Archive for the ‘Edinburgh’ Category

Housekeeping: OK, so I’ve now been back in London for two weeks, and while I’m pretty much physically recovered from my stay in hospital in Edinburgh (50 plus 05: er… e.r.? Eh? No, A&E.) and a couple of visits to GP and hospital since I returned to London, I’m still utterly shattered most of the time, and any stamina I got back seems to have deserted me the past couple of days. I really don’t want to bother my GP again, but if I’m still feeling like this tomorrow or Tuesday, yeah another visit beckons.
 


 
OK, so one other thing about Edinburgh I hadn’t mentioned this time around, because I hadn’t quite realised how unusual it was, and it’s only been sinking in slowly since I returned. (Look, I’ve been ill, and you have to remember that, even in good times, I am exceedingly stupid on occasion.)

In fact this thing has only occurred on one previous visit: 2014’s. I doubt that my earlier than usual visit is the reason. (I usually get up there after my birthday, but in both 2014 and 2019, I celebrated my birthday up there.)

In 2014, I attended the Edinburgh Fringe a few weeks before Scotland’s Independence Referendum. It was only my second visit to Edinburgh, so I didn’t have much to compare it to, but I’d already discovered how much I enjoyed sitting in the main food court area outside the Gilded Balloon of an evening, having a drink, doing some writing and watching… watching performers promoting their shows, watching people enjoy themselves, watching people chat away.

But as I say it was my second visit, so I had no idea whether the seemingly ever present politics chats among other groups were common or unusual, whether how everyone seemed to at some point or another express an opinion on the politics of the day, and seek another’s opinion, was usual or uncommon.

Future years showed me just how uncommon, how unusual, it was, by the way. Most years, it’s shows they’ve seen that people are chatting about, shows they’re about to see that they’re animated by. And the telling of gags they’ve heard. Seriously, you hear some cracking gags, and delightfully, all credited to the right comedian for once.

But in 2014, the referendum chat was everywhere. Not only in the food court chats, but almost every political show covered it, everyone’s topical material had ‘a bit’ on it. And rarely, very rarely, it got angry. Occasionally, but only that. Even many of the political comedians got angry, very angry, then punctured it with a joke that returned everyone to enjoyment.

And in the food court, usually, it was informed, sensible, rational debates, addressing the arguments in a way that I wished politicians would follow. I even saw people make a point, get called on its potential unreliability, or flat out falsity, and then one or other of them would look it up on their phone or tablet… and then both would agree whether or not the point was valid. (Small caveat for the potential post-independence Scotland’s finances; only occasional agreement on that, but on everything else to do with the Referendum? Lots of agreement.)

I got asked my opinion loads by strangers at the same table while up there, and despite my always saying ‘well, not really my place to say is it, I’m not Scottish‘, I was courteously encouraged to give a view, and where I said something the other person disagreed with, there was a genuine attempt to change my mind, not an insult to my intelligence, or honesty, or parentage. (The less pleasant exchanges I had were all online in 2014.)

Well, 2019’s Fringe was similar and dissimilar. Sure, yes, the politics chat was back in full force, moreso than in previous years, and yes, plenty of heated chats, but what was missing was the ‘huh, yeah, you have a good point there, my friend, but what about…?’ That wasn’t merely less, but was entirely absent, as was the implication of good faith on the others’ part.

Anyone who was still pro-Brexit (an important caveat; people seemed to have far less of an issue with people who’d voted Brexit three years ago, mainly because it was three years ago), and there were a few I heard, well, their views were treated not with contempt but flat disbelief.

And the anti-Brexit positions weren’t merely “anti No Deal”, they were flat out anti-Brexit.

I’ve said before that one of the things I like about The Fringe is that I’ve rarely seen angry drunks up there. Plenty of drunks, sure, but few who were angry. And those few either calmed down or were escorted off the premises by very big security people.

This year, it wasn’t anger, but heated frustration that I saw a lot of: a complete lack of ability, not mere refusal, but an inability, to see, or even attempt to see, the other person’s point of view.

That scares me, genuinely.

Because I’ve seen more of it the past two weeks since I’ve returned. I see it in politicians, I see it online, I see it with some friends. And no matter what happens in the next few weeks, I suspect it’s going to get worse.

