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A Good Grape


Some things take a bit of time to achieve. Some things need good materials to work with. Some ideas need conviction. Some things simply need faith. Like a decent old cognac the best ones start with a good grape and go through a number of processes and incarnations to command the full status of bleddy ‘ansom.


Some things take less time to achieve, are easier to pull off, some things are desirable, some things are necessary. There’s one recent thing that springs to mind on my 63 year transition from good grape to bleddy ‘ansom. It was my brush with the 40 inch waist. (Good grape is far right.)


About 4 years ago I was comfortably and lethargically sliding towards retirement. I’d settled into a job at Eden that suited me just fine. It would probably see me through. There was just the two of us to look after. A little while previous to that with a bit of redundancy money and a bit of financial realignment we cleared the final remnants of our mortgage. Sold our property in France and upgraded our campervan to a motorhome. At work I negotiated the whole of May and the whole of September as holiday which we would spend ambling around Europe.


I was turning 60 and simultaneously turning into a fat bastard. Jokingly we would say I needed size FB clothes. Two things then happened in quick succession. My jeans became uncomfortably tight and I was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Well my weight became the least of my problems. Surgery and chemotherapy took up the bulk of the winter. By the spring I was well and truly on the road to recovery. I was back to work, but for a while in a very sedentary job. It was time to tackle my weight. My GP had helpfully advised to lay off the biscuits and booze. Interestingly sound advice. So I did, but it’s not particularly about dieting or even getting more exercise. It’s about changing your life! I resolved to change my life.

First I looked at alcohol. Most, if not all, chubsters drink too much. I turned my drinking about. Rather than having a day without a drink and feeling it was an achievement I simply stopped drinking then allowed a day, occasionally, with drink. That worked. I could even start buying wine according to quality rather than cost. Biscuits were banished along with crisps, nuts, sweets, chocolate and anything wrapped in pastry.


Then this committed sporting slug must have had some kind of rush of blood to his head. I got me some swimming lessons. So this old, fat, pink, recently scarred, non swimming, blob arrived at the swimming pool ready to learn. I’ve never been so scared. I almost bottled out. Tricia had to come with me for moral support. I got there and, after a fashion, managed to swim.....A proud moment! (I continued my swimming lessons right up to my next surgery then of course the pandemic took hold).


Meantime I started to lose weight. My 38 inch jeans were no longer tight. Soon all my trousers were a bit too loose. Off to Sainsbury’s for more jeans. NO WAIT! Do I really, after all this effort, deserve cheap supermarket clothes. No I don't! So from now on I resolved, like wine, to focus on quality not cost. I bought two pairs of jeans from a jeans shop. 36 inch waist, 29in leg (short). It was the first time I had that waist size for a considerable time and the first time I’d spent £££££££ on jeans probably ever.

Now I don't drink at all. Unfortunately crap food has crept back in a bit. Partly due to illness, partly chemo, partly lockdown boredom partly to take the horrible metallic taste that’s often in my mouth away. But guess what? My jeans are a bit loose. So last week I bought some more. I bought them on line. And the size? 34in waist! It’s been a long haul but I’m feeling all the better for it.

As for the other aspect of my life, this old bottle of cognac still needs more tender loving care to keep going and that means even more chemotherapy.


Believe it or not my first chemo session started way back on the 4th of September last year. I thought the last session would be starting on Monday. I’ll still be out of circulation for a couple of weeks after that. In total I’ll have had over 6 months of chemotherapy So, following treatment that started on the 4th September, 26 weeks ago, I thought I’d only got a couple more weeks to go. That's 28 weeks, over half a year!


Then what? A slow decline? A break, then more chemo? But no! Because the chemo is having an effect the best advice is keep going. So for the next three months it looks like business as usual. Another 6 doses of chemo bringing it up to 9 months of continuous chemo. I know it’s gruelling but weighing up the options it seems, at the moment, the best way forward. Let’s hope Boris's roadmap on Monday gives us something to look forward to.


Am I happy to have another 3 months of treatment? I’m not sure. I’ll call it reserved happiness I think.


Now where's that bottle of Cognac?



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