A.J. Walker


Andy Two Jabs; Or Is It Four?

On Saturday morning I had both a flu jab; in my left arm at my local medical centre (my GP’s)); and then my Covid jab in my right arm in my local hospital. The medical centre is all of 200m away from my house so I was back at home with a coffee within about seven minutes of leaving my house. Happy days (though shame my original booking two weeks ago was messed up).

My local hospital (where the Covid vaccination hub is) is within a mile and just one bus stop away. I was in and out of there in no time too. Think it was three or four minutes from registering my arrival, picking up my already filled in card to getting my jab and leaving. Brilliant.

The nurse said it was my fourth Covid jab. I’d kinda lost count to be honest. Glad I can get them too—one bonus of having MS hey!

Didn't notice any ill effects on the day either. Result.

Don't Mention Me Knees

For the last month or two I've been having problems with my knees. Swollen and sore. In fact painful would be a better word. And I've been a right sight struggling to get around as a suddenly old man. Hard work.

A couple of weeks ago I managed to get an appointment at my GP practice after a couple of failed attempts. There wasn't a GP available but I saw the practice nurse. She took a look at my knobbly knees and after talking to the GP she told me to get down to a walk-in (I don't think she was trying to be funny) for an X-ray and to get some blood tests too.

Couldn't get anywhere in decent time for the blood tests (next week now), but I went to the walk-in at Aintree Hospital the next day. I'd penciled in my diary an hour or two. But I turned out to be vey pleasantly surprised when I got in and out in about twenty minutes (yes, with the X-ray done). Brilliant.

A few days later I got a call from the practice and they told me that they could see 'moderate' arthritis in my knee. In the meantime of course my other knee had worsened - and that hadn't been x-rayed, but it's obviously the same. An appointment was made for later in the week and I went in to see doctor on Friday. She went through the diagnosis and chatted about a few things (like knee exercises etc) and then offered me a steroid injection into the knee. I went for it. They could only do one knee, of course if there turns out to be an issue having two legs out of action would potentially be a bit of an issue.

Had it done there and then. The steroid is injected directly into the area behind the knee cap. Didn't have any problems at all. The knee quickly became less painful and the promised '
it'll probably hurt a lot later and you'll be cursing me' moment never came. Result.

Now I just have to see if the other knee gets less painful on its own or whether I'll need a second jab into that knee. Hopefully it'll resolve itself enough on its own. The GP and the walk-in were both pretty fine and efficient once I got the appointment.

Not exactly skipping yet. But perhaps if I get on with these knee exercises I will be soon.


After my blog last week saying that I intended to return to doing at least 8k steps per day average in a week (i.e. 56k) I smashed it last week. Every day was above 8k which makes it easy to keep on top of. In actual fact last week my figures were:

43.77 miles
Average Distance:
6.25 miles
Average Steps:

Smashed it. Easy hey?

Recording the walk into the city

Cloud and sunshine above Liverpool

A quiet Loop Line on my Sunday walk

Well, on Monday this new week didn’t start quite as well (by a long chalk) with a paltry
1.3k steps. I’d said I’d walk a mile and half to a bus stop but I ended up with a lift home instead: while it was good in terms of getting home quickly it ballsed my walking up a bit. But on Tuesday things have improved. It was over 15k steps, which has got my average back up at the 8k over the two days. But it goes to show if you miss it with one nothingy day then you will be requiring some decent catch up on subsequent days - and if you had two quiet days (or, god forbid, more six day isolation requirements) then it’d be easy to really struggle to achieve the goal - unless you really forced yourself. It’s easier not to do than do, but really it’s not that difficult to do either if you really want to.

Onwards and Upwards… or at least Onwards and Alongwards.

Vaccine #2: The Return

Vaccine #2: The Return

It’s a been a strange bitty week for me. Got some things done and got some things to do. But the highlight was very definitely getting my second jab. As I said in one of my last blogs I had the first (Astra Zeneca) jab a couple of months ago so I was anticipating getting the second any time within the next four weeks.

The way I was allocated the first jab was just a text from the GP through to a link to book it. It wasn’t the NHS website one where you booked both the first and second jab so after having the first it was a question of waiting for the second invite to come through. I was hopeful I wouldn’t have to wait the whole month. As it happened it came through at 4:49pm on Wednesday afternoon and when I clicked through five minutes later I found that they had availability the very next day. I can’t tell you how happy and surprised I was at that. Anyway I was happy and surprised at that.

