Aaaaah, Bicester…..

Different day, different gravy. It’s a decent, warm Autumn day and so instead of being indoors cooped up, I’ve decided to pay a visit to a shopping outlet called Bicester Village, in Oxfordshire, England. It’s about 45 minutes away from London on the train.

Quaint place, if I’m being honest. Full of very expensive outlets, ranging from Gucci to Michael Kors to Versace. Little bit out of my price range, to say the least. I thought it was worth paying a visit as I have passed by once a few Christmasses ago.

I have never ever seen so many Chinese people in one place as I have here. Extraordinary, wherever you turn. The Chinese love a bargain but they’re few and far between here. But if the influx of the Chinese does wonders for the local economy, who are we to argue?

Weather is good, I feel quite relaxed and I’ve just had dinner at a decent restaurant on the entrance to the shopping village. I don’t think I’ll be paying a return visit, though. It’s quite crowded, for a weekday, and there are queue controls at some shops. I just fancied getting out of London for the afternoon, that’s all. And I also spotted a few people with fake tans and a few facelifts. I have a tan (real) but no facelift. Wimpey Builders would have trouble lifting my face, and I’m quite happy looking at my ugly mug every morning when I have a shave, thank you very much.

As I said, quaint. I appreciate things that are different and Bicester Village certainly is different, but expensive. If I win the Euromillions jackpot, I may return, so that means I won’t return!

Sorry, rambling away, so I’ll bid farewell for now.

A.S.D Brooks

Fit for nothing…..

Yes, 175 of these…..

This morning revealed to me that my fitness isn’t what it should be. That’s no one’s fault but my own, so I’m not searching for excuses.

In the morning rush hour, I had to travel up to London to attend a day long mental health workshop. I’ve been really looking forward to this. So off I went, and the journey was bitty and disjointed as there was, not unreasonably, a load of people on every train and the train was held at signals on several occasions.

This of course was making me late and I was starting to panic a little bit. I got off at Russell Square underground station in the heart of London. There are three lifts but all had a huge amount of people at each one. There was a staircase…….and boy was I in for a nasty surprise.

There are 175 steps. Yes, that’s right, 175. With the panic of lateness taking over, I tried to rush my way up the steps. It was like one of those staircases that would never end. At one point I shouted “How many more!” My legs were like jelly, I was blowing out of my arse and I saw no end in sight.

When I got onto level ground, I slumped in the corner of the concourse and a concerned passer by commented that I wasn’t looking too great. She wasn’t kidding! An underground staff worker came over with a glass of water and after five minutes, I managed to stumble to my feet and make my unsteady progress to the venue.

175 steps! Inhumane for those who are not fit. For those that are fit, still a severe trial. If I have to use Russell Square tube station again, I will look for alternatives in the rush hour. That this morning nearly saw me carted off to the local hospital. Pretty drastic for a man of 46.

It took me a good 90 minutes to focus, get my breath and participate in the event. I might not go to the gym again, I might run down the stairs at Russell Square and get the lift back up. Thankfully I’m not in hospital and am ok, eventually.

Not the sort of risk I’ll be taking any time soon.

A.S.D Brooks

Mooching around on Monday….

(Church in AnsiĆ£o)

Afternoon. As I type, a gentle breeze is blowing through the hotel room window. What can I say? Another blue sky day. Not seen a cloud since last Wednesday in England.

No game today and I think the rest has come at a good time. The tour party was a little bit tired with the accommodation change and travelling to the games over the weekend. Me and my sparring partner have taken advantage of the hotel jacuzzi and pool and that was very refreshing, sorting out those aches and pains.

We’re off for a meal later with a real character of the party. This chap is English born but has a strong American accent now, as he lives in Florida. He was an RAF pilot and a commercial jet pilot as well. The life and soul of any party. He had us rolling in the aisles at the game yesterday with some ribald mickey taking of some of the touring party. Very, very funny and a natural sense of humour.

But the whole week has been like that. Lots of great fun, comradeship and good cricket too. The lunch and dinner at the cricket ground has to be some of the best I’ve tasted. In fact the whole operation there at Amigos CC is something a few cricket clubs back home could copy. Well organised and with a great sense of fun and competition. And a great group of people too.

(Town Square at Tomar)

A.S.D Brooks

Not Polythycemia, but possibly Sleep Apnea??

Evening. Well, it was off to the hospital this morning to see whether I have polythycemia. And the answer from the haematologist was no. The red blood cell count has stabilised and there is no need for another venesection to withdraw more blood. He alluded to doing some work on my general fitness, which could be a factor in seeing an improvement on the red cell count factor.

But…..there’s always a but. I have been getting the occasional headache and general listlessness recently. The haematologist mentioned sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is where the airways in the throat get blocked, causing the sufferer to wake up suddenly with a loud snore and the breathing will go back to normal.

Can be quite dangerous of course. Unfortunately, as I live on my own, there is no one to verify whether I wake up suddenly and with a loud snore. All I can say is that I feel generally groggy upon waking and feel very unrefreshed, no matter how long I’ve been asleep or the quality of it.

The upshot of this is a visit to the respiratory department at the hospital to investigate this. Lack of oxygen can be the cause of the headaches and general listless feeling. This seems to be the path of investigation and polythycemia has been ruled out. After my holiday, it’ll be a return to the gym to move some weight that I’ll doubtless put on over the next seven days.

General message – continue to get fitter. But this possible sleep apnea needs looking at because it is dangerous if left unchecked.

A.S.D Brooks

Testing for a gene malfunction….