I wrote a couple of weeks back about why I’m dreading the next election. What I was foolish enough not to realise when I wrote it was… we’re already in the election campaign, whether the election comes in a few weeks or a couple of months. And the battle lines are already being drawn.

This will be an election of double standards, of fervently supporting your ‘own side’s’ actions and behaviour while vehemently decrying and condemning the same actions and behaviours of your political opponents. And both sides, all sides, will hold themselves out as the morally superior, the only honest one, the only rational one.

And that scares me as well.

Here’s just one example. Amber Rudd, until today Secretary of State for the Department of Works and Pensions, quit and said it was because she was no longer convinced the government wants a deal to leave the EU and is in fact going for a No Deal Brexit. She was previously very anti- that, seemed to swallow the possibility when she joined Johnson’s cabinet but now has quit.

And the responses to her resigning have been many, but one notable one is “well, I’ll take her support, sure, but dont forget she did this and that and this and that, so it’s two cheers at best; she’s no hero”.

And I get that as a reaction, I honestly do.

In fact, it’s the same response I have to people leaving the Labour Party, or at least trashing the current leadership, from people for whom antisemitism in Labour wasn’t a deal breaker but apparently Brexit is.

Again, I’ll take any anti-Corbyn support I can get, but I’m not going to celebrate someone discovering a backbone but for whom antisemitism was – if not fine and dandy – at least not something ‘up with which they would not put.’

And yet, when I express this view, I’m told, ‘but no, you must welcome them warmly and fully, embrace them.”

Well, I won’t. I’ll give them the same two cheers. And sadly, but invariably, wonder, at what point, if Labour changes their Brexit policy to something they can live with, the antisemitism will once again be something they can similarly live with.

Something else tomorrow, I think.

So, I ended up in hospital last night.

In fact, as I type this, I’m waiting to be discharged. I’m very tired; very, very tired. And I’m in a certain amount of discomfort and an equal amount of pain.

But I am being allowed out, at about 1pm, having been in the emergency room since just before 2am.

First things first, I’m ok… now. Well, ok-ish, anyway, which is – I think – the best one can hope for when the story starts “So, I ended up in hospital last night.”

I tweeted last night about 9pm:

And then, an hour later:

I mean, I’d have been genuinely upset if this had been my last night in Edinburgh, and I was heading back early because I was too tired/stumbly.

But I still had Thursday, Friday and almost all of Saturday to see shows, and to see people, before I head back Saturday night, to get back to London Sunday morning.

So, an early night. Yes?

Turns out, not so much.

I walked from Bristo Square, utterly shattered, quite stumbly and feeling a bit woozy towards the bus stop. The bus arrived and I stepped on board.

So far, so good-ish.

I’d been on the bus maybe five minutes when my stomach cramped. It sounds harmless if you say it fast enough, doesn’t it? But suddenly it felt like someone was scraping my insides with a rusty blade; astonishing pain that blew every bit of breath out of my body, and had me doubled up.

I managed to just about not scream with pain, as it slowly lessened… but then it happened a few minutes later again… and a few minutes after that. I just about made it off the bus, but now it was happening every couple of minutes, doubling me over with pain. Made it back to the flat… and as I climbed the stairs, miracle of miracles, the pain faded a bit.

I fell into an armchair, started to drift off to sleep, then [BANG], suddenly needed to get to the toilet immediately.

Now, here’s where things get a bit tricky. In the telling, I mean, because for most of the next two hours, I was unconscious, or as good as.

At some point in the next half hour, the following apparently occurred. I say ‘apparently’ because I have no memory of it at all for the aforementioned, y’know, reasons of unconsciousness.

In fact, the next memory I have is… well, you’ll know it when it happens.

So, apparently – again, I stress the apparently – I was very loud, from inside the loo, in expressing my pain, then made it out of the loo, then fell into the armchair… then belted for the loo again… then was equally loud, THEN very gingerly exited the loo… then collapsed to the ground in agony, then lapsed into delirious unconsciousness, unresponsive bar the occasional groan and clutching of my stomach.

And for the next hour or so, while an ambulance was called, and my friends waited for them to arrive, and were talking to emergency services, and trying to get through to an unconscious, delirious me… a me who was sweating through his clothes, while crunched up in agonising pain every few minutes.

