Why I’m not convinced by the swine flu stats

Hels and Tom both have colds. I’ve had a bit of a sore throat, but it hasn’t come to anything.

When they first went down with a little lethargy, sore throat, snuffliness and all the other usual symptoms, we immediately thought that our turn might have come for swine flu. If it had, we wouldn’t be too worried – we’d get our way through it and get it out of the way. Unpleasant and inconvenient, yes, but probably not life-changing. For the vast majority of people, it’s just a nasty bug.

So, given that, Hels called the doctor. We’d heeded the advice not to actually go to the surgery and it seems our local surgery is well-prepared. Our doctor was able to take Hels’s call (not just the receptionist team) and talked through the symptoms. She (our doctor) seemed a little fed up with the Government’s diagnosis-by-checklist approach. Hels described her symptoms, including her temperature of 37.8 Celsius. The doctor laughed and said that, given her symptoms and according to the checklist, Hels did not have flu but had a cold. If, however, her temperature had been 38 Celsius, that woud have been enough.

So we are carrying on life pretty much as normal. Hels has taken a little time off work (heavy colds tend to knock her down a bit anyway due to previous illnesses in her 20s). But we are not putting ourselves into quarantine.

What I wonder is this: given that our doctor is aware that this cold bug is going around at the moment, how many of the 100,000 new cases this week really are H1N1 flu and how many are just summer colds? Are we getting false information and is the Government making decisions based on that? What will happen if/when we actually get real flu later in the year?

As an aside, the Government gave advice last weekend (as reported by the BBC) that expectant mothers and mothers of under-5s should stay away from crowds. I presume they haven’t visited your average ante-natal clinic lately, because they are never crowded, obviously. And, what of fathers of under-5s? Presumably, if they stayed away from crowded places (like shops, offices, railway stations and workplaces) the economy would grind to a halt.

As Hels put it – the Government takes the nation to war but can’t seem to work out what to do about a virus.

I’m free! I’m free!

This morning, I had the plaster cast removed. Thank goodness for that!

I now have a “double tubigrip” arrangement on my left foot/ankle/leg and have been given instruction to gently start walking again. I can only manage a handful of steps at one go before it becomes too painful/uncomfortable, but the doctor reckons that I should progressively get stronger and more mobile by early next week. He reckons that the majority of the damage (or possibly even all of it) is muscular, not bone.

Frankly, being able to move around again is great. I was starting to become a bit of a bear-with-a-sore-head (or sore leg) and could easily have become utterly insufferable for my family. But I’m looking forward to having a soak in the bath tonight and not relying on Hels to wash my hair (I couldn’t get in the shower to do it and found it rather precarious to lather my barnet whilst balanced on one foot). And, most of all, I’m looking forward to being able to drive again and get back to proper work rahter than the half-hearted work I’ve done for the last ten days.

The Disaster Zone

The title of this post reflects the name that my uncle has for our household. Thanks Ted.

So far this year:

  • conservatory woe, involving new conservatory purchased to replace old leaking one, but not being manufactured to the right size, resulting in a large “air gap” that it took the suppliers three weeks to resolve (sorry Dave, should have come to you)
  • heavy cold woe
  • financial woe, now resolved
  • more family health woe
  • falling down stone steps woe
  • chickenpox woe
  • and now, leaking waste water pipe under the sink in the bathroom woe.

For goodness sake, can we just have a simple life where everything bloody well works?

Bone update

How odd. I’ve had a letter today from the hospital in St Malo that treated me last weekend. It is short and to-the-point.


Radiographie de la cheville gauche face et profil et pied gauche face et profil:


Absence de lésion osseuse traumatique radiologiquement décelable sur les incidences réalisées ce jour.

Beg pardon? Now, my grasp of French is rudimentary to say the least (“schoolboy” would be a generous term and possibly an insult to most schoolboy students of the language), but the word “absence” does tend to leap out of the page. Google Translate comes to my aid and tells me that the radiography did not reveal a lesion on the bone. So why exactly am in a cast and on crutches, then?

Clearly, I’ve done a lot of damage to my left foot area. I must have stretched and pulled every muscle, tendon and bit of meaty gristle down there. It swelled up a fair bit (although, by everyone’s admission, not by a massive amount) and was very sore whenever I put weight on it. But have I actually done any damage to the bone? There was much discussion at the local hospital here in Blighty when I rocked up with my cast and my French x-ray transparencies because the damage is far from clear. I think I can see the ghost of the (tiny) chip on the image in the area where my French doctor said it was, but this new letter is signed by a different doctor. Was the original doctor imagining things?

I’m booked into the local fracture clinic for first thing on Wednesday morning. I’m going to ask them to review the evidence and to take a new set of x-rays so we can be sure what has taken place – my guess is that they will want to do that anyway. I’m trying not to get my hopes up too high, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I have only damaged muscle and that, with a bit of strapping, rest and physiotherapy, I can be back up and running, or walking at least, as soon as possible.

On suffering temporary partial disablement

Apparently, I’m suffering "temporary partial disablement". Or so my insurers say (so, hopefully, they will pay up).

