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.
We were nearly late for the appointment. Couldn’t find anywhere to park. The only spaces near the hospital were for wheelchair users – don’t you think they could be further away? After all – they’ve got wheels.
So, the professor got me to walk up and down a bit and prodded me and said ‘yes, that’s Parkinson’s.’ My wife said ‘how can you tell just from that?’ The professor said ‘well, there are other signs too. Your handwriting has got very small, for one thing. And your facial muscles seem a bit frozen – you seem to be finding it difficult to smile.’ ‘Well, that could be,’ I said, ‘because you’ve just told me I’ve got Parkinson’s.’
“Now, we need to make sure that all the points have contact with your skull. If you look at the screen, you’ll see that most points are showing red at the moment.”
I look at the screen and indeed, on the diagram which represents my skull, there are many, many red spots – a positive plague of red spots.
“Now, when the points have sufficient contact, they go green. So I’m going to manipulate the points until they have contact. It is not painful – a bit like having your head massaged.” And off he goes.
“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 Mrs Jellywoman, isn’t it?”
I am at the gym (thanks for all the helpful hints – so far, so good), face to face with a jolly woman, probably in her mid-sixties. Though she might be ninety-eight but really, really benefiting from regular work-outs. She does look familiar but I can’t quite place her. I’m vaguely thinking Jacob’s nan; Jacob, whose suggestion for a word containing the ‘ee’ sound was “weed – like what you smoke.” Maybe, maybe not…
“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.
“If you wouldn’t mind filling in these while I prepare the injection – sorry, I know there’s some duplication, but that’s the NHS for you.”
We have the world’s loveliest pharmacist. He’s a great listener, great professional and bedrock for the community. When I walked into his shop for my first lot of Parkinson’s meds and promptly burst into tears, he was kindness personified. Plus he listens to Radio Four and can converse intelligently about The Archers. So I will fill in any amount of forms while he prepares my flu jab.
I wasn’t put to the piano as a child. Refused the offer of lessons, apparently: as good a reason as any to invent time travel. But I’d really like to be able to play and, to quote Bro-In-Law – a man of infinite resource and sagacity – when someone asked him why he’d just taken up learning Gypsy Jazz Guitar, “I decided not to wait until I was younger.”
I did sort of start learning about twenty years ago but, what with teaching full-time and having two children, practice never seemed to reach the top of the To-Do list. So the enterprise was shelved, pending retirement. Which is Now.