Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A matter of life and death

Yesterday morning, my time, my actuary friend from Birmingham emailed me. His father had passed away. He had been ill for a very long time. When my friend was just three he suffered a heart attack; he had to "watch himself" ever since. In the last few years he got steadily worse. He survived longer than anyone expected, and it is of some consolation that he was around to see his daughter's wedding in April of this year. I didn't meet him very often - the last time was when I visited the UK in 2010 - but he struck me as a very kind, warm-hearted (if ailing) man. I wrote my friend an email this evening, or attempted to. What do you say? I said that his dad must have been very proud of his son, and he couldn't have had a better son to look after him. Which was true. It was only when I wrote back, from the quiet of my living room, that the passing of such a kind, gentle bloke really hit me.

In other (far better) news, my own father got his results back from his prostate biopsy and he's been given the all-clear. That's a huge weight off his mind. It's not just the cancer, it's all the treatment and horrible side-effects - incontinence, extreme fatigue, and whatever else. And the fact that so many false-positives from the biopsy render all that treatment unnecessary. All in all, it's a big sigh of relief.

I didn't mention the results of the blood test I had a couple of weeks ago. Which means they were good, or else I surely would have mentioned them by now. My thyroid is working perfectly normally and I'm not at risk of diabetes. Cholesterol is still a slight concern. My level of bad (LDL) cholesterol is down, but the good (HDL) stuff is down too, so my ratio, which is what they worry about these days, has hardly changed. My doctor said I should take all cholesterol readings with a bucket of salt (which, funnily enough, contains zero cholesterol).

Last night Tracy, Tom and I played a co-operative board game called Mice and Mystics. There are mice, who are the good guys, and a variety of bad guys such as rats, spiders, centipedes and cockroaches. And of course a cat, although we didn't come across him (or her) last night. The game is in fact a story comprising eleven chapters; you can play just one chapter (as we did last night) or a full "campaign" that follows the story from start to finish. We each took on the part of a different mouse, each with its own special powers. Tom's mouse, for instance, was fast and agile with a prehensile tail which could carry a weapon. My mouse, by contrast, was slow and plodding but it wielded a sodding great hammer that could knock out anything that came near it (if the right symbols came up on the four dice I rolled). The currency used in the game wasn't money or gold or silver, but cheese. I was impressed by how one bloke could think of such an intricate story, and then turn it into a playable board game. The game pieces were a work of art, literally as we found out - Tracy had painstakingly painted them with a fine brush, except the centipede and spider which she hadn't got around to yet. We ended up losing the game through a series of unlucky dice rolls; in fact we did well to last as long as we did. I got a bit confused with all the rules, but Tracy was always able to clarify matters. Mice and Mystics is a new game; the only similarity with the much older Risk is the amount of dice-rolling involved. Hopefully we'll try a few more games. In spite of its flaws Risk is probably still my favourite: it'll take something to beat the smell you get when you open the box.

Tom emailed me tonight. Now he wants to move into my flat. Oh shit. I didn't even read his whole email. I saw he wrote "no pressure" but I know I'll feel a shit-ton of pressure if he moves in. He can't move in. I can play board games with him, exchange emails and ideas with him, and chat with him in person. But not live with him. I wouldn't be able to relax. How on earth I tell him it's a no-go I don't know.

Some people in my team at work have joined a football team. They asked me if I was interested. "I'm really just a watcher." This Friday they've got a get-pissed-and-do-karaoke night. Either I go, and feel horribly out of place, or stay at home (which would be the far easier, and cheaper, option). I drift further apart from them whatever I do. Then in a couple of weeks they've got the Christmas party. This isn't my favourite time of year.

I'm obviously not a proper Kiwi (more about that in my next post) because I think it's a shame Ireland didn't hang on to beat, or at least draw with, the All Blacks. Not that I watched the game or anything.

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