For the first half hour of the paramedics’ attendance, I was apparently in the same state: pretty unresponsive, moaning and groaning incoherently (yes, yes, I know, how could they tell?) and occasionally crying out in agony. They were trying to ‘get through’ to me, trying in vain. Just wasn’t happening.

They hooked me up to this monitor and that piece of kit and that tech. While they discovered that while my temperature was normal, my other vitals were all over the shop. So they planned to take me to hospital. At some point, the agony broke though – though focussing my mind and my eyes was like swimming through tar; I managed to express a few words and literally crawled on hands, knees and belly to the toilet where I… evacuated.

You’ve heard of the expression “the bottom fell out of my world”…?

Well, use your imagination.

Was still in massive pain, but we somehow got me into the ambulance and other than trying desperately to keep me awake – I was suddenly extraordinarily tired, and achey, and freezing cold – I arrived at hospital relatively without incident.

At around 2am, accompanied by Mitch, who stayed with me for a couple of hours. (So, huge apologies to anyone seeing him today if he was less than fully awake post-show.)

The pain had faded a lot; was only really bad if I lay on my side. Yes, ok, I know the recommended treatment: don’t lay on your side, Budgie. But sitting up wasn’t too bad.

Around 5-ish they said the blood tests should be back in an hour and sure enough, just before 6am, they came back and a very serious young doctor tells me what they suspect: diverticulitis. Which probably would have mattered had I the slightest clue what the hell diverticulitis is… so he explained it to me.

Oh.

“So, we’re going to give you several antibiotics, by mouth, by injection and by drip. And we’ll schedule a scan… for a couple of hours. Yeah, you’re not going anywhere for a while.”

They start the antibiotics at half six after weighing me – 85.05 kg, 13 stone 5½ lb in old money.

7am: a Doctor wheels in an ultrasound; ‘hi. I’m just going to ultrasound your heart, just to check it’s ok. Specifically, your aorta valve. Do, you know what the aorta valve is?”

Yes, I know what the aorta valve is.

My aorta is fine, by the way. So, that’s nice.

9:15 they take me for a CT scan. Never had one before. Had an MRI – the pics from that are a genuine delight – but not a CT scan. I’m told what about to happen and that the dye they give me (via the cannula) will make me feel like I’m wetting myself.

They’re right. It’s a very odd feeling.

OK, it’s now 10am, and they walk me out of the emergency department… and straight into Surgical Admissions. They told me it’s ‘surgical observations’ but seeing as it has a great big sign with “SURGICAL ADMISSIONSon it outside, I’m not overly reassured.

Ah-ha! Progress… now being told CT revealed possible diverticulitis but definitely sigmoid colitis. Which, is a chunk of your – or rather, mine – lower descending intestine… that’s hugely inflamed.

Or at least was hugely inflamed and infected before they slapped loads of antibiotics into me. So the sigmoid colitis plus a possible teeny amount of diverticulitis is the final diagnosis.

And they’re letting me out, on my promise to see my GP when I return to London after the weekend. And they’re not taking any chances; they’ve already called my local surgery and sent them the test results and the CAT scan.

So, anyway, I’m about to leave the hospital, to return to the place I’m staying where I intend to have a cup of tea, and then get some much-needed sleep.

I’ll post this when I wake up.

OK, I’ve had a cuppa, and a few hours’ sleep and a shower. Genuinely unsure which of the latter two was more sorely needed.

Some quick points before I hit “Publish” on this thing.

  • My sincere and huge thanks to everyone who looked after me last night and today: the paramedics, the doctors, the nurses, the registrar. I apologise for being anything less than the perfect patient. I couldn’t have asked for better care from the paramedics or anyone at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

  • I kind of owe an apology to Family Benn as well for putting them through an awful time in the wee small hours. I can only offer apologies and my shared gratitude with them that the entire thing wasn’t… messier than it turned out to be.

  • I did ask the surgical registrar whether what I had was down to something I’d eaten, or because I used to smoke, etc… “No, just ‘luck of the draw’. Nothing you could have done to prevent this. Just take care of it when you get back to London…”

I faintly remembered the paramedics mentioning something about shaving. Discovered today what they meant. I don’t have the hairiest chest in the world. I mean, it’s got some hair but it’s not the hairiest. And it definitely isn’t now, since they shaved three small patches in order to attach bits to monitor me.

