Category Archives: Personal

Brace & Lace

While home for Christmas, I organised a few drinks for Stephen’s Night. I craved a night out, following days spent cooped up over Christmas. The night proved to be messy. We had a few (too many) before we left for town, where we had a few more.

By the time we were in the club, I was drunk. I was in the company of my brother and his girlfriend, Melissa. I nudged Melissa and suggested we go for a dance. In my drunken state, I fancied myself some kind of Patrick Swayze.

“Another go,” I declared. “I’ll catch you better this time.”

Melissa took a few steps away from me and ran. I caught her clumsily. Patrick Swayze would turn in his grave at the idea of such an ungraceful tribute. Melissa collapsed on me. I lifted my head and felt unexpected resistance. I suddenly realised my face was stuck to Melissa’s arm. What the fuck? I thought.

Melissa wore a red dress with red lace sleeves. It seemed my braces had become entangled in the intricate patterned lace. I placed Melissa on the ground. She was in conversation with a bouncer who discouraged our Dirty Dancing performance. How the hell am I to disentangle myself?  While Melissa assured the bouncer we would vacate the dancefloor, my face was buried into her arm. I panicked. I gave Melissa’s sleeve a hard tug and broke free. We left the dancefloor.

“Eh, what were you two doing down there?” My brother asked. “People were laughing at you.”

Melissa laughed. I joined. I noticed a hole in the arm of her dress. I guessed it unlikely she’d notice since we were all pissed. I’ll save this story for tomorrow, I thought.

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Fruit Flies

Our office Christmas party was a decadent affair held in Battersea Evolution, a vast space in Battersea Park, capable of holding thousands for corporate events and shows. The set up was most impressive. A champagne reception awaited us on arrival. The nibbles were miniature meals – chorizo and potato stew and miniature curries were but a few of the savoury options. I ate every thing around me and despite this managed a trip to what can only be described as stalls dedicated to cheese and desserts. My belly contained a happy stomach.

Three thousand colleagues attended the event. Our department was a small group compared to the overall number of employees based in London. If you were separated from the posse, chances are you would remain alone for a good half hour before encountering someone you knew. I managed to lose my friends three or four times, using the time to admire the numerous well dressed City Boys. On one such occasion, around midnight, I  encountered Charlie, my friend and colleague, in a room set up for karaoke.

“This place is huge,” I shouted in her ear over the croaky singer. “I’ve been on my own for ages”.

“Did you hear about Regina?” Charlie asked me.

She read the confusion in my face.

“Regina was taken away in an ambulance an hour ago.” Her tone was serious.

Regina was a colleague of ours who had only joined a few weeks ago.

“No way! Are you sure? What happened?”

Charlie leaned in closer as the singer on stage attempted to own a Meatloaf number. She leaned towards my ear. “Apparently, she was outside and received an injury to the head.”

“Oh my God!”

Charlie explained Regina had been queueing for one of the funfair amusements near the entrance and received a head injury. She paused in her explanation. “I don’t know if it’s true or not, but … It doesn’t sound believable, but someone said she was hit in the head by a coconut.”

“A coconut?”

“That’s what I heard.” She shrugged.

I refused to believe this. “That must be false. I think it possible something hit her in the head. Someone is bullshitting on that detail.”

We continued partying. Every now and again, we were either told or asked about Regina’s accident. I dismissed it as gossip.”We’ll find out tomorrow,” I said to close the matter.

The next morning I arrived into work a few hours late with a heavy head. I had been awake until 6AM. I walked to my desk, praying for a quiet day, and caught sight of Regina at her desk. I thought best not to ask about the rumour. I figured numerous people had inundated her with questions already.

An hour later, I heard her call my name. She stood next to me. Her thick Spanish hair was tousled down around her face. Her dark complexion failed to mask her tiredness. She looks as tired as I feel, I thought. The rumour must be false. I bet she was out almost as late as I was. 

“I must leave work early today. Do you mind?”

“Of course not,” I replied. I intended to do the same.

“I must see a doctor.”

