Empire Mark 2!

Empires come and go. Very few go out in a blaze of glory. Sometimes revolution gets rid of them. A few have been wiped out after being on the losing side in a war. Some have just dwindled away.

The British Empire seems to have carved out a place for itself as the empire that is dead but just will not lie down. 70-odd years after it began to fall apart, there are still people living in England (and I suspect it’s only in England) who think they are still living in the Empire, whereas in reality the Empire is hanging on desperately to its last remnants: like the Falklands, Gibraltar and a few specks in distant oceans.

A few folk appear to think the heyday of the British Empire is still with them. I’m thinking of the man who said on TV Britain had managed before the EU and would fine after Brexit, adding ‘After all, we still have the Empire.’ Some, sadly, mistake the Commonwealth for the Empire and think they can issue orders to what are independent nation states. A prime example would be South Africa. Events there are no business of the British but still we show an unhealthy interest. Same with Zimbabwe. Nothing to do with Britain, but somehow the media and politicians just can’t keep away. It came as no surprise to find that some English people – including some politicians – were under the impression that Eire is still part of the British Empire and that citizens of the UK have the right of citizenship there.

I want to say I know a lot of people – not just in England – show lamentable ignorance of the geography of other countries, but even I am surprised at some of the things I hear. On a quiz show, a competitor was asked to name the largest city in Scotland. ‘Clyde?’ she answered. But competitors from outside England are sometimes expected to know the names of stations and lines on the London Underground – and identify palaces and castles all over England.

Strictly speaking, in the eyes of some English people, the only parts of the British Empire left today are Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. People sometimes have a sense of ownership, as if what are in fact two separate countries and a province are somehow the property of the UK state. It’s as if Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are extra counties of England, far from being partners in a union, but actually owe their continued existence to ‘Britain.’ (And they should be grateful). We also know that some English people talk happily about Britain when they in fact mean England.

The Empire, UK state – call it what you like – seems to be very reluctant to let these remaining members of the union go. But the chances are they will have to, as one by one Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales decide to go their own way.

I certainly don’t want to be accused of telling England what to do but I could suggest it’s maybe time England went for independence. It could develop a role for itself in the world that doesn’t rely on being ‘in charge’ of other countries. It could stop – as it claims it does – subsidising Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

It could reduce its spending on nuclear and other weapons, cut the spending on its navy and its army and spend its income on the poor, the sick and the disabled within its own borders – people who have been sorely tested in the last decade by austerity. England could even give some thought to modernising its government, with a constitution, a bill of rights for its people – and a form of parliament that doesn’t depend on first-past-the-post or ‘gongs’ and rewards those who work hard rather than those who are merely well connected.

But all of that is for the citizens of England to decide. Not us in Scotland. We plan to be citizens too of our own country, but being ‘subjects’ is not in our agenda.

It’s back!

It’s a scunner right enough.

I had about 10 weeks when I felt really well and was able to get out and about. You know: do things like a normal person does. Then three weeks ago, I got a ‘bug’, a virus – ach, who knows what it was? I had a high temperature, followed by shivering with the cold, runny nose, a cough. The gut was acting up too for a few days.

Most of the symptoms have gone now but I’m still pretty wiped out. Can’t abide noise, have no concentration (so no TV and reading at a snail’s pace), either sleeping for 14 hours at a time or not sleeping at all (like now). Sore joints. Not hungry. The practice nurse is thrilled: ‘Another 4kgs off!’ she crows. ‘But,’ I say, ‘that’s because I’m no well, CarolAnn!’ As long as I’m hitting one of her targets, she’s not complaining – and at least she’s not offering me an exercise class which I suspect would be the end of me right now.

I’m lucky to have such an understanding flatmate: if I’m in my bed, so is Missy, fast asleep on my legs. If I get up and sit at the computer, she’s right here to keep me company.


For a short time in the autumn I toyed with the idea of giving up my membership of the ME Society. But I think that decision might be premature…

So in the coming week, I’m seeing some of the family and going to Elder Park library for what the Librarian calls a ‘Knitting Tea’. I haven’t knitted for about 30 years, so this could be the start of something big. At least I’ll get a coffee and a mince pie out of it – and the chance to meet some nice people. Other than that, I will be here, as will Missy, gathering my strength for wrapping Christmas presents.

