Illumination, Amusement and a Connection between Depression and the Immune System

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The British Library Digital Catalogue Of Illuminated Manuscripts is now open for business. Interface is a little stark, so here’s their human friendly introduction to the archive.

just ripping the heads off devils, with you in a mo

And if that’s not enough excitement for you for one day I’ve found you another video ou un person anglais parler en francais;

Oui. C’est Eddie Izzard.

***

Et bien, What else is new? Well, I went to see our friend Giles yesterday.

yep, still brainy

He handily untangled the bullshit from the truth about what was likely to happen at the NHS headache clinic for me, and he says that the neuro I had seen was wrong to say I’d have to come off preventative pain killers. He also said it was far better to abuse triptans than codeine from the point of view of botox treatment, because triptan overusers responded really well to the botox while the codeine users responded markedly less so.

AND! mes amis! he offered to give me my next go round for free if I would go to a training thing and talk to the docs who are learning how to give the botox. Possibly even docs who might subsequently treat me… He also said something quite interesting which was that in the deregulation of health services being offered treatment in eight months time was outwith the legal time frame, and that I might be able to get my own doc to commission him to treat me instead of the headache clinic at the neuro hospital. This would be advantageous for a couple of reasons; 1 – organ grinder rather than monkey, 2 – he goes ‘off piste’ with the botox and will also do areas other than those mapped out, so if you get referred pain from a particular part of your head, neck or even shoulders he will inject in extra places, 3 – after initially being intimidated by him I now really like him and also think he is FUNNY.

***

This morning I read an article called Thoughts About Depression From Under the Sheets by one @scicurious.
It’s worth clicking through to if you are interested in links between the immune system and depression. If this research gets some air time it could really revolutionize the way that depression is treated. It would be seen as an illness and not a condition, and people like me who get pain won’t be told that it is ‘psychosomatic’.

If I could Upload a Language by Bluetooth

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012
If you could instantly know any language in the world, which one would it be?

I’d really like to know any of the languages I pretend to speak. And if I could have an implant that would upload knowledge by bluetooth or something, then languages would be my first purchase. On a practical level I’d go for ramping up the french or german, or maybe spanish, because SPAIN!!!!

in andalucia people don’t keep dogs as pets, but they might just have a horse loitering in their garden

It might be an idea to learn polish because Ten is half polish, but my feeling is that if we ever go there he can communicate most of the stuff and I can indulge in my usual mime and pointing routine. Theoretically any languages that uses these characters is just a question of bothering to learn. What confounds me is greek and arabic and chinese. If I was paying top dollar for a language implant I’d probably go for something cuneform. I’d very much like to go to Istambul, so turkish would be quite high on the want list.

Realistically, though, I am more likely to spend time somewhere nearer home. And spanish has become a top three language, so probably that. It might not be too shabby to be able to go back to Andalucia and be able to do something other than be a 9ft blonde gonk doing mimes.

Here is a funny video. I’ts by an italian comic  Adriano Celentano for the Italian TV programme Mileluci.

Prisecolinensinenciousol, a parody by is sung entirely in gibberish designed to sound like American English.

In Which I Speak All the Languages

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Monday, November 26, 2012
Do you speak more than one language?  How did you learn the additional languages?

When I was a teenager I hitch hiked to Italy and Spain. I was a typical shy kid – I found the challenge of foreign language totally intimidating and I only remember having one conversation on either of those trips, and that was while my friend was asleep, talking french with an Italian. We were both speaking in a second language so both spoke very slowly and simply. I enjoyed it a lot, but it didn’t really encourage me – I thought that real language acquisition would be too difficult ever to manage properly.

Fast forward to a couple of years ago. A friend suggested we go to Spain for a holiday. She could speak some spanish but was rather shy. I crowdsourced on Facebook, and came up with a fail-safe lexicon;

bano (bathroom).

I figured that if I remembered that one word I could happily mime everything else. This resulted in me doing a lot of the ‘talking’. My shyness long gone, I felt that if I didn’t have to mime going to the toilet, then what was to worry about? I enjoyed my ‘conversations’ and felt rather proud of myself. I did pick up jamón because after pointing at enough breakfasts I liked the look of it seemed that saying ‘ham’ was enough to get you the good local grub.

Like everyone in the UK I believe I have some apprehension of american english. We get enough US telly, americans visit here, what’s not to know? Imagine my shock when I first arrived at New York’s airport. I got my passport out and stood in line. When it was my turn the immigration guy said “alakyahatt”. Well, I was quite intimidated – a man in uniform saying something unintelligible to me at immigration, this couldn’t be good news, could it?

This was when I discovered I had an inner Julie Andrews. I said “I beg your pardon?”

“alakyahatt”

(speaking louder and slower – this is what brits do to foreigners) “I’m terribly sorry? Could you repeat that?” (becoming increasingly panicky)

i’m terribly sorry?