“Are you OK?” I asked. “I heard you had an accident last night. Is it true or …?” My question trailed.

She nodded and pointed to the corner of her right eye. There was bruising. “The eyesight in my right eye is fading.”

“What happened last night?”

She concsidered her words. “I was standing outside queuing for one of the rides with Paul and … someone threw a coconut at my head.”

“A coconut?”

“Yes,” she confirmed, “a coconut.”

I did my damndest not to laugh. This poor girl had received a potentially serious injury and I wanted to erupt with laughter. I felt awful.

Charlie spun around in her chair. “You mean it’s true! You were hit in the head last night? With an actual coconut?”

Regina nodded and walked towards Charlie.

“Did you keep the coconut?” Charlie asked this in a sincere manner.

“No,” Regina said. “It would not fit into my handbag”.

I turned in my chair and laughed hard and silently. I was grateful Regina was not at my side to see my amusement. On composing myself, I stood up and ushered Regina to the door. “Get out of here. You need to see a doctor quickly”.

Regina was back in the office the next day, her eyesight fully restored. The bruises healed quickly. A week later, we even laughed at the sheer misfortune of receiving a blow to the head … by a coconut … at night … in the middle of Battersea Park …. in December.

Debits & Credits

The cost of relocating to London has caused me manys a sleepless night. Before I even set foot in the office of my new employer, I owe a couple of grand. This unnerves me. To ease the pain of cash flow issues, I decided to apply for a loan from Ulster Bank whom I’ve banked with – but never bank on – for the last six years. I made an early appointment in the Athlone branch one Monday morning.

Helen, the lovely customer advisor, and I sat in her cubby-hole office, equipped with printer and photocopier. I clutched a large coffee and marvelled at the blandness of her small space. Numerous sheets of paper churned through the spool of the printer. Helen highlighted and narrated the legal jargon on each form. I confirmed my personal details and she responded, clicking and tapping on her keyboard, throwing a cursory glance my way.

She paused. “Hmmm, that’s strange,” she said.

I sat up in my chair. “What is?” I asked. Paranoia was evident.

“The system has instantly declined your application”. Line by line, she scrutinised the information on screen. She clicked again. And again. “Have you any financial issues you’d like to tell me?”

Blood rushed up my neck. My cheeks glowed. “I may have missed the odd credit card payment here and there.”

Helen thought for a moment. “That’s not serious. It shouldn’t prompt an instant decline. There must be something wrong with the system.” She shrugged it off. She pulled a glossy blue and white application form from her drawer and reached for a biro. She completed the form on my behalf. “Have you any shares? Have you a car? Do you own any property?”

I answered each question negatively.

Completed form in hand, Helen turned to her computer. “Ah,” she said. “It is as I guessed. The reason you are getting an instant decline is because the system doesn’t like you.”

“What do you mean?”

“It doesn’t like your details. In the interest of being open and upfront, I will talk you through it. Stephen, you are twenty eight years old. You earn quite a good salary. You’ve exceeded your overdraft limit twice in the last six months. You have no savings! Where is your preparation for the long-term? Have you no interest in owning a property?”

I sighed. “Sorry if this offends you, but you now sound like my mother.”

“I often hear this. Your mother is right. What do you have to show for all this expenditure?”

“Helen, I live quite a good life.”

“I bet you do, Stephen.” She laughed. “It’s reflected in your bank balance. You could turn your position around in three months. Set some money aside each month and start saving!”

I endured the remainder of Helen’s lecture before leaving her cubby-hole disheartened. I have never been good with money. I have an amazing ability to rid myself of debt, but like the typical Irish person of the Good Times of Old, I fail to appreciate a bank account with a credit balance; why debit when you can credit? I need to redress my views on finances. Helen’s words echoed through my mind for days. It was, while sorting through clothes for the move, did I come face to face with my problem. Hanging in my wardrobe were jackets and coats, ranging in price from half to a full month’s rent. I felt anger.

Screw you coats and jackets. It’s your fault! Helen is right! I have nothing to show for all that money I spent. I have nothing, but a wardrobe of coats. Exactly how many coats do I need? Who am I, Johnny Fucking Forty Coats?

