Breast Up, Back Down

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In a previous iteration I was pretty active for a non sporty type. Like, I started swimming regularly because there was a laundry at my local pool at St George’s. A large load bought me a 40 minute swim. I don’t hate laundrettes, in fact, when I was a kid my mum was friends with the lady who worked at the laundrette and I got to see backstage, which I found entrancing. I pretty much love the back stage of any kind of an operation, and perhaps my love of it started there, in the dusty and oily back end of banks of driers.

Anyway, despite my lack of hatred, if there is a swimming pool actually attached to a laundry it would seem churlish to ignore it. So I swam there regularly. It’s a 33.3 meter pool, and I know I started off at 8 lengths. So that was 266.6 meters. The amount of lengths shot up over what turned out to be quite a short time before I bought my first washing machine and turned to my next fad, weight training.

Now I’m back in the pool. Not that pool, and neither the pool of life, but the pool of Ironmonger Row. Knowing I’d benefit from monitoring my progress I looked up the pool length and have been keeping a note of my progress. It’s a 25 meter pool, but I’ve had three nominal total body replacements since then, all those cells ageing and mainly on the wane. I’ve gone up two dress sizes and now have a much less active life. My aerobic fitness has plummeted over the past two years and I’m leery of getting fat clothes, but look awful in the stuff I’ve already got, and that’s if I can get any of it on. In reality I can theoretically wear about a fifth of my wardrobe, and that’s mostly socks.

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I actually moved house deliberately to be spitting distance to a pool, but it has taken me a few weeks to get around to actually swimming. First off, I had to get a swimming costume that was realistically big, and then I had to do all the paperwork that is involved in getting a concession sorted out. And then I had to get over myself for having done it a bit wrong and being angry with the man who gave me the hard sell for the membership option.

A smart smack to the head with a misdirected ball thrown in the park gave me the perfect excuse. Ok, it smarted, but it wasn’t that, it was the way the fibro tickled the shock into a nice entrenched neck pain, followed by a fire storm down my shoulders and upper back, and then a few hours later my lower back and a kind of sciatica thing all the way down to my left foot. Pain killers be damned, this was going to have to be worked off physically, and swimming was just the badger for the job.

I have a fear of new buildings. Not ‘new’ new buildings, just any building I’ve not been in before. So there was an element of loin girding, but however they are laid out at least swimming pools generally have an internal logic which can be tentatively predictable. I wore the swimmie under my clothes and packed all the things I needed, managed to get into the changing room without having a nervous breakdown and stripped off and had an acclimatising shower. The interior of Ironmonger Row has been recently refurbished and is reassuringly posh. There were steps to get in to the pool so I didn’t have to out myself as a less able bodied type of a person, and the water was acceptably warm, so none of the embarrassment of spasming and drowning, then. Good.

All I had to do now was swim. I have to be really careful about triggering migraines and other fibro related aches and pains which can go on, like the ball thing, to tell epic tales in my body, so I reckoned on 15-20 minutes. I counted my lengths. First go round I did 50 meters, rested for five minutes, did another 50, rested, did another 50 then called it a day. I did that two days in a row, rested a day and then did 100/100/100 LIKE A DAMN BOSS!

Even when I was nominally well I had a problem with headaches, so I had a physiological strategy – breast up, back down, thus saving my neck from undue strain. This strategy is good when everyone is lane swimming PROPERLY but not everyone does, and going backwards into gaggles of chatting people is a drag, but everyone was civilised and the pool wasn’t overpopulated. I could relax. I could relax and trust life.

Over the course of my previous swimming patch I’d noticed a tendency to think while swimming, and a sense of not having refreshed my brain the way I’d refreshed my body, so, it being the days of the Louise Hay and other ‘gurus’ I decided to do affirmations. “I relax and trust life, money comes easily to me” scanned for the breast stroke, and I can’t remember what I did for back. Now I just count. Not all the time, but 10 years or so of meditation means I really don’t have to sweat ‘just swimming’ but after the first go round I noticed that it was third bunting, hoist, steps, end of pool, which was just over 8 strokes of backstroke the speed I was swimming at, so bunting 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 flip, stop.

As long as the alternative is drowning, swimming lends itself well to an approximation of a meditative state. Swimming is neither eternalistic by nature nor nihilistic. It is radically embodied and totally existential.

When I was at school you always had to really hurry to get dressed after swimming. I really hated it. Claggy clothes and hair clinging coldly to skin, all to rush to a lesson I doubtless had no interest in anyway, and under the apparently watchful eye of our resident pervy gym teacher.

Now I am an adult and no one is the boss of me. I take my time washing and drying, resting and mindfully taking the next thing I need out of the locker and ultimately packing everything away in a sane methodical style. The building mirrors my own carefulness back to me – here is even a bank of five hair driers awaiting use in the most civilised manner just before the exit.