Something else, probably, tomorrow.

David Allen Green, who tweets as @davidallengreen, will occasionally quote-tweet some bit of news and merely append the single word: “Well.”

It can mean anything from a gentle “I told you so” to “I wrote about this, you know” to a “yer never gonna believe this, folks, but…”

But often, it’s just a “hey folks, this is interesting.”

And that’s how I intended the title of this post until I started writing it and realised it additionally meant a few other things.

For a start, I’m ‘well’. Which I wasn’t completely sure I would be on this day when I re-started the blog eight weeks ago.

With the exception of the annual A Life In Pictures post, and one about my late brother on the anniversary of his death, I’d last blogged in January 2017… two and a half years ago, and a fair bit has changed since then; for me, for politics, for everyone and everything.

And here I was, not planning on a gentle re-introduction to blogging; no, I chose to commit to a daily blog for fifty-five days.

Which doesn’t sound an awful lot… until you have to do it. I fully expected that I’d get about ⅔ of the way through, and chuck it in¹, decide it’s not worth it², decide the readership wasn’t responding in any way at all³, decide that hardly anyone was reading it⁴…

To which I can now respond, at the end of the run:

¹ I didn’t

² It really was worth it. Not for all of the posts, I’ll admit, but for many, for most, of them, yeah. I enjoyed writing them and I believe some people enjoyed reading them.

³ If I hadn’t known in advance that the ‘responding to blogs’ thing had for many gone out of fashion – comments often come in reply to the promo tweet, not the blog itself – I’d have been worried. But with the exception of very popular bloggers, the days of getting a couple of dozen replies on the blog to an interesting entry are long gone. At least for anyone not on Medium. (I only realised, well over half way through, that I should have grabbed a Medium account and cross-posted to that… I might do something with that idea at some point; get a Medium account, and cross post the ‘important’ posts.)

⁴ Other than when I knew a post was getting some traction on Twitter, I didn’t even check the blog stats. And I didn’t promote the blog on Facebook, for the simple reason that I’m not on Facebook. Amusingly, I got almost no click throughs from Tumblr. Posting the links to that was, probably, a waste of time.

So, how did it go?

For me? Great. I got to stick – near or less – to the plan I’d had when I started: some old fiction, some Saturday Smiles, some commentary on London, some on British politics, some on American politics, some on antisemitism.

Some stuff didn’t work out, of course. I intended to put up more brand new fiction. That only happened the one time, though I maintain that most of the stories I put up, readers would probably not have seen before, or at least not remembered seeing.

It does bug me a little that I never got around to publishing Part The Fourth in the series within the run dealing with antisemitic imagery. It’ll come at some point, but I don’t know when right now.

Which leads me to another thing and…
 


 

Actually, before I write that bit, I should have said this upfront. Apologies if this entry is a little more disjointed than usual, if it flows from one paragraph to the next a bit less than is my habit.

It’s just after 8am as I’m writing this, and I’m currently sitting outside a coffee shop in Edinburgh, on Princes Street.

I didn’t sleep as much as I’d hoped to on the overnight journey, so I’m a little bit fried. And I’ve a full day planned in Edinburgh: seeing a couple of shows and then having a wander, feeling the city again, remembering how I get from A to B.

So, again, sorry if this rambles a bit. I’ll edit it a bit for clarity and typos, etc., before I hit post.
 


 

Anyway, back to what I was saying. Yeah, this is the final post in the run of blog entries leading up to my fifty-fifth birthday, which if you’ve been paying attention and have even the slightest understanding of, y’know, numbers… is tomorrow: Saturday 17th August.

I’ve genuinely no idea right now whether I’ll post anything tomorrow. There’s a part of me that says ‘sod it; give yourself a day off’ and another part that says ‘Oh, come on, even if it’s just some quotes you like about birthdays, post something‘.

And then…?

I would take a few days off after that; I’m in Edinburgh for the fringe, after all, and I want to enjoy myself without having to post something every day.

The problem with that is… that’s that’s exactly what I said after the 75 day countdown I did at the end of 2016, leading up to New Year’s 2017: ‘take a few days off, budgie enjoy the break, then come back refreshed’.