I left my bedroom sickened by the sight of those tributes to thoughtless frivolity. I visited the kitchen for a glass of water to quench the hot, fiery anger in my belly. Within seconds, I was back in my bedroom.

Sorry, coats and jackets. I caressed their sleeves fondly. I really didn’t mean it. Helen is wrong. She is very wrong. No matter what happens we will always have one another.

All Signs Point to …

I have been talking about relocating to a new city for a while.

Over pints, with a red, flushed face, did I all too often, dramatically announce, “I’m leaving! Remember this face! I am gone! I am sick of Dublin. Sick of it. There are too many ghosts in this city.”

Eyes were often thrown to heaven. “Yeah, yeah, we’ve heard this before”. Sometimes I even received, “what do you expect to get from London that you can’t get in Dublin?”

A month ago, Best Friend proposed he and I spend some time looking for jobs in London using the internet. We did an in-depth, intricate search on Google, using scant terms such as “London VAT jobs”. We received a few matches.

Best Friend  perused one particular job spec. “I think this job would suit you.”

I read the detail on the screen. I shook my head. “Oh, no, this sounds very technical. No, no, this is not for me at all.”

We came across similar jobs. I shooed the notion of them away.

A day or so later, I pondered the job spec. The more I thought on it, the more I realised this job was for me. I could do this. I could be good at this. This is my job! I called the recruitment agent. We chatted about my experience and interest in the role. He forwarded my CV to the recruiters, who instantly expressed interest in my profile.

Faraway, in another land, removed from flights of fancy of living the London Life, Best Friend and I addressed our living situation. The duration of the lease on the apartment, slowly wasted away; to extend the lease or not.

“I could just quit my job – for the first time in my life, throw caution to the wind and leave! Oh wait, no, I have no savings. This won’t work.”

Best Friend disagreed. “You need a job before you move. We’ll look at the matter of the lease, when the need arises.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere, away from employment opportunities and living arrangements, did I happen to meet a handsome, English man – London Bloke – in Dublin for a business trip. We arranged a date. The date went well. In fact, it went very well. I like him very much. I am lazy in romance and for what is a rare occasion, I made the first move on our date.

Roughly one week later, events progressed nicely. Before I knew it, I was required to go to London for a second interview.  London Bloke and I had been in contact prior to the interview. We arranged a second date, deciding to meet in Soho.

I arrived late, having spent fifteen minutes wandering around Soho in search of Compton Street. I walked into the darkness of the bar and looked around for London Bloke. I spotted him within seconds. He looked good. I awkwardly greeted him. I was nervous. Do I shake his hand or kiss him on the mouth?  What is the etiquette for a second date? I opted for a kiss on the cheek.

“It’s really nice to see you again,” he said.

My head spun. Wow, Irish men never say stuff like that. Well, the Irish men I’ve known never would. “It’s nice to see you too,” I replied somewhat coyly, looking to the floor.

“You’re in my city this time. Let me buy you a pint.”

We moved to a nook of the bar. Conversation and laughter radiated from that corner.

London Bloke supped his pint of ale. “So, how did the interview go?”

“It went OK. My head was completely fried afterwards. It was two hours long. I spoke for two hours! I am naturally talkative, but even I found that challenging.”

“When will you know the results?”

I hesitated. “Thing is … I already know the results …”

He raised his eyebrows in expectation. “Oh?”

“I got the job.”

A sexy smile crept across his face. “I am so happy for you. And, I am happy for me too.”

I was stunned. I’m sure my smile beamed. “Thanks.” I felt very strange right then, unaccustomed to the sensation of shyness.

I returned to Dublin the next day, slowly and gradually communicating my news to friends. Events were slowly settling in my own head. Since then, I have handed in my notice at work. I am due to finish my job 15th July; the same day the lease ends on the apartment.

I fancy the arse off London Bloke. As sad – or hopeful – as it sounds, I have not felt like this about anyone in years. I no longer feel dead from the waist down.

