Monday, November 26, 2012

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow.

I've just caught the end of an advert on telle about hair loss and how it can be slowed or even stopped by some product or other..........can't remember what it was as I tend to zone out adverts.

The point was that the video featured a guy attempting the rings apparatus in gymnastics and being unable to hold on or do the crucifix move because, as we can see, he's got a little hair loss at the back of his head !  Then we hear the voice over about this product and of course 'some weeks later' we see the guy with a full Russell Brand head of hair managing the same discipline with ease.

So any budding but balding gymnasts out there training for Rio 2016, I shouldn't bother.  And that goes for you men too !

But it got me thinking about hair, or the lack of it.  I first noticed a small bald spot when I was in my teens at college but as it belonged to the Science lecturer, I wasn't fussed about it.  I was fused, very fussed, when my own spot arrived, seemingly overnight, when I was in my early 30's.  I remember the flat I was in at the time which helps to tie down the year and for some reason I was using a small hand mirror to check the back of my head.

No idea why I'd have done such a thing so maybe some kind friend had told me I'd got a bald spot and I thought I'd better check it myself.  Friends are always the first to know and take great delight and passing on this information.  Bastards !

In those early days I could use a black felt tip pen to basically paint my hairless scalp as it was only the size of a penny. As the years went on and most of my salary was going on felt tip pens, I realised I had to just let nature take its course - or go broke. It also didn't help that my hair was light brown so my attempts at covering up its loss was making me look like a Jew with a dodgy kippah.

(I tried to work in a phrase about being done up like a kippah......but it didn't I'm not going to mention it)

It didn't seem to take long for my head to be more scalp than hair although it was probably a decade or so.  It all went off the top but in a bizarre act of cruelty, it didn't go from the front.  As the years passed, my hair loss took on the appearance of the movements of the continents back in the day.  As the hair receded, more scalp appeared but, still using the continental drift analogy, a small island of hair remained at the front.

But although not exactly embracing my advancing baldness, I accepted it.  No over-the-counter treatments, scalp massages or follicle implants for me.  We even learned to live with my island, my hairdresser and I.  It was regularly trimmed, teased and sprayed but it stood no chance against Father Time and genetics.  When it became more of an atoll than an island, I plucked up the courage to consign it to history completely and shaved it off.  Annoyingly I have to shave it off every couple of days as it rises like a stubbly reverse Atlantis and I'm not having it.  Oh no, it had its chance in the 80's and it blew it.

So these days I have my side hair and the rest is gloriously bald.  No comb overs or wigs for this man.  And it's great.  I keep what's left very short so I can cut it myself every couple of months. This might have been a confidence killer back in the swinging 60's when Russell Brand style hair was all the rage but for some time now, anything goes when it comes to hair, led by follicly challenged celebs like Bruce Willis and Sean Connery.

It's like being able to order a soft drink in a pub without being laughed at.

I don't have morning hair.  I don't need to wash it every day.  It never needs a comb.  Win, win, win.  I often go out on a windy day and laugh at the elements. Ha ! I say in a proud and confident voice as I watch others flicking long strands of hair from their faces.  I don't come out of a swimming pool or open sea looking like a drowned rat.  It's all very liberating !

As an aside, my profile pic on here is a bit out of date as it shows my island when it was still 'active'.  The beard has also gone so I'll update it asap.

So back to that advert which started me on this train of thought. I'm bummed my aspirations may have been dashed for a gold medal in the rings at Rio but the upside is that I won't have to hang around doing that training any more !

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ho Ho Home For The Holidays

I last spent Christmas at home in England in 1999.  Every Christmas since then I've been in America and the last 5 have seen me in Florida.

Now I'm not sure if it's common knowledge, but it tends to be a bit warmer at Christmas time in mid Florida than in West Yorkshire but after only 5 years of experiencing a warm Christmas, it's not like the weather here is a shock to me.

Last year I remember sitting by the swimming pool in sunny Buttonwood Bay and thinking that it was very pleasant but I kinda yearned for a classic white Christmas again.  What the hell was I thinking about !?!