Another blood test tomorrow morning. Why? Well, to see whether I have polythycemia, which is in effect, too many red blood cells, causing the blood to thicken, raising the possibility of heart attacks and strokes.

The last few weeks, some symptoms which presented themselves before have returned. Tiredness, headaches (mainly on the left side of the head), and slightly blurred vision in my left eye. I had a venesection done back in the summer where a pint of blood was drawn from me. This relieved the symptoms for a good while, but there is the possibility of another venesection at some point.

The final test the haematologist has to look at are more blood samples. There is a gene in the body called JAK-2. It has a longer name but I didn’t do Latin at school. If this gene is malfunctioning, it could be the cause of the proliferation of red blood cells. That may require medication, possibly.

So I have another blood test tomorrow and a trip to the haematologist Monday week. I think we could be back where we were back in the summer. Sitting in a day ward in hospital with a whacking great needle shoved in my vein in my left arm. Certainly, physically, just not been as well as I could be recently, despite the gym work and a few pounds lost. We shall see what happens.

A.S.D Brooks

Listen to your body as well as the mind….

At Peer Support group the other day, we talked about listening to what your body tells you about pain and not wanting to make that pain worse.

Today I’m putting that into practice. Earlier in the week, I was looking forward to going out today, to travel to a football match and watch. Waking up this morning however, saw a completely different mindset.

I slept a long time, but it seems not a very good quality sleep. I feel quite tired and washed out. No enthusiasm for doing anything today. No get up and go, and though sometimes I do push myself to do things when not 100%, that is not possible today, not at all.

The TV will be on, and I’m just going to lay on the sofa and keep an eye on the sport going on up and down the country. So I’ve listened to what my body is telling me. Washed out, so stay in. Going out will make it worse. No gym today either, that’s totally out of the question.

A.S.D Brooks

Not feeling too fresh….

Gym today, but a struggle quite honestly. I’ve been managing 7.5 miles on the cycle, but my legs wouldn’t have it today, so I managed 7 miles. Don’t know the reason today why it’s been a lot more of an effort to get going.

Even the treadmill was difficult and even the walk back from the bus stop to home was painful as well. More stiffness in the legs than anything else. But as long as the weight keeps coming off, then that’s the bottom line. It’s 90 minutes of a day where I would be sitting indoors so let’s keep it going. The path to enrichment and enlightenment? A long way to go yet.

Perhaps it was a lesson in not going to the gym when not feeling physically up to it. But I went and I’m happy about that. Plenty more work still to do.

A.S.D Brooks

Autism Jottings….

Just a few things to share with you. I don’t mention much about my autism diagnosis but a few things have occurred in the last 10 days which are worthy of note.

Remember the mad scramble to make that appointment last Monday. Late buses and a frantic dash to get there just in time. Disruption to routine. Disruption to plans and a fear of being late and letting the company down who I volunteer for. Those thoughts race through my scrambled mind when everything is going wrong. Also I get angry and start to castigate the world at large. It’s rare this happens but happen it does and I’m best avoided.

On Saturday, I attended a 50th birthday celebration for one of my wonderful colleagues. There were 25 or so other people there and though that sounds a small number, in the pub beforehand, it seemed like a lot. It was warm and quite cramped in there and I was quiet, as another colleague noted. Let me make it clear that large gatherings of people can set off feelings of shyness and not being interesting enough to engage in conversation. This is a feeling that pre-dates my autism diagnosis by some 30-40 years. Never been much good in social situations, they more than slightly unnerve me.

So that’s what’s been happening to me autism wise in the last 10 days. The reason I try not to mention it too often is that I manage most of the time to carry on with life and I’m generally ok. That’s not to say that ASD lurks menacingly in the background, ready to make an unwitting appearance. Keeping busy-ish with volunteering, sport, and gym helps ward off the feelings, for the most part. The last ten days has thrown up a couple of examples where the diagnosis tries to dominate. But I don’t let it.

A.S.D Brooks

Modest Monday….

After the panic stations of last Monday, when I was struggling against the whims of public transport to make it to an important appointment, today is more like my sort of day. Stress and drama free, not forgetting to add the rider, so far…….

A sumptuous day outside, a perfect autumn day, and quite hot too, as the remnants of ex-tropical storm Helene pull up some nice air towards the UK. The sky is azure blue and it would be a perfect beach day if this was three months earlier. Lovely.

Back to the gym to shake off the excesses of Saturday night and again, a nice enjoyable session. Comfortable could be a good description. Then I had to do a bit of shopping. No fuss, no dramas… far.

Calmness personified today… far!!! I’m beginning to sound like a parrot, but I have to remember that a day is 24 hours, not 6 or 12 or 18. Plenty of time to absorb what else may happen today. All in all, a modest Monday.

A.S.D Brooks

7.5 miles of cycling…

Pushing myself. That’s what this gym work is about. Usually, I cycle for 6.5 miles a session, today I’ve eked out another mile. Pleased with that. Getting the heart rate up to a fair level but without overdoing it.

Oh this is so enjoyable, I cannot begin to tell you. I only wish I was like this in my early twenties, looking after my health. Then it wouldn’t come down to warnings now from medical professionals about fatty livers and the prospect of heart problems. Exerting myself and keeping it within bounds. I don’t go to the gym every day. Going every day would dilute the enjoyment and I would quickly get bored. Spacing out the sessions to say three times a week is adequate. And it feels just right.

I recommend this to anyone. Just go at a sensible pace and eventually, the weight will slowly come off. And I haven’t stopped eating the things I like either. If a hitherto unmotivated old whatsit like me can have a go, anyone can.

A.S.D Brooks