As a sufferer, I can report the following:

  • it hurts
  • one becomes the centre of conversation
  • going to the loo becomes a challenge
  • climbing stairs becomes even more of a challenge
  • going to the loo or climbing stairs on a cross-Channel ferry is even more of a challenge. I’d hate to be a one-legged pirate
  • the cat still wants to sit on you
  • small children (well, our small child at least) suddenly become remarkably understanding and helpful. It’ll never last
  • your bum gets numb from all the sitting around
  • it is very easy to get bored or frustrated; or bored AND frustrated
  • it hurts to carry a cast about
  • you become very reliant on people around you. Thank goodness for Hels
  • you tend to blog more frequently

Breaking a duck, err bone, duck… bone.

We have just taken the opportunity to have a little holiday. Well, that was the plan. I had to go to Angers for an exhibition and took H and T along with me, something we have done for four out of the last five years.

After staying in Angers for a couple of nights and a (very successful) day at the exhibition, we took the car to Saint Malo, via Rennes and Dinan. We got to our hotel and wandered into the Intra Muros, had a nice meal and then, to entertain Tom, clambered up onto the city wall to head back towards the hotel. So far, so good. But it was mightily dark and I decided to carry Tom as we descended the stone steps. Hels stumbled on the last step as we went down. And then I fell down on the same step, heavily. I managed to hold on to Tom and lower him gently to the step. But I had a fair idea that I’d really hurt myself. I could tell this by the tears in my eyes and nausea, not to mention the pain.

We hobbled back to the hotel and went to bed. But, in the morning, it became quite evident that I was in agony. The evidence consisted of me yelping with pain whenever I stood up, and yelping twice as much if I put any weight on my left foot.

With guidance from the hotel receptionist, Hels took me over to the hospital. After a short wait, an x-ray revealed the tiniest chip off a bone. My reward – a French plaster cast with matching crutches and painkillers. My first damaged bone. Bugger.

We changed our homeward travel arrangements and got ourselves on the next ferry from Saint Malo to Portsmouth (we originally planned to travel to Dieppe and then back to Newhaven – but if ever you take that boat, pack a lunch as the food is utter crap). I’m hoping that my insurers will pay for the change of ferry plans and the lost night of accommodation (about four hundred quid in total).

Since then, I’ve seen umpteen medical people and been the centre of much attention. I’ve got to wear the cast for at least ten days before it is swapped for a removable boot. Which means I can’t drive, can’t put weight on it and can’t walk more than a few paces. Which will make life a little difficult, to say the least.

And, to top it all, Tom has chickenpox. Spots. Lots of them. And itchy.

Hels has got her work cut out. She’s pretty amazing.

Wall to wall

Why is it that we seem to be suffering wall-to-wall, back-to-back illnesses in our household? I had a really rotten cold a few weeks ago. Over the weekend I had a nasty stomach bug. And now I have a sore throat, blocked sinuses and repeated sneezing. And, naturally, Hels and Tom have had/got it too.

Anyway, mustn’t grumble, and all that. None of us have had to be hospitalized, which is what happened to my Dad. He’s home now and getting better, but it was one of those stop-and-think things. Hmm.

Meanwhile, we’re all busy as mad things and wondering how we are going to survive the madness of the next fortnight. I do wonder how it is that, every year, we say we are going to do less and make the festivities simpler and more enjoyable, but still end up running around like idiots, cooking for the five thousand, spending a fortune (in spite of setting a maximum of fifteen quid on gifts) and actually not really enjoying it all as much as we’d like.

Bah! Bumhug!

Next year, we will go away for Christmas. I say it every year, but this time I mean it.

Meme instead of work

So sue me. Or him.

1. My uncle once: fell over the side of an aircraft carrier in a plane. Actually, he did it more than once.

2. Never in my life: flown in a hot air balloon.

3. When I was five: I began primary school. My teacher was called Miss English, and I told her that my parents were aged 21 and 18.

4. High school was: not as great as people sometimes claim. But not as bad either. And probably a missed opportunity, particularly the sixth form.

5. I will never forget: the day that Tom was born.

6. Once I met: Molly Sugden. She visited my parent’s nursery and forgot to take her credit card after the transaction.

7. There’s this girl I know. Fact.

8. Once, at a bar: I was stalked by a midget with a perm.

9. By noon, I’m usually: thirsty.

10. Last night: I fought with Tom whilst trying to persuade him to sleep and then went to bed early myself. My patience is dramatically reduced when I feel ill.

11. If only I had: more money, time and self-discipline.

12. Next time I go to church: I’ll probably be with Tom and we’ll admire the architecture.

13. What worries me most: is not much at all. I don’t worry about much, as it seems a rather futile activity. But I’m concerned about the future, like most people. You can only wish to be happy, comfortable and for your child to have it better than you did.

14. When I turn my head left I see: the garden – lots of plants in flower, plus Tom’s trike parked outside the door.

15. When I turn my head right I see: a couple of pot plants and the stereo.

16. You know I’m lying when: I admit to it.

17. What I miss most about the Eighties is: the lack of responsibility. As I was in my early to mid teens during that period, I didn’t have much responsibility at all. Unfortunately, it was a missed opportunity – I should have grasped those years a bit more.