I never subscribed to the “whatever is meant for you won’t pass you by” train of thought. In my opinion, our lives are what we make them. Recent events have caused me to wonder if sometimes, now and again, things just go right and fall tidily into place.

It’s really quite nice when this happens.

I Wanna Know What Love Is!

This month, I am single a year. A year is a good amount of time. Ideally, my life should have moved along nicely. It seems many things around me have, yet I remain stationary, admiring the change around me. This clearly is not the case. I’m just impatient.

The biggest indicator for me that I am moving on from the Great Break Up would be to meet someone. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want a boyfriend or a sex friend. What I would like is to go on date and actually have an interest in seeing the person again; a second date. I would appreciate meeting someone who won’t say something so stupid that I take them down a peg. Is that really a lot?

I’ve felt a little dead from the waist down for some time. It has been years since I fancied someone proper. It would be nice to remember the sensation of a crush. How does one describe a fancy? If this were a Disney movie, I’d burst into song.

“Boom bang-a-bang, boom bang-a-bang,

When you are near

Boom bang-a-bang, boom bang-a-bang

Loud in my ear

Pounding away, pounding away

Won’t you be mine?

Boom bang-a-bang-bang all the time

It’s such a lovely feeling

When I’m in your arms”

Or …

“He’s a one stop, gotcha hot, making all the panties drop

Sweet sugar candyman

He’s a one stop, got me hot, making my ugh pop

Sweet sugar candyman

He’s a one stop, get it while it’s hot, baby don’t stop

Sweet sugar”

Or …

“You’re the one that I want

You are the one I want

Oo-oo-oo, honey

The one that I want

You are the one I want

Oo-oo-oo, honey

The one that I want

You are the one I want

Oo-oo-oo, the one I need

Oh, yes indeed”

Following a qualitative analysis of the above information it would seem love is an intense emotion. It should make your heart go “boom bang-a-bang”. He should “make your panties drop”. He should make you declare “you are the one that I want oo-oo-oo honey”. These highly credible sources can perhaps be summarised by physiological response, lust and declaration of love.

I’m waiting … and humming.

Goals for 2011

Fuck resolutions. I don’t believe in them. Get yourself a pen and paper and set yourself some goals for the year. Goals are far more attainable and satisfactory since you can work through them and tick them off a list.

Here are some of mine:

  • Pass soddin’ exams!
    • I have been ‘doing’ my crappy tax exams for the last four years. ‘Doing’ entails sitting, failing, resitting, chickening out and passing. Enough! I am going to get them in 2011.
  • Sun holiday
    • Fuck culture! This year I am not doing cultural weekends away. I want to go on a sun holiday. I want to lie on a beach by day and kiss men by night. Sun, sea and sex awaits.
  • Have a passionate fling
    • I need to meet a man. I need to celebrate my youth and move on from the Great Break-Up of 2010. I don’t want a relationship. A fling, however, would be a treat.
  • Make a soufflé
    • The art of soufflé making has fascinated me. Is it really as difficult as people say? I want to master this skill and serve it to some friends.
  • Go on a second sun holiday
    • More sun, sea and sex, please.
  • Make more male friends
    • I love the many women in my life, but man if I have sit through one more conversation on detoxes, diets or weight gain/loss, I shall hit someone.
  • Stop biting my nails
    • It’s a disgusting habit. I want to stop. I shall try.
  • Acquire a hobby
    • Apart from blogging I don’t have a hobby as such. I need one. This one is vague for the moment.
  • Join a team
    • I’ve never been on a team of any kind. I think it would do me good. This again is vague. More research needed.
  • Have a fancy cocktail party
    • I am going to have a cocktail party in the apartment for my birthday. This is an easy one.
  • Do something creative using my hands
    • I want to learn carving or origami to stimulate the seldom used creative side of my brain.
  • Enroll in a Pilates instructor course
    • When I get my tax exams, I am going to become a Pilates instructor. ‘Nuff said.
  • Pay for braces
    • I am going to clear the balance of my braces by March 2011. No (expensive) clothes shopping or needless eating out for me until then.


