This time, we said, we are definitely going to take Considerably Smaller Suitcases.
Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been planning our second Grand Tour. Autumn come she will and we’ll be hopping on and off trains with gay abandon, clutching our trusty Interrail Passes and Considerably Smaller Suitcases.
What with Manchester and London Bridge and elections, I’ve been tiptoeing around social media of late, in an attempt to avoid the slabs of pure venom which are scattered amid the good stuff. So, it was only this morning that I hit upon a post sharing the shattering news that one of my heroes – Tom Isaacs, president and co-founder of the Cure Parkinson’s Trust – died last week. His passing was, apparently, “unexpected and swift”. He was just forty nine.
“Now, I have to tell you about the possible complications,” says the Good Doctor. “These are incredibly rare: I’ve done many, many lumbar punctures and no-one has ever had a problem but, legally, I still need to tell you.”
“Can I say that I’d rather not know?” I ask.
“I’m afraid not,” the Good Doctor tells me.
“I was taking Entacapone … and it powered up hypersexuality. It was replaced with Tolcapone which fixed the job. I was pleased as I was nearly 60 and really could not be bothered.” (Person on PUK Forum)
Way Back When, I was lucky enough to have the chance to talk with BTMan: the first person I’d met with Parkinson’s who was neither mad nor dead nor both. Those of you who have studied my juvenilia might remember him explaining that some Parkinson’s medications cause, as an unfortunate side-effect, a reduction in impulse control. This can lead to excessive spending or gambling; or to over-eating; or to a greatly increased sex-drive, even in term-time.
“It’s one thing joining a gym – it’s another actually going.” She was a wise bird, our old GP: retired now, alas. Of my pregnancy with the InfantPhenomenon, she said: “a summer baby, how lovely! You’ll be able to sit in pub gardens.” Not my first thought but she had four children so knew whereof she spake.
We are discussing a comprehension paper on ‘Discoveries’, Class Six and I. One of the Gentleman Scientists discussed (and they are all gentleman, alas) was Alexander Graham Bell. I happen to know everything about the telephone, having read a couple of paragraphs on the subject once in a Bill Bryson book. So I share with the class my favourite fact, namely that, until Alexander’s friend Mr Watson invented the telephone bell some years later, the only way to know if someone was telephoning you was to pick up the receiver and check if they were on the other end.
One of the lassies frowns and raises her hand. “Even if it didn’t ring, you’d know someone was calling because the phone would vibrate,” she suggests. There is general agreement, swiftly followed by mild astonishment when I explained that the original phone neither rung nor vibrated. I didn’t break it to them that it didn’t take photos either: humankind cannot bear very much reality.
Snazzy plain blue Mao-style disposable trouser suit on – check.
Cannula thing in left wrist artery for radioactive tracer and splint applied to keep it firmly in position – check.
Thing in vein of right arm for regular taking of blood throughout and tape applied to keep that firmly in position – check.
All paperwork signed; permission given; off to the PET scanner we go, in search of possible brain inflammation. All in the cause of Parkinson’s research.
I clamber clumsily onto the scanner trolley, which is darned tricky on account of not being able to bend either arm. How the Plarchers manage to do all the farming and stuff with non-bendable arms, goodness knows!
Stop there. Your name is not Mary; you are not calling from Microsoft – go and get a proper job. I’m busy. Goodbye.
Stop there, person that is almost certainly not called Peter. At what stage in your life did you decide to become a crook? Suppose it was your grandmother who had picked up this phone and was even now installing your evil malware? Now, I’m very busy – I need to get to the shops – go and rethink your life choices.
Hello. Now that winter’s here…
“I kept this for you,” says Mrs Jones and hands me a leaflet.
Mrs J it was who greeted news of my diagnosis by telling me that she knew several people with Parkinson’s “and they went on some lovely trips.” A rosy prospect, as you can imagine.
I look at the leaflet. ‘Fit for life,’ it’s called, and is illustrated with a photo of elderly people stretching and smiling. I read the back and laugh.
“What?” says Mrs J.
“‘Produced by Age UK’,” I read. “I’m not sure I’m ready for that.”
“And next on the line is Jellywoman. Jellywoman, what was your experience of being diagnosed with Parkinson’s?”
In truth, I have no idea what I said to Nicky Campbell, beyond reassuring him that only about 5% of PD is hereditary: apparently, his mother had it. By the time I was actually speaking live on air, I’d already talked about being diagnosed to the nice young man who’d answered the phone in the first place, and to the nice producer who called me back. Now all three spiels blend together under the general theme of ‘Don’t panic, Mr Mainwaring,’ which is the message I’d needed to hear on diagnosis.