This went on for what must have been seconds but I experienced it somewhat differently.

“Oh! You like my HAT! Thank you!”

Well, that was me, as you lot say “schooled”.

Since then I have come to realize that not only does one not know american dialect just from watching TV and films, but also there are key linguistic differences which must be adhered to if you want to communicate. Unless you want to resort to mime.

***

A few years ago I went to Berlin to have an operation. I went on my own, and I relied entirely on german learned over one year, I think it was, at school. Given the fact that I had perfected the art of staring out of the window and imagining survival strategies in the event of an apocalypse. This was inspired by and helped along by BBC’s Survivors. The 70′s original was remade recently so any mini-me people would be well catered for even if there weren’t a glut of such programming. We now know not only what to do and what not to do in the event of a pandemic, but also what to do if everyone gets all undead on us. Excellent.

As an added bonus I know someone in the modern version, so I can say “Look at friend! Isn’t s/he clever!” as well as gleaning survival tips.

Anyway, back to the german. What I have learned from my interest in the english language is that while english is made up of hundreds of languages the vast bulk of it comes from german and french. This is from when toffs spoke french and peasants spoke german. Hence bœuf (on the table, you see) becomes BEEF, while cow, in the field is kuh. What happened, therefore, was that I could speak a fair amount of “german” but was left stranded when I needed a word I didn’t know but which in english is french in origin.

I enjoyed butchering german, and when the taxi driver dropped me off at the airport I said Auf Wiedersehen. Germans seem to like to pretend they don’t know any english, but they watch a lot of the same telly as we do, though most of it is dubbed, but pop songs aren’t.

He replied “So long!”

***

I hadn’t been to France since hitching through as a teenager when my brother and I went with my dad on a trip to see the relics and graves at the Somme. My dad wasn’t being a history buff, he believed he might see the grave of his uncle who had been killed in WW1. This was never going to happen, since the kind of war that that was ensured that everyone and everything got mashed in together. Indeed, two raised areas of ground were known at the time as “Sausage and Mash” and not because that’s where you’d get a hearty meal.

Anyway, talking of hearty meals, we may have eaten the worst meal in France that night, so by the time we were let loose in a small town for lunch my brother and I were grimly determined to eat something nice. The tour guide opted for a liquid lunch, and it seemed everyone else was joining them. We had a look round and there was nothing open – it was a sunday. We spotted, however, an hotel, which seemed to be starting to seat people. While the french would be spending the afternoon eating we had less than an hour. This required advanced french – in short, this required begging.

Happily, french is the one language I can speak in sentences in, and can hooch together make-like phrases well enough to be understood. Considering children in the UK started learning french in primary school, you’d think this would be perfectly a perfectly reasonable thing, but let me tell you, as much as the french don’t want to learn english, we resist learning french, and I was speaking like a HERO.

I looked at the menu and chose what I wanted and my brother and dad agreed to have the same. I asked the waitress if we could have it within an hour and she was totally scandalized and said “Non”. She conceded that we could have the main course but nothing else. I agreed. Then something magical happend – between her and the chef some quick work was turned around and she excitedly announced that we had time for starters before our main. Wonderful! Heaped with gratitude she dashed off and brought us starters. As soon as we’d finished those the mains arrived, and towards the end of the meal, she told us that we would have time for dessert as well.

Our feast was only marred by one thing. Since I do not cook rabbit I do rather like to have it if it’s on a menu. Our mains comprised of rabbit in prune sauce. My dad asked what we were eating and I told him. He balefully told us that his stepfather had killed his pet rabbit during the war.

I bet it was delicious.

***

And finally! I do not speak any Scanwedgian language, but like the rest of the UK I have lapped up Wallander in swedish with subs, The Killing, in danish, Borgen in swedish and danish, and recently I have enjoyed Lilyhammer in english and norwegian. I’ve also seen many nordic films over the years. Although there are plenty english loan words in use there is also something else going on. I would never have thought that spending my formative years in Scotland would have been of much use to me apart from giving me a rather crisp classless accent, but I was wrong. Dear reader, there are quite a few words and expressions which these languages share with lowland scots. It is very exciting to the ear.

It is also useful to have lowland scots for Scrabble and Words With Friends.

elaine4queen is unwell

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The journalist, Jeffrey Bernard was a notorious drunk. He was the subject of a West End play called Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell because this is what was printed without any preamble in the stead of his column for The Spectator when the writer was too drunk or hungover to hand in copy.

Sadly, for me, my ‘hangover’ is from my big day of two medical appointments and attendant traveling.

tilda swinton in cornelia parker’s ‘the maybe’

Last night I was kind of wired, and even though I listened to an hour of guided meditation I found I couldn’t sleep. Today I couldn’t get up, and Ten has had to do EVERYTHING.