So at lunchtime on Thursday I was back in to Aintree Community Centre for my second vaccination. My appointment had been booked for 12:50 and I’d arrived at 12:45 with not one person in the queue. I was quickly processed and ushered through and after a quick jab at my left arm and, without a drop of blood or the need of a plaster, I was straight out the door again. Incredible. Apparently in the morning they’d already vaccinated around 400 people in the small centre. Hats of to the guys and gals there. Great organisation. Smooth as a very smooth thing that’s been through an extra smoothness process.

So now I’m fully vaxed up. Well until they decide we need boosters in the autumn. As I’ve said previously I’m still very much in the ‘use a mask and keep your distance’ camp. Not so much because I’m worried about myself, but because until the vast majority of people are vaccinated–and we won’t know on public transport or in a bar or restaurant who is–the message to everyone should be that the virus is still here and can do you. or someone you come into contact with damage.

From tomorrow we can go into a pub or restaurant which is great, but they are not going to be right and fully comfortable until we can go about establishments without too much consideration–or worry about other people taking liberties with the rules (well basically doing what is morally right for everybody). It will continue to be a difficult time for these businesses. The business model for a pub kinda expects people to be stood around in groups and at the bar buying drinks and packets of nuts (or better still Snyder’s Jalapeño Pretzels), they are not based on people sat down in groups of a maximum of six requiring table service. Not to mention requiring herding around and being talked to for not following the rules on mask wearing or numbers sat a tables etc. Just be kind to the people working at these places. And remember, even if you are jabbed up, the majority of the people working in the bars are lucky enough to be so young they haven’t even had their first jab yet.

In summary, I’m made up to be fully vaccinated but I’m looking at buying some more masks–maybe with nice logos of pubs or breweries or some bands on– for the coming weeks and maybe months. We need to continue to act correctly, be nice–and avoid the dicks (unfortunately there always be some). Hopefully the vast majority of people will be vaccinated sooner rather than later and the NHS can go back to treating other people for other conditions and our world can go back to some sort of normality..

Onwards and Upwards.

Flash Dogs and The Updated Website

The website rejig was definitely the right decision. I didn't want to put another page up there to go on the top menu, as it would get a bit too squashed up with the current layout. When I looked over the layout I found that one of the pages I had was on 'Writerers' which I haven't updated for years and was well out of date - in fact not entirely relevant. The only items on it I wanted to retain were the Flash Dogs website links, so I've copied those over to here rather than lose everything in one fell sweep.

I haven't checked yet whether these are all still live or not. But I will do over the weekend.

Flash Dogs Website Links:

Mark A. King - Recent UK based novelist with 'Metropolitan Dreams'
Liz Hedgecock - Another UK novelist and novelleta.
Beth Deitchman - Yep, another US Flash Dog writerer from the lovely Luminous Creatures Press.
Emily June Street - California based noveller, including the Velocipede Races.
Casey Rose Frank - A freelance writerer and voracious readerer from the east coast of the US.
Tamara Rogers - Writing and Images from the wonderfully talented Flash Dogs cover artist.
Holly Geely - US based writer of novels, novellas, and short story collections.
Steph Ellis - the prolific and wonderful Steph.
Tamara Shoemaker - fab writerer and wonderful editor from Virginia, US of A.
F.E. Clark - Great artist and writer from up in the north east of Scotland
Emily Livingstone - Fictionalist from New England

Removing my writer's section gives me room up top to put my 'Health' Section. A win, win or something like that. Sorted.

Redesign Time. Probably.

Contemplating a wee redesign of the website. Nothing too major, and I’ll probably retain most things. But I’m conscious that I have been blogging about health related issues over the last few weeks. Depending on how things go for me with the MS this could continue to be a topic I feel I have to keep coming back to. But at the moment it is sandwiched with all the blogs about writing, music, beer, Liverpool, and even poetry.

The health stuff could be a mighty turn off for some people and if there is a run of blogs on it then other of my usual witterings could be hidden in the avalanche. Equally if people are interested in the MS stuff (don’t let me ever call it a journey) then they may not be interested in my latest beer experiences - and certainly not my singing. So to that end I think I will create a new Health section and do all the related blogging within that.

I think it makes sense - though not sure how quickly I can turn that around. Watch this space - or that space: who knows?

Cool Club to Join: Vaccination #1

This morning I had my first COVID-19 jab: like a lot of people I know this week seems to be the week for getting jabbed. A few of my older mates, or those with other medical issues, have already been done, but this week so many of my mates, acquaintances, and Twitter buddies seem to have been marching around with one arm of their shirt up, whilst marching through doctors' surgeries and community centres up and down the country.

My vaccination place was just 3 miles away in Aintree Community Centre. I got up there in under 15 minutes and was in and out even quicker. The whole process was quick and seamless. I was told they were vaccinating 450 people there in the one day, which is pretty impressive for the wee place.