Here’s hoping all of you are okay, despite the gales and the freezing cold.

How is everyone?

It’s a while since I was last on with a bit of chat about my health.

So here I am. Not that I’m ill. Well, not that ill. I’ve had about 10 weeks of normal health. It’s hard to define but getting up at a normal time, having a shower, dressing and going out – even if it’s only to the supermarket or a local cafe – that is okay by me. Lunch out is wonderful. Dinner out – what a treat!

This last week I’ve noticed I’m on a downward slope again: not doing any of the above. Dozing. No concentration, which is a pity because I’ve got a new TV and managed to programme it with loads of good movies. And I’ve noticed an old symptom of CFS: I see something that needs to be done. Get up to do it. Wander about a bit and come back and realise I haven’t done the thing I set out to do.

I also realise my – what do they call it? – cognitive function – is crap.

Let me give you a few examples. My lovely sister (the woman is a saint!) took me out to Curry’s in East Kilbride where I bought a toaster, wireless headphones and a smart telly. None of them work. There’s a bit of plastic missing off one of the levers on the toaster. I phoned Curry’s and it will have to go back. The telly is brilliant but it doesn’t take the headphones.  Unless my nephew Craig can figure out a way round this, the headphones and/or the telly will also have to go back. I got Sky Q at the same time but I can’t get on to the internet, so I need the engineer to come back – once I’ve decided whether the telly can stay.

I also bought a new car. It’s lovely. A Golf. Brand new. I’ve always liked VWs. Especially the Golf. Drove one for years. This car has some fancy-shmancy technology that means you don’t have a proper handbrake. The non-handbrake stopped working a week after I got the car. It will have to go back.


Today I took delivery of my new bed. Just this once, I let the delivery guys get on with it, tipped them lavishly and then went to have a look. The only part of the bed that’s right is the mattress. The divan and the headboard are the wrong colour. I ordered cream. They’ve sent me a kind of mushroomy colour.


You know what? I don’t care. I’ve had it. It’s 4.30am and I’ve been stressing about all this for hours. I’ve dealt with stuff like this – and a lot worse – all my life. But now I can’t. And I finally accept that I can’t.


Me and the cat give in. The rest of youz can get on with running the world.


It’s the middle of the night. The cat is fast asleep on my bed. Earlier on, she was snoring and it must have been quite loud because I could hear it.

And thereby hangs a tale…

It all started with tinnitus earlier this year – me, not the cat. I ignored it. But pretty soon I realised it was getting louder and, as the tinnitus got to be more intrusive, the hearing in my left ear got worse. I asked my GP about getting my ears syringed (never had that done before) and she told me they don’t do that any more and anyway she was reluctant to do anything until we knew what was causing the tinnitus. So off I went to see the ENT guy.

He could see a build-up on ‘gunge’ (his word) in my ear but couldn’t shift it. He referred me on to a consultant audiologist. He gave me good news and bad news. My right ear is perfectly normal. My left ear, after he cleared it of all the wax and keratin that had built up over a lifetime, is nae use: the parts of the ear that conduct sound are in effect deid.  He offered a 3 hour operation to stop the build-up of gunge recurring but that wouldn’t bring back my hearing, so we’ll forget that. I asked for a hearing aid but I can’t get one until he’s sure the ear is clear and ready for an aid.

I really hate this. As you know, I’ve been someone who worked with words and depended on good hearing all my adult life. This is quite definitely affecting my social life and my family life. I have to make sure my ‘good ear’ is on the side where the people are and I get annoyed with myself for having to say: ‘Sorry? What was that?’ all the time. I’ve given up the library deliveries because I can’t make out what the clients are saying. And there have been some real pantomimes in the car on deliveries because Alex sits on my deaf side. He’s deaf too thanks to Parkinson’s and, if he forgets his hearing aids, the two of us can spend whole afternoons going: ‘Eh? Whit? Say that again!’