18. If I were a character in Shakespeare I’d be: Banquo? Nah, who am I kidding?

19. By this time next year: we’ll be millionaires, Rodney! Alternatively, I might have finished those draft posts for this site.

20. A better name for me would be: um, actually, I like the one I have.

21. I have a hard time understanding: people who don’t think things through and use the evidence available to their own senses. I can understand why Richard Dawkins gets so frustrated by people who don’t agree with the findings of empiricists.

22. If I ever go back to school, I’ll: have taken a wrong turning.

23. You know I like you if: I relax. You’ll know it when you see it.

24. If I ever won an award, the first person I would thank would be: Hels.

25. Take my advice, never: clean your headlamps with a baby wipe and then try to stick “beam benders” on. It won’t work. (What? You wanted a philosophical answer??)

26. My ideal breakfast is: Dorset Cereals Simply Delicious muesli with cold milk. Plus eggs, bacon, toast, tomato, black pudding, juice, coffee, cheese, bread, ham…

27. A song I love but do not have is: not known to me yet. I tend to download stuff I like soon after hearing it.

28. If you visit my hometown, I suggest you: visit the Cathedral and then a pub (assuming you mean the place I consider my hometown. If you mean the place where I live, then visit the church – it has a surprise inside).

29. Why won’t people: just give me the f***ing money now!

30. If you spend a night at my house: you’d eat well, drink well and, hopefully, relax.

31. I’d stop my wedding for: nothing, except a fire alarm perhaps. Done it already.

32. The world could do without: about three quarters of its human population. Obviously you and I are exempt from this.

33. I’d rather lick the belly of a cockroach than: its feet.

34. My favourite blonde(s) is/are: my wife.

35. Paper clips are more useful than: staples if you want to take the pages apart again after fixing them together.

36. If I do anything well it’s: cook duck à l’orange.

37. I can’t help but: I have a short attent

38. I usually cry: when peeling onions.

39. My advice to my child/nephew/niece: is to never stop asking questions.

40. And by the way: isn’t it your round?


Time to catch up

A few things that I haven’t had/made time to remark upon here in the last week or so:

  • my gorgeous wife had a birthday. The three of us went to London for the day and ambled around Covent Garden, Regent Street, Tate Britain and the South Bank. Tom was particularly impressed with the sculpture at the Tate, remarking that The Three Graces have bottoms “just like Mummy’s”, which is possibly the best compliment a girl could wish for.
  • subsequently, my gorgeous wife went on holiday with her mum to Morocco, leaving son and husband to fend for themselves. Thanks to sitting in train stations with poorly-inked cardboard signs, we survived this ordeal and only went to the pub once.
  • Hels and I completed the 20km JustWalk on Saturday in blistering (literally) heat. We were accompanied by our brother-in-law Kevin all the way round the circuit and were able to enjoy some lovely views and some splendid wild flowers. But it was bloomin’ hot and we had to work hard to keep hydrated and to avoid heat stroke. The sections of the walk in the open were particularly hard, especially the mile or so down the south-facing slope into Charlton which was on a chalk and flint track in a bit of a dip – no breeze, bright intense sun, no shade and lots of reflected light and heat from the surface. Thanks to some remarkably generous people, we have now passed our original sponsorship target of £500, for the Parkinson’s Disease Society but we still want to raise more money. What do you mean, you haven’t sponsored us yet? Go here and give now, please and thank you.
  • Oh, and it’s my birthday today. I’m already enjoying my first present.

Just Raising Money

A little while ago, I linked on here to our JustGiving webpage. You see, Hels and I are going to walk 20km to raise money for the Parkinson’s Disease Society. That means we will be getting up very early, striding purposefully up Down and down Down, getting blisters, getting drenched, getting sunburn, getting achey and getting sore. But we are determined to do it because we think it is a very worthwhile cause.

We have exactly one month to go and we want to raise a lot more money yet. We’re only about one-third of the way to our modest target and really, truthfully, I’d like to reach double the target we have set. So, here’s how you can help:

  1. Give money. How do you do that? Easy! Go to our JustGiving page. Now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Not after you’ve had a cuppa. I should say "please", but actually I feel a little like Bob Geldof, thumping my desk and shouting "give us the [expletive] money now!" – and, if you use the webpage and are a UK tax payer, the PDS gets the Gift Aid which adds quite a lot extra to your donation.
  2. Link us up. You have a website? Good! Then link to www.justgiving.com/grahamandhels – and tell your readers that we are awfully nice people and that this is a very good cause.
  3. Tell people. Know anyone who knows us? Tell them what we are doing and suggest that they give money. Or maybe they don’t know us – well, tell them anyway!
  4. Send encouragement. We know what we are doing might be small but is certainly worthwhile and we’d like others to encourage us. And you know what the best form of encouragement is? More money for the PDS!

If you do help with any of these things, then please email me because I’m a nice chap and want to thank you. But, please do help us – without your help, our walk won’t be worth much at all.

Now, back to sending pestering emails to people!