It was an Astra-Zeneca jab of course. I think most of them are at the moment. After all the bloods taken in the last couple of weeks - and the COVID tests up the nose & through to the back of my brain - the jab was nothing. Not had any issues with pain or flu type issues yet, but guess it’s only 8 hours ago and that’d be tomorrow if at all. Given my other problems at the moment a bit of temporary flu would be neither here nor there. That said, I’d prefer the issue to bypass me if it’s feeling kind.


Next up for me will be the second dose, which will be due some time over the next twelve weeks - which means by early June. In some ways that doesn’t seem that far off. Time is playing some mighty strange games at the moment though.

Good luck to those of you who haven’t had it yet. Hope you get it soon (apart from those idiots who were celebrating Paddy’s Day in Sefton Park yesterday. Fucking idiots, the lot of them).


Walk into Town: Onwards Downhill

Since my diagnosis of MS less than two weeks ago I have been conscious of my movement and the requirement to keep some miles in those legs to keep them going - even if I've nothing in particular to do. My standard aim for those pesky 'steps' prior to MS was 8000 a day. With work I was always doing between 12 and 17k steps, and on days off in these Covid days a lot lower (no pub crawls to walk). The average though would be well over 10k. I'm going to keep the aim at 8000 now and I don't feel any reason to change it. Indeed it may be more important than ever.

I decided to go on a walk yesterday with the aim of exceeding 10k and I did easily - finishing on 15k. The main thing was a long walk into Liverpool from home taking in Anfield Cemetery, Anfield Stadium and the walk down to the Adephi via Everton Valley Park. The walk was about 5 miles.

Anfield Cem2

The walk took me along the East Lancs and Walton Road before I ducked into Anfield Cemetery, as it's always nice to walk through where all the dead people are, and then on past Anfield. I was a season ticket holder back in the 1980s and in more recent times a Priority Ticket Scheme member, but I haven't gone to a match at Anfield since they built the fantastic new stand. God it's enormous.

We Are Liverpool

Anfield Stad1

After Anfield I decided to walk on, trying to get some more miles in. Thought I'd go to Everton Valley Park for the vista over Liverpool. The skyline along the Mersey looks great from there. In the end I decided it was al downhill from there into town so I'd continue and get the 17 or 19 back. It was a good call. Met a nice bloke walking his dog who chased after me to tell me my laces were undone on one of my trainers. I couldn't hear him with my headphones on. I thanked him, as there was no way with my current lack of feelings in my legs and feet I'd ever have felt them being loose. Got chatting to him, and despite his Everton hat he was a sound bloke. Explained about my numbness and he told me about his son dying at 19 and daughter at 24. Bloody hell. There is always someone else worse off out there isn't there. Had a good chat about all things cheerful, and football (which is a mixed bag for both of us at the moment).

Liverpool Skyline

Town was an absolute mess with so many roadworks around the centre. Hope they are timed to be sorted by the time everything has opened up - if not it is more disaster for the companies that have been shut for months. Sod's Law and bad planning dictates that the works won't be completed in the next couple of weeks. I saw hardly a workman anywhere along the hundreds of metres I walked past. Fingers crossed though.

Adelphi 1

Didn't fancy walking back - it's uphill. So hopped a No.19 and I was sorted. It was a nice day and a good walk. It's good to know I can walk five miles with no ill effects. Though my feet were sore.

Onwards and upwards.


Boss People, Good Food - Don't Mention the Coffee

This week I was in Fazakerley Hospital for two nights/three days, and then in The Walton Centre as an in-patient. I was looked at by some great doctors and nurses. The nurse who looked at me at A&E was particularly excellent. The Covid brain skimmer was eye wateringly scary, but efficient. Even the food and drink was really good: with the exception being the "coffee" - and maybe the portion size ;-).

Fazak Hosp2
Fazakerley Hospital - the return to the 9th Floor

The nurse who performed my Lumbar Puncture in the Walton Centre was brilliant, and the initial involvement from the Centre has been really good - and I'm sure that will continue.

Met a really nice woman who worked at Fazakerley and the Royal who has written a book, due out soon, on her experience with breast cancer. Had a nice chat with her. I'll definitely be buying her book when it comes out; '
Bald, Brave & Bloody Beautiful' by Danielle McDermott. And better still she's related to a former Liverpool great too: Terry McDermott. Cool.

walton centre1
The Walton Centre

The biggest negative issues I had was; 1) sleep, which was incredibly difficult due to myriad issues with other patients and the noise from a variety of machines, and 2) my phone - I brought multiple plugs and a full battery pack with me; but I picked up the wrong cable for the phone. A true schoolboy error on my part. Can't really complain about either of these things; particularly my schoolboy error. The wrong cable mistake will never ever happen again. Hopefully.