I’m watching a lot less TV because my headphones (which I hate) are knackered and I’m convinced I’m blasting the TV at my neighbours. So my resolution for this winter is: Get a new smart TV (this one is starting to act up – well, it is 10 years old) with Netflix and Amazon Prime – and get new headphones. Maybe I could then switch off the subtitles which hide half the screen. (All except in the bloody cheapskate Syfy channel – the one that shows Star Trek – which doesn’t even have subtitles).

I can’t think of anything else I can do until I see the consultant again in January. I suppose I could put a sign round my neck that reads: Speak up – I’m corned beef! Incidentally, the last person I had to mention it to was the receptionist at Audiology who muttered or whispered instructions to me until I said: You’ll have to speak up – I am here for the audiology clinic, you know!

Yes, I know in the great scheme of things, this is nothing. Many of my friends have much worse health problems. Difficulties with their heart, diabetes, etc. (I still have a wee laugh when my diabetic friend posts picture after picture on Facebook of puddings, chocolate and ice creams that she can never have). But it’s another sign of old age, innit? And that’s what I really hate…

Back again

I decided months ago I would give up posting about CFS. It’s boring to have the condition so, by jings, it must be boring to hear about it. And yet, here I am…

I’m going through a really difficult phase right now.

I didn’t make it for coffee with L last week or to the library to do a delivery with A. I did do an ironing the weekend before (first in 8 months, I reckon) and I was so pleased with myself. But I suspect that’s where last week’s problem came from.

My young ME friend B talks about ‘pre-emptive resting’: so if you know you’re going out on Tuesday, you have to rest on Sunday and Monday – and you can expect to be laid low on Wednesday and maybe Thursday.

The problem that haunts me is I’ve had deliveries from the Book People (I love that site!), from Majestic Wine (ditto!) and then Sainsbury’s. So there’s a build-up of recycling stuff that needs to go downstairs. It has happened this weekend that I’ve got up, looked at the stuff waiting to be disposed of and gone straight back to bed.

I can’t tell you how nice it is to have Missy the Mad Cat here. She doesn’t judge. Most of the time, she coories in beside me on the bed or the settee. All she wants is food twice a day, the occasional treat – and a clean litter bin. She goes off on a stravaig round the flat a couple of times a day. The wee mouse (not a real one) gets a right seeing-to for about 10 minutes. Her favourite trick is to jump up on me and then shoot off round the furniture. I’d no idea one wee cat could make that amount of noise.

And that, friends, is what constitutes entertainment for me these days. I’ve no concentration for the telly. The radio annoys me. And I’ve been reading the same book for days now.

But it will pass. I’m sure of that. I just have to be patient. Not my best feature.

It’s hay fever time!

Here we are: 4.30am.

I’ve finally stopped sneezing, but rather than lie in bed wheezing, I’ve got up and played a couple of computer games. It’s that time of year: yellow plant season. It starts at the beginning of May and will go on until plants like broom have stopped flowering, usually towards the end of June. I thought with spring being so late this year, I might miss out on the scratchy ears, sore throat, runny nose, itchy eyes and scalp – and that’s with the antihistamines – but not a chance.

The cat is not pleased. She likes her routine: sleep, wake up for breakfast, jump on the human and miaow loudly if the food isn’t delivered straight away, sleep some more on the human’s feet, make annoyed noises if the human tries to get out of bed, sleep some more, get up for dinner, repeat. She is freaked out by the sneezing, the waking up for a sip of water and the waking up to go for a pee because of all the sips of water.

Yes, I know I’m not the only person in the world with hay fever. I’m not even the only person in my family with hay fever. And I know it will pass. But I know I’ve taken so much antihistamine, I’ll probably sleep all day tomorrow – unless I’m wakened up by the cat.

When I surface, I’ll think of all you hay fever-free people out in your gardens, breathing deeply of the fresh spring air, rejoicing in the sun and the warmth. Then I’ll curse you roundly and go back to sleep. Me and the cat.

Good Morning, all!

