 

My body and the spirit which adheres to it, are all to cock.  I've got the lungs working admirably and feel like I'm breathing down to Antarctica now.  But I'm tired, miserable, nauseous, headachey, and have no sense of smell.  Looking online (Always a mistake.  It says here you can die of a bad hair cut.) it appears that both my inhaler and my nose spray thing can have the side effect of anosmia.  I've always had one of those irritatingly acute senses of smell.  Now I can smell nothing.  I was in LUSH the other day.  Nothing.  Which of course means taste is also impaired. (Shopping in LUSH is not an indicator of taste or lack thereof.)

This is a buggery fuck.  What to do.  I like both breathing and smelling but I suppose if there's a choice it has to be breathing. 

It's causing me to look more holistically (shut up, I have not become a hippy) at things.  There are foods that help heal asthma and eczema (oh yes, the eczema on my head is driving me nuts) and I have made at least a token gesture by eating shitloads of fruit.  Yes, I know it has sugar in it but, trust me, it's better than what I was eating.

So if I eat better, I may not have to use the medication so much.  And I may get to smell things again.  Some websites are extremly helpful.  One says:

Changes in the sense of smell may also have other possible causes:
  • If you smell smoke, something may be on fire
So there you go.  And I promise to stop using brackets.  (It is probably another side effect of my medication).