Not sure whether I'll be writing more than the few blog things about this new part of my life, but maybe I'll get some new storylines for some fictional stories. Hopefully this blog will continue to be much about music, writing and beer rather than becoming a health log. That's my intention anyway; that said if you want to read about this last, very eventful, week then look no further that the
previous post.

- PS I'm hoping not to have a reason to write another 'health' only blog for the next week or so. Fingers crossed.

Tests and Tests and M&S

After four days of either being in hospital, or going back for tests, I’ve got a doctor free day. Yippee! So what’s been happening folks?

This week has been a bit of a kicker. After two weeks of numbness and tingling in my legs and feet the only test result I had come in was a low folate in a blood sample last Friday. By Monday I had not been able to speak to my
GP so did not know whether this was supposed to be the reason for the issues with my legs, or something else completely unconnected. On Tuesday I tried again with the GP, on the phone from 8:30am but didn't get through until 9:30am - of course the doctors were all fully booked up for calls or actual appointments by then. Sometimes calling for a GP appointment can be as exciting and as fruitless as trying to get a festival ticket. The receptionist suggested that I try the eConnect method, where you fill in an online form and they reply by email to your query. Unfortunately when I tried filling in the form it wouldn't let me submit as it said that it said my issue was urgent and I must call 111 (it also does not send the information on to the GP at that point).

On 111 and after twenty minutes or more chatting to them it got to a point where they said they would call me an ambulance. Eek! Meanwhile I had the plumber working on my pipes (not a euphemism). The woman on 111 then told me the waiting time for an ambulance (which I was confident I didn’t need) was hours. She suggested getting a neighbour to take me to
A&E (a neighbour during a pandemic?), and told me not to get a bus (it’s just two stops to the hospital).

Needless to say, after the plumber finished with my pipes (still not a euphemism), I packed a wee bag (again not) - just in case I’d have to stay over - and headed up to A&E... by bus.

After a long time looking at me - scratching and not scratching my legs, and taking multiple bloods - it was time to get a
Covid test. I think she took a piece of my brain out with the sampling. It was the quick test: Negative. After the nurse consulted with a doctor or two it was decided I needed an MRI (which I was supposed to be getting after the Xmas issue and was sure would answer some questions). It couldn’t be done until the following day though, so I needed an overnight (if I’d not stayed in I was told they would be unable to put me forward for an MRI for quite a few weeks). As I was straying in I required a second (laboratory) Covid test. so another lump of my brain was pulled out though my nose.

Hospital Bed1
I've found there's wifi (though my phone is dead. REM: take right cable next time)

Oh god, I’m rambling, and only a few hours into my three days in the hospital. At this rate it’d take ages to go through my three days.

Let’s rush it out then: on Wednesday evening I was subjected to the horrific experience of an
MRI scan of my head and then my spine. Loud doesn’t come close. I think it was circa 50 minutes of hell. At one point I became worried about the titanium rod in my right arm being at least part steel and therefore getting ripped out of my arm. Scary. And did I say it was loud? It was VERY LOUD!

Because it was late in evening of course I wouldn’t get the feedback until Thursday. So it was another night in. I was worried about a brain tumour or something. I mean my legs are doing what I want them to. If I want to move either leg or foot it’ll go where I tell it. They just doesn’t send the clear feedback on to my brain as to how they feels. Something has cut through a cable and is disrupting clear communication.

I didn’t get the MRI results until Thursday afternoon (though before the report came in a doctor tried to mislead me in the morning. I don't now why he came to talk to me before the report was out!? - I’ll leave that there though). The neurologist,
Dr Mills and two of his young colleagues, came to talk with me: it was almost a Gregory House four man team.

Long story short, the diagnosis: MS. Or, as I’ve mistakenly said a couple of times,

They suggested that they could do a
lumbar puncture (or Spinal Tap if you prefer) the next day if I was up for it. As that could firm up the diagnosis: unfortunately there is no simple 100% test for the disease. It is a combination of clinical diagnosis with probability analysis and fingers to the wind. Or something like that. With the LP they take spinal fluid and can look at what’s in it, including viruses, macrobac, and lots of bits & bobs that can act as indicators for MS. In the meantime there was no need to remain in hospital thankfully.

lumbar punc
At the bus stop on the way for my LP

So I got home on Thursday evening - so, so nice after two nights in hospital (how does anyone get any sleep there?). Got the call on Friday at 9:30am to come in to the Walton Centre for 11am for the LP. I was in and out in no time. I actually left home at 10:30 and was back having a coffee by 12:30. I’d been a bit nervous about the whole syringe in the back procedure, after seeing far too many bad examples of it on the telly. But the LP was undertaken without me feeling a thing; I've given bloods which have been more painful, and I've never had an issue with bloods (ie. that ain't painful either). The nurse was obviously bloody good at Lumbar Punctures - and the patient was obviously amazing too.