And I did take a break. Which lasted two and a half years.

Again, I haven’t decided what I’ll do yet. My gut says I’ll continue to post, but less dense posts than in this fifty-five day run of entries. The occasional deep dive into something, sure; the irregular observations on the shitshow known as ‘British politics’ or “American politics’.

(I remain convinced, by the way, that UK politics and US politics got drunk on 31st December 2015, and they bet which of them could fuck up more over the next five years. Every few months, one of them gets an opportunity to up the stakes. And takes it.)

But I doubt I’ll blog every day. We’ll see. (Might do the first ten days as ’55 plus’. Again, we’ll see.)

But I’ve enjoyed writing again, I’ve enjoyed making the words do what I want, and saying what I wanted to say.

There were some surprises during the run, I’ll admit. I’ve never been one for recommending things to other people, or at least not a set of things. Recommending a book or a tv show, yes. But “ten podcasts I like” or “ten old movies I can happily rewatch”? No. However, I really enjoyed doing the half a dozen entries in which I did precisely that. And from messages I received, the pocket recommendations for each movie, podcast, individual tv episodes, some people enjoyed them as well.

(Small mea culpa; didn’t occur to me that if I was doing 10 recommendations, then with adding in the intro, you’re talking 2,500 to 3,000 words per post. Silly me.)

I didn’t exactly enjoy doing the ‘antisemitic imagery’ posts, but I thought them necessary; I’d been planning on doing something along those lines for a couple of years. And I’m pleased they’re done, easy to read I’m told, and achieved their aims.

One of the aims, of course, was to provide a reference source, for me, and for others, in the same way a post I wrote in 2014 – 50 minus 3: Israel, Gaza and anti-Semitism in the UK – has done for many.

I did enjoy digging out and showing the musical comedians in the Saturday Smiles, introducing them to people who didn’t previously know their work.

And I thoroughly enjoyed resurrecting some fiction from the vaults… and presenting you all with a brand new story. I’ve three other brand new stories that I didn’t post during the run… maybe they’ll appear here in the future.

Anyway, I hope that you enjoyed reading the run.
 


 
As I mentioned earlier, I’m now in Edinburgh, for the Edinburgh Fringe. Until 2011, I’d never been to the Fringe, I’d never been to Scotland, in fact. But I’d had a rough year, a very rough one, and close friends arranged for me to spend three days up in Edinburgh in August. Both to catch up with an old friend who’d rented a house up here for the month and invited me to stay, and to introduce me to The Fringe.

Despite the fantastic comedy and entertainment, going by the usual ‘me being me’, I shouldn’t enjoy Fringe. Genuinely. It’s made up of lots of things I don’t like: huge crowds everywhere, enforced jollity, and everywhere’s uphill. No, seriously, everywhere. You walk uphill to a gig, come out and think ‘well, at lest it’s downhill back, yet somehow this Escher lithograph of a city makes you walk uphill again.

(The Escher line is Mitch Benn’s; it’s wholly accurate.)

But everywhere being uphill causes me an issue with my fucked up foot.

So I shouldn’t have enjoyed it.

But I did.

I loved it. And I returned to Edinburgh to celebrate my 50th birthday in 2014. And made it back in 2015, not for my birthday though. And in 2016. And… and… and you get the picture.

This is my seventh visit in nine years, and my sixth consecutive visit. I love the Fringe and I love coming to Edinburgh. I see friends I haven’t seen in a year, I see great comedy, and I spend an awful lot of it laughing. Fringe is very, very good for me.

And this year, for the first time since 2014, I’m here for my birthday. No idea what I’m going to do for my birthday; I’m not doing the drinkup I did for my 50th, but I’ll see what occurs.

I have three Edinburgh Fringe traditions – hey, it’s my seventh visit; I get to have traditions:

First tradition: The first show I see is Mitch Benn’s. And the last show I see is Mitch’s show, again. Not only because he’s one of my closest friends, and I love his work, but it’s they’re perfect bookends to my visit to this fair city. I could make a list of what I owe to this man, how much I respect and like him, and how grateful I am that he’s my friend and occasional collaborator.… and it’d take until Sunday to finish.