On Monday, over lunch, a friend told me she thought I kept very odd hours since my emails seemed to come to her at – for example – 4am or 6am. I said I was surprised at that because usually these days I’m in bed early: 10.30 or 11pm. I stand by that. Nowadays Missy the Cat lives here. She has decided to sleep on my bed (usually between my feet) and she watches me from about 10.30pm onwards to see when I’m going to make a move. If I go to turn down the bed or make a last cup of decaf, she sits up expectantly. As soon as I make a move towards the bedroom, she’s there. Sometimes she’s on the bed before I can get in.

But tonight I’m awake very late – or very early, depending on how you look at it – for two reasons.

First of all, I was at the doctor’s today. We went over the symptoms I have from taking steroids prescribed by the consultant gastro-enterologist at Gartnavel: hair falling out, fluid retention, wounds on my legs not healing. We talked a wee bit about my appointment with him last November, his inability to look me in the eye and his dismissal of my colitis symptoms (‘everybody gets some symptoms of colitis as they get older’). She read my letter to him asking why he was prescribing steroids if my symptoms didn’t merit it and then she saw his letter to me which referred everything back to her (‘you should talk this through with your GP’) – and she came to the conclusion he sounded ‘pretty cheeky.’ Oddly enough, I thought the same thing. So now I have water pills to take for the fluid retention and an antibiotic cream for the wounds on my legs. And the prospect of more blood tests to check my heart, liver and kidneys. Nothing for the hair loss though…I’ll be at the hairdresser’s next week and I’m not looking forward to Stacey’s reaction to my bald patches.

It’s all on my mind: I hate the idea that every treatment I get from the NHS will lead to another set of problems but that’s how it looks right now.

The other reason I’m awake is that I am suddenly possessed of an energy I haven’t had for over 2 years: I loaded/unloaded the dishwasher, changed the bed, did 2 washings, dried them – and just stopped short of going to the supermarket. And all would have been well if I hadn’t decided to phone for a Chinese delivery about 9pm. I love Chinese food. Most of my family prefer curry but I can’t take it. However, tonight I had half a portion of BBQed spare ribs and some chicken and mushroom with egg fried rice – and now I have indigestion like I haven’t had for years.

What to do? Missy protested at me getting up at 2.30am but is now asleep on the top of the ‘big chair.’ And I guess I’ll just have to sit here at the computer till the acid in my gut is under control thanks to my friend Gaviscon.

Happy Biffday to me!

About 50 years ago, I used to travel to and from Glasgow university on the bus and the subway. That was back in the days when people had real jobs rather than working in call-centres and you were likely to be sitting opposite a shipyard worker in dungarees.

That’s what happened one night on my way home. I’d just been given the title of an essay to be handed in in a couple of weeks. It was probably one of those essays the new Drama Department specialised in as part of an effort to let the rest of the university know they were serious academics. My favourite was ‘What is the virtue of verisimilitude as a dramatic criterion?’ I probably spent the time it took to get from Hillhead to Govan mentally working out what the hell this essay was about. The man opposite me got up to leave and, as he passed, he patted my shoulder and said sympathetically: ‘Cheer up, hen. It might never happen.’

If you’d told me then I was going to live to be 70, I’d have laughed in your face. 50 years ago, I paid no attention to birthdays. It still surprises me how seriously we celebrate these occasions. Back then you got a card ‘from all the family’ (my sister still sends them) and maybe a sweetie. I turned 21 in France and friends hosted a party for me. But it was no biggie, as the young people say. We would have been having a party that weekend anyway. My aunt and uncle, the richest people I knew back then sent me a book with two Bank of Scotland pound notes in the pages. I decided to keep the cash till I got home.

30 and 40 passed by in a flash. 50 I don’t even remember. 60 I certainly do remember because of  a decision I had to make: how soon after my birthday could I bid farewell to work? Answer: 4 days.

Now I believe that all the stories about ageing we were told back then were a lie: life did not begin – or end – at 40. You’re not old at 50 or 60. Even 70 is only ‘late middle age,’ despite the best efforts of the Tory government to kill us all off.

So why am I taking this birthday so badly?