 

Basket Test Case

Now and again, I pop into the Tesco store in Ringsend. Tesco in general can be pretty crap since they scaled down their ‘fancy’ product offerings two years ago. Tesco in Ringsend is extra crap. I recall a hissy fit when I realised they sold four different types of grated cheddar cheese and there was not a triangle of Parmesan (nor the grated variety) to be had. Parmesan is pretty basic, no? Last month, I again left the store, mumbling furiously to myself, when apples were the only fruit on sale. I have braces; I can’t bite into apples. I wanted a banana. Do you think there was a banana to be had? No! I flipped my imaginary hair furiously, turned on my heels and vowed never to set foot in the nutritionally void store again. The only item guaranteed in stock in Tesco Ringsend is scurvy.

Last week, out of pure necessity, I returned to same Tesco in Ringsend. I set my expectations low. Expect nothing ‘fancy’, fresh or organic, I reminded myself. Jubilations, there were bananas. I threw some into my basket. Since I prepared for an evening of study, I wanted Crunchy Nut Cornflakes to snack on. En route to the cereal aisle, which as you can guess is quite prominent – and barren of porridge and granola, I encountered a sight to behold. There, beside the small offering of vegetables stood a beautiful man. His hair was dark, almost black, was cut shortly and stylishly. His sharp cheek bones angled towards a dimpled chin. From his complexion – and lack of proximity – I guessed his eyes were blue. When dealing with a specimen of this calibre, it is essential to weigh up the whole package; I checked out his clothes. He wore a tweed jacket, most definitely from Zara, dark slim fit jeans and white Adidas Tiger runners. This boy ticked all the right boxes. It was imperative I travel to the cereal aisle via the vegetables and fruit. I slipped by, apologising as I did. He didn’t even notice.

Ten minutes later, my shopping basket brimmed with junk food. It was time to queue for a cashier. There were only four people in the queue. I noted the absence of Beautiful Man. The store is quite small. I hadn’t bumped into him on any other of the aisles. Where could he be? I asked. Did he leave? This required an investigation … or a stalk. He wasn’t on the alcohol aisle. Neither was he in the convenience food section. He was nowhere near the baked goods. He must have managed to sneak by me, I realised. Perhaps, he is still in the fruit and veg section? I pondered. Carrying my heavy basket, I wobbled in that direction. There he stood tall, looking as beautiful as ever, examining the label of some pre-packed corn-on-the cob. This man clearly makes an effort to eat healthily. I would never buy corn-on-the-cob, never mind examine the label. My presence had still not come on his radar. I took an opportunity to check out the contents of his shopping basket. In his basket was:

  • Strawberries
  • Glenisk yoghurt
  • Celery
  • Grapes
  • Onions

While his shopping list was clearly not representational of his final purchase, it gave an accurate assessment of how important his diet was, given his lean, healthy appearance and the considerable amount of time he spent choosing his fruit and veg. I was disappointed with his purchases. I too like to eat healthily, but there was no fun in his diet. It’s clear I am placing waaaaaaay too much emphasis on Beautiful Man’s purchases to soften the insult of his failure to acknowledge me as I purposely collided into him with my shopping basket. I dismissed him and his dull basket. The man I want will be as good looking as Beautiful Man, cook with fresh ingredients just as I am sure Beautiful man does, but my man will have a streak of fun in him. He’ll have a Box of Frosties, Oreos or a pack of Wagon Wheels in his shopping basket.

Goolie-Gate

Two Fridays ago, at around 07.15, my cab rolled up outside a clinic near Baggot Street. I exited the taxi, slightly disorientated by the darkness. I searched for a suggestion of where I should go. A large sign post directed me to “Ultrasound & X-Ray Building”, conveniently located near the gateway. The small, white building stood isolated from the hospital campus. To my surprise the building was open. I had anticipated waiting. I stepped into the dimly lit waiting area to find two receptions who tapped away on the keyboards of their PCs.