M&S: not good news at all. But ultimately it is better to know than not to know - I wish I could have had the MRI earlier: I mean I don’t need to worry about a brain tumour now, do I?

I’ve got a big learning curve. MS is an odd disease. It is one of those auto immune things where your body attacks itself. The MRI showed various bright points on my spine and in my brain where there was inflammation. These are spots where the nerves are being attacked and stripped of some of the myelin coating. It is these damaged nerves that stop doing their job and sending my brain bits of handy information (like is it hot or cold, hard or soft, sharp or smooth?). It's pretty difficult to know how things will progress and what treatments can work for different aspects of it. I mean once this episode is over and I'm dancing again (ok, not dancing) it could be months, or longer still, until a following flare up. And next time it may not be my legs. It could also be very soon. It could be something and nothing, or something worser. Basically the way it impacts seems totally random.

I'm quite ancient for the diagnosis: normally it first shows up in people between the age of 20 and 40. Maybe I've had it for decades and it hasn't done anything to me until now? Maybe I've been lucky in that respect. Of all weeks, what a week to get the MS diagnosis. Yup, March is MS Awareness Month. Well I guess I'm aware now.

The crazy thing is I actually feel very well - and long may that continue. It's going to be a case of taking each day as it comes and seeing what M&S has in store for me. This is not just numbness, it's M&S numbness. This is not just freaky, it's M&S freaky. For now though I have to wait a couple of weeks until I hear back from Dr Mills on the findings from the LP. The Walton Centre have already been in touch to say their MS nurses are there for me if I need to talk to them at all. It was nice and reassuring to hear from them without me calling them.

Anyway, onwards and upwards. And I really can't wait for the first real ale pub crawl of 2021.

Where Is House When I Need Him?

After years of not going to the doctors and only suffering from the odd episode of gout in one or other of my knees (treated with ibuprofen and time - it is a strange disease in itself) I find myself going to the GP again.

Before Xmas I had the whole numb on one side of the face thing, followed between Xmas and NY by visual issues. Putting the two together the GP told me to go to A&E as it sounded like I needed an MRI to look into it. At A&E they decided the numb face thing was shingles and the visual issues were down to Labyrinthitus (though they saw no evidence of that, and there was also no pain or rash associated with the ‘shingles’).

Since then the numbness of the face disappeared and the visual issues cleared up too. I went to an ophthalmologist department and they told me my eyes were alright though they weren’t sure what had caused the issue in the first place. Both the ophthalmologist and later two of the GPS discounted the Labyrinthitus diagnosis.

I was better. But I was put in for an MRI to box things off and see if there were any reasons there that they could identify that would cause the strange no pain/no rash/no other damn symptom issues. The date for the MRI could not be given, but it was thought it could be in the order or six weeks or so.

So in the meantime I was okay and back at work. No problem.

Then last week came along with a new sideswipe and yet again ‘unusual’ symptoms. Basically numbness was the main symptom, but instead of it affecting half my head it inflicted me from the waist down. Pretty weird and maybe a bit scary - I mean if it was numb one day what would it be the next day, or the day after that?

Got through to the doctors eventually and the receptionist told me to call an ambulance. I thought that sounded a bit OTT and couldn’t work out quite why. But on reflection, at the time I was worried the odd symptom was maybe a side effect of the
Amlopidine they have me on for elevated blood pressure, I may well have said something along then lines of ‘I can’t feel my legs and I think it’s the drugs I am on.’ So maybe she thought I was a druggy in the process of ODing. You’d think they would be used to people referring to pharmaceuticals as drugs in a doctor’s surgery? Maybe she should have asked me to verify what I had taken. Lol.

In the end she talked it down to getting the GP to give me ‘
an emergency call.’ Three hours later the call came through and I was told to come in. Chatting about the issue and then testing if I could feel the difference on my legs between cotton wool and being stabbed ensued (I think I could). The doc concurred that the issue was highly unusual, and that it wasn’t my due to greedy drug habit. He said he’d call the 'neurological helpline'. Unfortunately the helpline operates between the hours of 11 and 1pm. So it would have to wait until the next day.

I walked from the surgery to the chemist to pick up my Amlopidine; which I’d put off getting until I knew whether that was the issue.

Walking is weird. My legs at the moment (and long may it continue) are working fine to a point. The weirdest thing is as there is numbness for the full length of my legs and pins & needles in both feet, wherever I walk and however long I don’t feel it properly. The closest description I can think of is that it feels like I’m walking on a continuous row of mattresses. Which may sound nice, but it really isn’t.