Leaving aside the weather for once, in many ways I could still be in America.  I still watch all my favourite US tv shows, in some cases a day before they are shown over there.  I still talk with US friends (just via the internet now) and I still shop using Amazon (just the UK version now).  Speaking of shopping, we seem to have taken Black Friday to our retail hearts and, as our economy desperately needs an injection of consumer cash, we've turned it into a week long event.  Yes Black Friday Week is the new hashtag to look for on Twitter and with online shopping far outstripping actually going to the shops, who cares if it's cold and wet and generally miserable outside. Let your fingers do the walking.

Yes Amazon is the new Santa's Grotto and their sleighs pull up right outside your front door to deliver the goodies, sometimes all wrapped and ready to be handed over or placed under the tree. Of course buying more online means credit card shopping so we're on a slippery slope there again. If you thought your flexible friend made shopping easy in the days of QVC, then try Amazon's one click option.  They already have your credit card and delivery/billing address details so once you've decided on a gift, you just take the one click option and voila, the deal is done. Sit back and await delivery or even have it delivered to the recipient !


How easy is THAT to get you deeper into debt when the time to pay comes round !  Remember when we all HAD to go out into the freezing cold and tramp up and down the streets, getting weighed down with presents like Crackerjack contestants.  


Are things better now that we can find the best deals online and with a few clicks, get all our presents bought and delivered without going out of our warm houses ?  Were we more careful with our money and more thoughtful with our choice of presents when actually handing cash over a counter ?

The famous UK money expert Martin Lewis blogged the other day that in recent opinion polls, a majority of people felt the stress and expense of buying presents for adult family and close friends had been ruining their enjoyment of Christmas for decades. He proposed that people should only buy presents for kids and that adults should forego this ritual.  He expected to get 'bah humbug' comments but far from it, his ideas were supported by the majority and not only for financial reasons.  

If you receive a present or even suspect you might get one, the pressure is on to reciprocate.  Then you can get grumpy if you clearly spent more on YOUR present than the one you received.  You also might get what you regard as a crap present. Worst of all, you also end up spending money you can't afford and pay for it all year.

How often do we hear people say "oh I'll be glad when it's all over."  Now think how wonderful it would be if they only had to get a few presents for the kids they have or are close to and then plan on spending quality time and meet up with their family and adult friends over Christmas.  Ok so I realise that more money might then be spent on food and booze this way but hey, less stress at least !

Maybe this will happen, maybe not.  Initially the stores wouldn't like it but maybe, as a stopgap, adults could buy the occasional present for their friends during the year !  Spread the happiness around all year long and all that.  Small thoughtful presents, maybe some home made ones, that show you care. Don't just store it all up for birthdays and Christmas.

And whether in sunny, warm Florida or cold, wet West Yorkshire, such time given by family and friends is much more precious than any present from Amazon.

When it comes to a choice between a few clicks at Christmas or hugs all year round, I know which mean more to me.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Turkey Day

One blog post in over 4 months is a pretty poor effort on my behalf but I think it's fair to say that the blogging muse, like sunshine and warm weather, abandoned me over the summer.

I thought today would be a good time to start again and this is partly because it's Thanksgiving Day in the US of A.  Wow, just back and I'm into poetry already !

Of course we here in the Mother Country don't have a similar day as basically we're thankful that we're British ALL the time and spend our lives being happy and constantly smiling through our misshapen teeth.
But I think that for once (!!) we should take the lead from our colonial friends and set aside one special day in the year for being.....well, just thankful.  I'm sure many people feel that these days, they have little to be thankful about what with money worries, health worries, relationship worries, work worries, Euro worries, worry worries (from people who worry that they don't have anything to worry about) and so on.

But even in the depths of all these worries, most of us should be able to find something to be thankful for, even if it's only that we don't have to watch Nadine Dorries in "I'm A Celebrity" anymore !

For the last 20 years, I've been thankful that I wake up every morning. Yes I know that should be every morning for the last 60 years but there is a reason for saying the last 20.