I handed my letter of referral to the nearest receptionist through a small hatch. She instructed me to take a seat in a well-to-do accent. I examined her as I removed my gloves and heavy coat. Her hair was tied in a bun. She pursed her lips as she assessed the envelope. Before opening it, she turned from me in what I thought might be some unspoken discretion towards patients. I fidgeted nervously, ignoring the neatly fanned collection of newspapers. The suspense was dented by the considerable force of a heavy door that swung forward to reveal the doctor, a greying man in his fifties, who entered the room. He was dressed neatly in a chequered shirt and plainly coloured tie. He stared over a pair of low-riding spectacles into a clip-board. His eyes rapidly motioned left to right. He looked towards me and cleared his throat.

“Stephen, if you would please follow me.”

I jumped out of the seat. I desperately wanted to leave the confines of the eerily silent waiting room.

The building was clearly bigger than it seemed; the doctor led me down a long, white corridor, before turning right and entering an irregularly shaped, white room. A bed sat nestled on the far side among a collection of medical gadgetry. The doctor gestured towards the bed, took one last look at the clipboard and prepared the ultrasound machine.

“Pull down your jeans and underwear. Lie on the bed.” His manner alternated between friendly and firm.

I did as he asked.

He picked up a white bottle, held it above my delicates and squeezed the bottle firmly. It spat noisily.

“Ahhhh,” I gasped.

“Oh,” he said rather insincerely, “I do apologise for the coldness. Now, if you wouldn’t mind pulling your penis up your middle.”

What did he just ask? I questioned. Clarification needed. “Excuse me?”

“Pull your penis up your middle. It stops your testicles from wobbling. It makes the ultrasound much easier.”

“Ah, OK”. I self-consciously did as (I hoped) he meant, expecting him to correct me at any moment.

He picked up the ultrasound imaging device. He set about his investigation, spreading the viscosity gel as he did. I lay back on the bed. I traced patterns of paint in the white ceiling, occasionally looking at the monitor.

He paused. “Ah, I see.”

I raised my head. “You found something?” My voice trembled slightly.

“I can tell you straight away what you have is harmless. You have a cyst. More than fifty per cent of men that visit with testicular lumps are happy to discover they have cysts. You actually have two of them; one is less tense. They are harmless.  Now, while you are here, you may as well let me check your kidneys, bladder and colon. Lie back for a few minutes.”

I lay back on the bed and assessed the situation. There was no massive sense of relief. Since discovering the lump and dealing with the initial shock five days ago, I guessed it was nothing. The most stressful part of the experience was the discovery: finding it and repeatedly checking to see if it was still there; the realisation you are one of the many who discover a lump. Fortunately, many lumps are cysts or are benign. Sadly, for others it commences a battle with cancer.

“You are good to go,” the doctor announced. He handed me reams of tissue to clean myself of the gel. “You are in good health. You obviously need to continue examining yourself. You can’t be too careful.”

“So in future, when I am checking for lumps, I should look for extra lumps, considering I have two?” I laughed. The doctor did not.

He shook my hand. “Enjoy them,” he said.

Before leaving, I hesitated, but thought best not to clarify what I should enjoy.

My Humps, My Lovely Little Lumps

My friend’s sister is sick with breast cancer at the moment. My friend worries about her every day. Not only have she and I conversed on her sister’s health, we have also talked about the terrifying disease that is cancer. We’re all familiar with the dreaded C word, but it’s only when it affects someone we know and love, does it genuinely instil fear.

The conversations with my friend have made me more aware of cancer. I fail to check myself on a regular basis as I should. Last night, in bed, I decided to inspect the family jewels more thoroughly than usual. I buried my hands for a rummage.

“Dum-dee-dum, doo-pee-doo, na-na-na … oh …. Hmmmmm … Dum-dee-dum, na-na-na … oh”

There was a lump.

My mind raced. I withdrew my hands. It’s just skin, I comforted myself.

I returned my hands from whence they came. It wasn’t a fold of skin. There was a pronounced lump. Maybe it’s a piece of anatomy you’ve only discovered, I thought.