The GP left a message for me on Friday. He had spoken to the neurologist and he had concluded that the symptoms were ‘unusual’. That at least seems unanimous. He would check on what was happening with any MRI appointment - and I hope chivvy it along. I guess the MRI now be extended to look along my spine (I have no pain anywhere still) - as well as the head for the Xmas time issues.

It is weird having an issue which involves no pain or other issues. Normally if you are off sick it’s awful because of all that extra time to yourself you can’t use because you can’t face reading or watching TV - because of a headache or other issue. And certainly you wouldn’t be able to play an instrument or write or whatever. But other than moving around or bathroom issues -
I'll leave that there - I feel fine in myself in the main.

Today is Monday and there has been no obvious change one way or the other - maybe a little more discomfort to the right leg but I'm not sure. I still have numbness from the waist down and pins & needles in the feet - and the gods continue to throw mattresses in front of wherever I want to go. Tomorrow I am going in for blood tests (I think just B12 related). I had bloods taken between Xmas & New Year and everything came back okay - apart from elevated cholesterol - I don’t expect the bloods to be the answer. But then again I had thought that it was ‘
obviously the drug I was on’ and it wasn’t.

So it’s bloods Tuesday then MRI... when?

House 1
The prognosis is what!?

I’m beginning to feel like I’m in an episode of House and I'm expecting to be tested and prodded by multiple strangers in whites until House arrives on the scene and has to guess Lupus (it’s never Lupus) before some interesting and obscure cause is identified. My GP has already asked me about any poisonous or hazardous materials I may come into contact with at work - I could only think of Pringles. Fingers crossed the symptoms like the Xmas ones just disappears or they can identify it and treat it. Well, either way I'd like to know the cause. The not knowing is not good at all.

It reminds me of back in the 1990s I went into a isolation ward in Fazakerley hospital. I was quite seriously ill after returning from Nigeria. The most obvious symptom being my tongue swelling to fill my entire mouth so I hadn't eaten for days and found even drinking a great difficulty. Anyway after a few days my body returned to normal and they let me go. I left with the doctors never having identified what I had. I wonder if the same thing will happen again (although this time we’re all ostensibly in isolation)?

Health Matters: Keep Taking the Tablets

It's been a bit of a month and still don't know where it is heading yet. So far the main thing that's occurring is more tablets. To be fair I haven't been taking any tablets for years other than occasional Ibuprofen. I haven't been to the doctors for years (not sure if it was four or five). Back then I was taking something for my blood pressure (Amlopidine) and previously years before that I was also on Allopurinal (anti gout medicine). But I stopped taking both. As I'm over 50 they want to send you into an annual MOT where they take your bloods to look at liver and kidney function and cholesterol, as well as an ECG and obviously blood pressure.

The week before Christmas I had a worrying symptom, which I woke up with when my right hand side of the face (and up an beyond to include the scalp) was very numb. A numb face on one side… what do people think? 1) stroke and 2) Bell's Palsy. Well, I hadn't had a stroke and I didn't have palsy. Got through on the phone to the GPs surgery on the Monday morning, but thanks to Covid there are no in-house appointments but a phone triage system - and there is no time given for when the call may come. In this case it came at lunchtime and I was called in straight away, which was good.

It wasn't much use as far as the issue to be fair though. I was told I hadn't had a stroke and didn't have Bell's Palsy, which I kinda knew. So then my blood pressure was taken and it was very high (although I was sat in a doctor's office with a quite worrying issue). At that point the GP just took all her focus onto my Blood Pressure. I was prescribed low concentration aspirin, and Amlopidine. So straight away I'd gone from taking no tablets to two. I left the doctors and went down the chemist none the wiser as to what the issue was with my face (other than obvious) and basically it seemed to be 'wait and see; it'll probably go and we'll never know' (but maybe put it down to the blood pressure).

First problem was I was given a paper prescription for the aspirin, which I'd said was probably cheaper over the counter. The prescription had notes on it on taking the Amlopidine but it wasn't an item on the slip. So all I bought was a pack of dispersible aspirin for less than £2. It wasn't until a phone call with the GP almost two weeks later I found out that prescriptions are generally sent electronically to the chemist. So I'd had two weeks without taking the medicine I'd been prescribed. Obviously things have changed since the last time I've had a prescription and I should have know about this through some sort of osmosis. The only way I found out about this was a different GP had called to see how I was with the numbness issue. It was whilst I was on this call I said I'd only been prescribed aspirin and the electronic thing was revealed to me.

After the meeting with the GP I had invested in a blood pressure monitor, which arrived on Xmas Eve as a kind of bizarre Xmas present to myself (it wasn't wrapped). Generally now I take a daily reading and put it into an App so I can track it.