On November 22nd 1992, I returned home from another exhausting game of badminton.  If you've never played badminton and think it's a slow old game as the shuttlecock is light as a feather and "floats" across the net, then think on.  It's the world's fastest racket sport and the shuttle reaches speeds around 200mph putting it way faster than a squash or tennis ball.  Not that our cocks (stop it now) were capable of achieving such speeds but we were decent players and I usually came off court red faced and sweating like a Walmart shopper when no scooters are available.

Right away I didn't feel too good and decided to have a relaxing bath, something I seldom did as I'm a shower person. I probably had the water too hot as when I got out again, it wasn't only my face that was red.  I was Lobster Man.  And I felt even worse.

I had aches between my shoulder blades and up my neck on the left side.  I felt weak and light headed and couldn't concentrate on anything and after a couple of hours I just went to bed.

Next morning I still had the ache in my neck but nothing else so I went to work.  Nothing much changed over the next few days but when the neck ache wasn't any better, I went to see the doctor.  Being one for self diagnosis, I told him about the badminton and that I thought I might have pulled a muscle in my neck and in the absence of much else to go on, he went along with that and said give it time.

November rolled into December and I was still getting neck aches and still not feeling 100%.  I returned to the doctor and he decided, after no examination or tests at all, that it was most likely a torn muscle and would take a while to heal.  December rolled on into January and by February I'd had enough.  I went to the doctor again and reminded him I was in BUPA (a private medical scheme) and asked to be referred to a private specialist.

Now at this point I'm not sure about some details as my memory has never been very good and also it turned out to be a very traumatic time.  It took a week or so to get the BUPA appointment set up and I can't even remember why I was given a stress test when I got there......but I was.  Maybe I had some tests before that or even a visit before it but I can't remember.  It does seem a strange development if I just went in with an ache in my neck but maybe I mentioned the other symptoms from back on November 22nd.

In any case, I do clearly remember the stress test as I was wired up like an astronaut before blast off and surrounded by lots of impressive equipment including a crash cart !  The room seemed to be full of busy people fussing around me but my attention was taken by the man standing near me with the twin paddles !  I was instructed to get onto a treadmill and as time went on, the incline was raised until I was huffing and puffing like an asthmatic 60 a day man.

After this I was taken to a recovery bed for a lie down and some time later, a white coated geezer came along and confirmed I'd had a heart attack back in November and I needed an angiogram to see how bad my plumbing was.

Whoa.....back that up a bit, mister.  Break it to me gently will you !!!  Holy crap I almost had another attack hearing that.  I didn't take much in after the announcement as having a heart attack at 40 was definitely not on my bucket list.  A few days later I had the angiogram and was told I had multiple blockages and would need bypass surgery asap.  This was set up for 10 days time. It would've been 6 months with the NHS.

I remember going to work after the angiogram and telling this to everyone and getting the universal opinion  "are you mad coming back to work ?"  Oddly enough that's when it really hit me.  I'd spent 3 months totally unaware I'd had a heart attack and, given that all my arteries had major blockages, could've dropped dead at any moment.  Now that I knew, I spent the next 10 days like I had a dozen ostrich eggs in my pockets.  I went up stairs like I was 90 and not 40.  I sat a lot (yes not much change there) and I stopped going to work; in fact with the surgery and recovery time, I didn't return to work for 4 months.

As an aside, during these 4 months, I spent 6 weeks in America which included touring San Francisco, the city known for its steep streets !  And I went with no medical insurance whatsoever.  I think you could say the drugs I was on affected my decision making !!!

Anyway during the quintuple bypass on March 4th 1993, my heart was stopped and the blocked parts of my plumbing were cut out and replaced by good bits from my left leg and I've been thankful ever since.  So November 22nd is an important anniversary for me as well as The Kennedys.  I survived a heart attack (and 13 years later survived another one) and have been forever thankful that I had private medical insurance at the time as I'd not be alive now if I'd had to go on an NHS waiting list for my surgery.

You never know when your time is up and 20 years ago today, it wasn't my time.

So a happy Thanksgiving Day to all my US friends.  I'm sure enjoying another of mine.

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