Following another rumble in the jungle, and comparison between the good and bad testicle, I resigned myself to a newly acquired bump.

There I lay in bed at 01.30 with all sorts of thoughts racing through my mind. It could be anything, the rational side of my brain cooed. One could live a perfectly normal life with one testicle, a soothing voice of hope called. Oh! But what if it’s spread? You could be riddled! came an echoing taunt.

I slept very little last night, waking regularly to question whether my memories were events or dreams. The first thing I did this morning was visit the doctor. The doctor, a more business looking than medical fellow, introduced himself warmly. He gestured for me to climb onto the bed and remove the necessary under garments. He found the lump in a fraction of the time it took me, squeezing it firmly until I complained of pain. I climbed down from the bed. He delivered his opinion.

“I reckon it is no more than a cyst, a gathering of fluid. Get it checked as soon as you can.”

I left the medical centre a different person to how I entered. I was rattled, but the crazy, erratic thoughts no longer cascaded through my mind. I treated myself to a coffee and pastry from a nearby café and returned to work.

Today, I spoke with a friend who spent two years of her life fighting stage-three lymphoma. She fought the disease for two, long years until given the clear. She was lucky to have survived at the time she was ill. Today, anyone in the same position can avail of numerous advances in treatment of cancer. “Even if you do have it”, she said, “which I doubt you do, it is treatable”.

Why does the C word strike fear in our hearts to the extent it does? Yes, people die of the disease, but there are literally thousands of people in our country who overcame cancer; they celebrate every moment of their day. These people are walking survivors who, have not only dealt with the initial scare of encountering a lump or bump; they became confirmed cases.

I have a consultation later this week to get the suspect piece of organic matter investigated further. I feel comforted by my visit to the doctor this morning, yet I am cautious to celebrate. I’ll let you know the outcome. In the mean time, I’ll remind myself of the inspiring friends and people I know who fought and beat cancer.

Always, always check yourself.

Never Meet your Heroes

Over Christmas, Fiona invited me to her home for a gathering of friends and family. The evening was relaxed. Red wine flowed. By around eight o’clock, the attendants formed small pockets in the various rooms on the ground floor. A group of us intimately huddled on sofas in a quiet corner next to the Christmas tree, discussing subjects that varied from water shortages to previous relationships. During the course of the evening, I attentively received a story. I will attempt the tale as confidently told by Naidi. Please forgive inaccuracies, lack of detail and embellishments in certain areas.

“My friend completed a masters in some college in the UK, maybe about twenty years ago. One of her professors, an eccentric lady in her fifties, had a PhD in women’s’ rights or something like that. Despite the professor’s age, she remained unmarried, spending most of her life campaigning for women’s rights in the workplace. The female students of the college loved her.” Naidi lifted her goblet-like glass and sipped her red wine.

“Following a lecture with this professor, my friend remained behind in the lecture hall. She loitered, while other students vacated the room. She nervously approached the revered professor, who sat at a large, oak desk, packing papers and books into a satchel. For a number of weeks, she had wanted to speak with the professor. She drew breath and put the question to her. ‘Looking back on your life, if you could give a young woman one piece of advice what would it be?’ The professor remained seated, consumed in thought, while my friend stood. ‘My advice to a young woman of today is to always moisturise your neck and chest.’”

Naidi shook her head. “My friend was furious. This professor, who was held in high esteem for her research and efforts on women’s rights, could only offer advice on skin care régime. My friend expected so much more from that answer. Needless to say, she was disappointed and lost all respect for the professor.”

The story was momentarily interrupted by a discussion between Naidi and Fiona on the benefits of moisturising one’s neck and chest. Naidi finished the story.

“My friend, who is now in her late forties, told me this story last year, twenty years on from the completion of her masters. I decided to ask the same question of her. ‘Considering the advice of the professor that enraged you, and hindsight on your life, if you were asked the same question, what wisdom you would impart for a young woman today?’”

“‘If I could give advice to a girl today’, my friend said, ‘it would be to always moisturise your neck and chest.’”