On Christmas Eve I started to get another symptom (from same or another illness?) this time it was dizziness, vertigo, balance and visual issues. Together with the numbness this was more than a little disconcerting. Of course happening on Christmas Eve there was no access for SIX days. For the GP was closed for Christmas (including the Monday which was the Boxing Day Bank Holiday). Apparently Amazon can deliver pegs, pens and pads etc as this is essential work, whilst a GP is not essential. So on the Tuesday fully six days after the appearance of the new issue I called the GP (I had called on Monday and couldn't believe it was shut). 'We'll phone you up this afternoon.' No time or general indication possible.

I'd dropped and cracked the phone I use, which was fine at home to use in the dry but would no longer work outdoors in damp weather. So I needed to buy a new one. Didn't leave my house for a good while - as if they'd called and then asked me to come in I needed to be near. But if I wanted to work, I'd need a phone. Argh. Come 3:30pm there was no call and I judged it would be unlikely they'd invite me to come in much later than that. So I headed into town for a quick visit to Argos for a phone (which I ordered online). After that I popped into the Dispensary for a pint and had a Titanic 'Plum Porter' and a Rat 'White Rat.' It was soon beyond six and no call.

Gone 7pm I got a call from the Dr and when I told him the new issue he told me to go to A&E as he thought I required an MRI scan. Eek!

So here I was in a pub, between Christmas and New Year, being told to go to A&E. I ordered one more pint of Rat and I dare say never have I looked so introspective and worried in a pub. I made my plan. I had to go home first and pack a bag with the all the essentials - if I was going to get an MRI scan there probably wouldn't be anyone appropriate to review it later in the evening, so I was bound to be kept in. A rucksack was duly packed with T-shirts, socks, underwear, iPad, phone, Kindle, charger cables and plugs; then it was a walk to the hospital (for the buses were stopping early). Ended up being in A&E from 8:10pm until 3:30am. Had to keep drinking coffee as an excuse to take my mask off. The A&E was pretty busy all night. I noted at triage my blood pressure was substantially below that taken at the GPs. That was probably the highlight of my 7 hours in the hospital.

The doctor at A&E spent a long time with me - around an 80 minutes - on and off (i.e. disappearing to speak to other people). The upshot was that I was diagnosed with shingles for the numb face thing (without the usual rash and pain), and some sort of Labyrinthitis for the vertigo and visual issues. Though he couldn't see evidence of any vesicles or other signs in the ear (partly from my habit of having wax stuffed ears).

As the 'shingles' was already a few weeks in there was no need for any medication. It should clear up in a few weeks to a month. And similar for the Labyrinthitis. So I walked home with my packed rucksack at 3:30am almost dancing after the fear of all sorts of what was causing the issues.

After new year I saw the GP who had told me to go to A&E on the expectation they'd want to do an MRI scan. He wasn't entirely happy with the diagnosis. And myself I was more of the feeling the issue must be to do with something around the eye rather than the ear. The GP said he couldn't see anything in the ear for wax - and no-one else could have. He called to speak to a neurologist keen to try again. The waiting list for such equipment is no doubt an issue. Anyway, I'm now in line for investigations at the Orthoptic Specialists, which will hopefully find out what is wrong. It's another ten days or so away. And if it turns out to be a viral thing that is gone by then, then all I will say (very loudly) is 'Huzzah!' - probably should take a hat with me so I can throw it in the air as I shout it for the third time.

Following the (BP)GP getting the ball rolling with my annual MOT I'd got my bloods taken and then went to in to see her. There was some good news from the MOT. Liver and Kidney function normal. Cholesterol high but lower than it was four years ago. I don't want any more tablets (more of that shortly…) and want to eat better anyway. The guide currently for cholesterol is below 5 is good and above is bad. While mine came out at 6, it was over 7 four years ago. She seemed a bit unsure how I'd got it down so much if I wasn't taking anything and actively trying to control it. Lol. I got weighed whilst I was there and I was also found to be lighter than I was the last time I was weighed. I have scales at home but I never use them - I had no idea how many stones I was. Maybe I should keep an eye on it - particularly if I'm intending to eat better etc.

Doing a delivery job I think many people think it is not that active. After all I think people take more notice of the vans driving around than the drivers wandering around trying to find the right address or how to get to the shed. But on a full route I never walk less than 10k steps and it usually between 12-18k steps. So that must be doing some good (despite the inevitable stress from the piss take of the ridiculous routes).

