Sunday, 15 April 2012

Pills, Horses and Tories

As previously mentioned here, I suffer from clinical depression. Due to an unfortunate oversight involving moving doctors, my health has slipped since New Year, so my new doctor put me back on anti-depressants at the start of March. The longest period I was on pills before, from January 2007 to January 2008, I found myself unable to write at all, so I do as much as I can now to nip that in the bud. After all, I may need to spend much time on pills, when we find one that works for me, and them preventing the flow of words is as bad as a writer just waiting for the Muse to show up, I guess.

This is the fourth set of pills I've been on. Fluxotine I was on for that year. It held back all emotions, but didn't really help with the depression, and so was a double blow when my grandfather died in the middle of that year. Citalopram, which we tried in 2009, produced a one million to one reaction with me of making my asthma worse. And Trazodone was just weird.

So now, we are on Mirtazipine. Have been for a month. Sideaffects? A permanent headache which moves between annoying and preventing anything else happening. Prolonged periods of IBS. A tightening of the chest, involuntary muscle twitches, an overfast heart beat, and, as of this morning, prolonged bouts of vomiting. Worst of all, I was warned the pills may cause drowsiness. I take one at 11pm, it eventually KOs me, and I don't wake up till well into the next afternoon, at which point I am still knackered and unfunctioning till near enough time to take the next one. (Yes, this is being written at 10am. I am making the most of the special circumstances of being up most of the night sick, by indulging in the great writers pastime of whinging.)

I'm not sure I like these pills. But we shall see how the Doctor thinks of them, when we go to see him this week.

This did however lead to the shortest health related Job Centre meeting of all time. You get these every so many months automatically, the Job Centre like to just make sure you are ok. Well, they do with me, I know with other folk its a bureaucratic nightmare, but with me, they take one look at me and decide being nasty would be like kicking a three legged puppy, in a sling. The advisor took one look at me and decided I was nowhere near ready for work. The same advisor had pushed Mandy to apply for DLA on my behalf back in August, I was sceptical as to the success of that then, yet now we get a little bit extra, given Mandy has to double as her husband's carer for things he can't quite do.

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Before heavier stuff, a quick plug for Winterwind.

They have a site here, the first part of my acclaimed look into the supernatural is here, the interview with Duncan Lunan is here and the forum you can give feedback on all of this and much is here.


I remember watching Miklós Fehér die on live television. He was a Benfica substitute, and had just provided a crisp pass for Aguiar's goal against Guimaraes. Then, he leant forwards, before slumping backwards onto the pitch. He died soon after. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the same thing which saw off Leonard Rossiter, Mark Vivien Foe, and countless young athletes.

In recent times we saw the horrific incident at White Hart Lane when Fabrice Muamba collapsed. Thankfully, despite the situation looking dire, he seems to be on the mend, though like Clive Clarke I have doubts he will ever play football. But the sport is a mere triffle when a young life was at stake. Yesterday, during a Serie B match in Italy, Piermario Morisini collapsed on the pitch and died. It is not an uncommon phenomena. Even in the decade before Foe brought it crashing into peoples homes live at the Confederations Cup, over twenty young footballers died, either on the pitch or during training. Motherwell lost their captain, Phil O'Donnell. Spain lost two fine stars in Daniel Jarque and Antonio Puerta. 

What causes it? Looking back over the history of the horrid thing, you find examples dating back to the 1950s, and the fear is that it always has been, just now, with football more of a worldwide phenomena than it once was, all the cases are in the spotlight. There doesn't even seem to be a connection between over training or too many matches: Japan international Naoki Matsuda collapsed and died after a 15 minute warmup.

What can we do about it? Well, many of these deaths seem to occur from the hypertrophic C mentioned aboved. This effects 2 in 1000 people, so a number of sports people having it is not surprising. A routine medical, as is frequently carried out by sports teams, will catch 3% of these health issues on the spot. An echiocardiograph can detect over 80%. It wouldn't stop all tragedies, nothing is full proof, but it could stop the vast many. Whatever the (many valid) criticisms of the WWE's wrestling medical programme are, it detected irregular heart problems in one of their wrestlers, MVP, and managed to get it fixed. In Italy, there has been a substantial decrease in such deaths since regimented echiocardiographs were implimented for suspect athletes. It feels churlish to mention Italy so soon after tragedy, but it also shows how some will fall through the gaps. An 89% success rate leaves 11% for tragedies, nothing is fool proof. These medical tests are prohibitively expensive, but then, no medical cost is worth more than a life. If FIFA screens all participating footballers in their World Cup in this manner before a ball is kicked, then there is no excuse for extending it to all sports. Andy Murray recently called for regular heart screening in all sports. I heartily agree with him.

But with mention of the Rossiter example, I would hope that in the near future frequent checks could be as vital and as common as smear tests and cancer screenings. 