Second tradition: There’s a coffee shop I discovered on my first visit in 2011. Couldn’t find it in 2014, but rediscovered it in 2015. And I’ll visit them while I’m up. They’re very nice people in there, they make great coffee and it’s just… nice, you know? Nice is an underrated attribute and quality. We should prize it when we find it.

Third tradition: Twice during my stay, I see comedians I’ve never seen before. I’ll find myself with a few hours to spare, I’ll check on the app what’s on… and I’ll pick one almost at random. So far, I’d say I’ve been lucky enough on average to have a two-in- three hit rate, two of the three are good, one of the three… really isn’t.

Actually, there’s a fourth tradition I’ve just realised. At some point, I’ll find myself in Bristo Square just after midnight, really, really, really wanting some chips.

OK, I think that’s about it.

Thanks for reading. Not only today’s but any of the posts you’ve read.

Fifty-five days. Fifty-five posts.

Well.
 
 
This post is the final post of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday on 17th August 2019. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

The final blog entry I wrote in the ‘2017 minus’ run was entitled: 2017 minus 01: A green light and dealt with my having quit smoking a month earlier… without telling anyone.

Spoiler: I then told people.

And I continued telling people. Just not here.

Because one of the consequences of not having blogged during the past couple of years is that, er… I haven’t blogged.

And a lot’s happened in the past two years; to me, to everyone, and I haven’t written about any of it.

Oh, I’ve commented about it, on Twitter, sure, but Twitter, even with linked threads, is by nature a concise format.

Some might try to get around that by writing dozens of tweets in a thread, but that’s not my tweeting style; threads on occasion, sure, but not long ones.

So while I a) gave up smoking, b) without telling anyone about it, and wrote about both in the entry mentioned above, I’ve not written anything long form on it.

There were lots of reasons for not telling people the first month, or telling very few anyway. primary reason being that this way there was no outside pressure; also, no ‘inside’ pressure. If I quit quitting… I’d ‘let no one down’. Was for once purely my decision to quit, and would be my decision to quit quitting as well.

But it’s now been more than two and a half years, and though I mention it every few months on Twitter, I’ve not had the opportunity to write about it properly.

So here goes.

When I left you:

  • I’d tried, half-heartedly, to quit before; never lasted. I missed smoking too much.
  • I decided this time… pretty much on a whim
  • Once I’d slept on it, I decided to have a proper go at it
  • I made a detailed plan to go from smoking to non-smoking in about seven weeks, with ‘targets’ along the way.
  • I kept to the plan
  • I’d quit smoking a month earlier, on 30th November 2016.
  • I was now using a Curv ecig

So for the next few months, I continued with the Curv. I quite liked it. It was easy to use, inexpensive compared to smokes, available in loads of places, and about the size of a cigarette, so I never felt like my hands had to learn something new.

I figured that, given the then-cost of starter vape kits (they’ve come down a bit since then) it was more sensible to stick with the Curv for a while; after all, who knew whether I’d stick at it?

For I’d tried before, don’t forget and I’d always missed smoking when I previously attempted to give up.

With the Curv? I… didn’t.

That was the oddest thing: I didn’t miss smoking.

Now, sure, to all intents and purposes, I was still smoking. I was holding something roughly the size of a cigarette, taking in nicotine, inhaling, exhaling with roughly the same amount of ‘smoke’ as I’d do with a cigarette…

And the Curv, while coming in several strengths, only had two ‘flavours’: tobacco and menthol.

So, with the exception of less crap going into my body, there really wasn’t that much difference to smoking. And it was cheaper, a lot cheaper. Not as cheap as vape would be, but well on the way.

Once I’d told people about it, people started saying three things:

  1. “You don’t smell of tobacco any more!”
  2. “Oh, you’ll feel so much healthier, and everything will taste better, oh, and well done!”
  3. “So when are you switching to a vape?”

 
To which I usually responded:

  1. “Thank you…?”
  2. “I don’t, it doesn’t, and thank you…”
  3. “When I’m convinced I’m sticking with it, and I find one that doesn’t look like a sonic screwdriver.”

 
Months passesd, I continued to very much not miss smoking, always faintly surprised at that. And I continued buying the Curv.

Until August 2017.