Anyway, as I said I saw the 'BP' GP and she was keen to get me on a statin or some such nonsense. I said we can review this after I try to get it down through my inevitable excellent home made living plan. As above I'd already gone from having no tablets to having aspirin and Amlopidine. But I occasionally suffer from gout don't I, and what is one of the worse things you can take if you have gout? Yep, aspirin. So I've now had to add Allopurinol to my daily regime. Arghh. Every time you take a damn tablet you end up having to take another to counteract one aspect or another. This is one reason I hate taking tablets.

I'm also worried that tablets are overprescribed, It is in the industries interest to put pressure on the medical community to err on the side of caution to sell more drugs. I mean 'if 6 is safe, we'll say 5.5 to be sure. Oh, 5.5 is too high, lets be extra safe and say 5.' etc. Where does this leave me at the moment?

So my current mediation status comprises:

  • Amlodipine (blood pressure - daily tablet)
  • Aspirin (blood pressure - daily dispersible tablet)
  • Allopurinol (gout preventative due to higher risk from aspirin - daily tablet)
  • Naproxen* (during any gout attacks - tablet)
  • and cholestorol stuff waiting impatiently in the wings…

The medication list before Christmas Eve:
  • occasional Ibuprofen (if felt gout coming on - or other pain related issues - tablet ad hoc)

Naproxen is a great anti-inflammatory and is the only thing that works on gout, in my experience. Unfortunately you need a prescription for it. Although it is the same as Feminax Ultra, which doesn't need a prescription. You can rarely find FU, which I assume is partly because people know this. There must be loads of old guys going to chemists for their (very much younger) girlfriends back home. I was surprised that my BP GP wasn't aware of this fact. She also didn't know if dispersible aspirin was a) available in the chemist or b) whether it was cheaper than a prescription - Shrug emoji.

Any more tablets and I'm gonna need one of them lidded boxes with the days of the week on to stop me taking too many - or none - when my memory isn't sure… I may also start worrying about how many calories are in them. I'm a bit unsure why one GP is concerned about the very reason I went to the GP in the first place, whilst the other just seems just to focus on blood pressure full stop.

Assuming nothing gets worse over the next week and a half then the big thing will be the ophthalmic investigations (the letter says leave 2-4 hours for the visit, depending on what investigations may be required). Badly worded, surely it should simply say leave up to four hours - or 'the visit will take 2-4 hours'? Anyway now, I'll be crossing my fingers for it being a departing virus. So do I take an overnight bag to the appointment?

A Change in Relationship Status

I've an odd relationship with food. I like food and all that, but if it's not there I don't miss it, whilst if it's there I'll eat it. More often than not my breakfast comprises two cups of coffee and then I'll either have food or not after that. Lunch may be a sandwich at an approximate lunchtime or I may not eat anything until gone 4pm. If there is a packet of Pringles or biscuits sat there the Pringles would disappear in a click of my fingers or a half a packet of biscuits just as fast. That's why I generally try to avoid buying the buggers - I can go months without seeing a biscuit or I can eat a packet in two days and contemplate buying another packet. I could live on coffee and one big meal in the evenings (when I say big that may be a plate and a half). As often as not I won't know in the morning what I'm having for an evening meal - and that may be decided by what 'Yellow Sticker' bargain I find. Like I say an odd relationship.

Many of the issues are habits; be it not having breakfast or not shopping to a plan.

I need to fix this.

I'm not there yet, but heading towards meal planning, even if it's just a three day thing rather than a whole week. Just to get into good habits. I hate throwing away food, and if I buy a loaf I don't often finish it before it is going off. So planning would help in that; and similarly with veg: there's no point in buying three courgettes and a packet of peppers if I then buy a yellow sticker 'bargain' and eat that instead, only to throw away the veg.

Planning the meals should make me eat more variety too. At the moment if I have mince I'm having chilli or I'm having shepherds pie. Give me chicken and I'm probably having a chicken curry. It would be good to expand my choice.

At this point I am also thinking that I may aim for 3 days a week eating vegetarian, not for any idealistic reason (give me a chicken or a steak a day I'd be very happy), but to make sure I eat all the veg I buy - as a side issue eating veg only makes the dish washing easier with the lack of fatty waste, and because of cooking time veg meals can be a lot quicker to sort than a meal with meat in it :-) That said when I did go through a period of semi vegetarianism in the past I often got hungry not long after dinner (cue lots of cheese and crackers).

Lunch may be the bigger issue at work. What to have, when to make it (and not eating it on the way into work!).

Eating properly in terms of three meals at the right time (and not buying Pringles or biscuits) would be better for me in terms of health I am sure. It has to be better for you if the energy levels are more stable through the day. Knowing what you're cooking and being less random from day to day can help you plan your day too - you can always be flexible if the work day dictates due to a late (or who knows, an early) finish.

Anyway, I'll start getting into planning this week and let's see where my new relationship takes me.