A couple of days later and I dial it back to 200 meters in total.

I’m back in the swim.

Eye Eye!

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Forgive me, readers, it has been some time since my last confession. If you are friended to me on the face book you will know that I have been moving house and beetling up and down to Brighton, to boot. And that I have had horrible deprivations on the broadband front. I’m still tethering, here, so bear with.

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I’ve moved to Old Street, just round the back of the eye hospital.

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And just round the corner from the Ironmonger Row swimming baths. I haven’t gone yet, but I’ve taken the precaution of buying a voluminous swimming costume so as not to frighten people.

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This isn’t really the East End as such, but it is safely back in the warm embrace of Arsenal. Even though I don’t give a rat’s ass for the footie, it was still odd being in the realm of Spurs. Why should it matter? It doesn’t. It doesn’t matter.

Still.

Even so.

So I decided that I was going to style myself as being ‘in the eye of the storm’ being the still point that I am, and living round the corner from the eye hospital and it’s lovely bonkers clock, and on my way to photograph it I saw this monster of a building.

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I wouldn’t mind, apart from the general fright it gave me, but it turns out this is the children’s eye hospital! A whole façade dedicated to the sort of thing that could put your eye out. THE TRAUMA. And it isn’t even right next to a psych wing.

This deserves a lot more time than I’ve got right now. Because YOU KNOW HOW BUSY I AM! Anyway, I’m not busy, but I am knackered, so. As you might imagine a few people took photos at End Of. and this is a snippet of Alison Moyet!

Alison. Moyet. YO!

Good Morning, Sunshine!

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Apparently this has been the wettest winter in 200 years. I’ve certainly been migraining more or less solidly since the August Bank Holiday, and the past couple of days of sunshine have been a welcome respite.

When I surface I take a look around at what is going on and hope to God there’s nothing I need to have done, need to be doing, should have done, ought to have done…

Yesterday I did a bit of paperwork. Not very exciting, but also, pleasingly, nothing too terrifying came to light.

In homing pigeon news, you may remember I’ve been trying to swap flats for the past several months. I fancied a move to Brighton, but it is so hard to get a bite. I tried to juggle a three way swap or two, but it really wasn’t happening, so I’ve gone back to my roots (or, you know, one of my roots) with a swap to Old St.

Home again, home again… jiggity jig.

As they say in Blade Runner.

It’s good because the location has a precise set of qualities. It’s not in the crazy of Hoxton etc, but it is walking distance to it, it’s central, but being just north of City, also quiet, and AND and it’s about 100 yards to the nearest swimming pool, the famous, and infamous, Ironmonger Row baths.

It is not an utter done deal, but both my swapee and I have filled in our respective forms and handed them in to our local authorities. Now we have to wait. They will want to come round and inspect, but there’s nothing for them to see in either flat, so unless something unforeseen happens, I will be moving early/mid April.

It’s not the same as Brighton, but it’s not a bad second best. And if and when I want to turn around again I will have a good bargaining chip of a flat. I’d have thought the Tottenham Riviera would be a good swap for a person from not London who needs to live in London but doesn’t want to be in it… but it seems that’s not how it works. When people move to London they largely want central.

So be it.

But in the meantime, my plan is to get swimming and lose the astounding TEN KILOS I have put on since moving here. And recover some aerobic fitness. Aerobic fitness is kind of shit value because you have to keep it up, but living five floors up without a lift ought to do that on it’s own, so that’s a bargain right there.

Poppet, of course, won’t have the wonderland of bread to eat – the buffet laid out by the bird feeding public on the towpath – so she should become more svelte as well.

Only thing is, I want to get on with it now. I am itching to start filling boxes.

In Brightlingstone

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“Since we live on an island, and have the sea about us, we cannot want an excellent cold bath”

An excellent cold bath

Do not fear, I have not been out bathing. I have been in bathing, inasmuch as I have bathed, in a bath, but there are those that do, in the sea. All year. No matter the weather. I have met some of them, because a friend of mine made a short documentary about them. But I’ve not seen them this trip.

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I have napped, and walked, and eaten, and watched a couple of films. I am particularly pleased with my pairing of Manhattan and Frances Ha. I hadn’t seen Frances Ha before, so didn’t know exactly how well matched they were, but they are, and I can recommend the juxtaposition.

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On our way down to look at the sea yesterday we spotted this tree.

Blending and toning

Here is a closer look.

Monochrome. Classy

On the way back we saw that there were two others, both colour themed.

Blues

Orangery

It’s kind of hard to tell whether this is a grafitti, public art, or community art. Whatevs. There it is.