I am now going to watch some TV, and if that doesn’t work I will find some radio.

Today is canceled.

A Day Out with My Brain

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To the trains!

Today was a most intrepid day. I had Bowen lady followed by a neurology appointment.

to the trains!

Ten came with me, because, you know, traveling. The first half of the day was easy enough, but by the time we’d done it all I needed serious supervision to get home.

I’d wondered what he was going to do for the hour I was having the Bowen treatment, but I needn’t have worried, he’d already hooked himself up for a hang out. Turns out he has a friend who runs an arty bookshop just round the corner. We were a bit early so I got to meet her. She was very nice and advised me about selling my signed Damien Hirst book, which might be worth a bob or two.

I’d thought we should eat in Bethnal Green, but I felt too nervous, and wanted to be as near the hospital as possible in case of EVENTS and being late and everything. I am hardly ever late for anything. I get too nervous. Then I am stupidly early and have to hang around.

So it was a happy thing that Ten remembered the cafe at the Mary Ward Centre, where I taught once upon a time, so we went there because it couldn’t really be nearer the hospital without sitting in it’s lap.

***

This hospital is the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery so you’d think all the doctors there would be pretty fancy. But no! It turns out my doctor was “only” a neurologist, and I would have to go to the extra super fancy Headache Clinic there to get the botox, but get it I very well may – ON THE NHS  no less. And at £600 every three months to get it privately  it’s rather worth the wait to get it free. Eight months waiting list to see them, she reckoned. But she also told me some useful stuff to do in the meantime which would mean I wouldn’t have to mess around having more appointments than strictly necessary before getting the good stuff (assuming they see fit to give it me).

Whereas our good friend Giles Elrington at the National Migraine Clinic (very worth the name drop as it turns out) will give you botox, if he sees fit, whatever drugs you are taking, this clinic want you to be off as much as possible, and will even have you in to get you off your drugs, so assiduous are they.

remember giles? he does as he sees fit. you can tell, can’t you?

Now, it has never been suggested that I come off the preventative pain killer I take (naproxen) before, but this is what she says they would want me to do. She also said I should go up on my mood stabilizer – this being a project I had put on hold for the winter because every time I go up a dose I have at least a week of ricochet headaches before it settles down, possibly because it has an effect on hormones, so these may be ‘period migraines’ of sorts.

See, the migraine clinic is a private charity – hence the cost, and also hence I could get the botox treatment before it was available on the NHS in London. So what I am thinking is that if i get Dr Elrington to hit me up with the good shit for one more time then I can a) feel a bit better at a time of the year when I traditionally start going on the skids pain wise, and b) get a kick start on the drug withdrawl.

I have done drug withdrawl many times, and I do know not to go cold turkey, but even so, it’s a hard thing to do when not all your pain is rebound pain. Because, dur, you are going to have ALL THE PAIN and it will be bad and it will continue. So having something to leven that with will be most welcome and certainly worth £600.

***
Addendum

Just as an aside, really, I have to tell you I was super nervous about seeing the neuro. Doctors have a lot of power, and I’d never met her before, so I was worried about that, and also because my brain isn’t what it might be, and because I have had this for so very long, I certainly can’t remember all the drugs I have tried. Anyway it was all fine, she was kind. And impressed with my name dropping (thanks, Giles, for being so very name droppable).

As we approached the hospital I started feeling a little hysterical. I started wanting to shout “TAKE MY BRAIN OUT!”

When we got to reception there was a man working there with a huge bulging forehead.

einstein’s brain. thank goodness someone had the foresight to steal it! (click through for more einstein’s brain goodness)

I found myself having a kind of tourettish urge to shout about his massive frontal lobe. My internal head shouting continued after that at various intervals (I never gave in to it – I have SUCH restraint) up to and including when the neuro lady said that under some circumstance or other I would have “less” headaches.

Gentle reader, it took all my strength not to shout “FEWER”.

Tears and Anger, Cancer, Pinkification, and Death

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Thursday, November 22, 2012
When was the last time that you cried?  Why?

I don’t cry often. This is not because I am a hard hearted shell of a person, but for a very good practical reason – if I cry more than a couple of sneaky tears then I will get a three day medication resistant migraine. Such a migraine is worth remaining dry eyed about. This means that I don’t cry if I feel sorry for myself if I can possibly help it, and I only allow those tiny sneaky tears to slither out if a film, for instance has been very moving.

The last time I cried real tears was, however, fairly recently. For some reason an entire bunch of friends and friends of friends have died this year. I still delude myself that I am quite young most of the time, but maybe 50 is an age where these things accelerate? I don’t know. Maybe it was coincidence.

Whatever it was this wasn’t the first, but, for me, it was the worst. Not only was this person a close friend for a couple of decades, but, quite horribly, she had fallen out with me and we hadn’t spoken in a few years.