It's all about making sport safer. I saw a lot of people yelling at thin air earlier when the Grand National was on. It lead to the deaths of two horses, one of which was a name horse. Will that lead to a safer sport? I well remember the furore and tears when that wonderful horse Best Mate seized up and collapsed of heart failure during a race. I wouldn't hold my breath. Like motor racing before it, calls to improve the safety of the sport come in like trickles before a deluge, yet during the trickles Jackie Stewart was considered a coward by the sporting press for demanding safety changes. Jim Clark was regarded as the safest driver in Formula One, yet died due to unsafe conditions. The parallels between the sport of kings and sport of drivers may be a tenuous one, but the unsavoury side show of racing threatens to consume it as much as the fire and blood threatened to consume motor racing. 

I have no solutions on how to make all sports, involving animals or human, contact or simulated, safer. Inklings but no more. But I am just a humble writer on his laptop. It's not my position to make the games safer. The mantel is on the head of the various sporting bodies to act firmly and humanely.

It is in my cynical nature to believe they'd rather count their shillings.

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Over the years I have said many nice things about the SNP. Our friend, Shim, has reminded me of many stirring pro-independence speeches I made at university, when I was younger and my philosophies less thought out. Yet, with complimentary terms must come criticism, and the recent slide into petty party politics is one they need to watch. I am aware the Scottish Labour party do the same, but there is no need to slide to their standards. As Neil Kinnock might have said:

I'll tell you what happens with impossible promises. You start with far-fetched resolutions. They are then pickled into a rigid dogma, a code, and you go through the years sticking to that, out-dated, misplaced, irrelevant to the real needs, and you end in the grotesque chaos of a Labour opposition – a Labour opposition! – announcing its opposition to universal health care, all the while wondering why that sound of men turning is coming from graveyards in all the Red parts of the country.

I am aware I have a low opinion of Kinnock, but why not misquote him when you can. The trouble the SNP had was making trying to make political capital of Bradford West, and George "The Cat" Galloways return to parliament. The SNP know what it is like to have a person deemed non gratis becoming a troublesome independent. Lets hope the people of Bradford West dont suffer as much neglect as the people of Bethnal Green did for five years. 

It was special circumstances, though. Lets not chalk up Bradford West to the end of the Labour party. A popular demagogue stepped in. The SNP using that as a country wide issue is to, as Sunny Hundal aptly pointed out, make the same mistake Ken Livingstone has in London: to take a local issue and use it as a referendum on national. In London, it will cost Ken "Less Popular Than The Labour Party" Livingstone, a man seemingly still living in the 80s as much as the Thatcherites. As for Boris Johnson, a man whose polling is TWENTY ONE points above his own party, well, a loss to him is like a loss to George. Special circumstances.

And those special circumstances may come back to haunt the Tories: Boris has been spoken off as a potential Tory leader, so his popularity in London at the expense of the Cameron government may cause one or two heart tremors. 

In France, Francoise Holland may have the touch of humour, and his politics of hope may sweep away Sarkozy's chances of a second time. And how nice to see Melanchon threatening to overtake Le Pen. Even with the Left breaching as this. Will the Left never learn? Too often we are same page, wrong paragraph. Then we watch people in different books co-operate on the other side.

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In Memoriam

Norman St-John Stevas, Tory MP
Doug Furnas, pro-wrestler
Ralph McQuarrie, conceptual designer (Star Wars)
Leonard Cimino, actor.
Dave Charnley, boxer.
Robert B Sherman, songwriter
Philip Madoc, actor
Frank Rowland, Nobel Chemistry laureate 1995
Censu Tabone, President of Malta
Margaret Whitlam, activist, Australian first lady.
Jocky Wilson, darts player
Bert Sugar, boxing historian
Tony Newton, MP
Adrienne Rich, poet
John Arden, playwright.
Earl Scruggs, blues musician.
Phil Jenkinson, BBC presenter.
Robert Fuest, director.

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One aging BBC presenter isn't fond of immigrants or the EU. A pair of lovable TV icons helped blacklist ordinary workers for fear of Socialist uprising. One 60s TV star (in specific) was homophobic. I don't even name names, though it is out there, and some don't even shirk from their nature.

So what do we make of it? Is it possible to enjoy a show fronted by someone whose personal views are abhorrent to you? Well, in a word, certainly. 

Let's take a named example, often pilloried now he can't fight back, given that he is forty years dead. William Hartnell. Was he in actual fact a horrid old racist? I can't say. I learnt long ago never to trust anecdotal evidence. Most of it is tit for tat: for every element of unsavouryness, there is a corresponding tale to shoot it down, and vice versa. My suspicions are that he was a man of his time, but was able to put aside personal feelings for his job. (He can't have failed to notice the gay subtext to the character he played in This Sporting Life, yet plays it with aplomb. The rumours of his refusal to act alongside Max Adrian for homophobic reasons stems from Hainings Celebration: the two actors had performed together before, the scripts were not rewritten, and any tension on the set of The Myth Makers came from acting tensions other than nastier reasons, coupled with Hartnell's growing tetchiness due to recent family bereavement and the beginning effects of his horrible illness.) Even if he were a "horrid old racist", the role he was proudest of was of the great fighter for equality and injustice.

So same with the aging BBC presenter. His enthusiasm for his subject boils over, and makes him a national treasure in that regard. That he has personal views of a distasteful nature are neither here nor there. We must seperate the private man from the one on the box. Else, with more and more information coming out about the people we watch, and not all of it enjoyable, then when does it stop?

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