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So, and lastly, I’ve made you a little tumblr elaine4queen.tumblr.com/day/2013/12/28

30 Things Meme – Invisible Illness Week (Small Life)

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It’s coming up to Invisible Illness Week so here’s my response to the 30 things questionnaire you just clicked through to (well, if you didn’t it’s there anyway, just like the tree that fell in the forest).

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1. The illness I live with is: fibromyalgia and chronic migraine. Some say chicken, some say egg, either way, it’s bodily pain, exhaustion, insomnia, anxiety and severe headaches, lots and lots of headaches.

2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: Not sure. about 8 years ago. Never sure about dates and things. I am supposed to keep a record of all sorts of things, but in reality I am too ill to manage that sort of paperwork.

3. But I had symptoms since: Probably birth. Colic is now seen as a precursor of and a kind of migraine, ‘growing pains’ are now seen as a sign of fibromyalgia. I also suffered headaches as a kid, was put to bed with an asprin and dismissed as ‘attention seeking’. If pain really got you attention, I think I’d have noticed by now, and from my pre-crash experience (about 10 years ago now) I know that there are better and more effective ways to get noticed.

4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: Having very few choices about anything – from what to eat to where I can go or what I can wear or who I can spend time with. At the moment I am struggling with the fact that I can’t, and haven’t been able to for some time, decorate my home or even put pictures up.

5. Most people assume: I’m ok, I suppose. And that nothing they can do can help and that whatever I am doing is what I want to be doing, and however I have things or do things is how I want them. I remember a visitor being surprised at how few pictures I had up. Rather than ask me why, as a formerly active visual artist and someone who has a huge collection of images in frames, I might not have them on walls, she regaled me with tales of her own decor preferences and activities.

6. The hardest part about mornings are: Mornings are the best time of the day for me but I know that all the spoons will be used up by the time I have eaten and bathed, and if I do do something, go to an appointment, do a task, then I will be paying not just the rest of that day but for several days hence. So I suppose the hardest thing about mornings is knowing that even if I feel okay for a little while it won’t be for long, and I have to get through the day somehow  – and having done so I won’t be any further forward with anything.

7. My favorite medical TV show is: None. I don’t like medical shows. People may think that I am interested in ailments, I’m not. I like murders and comedies.

8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: My heated blanket.

9. The hardest part about nights are: That if I am awake I will be in pain, and that the night will feel even more endless than the day.

10. Each day I take _approx 10 pills & vitamins. (No comments, please)

11. Regarding alternative treatments I: have tried a lot of things. I always listen when people tell me about treatments, because sometimes there might be something that actually helps, but mostly I just feel even more misunderstood and isolated – going to appointments of any sort involves travel and probably being extra ill for several days afterwards, and alternative treatments are costly too, so unless you are going to drive me to the appointment every week and pay for it too, then probably save your breath.

12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose: Visible. I’d like to have Stigmata, something nice and visual. I used to get nose bleeds a lot, and the level of sympathy was off the scale – DUDES!  Nosebleeds don’t actually hurt!

13. Regarding working and career: I miss working, and I miss financial independence. I miss creating something in the world. I miss the social contact. I miss being an expert at something. I miss having a vocation, an actual reason to get out of bed in the morning.

14. People would be surprised to know: How angry and upset I get – I feel I daren’t express myself a lot of the time, I have few enough friends as it is without alienating them. I know it’s not anyone’s fault that I am unwell, but I do feel like I have to be on my best behaviour all the time – I even try to be bright and breezy on the internet for fear of bumming people out. I only write as much misery as I dare, but I feel much more. And that sense of having to be well behaved is a bit of a burden. Sometimes I do write ‘I feel crap’ on facebook, and I love it that people ‘like’ or say ‘aw’ – it’s amazing how much that helps.

15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: How little it really matters, and how little there is I can do about it.

16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: be of any use to anyone else ever. I love it when I can help someone with something. Especially when it involves something I know or am good at and can still do (not much, admittedly).

17. The commercials about my illness: don’t exist in the UK, thankfully.  I remember saying to a psychiatrist ‘will I be able to do that yoga pose if I take that drug’ – the ad was on the side of a tissue box. What rot. I imagine drug commercials are a lot like sanitary products ads, full of people who are busy doing cartwheels on the beach. I’m glad I am spared seeing them. Mind you, the anger might be quite aerobic.

18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: Making plans that have any chance of coming to fruition.

19. It was really hard to have to give up: yoga.

20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: blogging. It can be done from bed, it can be any length, and it needn’t be done at all. No one is let down if I don’t blog for weeks. It doesn’t take materials or much in the way of physical action, all I have to be well enough for to do it is to handle the screen time and string a sentence together, and even then I don’t have to do it all at once.

21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: go swimming.