It was news to me, then, that she’d spent the past year living and dying with cancer.

Social media has it’s place in mourning. The death earlier this year of Tutu Tedder was metabolized by many of us through Facebook – we shared stories, we consoled each other. Then again, we had known she was dying for a fair while, and we also knew that she wanted to share her cause – against the ‘pinkification’ of cancer with as wide an audience as possible, so she died something of a public figure. Her girlfriend has chosen not to delete the account, so I periodically get suggestions from Words With Friends that I could ask her to play with me. Wouldn’t that be sweet?

tutu pictured on a ‘cancer sucks’ t shirt. click through the image to find out more

This was different, though. My friend had fallen out with me BF - before Facebook, so I wasn’t friended by default to her (I am nominally friends with a few people who it would be awkward to actually talk to, but I’m guessing you know how things are on there, it’s entirely possible to ignore someone or be ignored for indefinite periods of time).

I’d been up in Norfolk with an ex of hers, and I hadn’t even been online yet – I’d just got home and was communing with Poppet and faffing around. My friend called me in tears and told me the news – she’d read it on Facebook. Over the next few days I heard similar stories from people who, like me, didn’t know she was seriously ill, but who were friended to her and kept seeing odd things posted to her wall… with the growing realization that these things were not bad taste jokes but references to her death.

And almost immediately it was her funeral. Her family had come over and it had been arranged for the coming friday. It was going to be a trek, so Ten came with me, basically because I need shepherding – I get very tired and can’t manage travel alone. Along the road we met up with my best friend (I get to call her that, because we were best friends from school – I am not one of those creepy adults who go around best friending people willy nilly). We were a bit late, so we went straight in. Because we were late, and the place was crowded out, my friend and I were shown  up to a balcony floor. Not having seats we went down to the  front and crouched down. We held hands and little tears slid down our cheeks. When her sister spoke it was pretty unbearable.

But then the clincher. A mutual friend who is basically an emotion conductor crept down behind us and put her arms round us and she was BAWLING. This did not bode well for my stoicism.

You’ll have noticed that I am not naming names. First of all, there was the issue of the falling out, and second of all, while Tutu wanted people to know about her struggle and death it is evident from her behaviour that my other friend did not. I cannot know what she thought of ‘pinkification’ since I didn’t have the opportunity to see her before she died.

The sickly pink ‘awareness’ campaigns do not, however, save lives. By coincidence another friend of mine wrote a piece recently as a guest blog entitled Light the Pink Touchpaper and Stand Well Back. In the post @louisebolotin gives voice to a number of us who are fed up with being told that awareness involves wearing pink crap and equates to great strides in cancer cure. It doesn’t and it doesn’t.

I was sad to lose a friend who might never have spoken to me again in her life were she to have lived. She was an asset to this world. She  was a bright spark and a wit and a super intelligent. And I am angry on behalf of everyone who went through both of these women’s horrible terminal year with them.

No amount of ribbons or bunnies make up for their loss.

Reading and Writing, a Stylish Granddad, and My Slow Day

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Where is your favourite place to read?

On a sun lounger.

photograph by martin parr – source magnum photos. click through to see more

At home I listen to audio books mostly, and radio plays, but on holiday I read. I deliberately minimize contact with the interwebs when I go away so that I have a complete change of scenery including screen time and the sorts of things I  read here. I listen to audio books then too, but on holiday I will actually read print on paper & with my eyes.

Up until recently my eyes hurt a lot and I have had trouble concentrating, so with one thing and another I avoided reading anything long. A change of medication seems to have helped the eye problem a fair bit, but I haven’t got back into the habit of reading books at home. Too much internet to tidy up. With limited spoons I have to prioritize dog, food, self care, housework, paperwork and then blogging and being online for fun, and lately a little painting, so books don’t really get a look in.

I am not a professional writer, but I do write most days, so  I love articles like this one from Brain Pickings.

click through for margaret atwood’s 10 rules of writing

***

So, this is refreshing;

click through to the article on jezebel

It’s a Chinese man modeling his granddaughter’s clothing line.

***

Considering today is the day I *might* be taking on Watson we are having a very slow day indeed. When I took Poppet out this morning she was unimpressed by the rainy weather and preferred to snoof around the estate after bread left for foxes or birds, cats hiding under cars, and her other ‘urban’ interests. We got back and I toweled her off, and she’s spent the past few hours under a blanket. Meanwhile, I have been trying to manage my pain without taking pain killers, and am still not really dressed…

The sitting room needs tidying if it is going to be new dog proof. Problem is that although I moved here over a year ago, things do not have proper places to go yet, and it’s all still a bit experimental, so there is always an excess of things. I spent the previous couple of years steadily de-cluttering in my old place, so it could all be a lot worse. Still, with limited spoons…

Right! I’m off to feed myself and the beast and do my best at tidying.

Wish me luck!