Firstly, I’m the oldest member of my family these days. I never wanted to be in that position. Whatever the Nisbets, McDougalls, McDonalds and Welches may think, I am not able to ‘adult.’ I’m just as daft as the rest of you. I’ve decided to stick to my wee brother’s view: if you haven’t grown up by 60, you don’t have to. Sometimes I think: could someone else come and deal with this? Threatening demands from Scottish Gas about meter-reading (which I ignore); decisions about management fees at Walton Court; do I renew my National Trust membership or not?

I’m discovering as I hit the 70 mark that some members of the medical profession still treat us ‘older people’ like we’re a problem. We do the unforgivable: after a lifetime of paying in, we expect to get something back from the NHS. I seem to spend my days surrounded by accusations: our ailments are self-inflicted – diabetes, liver failure, obesity, these are all ‘life-style’ conditions.

I don’t want my youth back. Man, that was hard work, especially for women back in the second half of the 20th century. I never did the ‘sex, drugs and rock n roll’ bit and don’t feel I missed out on anything. But I’ve met some interesting people and I’ve been to some fantastic places.

So on Sunday I’ll raise a glass (maybe of water since all alcohol tastes like pee to me at the moment) to all the people I have known so far – and maybe to the next 20 years.

I’m back!

I stopped writing about CFS a few months ago, because I decided it was pretty boring writing the same stuff over and over – and really it’s of no interest to anyone except me.

But…I’ve been warned a few times in the two years I’ve had this disorder…complaint… condition…whatever you want to call it: if you don’t like the symptoms you have now, just hang about a bit: there will be others along soon. And sure enough, on the second anniversary of me succumbing to CFS I’ve developed two new and exciting (not) symptoms: the sweats and an intolerance of caffeine and alcohol.

The sweats mean my hands, feet and face are cold while the rest of me is bilin. I’m so hot and sweaty I’ve got a rash round my middle and wake up regularly to throw off the duvet, much to the alarm of the cat who now sleeps with me and protests loudly at being disturbed.

The intolerance of caffeine and alcohol is just a bore. Both make the sweats worse and a cup of coffee or a glass of wine makes me feel a bit queasy for hours afterwards.

And, of course, the sleep disturbance is still there, along with the lack of energy.

Let’s talk quality of life here. I don’t regard myself as seriously ill, unlike people I know with life-limiting conditions, but this is wearing. Being in bed for 3 days, unable to eat with no concentration, dodgy eyesight and aching bones. No fun.

Still yesterday was good. I got showered, washed my hair and dressed and went out, albeit briefly. I’m just about to go out again to the library to do a few deliveries. When I come back I may have to have a lie-down, as I did last night, but still I’ll have been among people, joining in the chat. It’s count my blessings time.


I’ve made a list of things I am never having done – or no longer having done – by the NHS.

Don’t get me wrong: I love the NHS, have nothing but respect for the people who work for it and would never reject the care offered unless there was a real reason.

But I am refusing to have these:

  • mammogram – I swear to god if men had to go through this, there would be another way to do it, apart from cramming your vital parts onto a sheet of glass. At my age, I’ve decided I’ll take my chances.
  • flu jag – I’m sure many people benefit from it (well, no, I’m not so sure but it’s their decision). I’ve been ill 3 times with flu-like symptoms. I was assured these couldn’t be due to the flu jag. But I’ve never had these symptoms since I started to refuse the jag.
  • the annual check-up – this usually ends up with the practice nurse telling me my blood pressure and cholesterol are fine but I need to lose weight – do I want to be referred to a weight loss scheme? No thanks.
  • the smear test – this is the test that makes me wonder: what the hell? Really? At my age? Again, I’ll take my chances.


    The trouble is the tests and the medication keep coming. It’s true what they say about the NHS in Scotland: once they get you, they never let you go. Last month I was prescribed steroids for inflammation of the bowel. I’ve never felt so ill as in week 4 of taking these steroids. I was supposed to be attending a do for volunteers in Glasgow with a reading by a well-known Scottish crime writer. The trouble was, I couldn’t get my shoes on, my feet and ankles were so swollen. So I took a decision: from now on, I’ll decide whether I should take the medication. And I’ve decided I won’t.

So how am I? Much better, thanks.