22. My illness has taught me: compassion.

23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: “Why don’t you get a taxi?” I have never been a big fan of taxi rides, the converations are tiring, and even being in a car in silence with someone I don’t know is tiring. They are too expensive, and they WILL give me travel sickness. If I am not going somewhere because it’s ‘too far’ I’ve already weighed up the logistics.

24. But I love it when people: find a way to include me.

25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: There isn’t one. No platitude from any quarter can help. Ten and Poppet and the internet people, they help, but sayings and quotes just piss me off.

26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: you are entitled to your feelings.  

27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: “I never imagined that so many days would ultimately  make such a small life.”
— Franz Kafka, from “Diaries”

28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: Be there. Also, it’s helpful when someone offers me something specific – when you are in pain and maybe your brain isn’t functioning the last thing you want to do is guess what someone is prepared to do for you. Ask “Do you want a cheese sandwich” not “Is there anything I can do for you?” because there is, but I’ll be damned if I can think what it might be, right now even if I am lying here starving.

29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: Honestly, if I don’t do it no one else is going to do it for me. I am constantly supporting causes, even if it’s only ‘clicktivism’. What is horrible is that even high profile illnesses and disabilities don’t get the kind of support or research they need. Watching Pink Ribbon Inc shows how big companies and individuals spend so much money and effort fundraising without actually helping anyone. 

If a cause like that fails so resolutely, what chance is there for mine?

30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: perhaps all is not lost. If you did get this far, thank you so much for caring to. I feel like I should apologize for having wasted ten minutes of your time. If you did make it this far, here’s a little tumblr for your trouble – THANK YOU! elaine4queen.tumblr.com/day/2013/8/25

 

Holiday Snaps

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The photos to complement previous posts When in Spain and Work, Rest, and Play

everything was labelled. when she ran out of these she simply used biro.

because you will never be able to work out how to use a light switch for yourself.

wheat and olives in the bathrooms. wrong.

flowers like opal fruits!

walter hottle bottle came along for the ride.

pool. looks nice, but took me an hour to get in it was so cold.

coffee on the beach. like a boss.

not everything was derisible. the garden was well planted and there were lots of pretty succlents.

garlic so fercund that it even had an extra ring around the garlic of more garlic.

view from the balcony. it was pretty nice. though you could see benidorm from the beach, which was terrifying.

one of only two pieces of graffiti in el portet.

no domestic animals. perhaps bring your cows?

sorry graf.

Write Off Days

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Today is a bit of a write off. I mean, a lot of my days are more or less writes offs, but today I was envisitated (new word, thankyouverymuch, I expect to be invited to be in the OED within weeks) by a couple of chaps keen to paint one of my cupboards against mould. It’s migraine weather anyway here in the UK, with heavy cloud, and extra points scored by house paint means that I headed for my triptans PDQ.

gratuitous picture of poppet eviscerating a plushie

When I first got the Botox injections a few weeks ago I didn’t get much respite because of a long standing neck pain. Once they started tailing off, though, I started my GRAND PLAN of coming off as much medication as humanly possible. Last summer my plan was to just enjoy being pain free (or more or less anyway) for the summer, but this time round it’s all about becoming as strong as possible before the next change of seasons. The botox should allow me to do more stuff without having to take triptans, so when I go on holiday in a coupla weeks I will be swimming every day for a kick off.

The grand plan is all about getting as well as possible on as few drugs as possible. I can’t know if the PhD proposal was successful, but if it was then I need to be well enough to read, think, write, and travel. To do this I think I might try to spend some of the winter abroad, but obvs I can only do that if I get the grant freeing me from UK soil. I know they want the person to start in July, so nowhere near enough time for grant applications, but I might be able to make that work for me by starting off being part time. Given that so few people manage a PhD within 3 years, that can’t be the worst idea, and they can’t expect me to go full time if I don’t get the money to do that.

There are other things too… This flat is kind of tight. I love it here, but I am looking at two bedroom flats to swap with because I’d really like a separate place to work. I know a lot of it will be me looking at books and me looking at a laptop, but I work in a different way when I am writing than most people do. I don’t think linearly and like to print out and look at what I am doing on the floor or on a wall, cut it up, move it around, physically and this takes time and space. I need to be able to go away from it and come back to it, and I don’t want to live with it all the time either. This might not be an issue straight away, but I have started looking anyway. I am also considering modifications of the flat I am already in… after all, it costs a bloody fortune to move if you are not ‘able’ and if you own more than just clothes and books. However, for the right space and location I’d move again for sure.

If I don’t get this PhD I might apply for another. I didn’t set out to apply for one, but if I am well enough to do this kind of a thing, or at least to start it, then I probably should, given the state of the nation… it’s not a great time to be on benefits if there’s an option – and a 9 – 5 certainly isn’t on the cards for me even with Botox.

So there you have it. Nearly finished watching Prison Break, which is all I am up to most of today. Thank goodness for telly.