By then, I’d been saying for a couple of months that if I was still a non-smoker (I always kind of assumed I’d go back to it at some point) than when my birthday rolled around, I’d consider getting a vape kit.

Friends took care of that for me, and for my birthday that year, they bought me an Aspire K2 vape, plus half a dozen differently flavoured liquids.

I was both delighted and worried; delighted both because the startup ‘cost’ of vaping had been very kindly taken care of, and this vape didn’t look enormous, but slender, and easy to use.

Worried because as with any change, as with any jump-on point, there’s always the possibility that I’ll hate the change so much that I’ll just quit the entire enterprise, and jump off.

I didn’t, though. Quickly learned to use it, really liked it. Felt nice in my hand, wasn’t huge, didn’t feel like I was holding a sonic screwdriver, at least not a big one. (The only problem with the K2 was that it kept rolling off the table and falling to the ground. So I ended up buying a new tank every month or so… )

Soon, I was off to Edinburgh for a week at the Fringe… where I expected to have an odd experience; would be the first fringe I’d been to since quitting smoking.

And there was an effect, but not the one I was expecting. No, I didn’t start smoking again; no I didn’t miss it.

But after eight months of not smoking and it not having any deleterious consequence when out… When I was in Edinburgh – where I guess I always associated it with me smoking, and only associated it with me smoking…

every time I left a table, every bloody time, when leaving somewhere, when standing up from a table, I searched for my cigarettes and lighter.

Seriously, every time. The first couple of times were amusing. After three or four days, the amusement paled, and I was genuine annoyed with myself at it.

Hmm. Creature of habit, you see?

And everyhere’s uphill.

As you know, if you’ve been – and as you’ve heard, if you know anyone who has been – to Ediburgh, everywhere is uphill. Somehow, walking to a gig, you’re walking uphill. Walking back from the gig, you should be walking downhill, yes?

No. As Mitch Benn once observed, Edinburgh’s not so much a city as an Escher lithograph.

I was curious before arriving as to whether I’d notice any difference to my health, whether I’d find it easier going up the hills, the long flights of stairs… Sadly, no. No difference. Was just as out of breath in 2017 as I was in 2016.

November 30th 2017: a year as a former smoker.

I was pleased. I was fairly proud. I was, quite frankly, flabbergasted.

A few months after that, I lost my K2 vape. Got another, still Aspire but a PockeX, the one I’m still using now, and for the first time since I stopped smoking, I felt like “yes, this is the kit I want.”

And suddenly it was August again. And Edinburgh again.

And this time, in 2018, I noticed. I noticed the difference.

There’s a set of steps in Edinburgh that, for me, turned out to be quite literally the single best “huh, you are healthier, having quit smoking” measure.

This second pic shows the first half of the steps… there are another four ‘flights’ at the end.

And, for the first time, walking straight up them at decent pace, I ended up not being wholly out of breath at the end.

Huh.

I repeated the experience the following day.

Same result. Out of breath, but not wholly so, not gasping for breath and needing five minutes to recover.

I repeat: huh.

So am I now permanently an ex-smoker?

I don’t know. Genuinely.

I’m not a smoker now. I think that’s all I can say.

I’ve only twice missed smoking, only twice wanted a cigarette, in those two and a half years since I quit. On both occasions, I was surrounded by people who didn’t smoke. Had they smoked, would I have taken a cigarette? I don’t think so. I hope not. But I don’t know, and that scares me more than it probably should.

I should find my personal devotion to ‘habit’ a good thing in the circumstances. I smoked as a habit; I now don’t, as a habit.

But sometimes that’s not necessarily a good thing.

One more story, from a month ago.

Because it’s annoying when you have a flaw – one both you and friends resignedly agree on – confirmed, even if it’s for the most trivial of things. And this is trivial, I promise you.

I said I liked my PockeX, the kit, a lot. And I do: there’s not much vapour, so it does’t fill the room, and I like the taste of the liquids. Again, habit: usually a light lemon flavour. I like citrus flavours and have on the whole stuck to them.

BUT I’d started noticing the liquid was dark, dirty, at the bottom of the PockeX’s tank before I refilled it. I mean, really dirty. It didn’t affect taste but it… irked. It hadn’t been dirty before; it now was. I assumed the kit was faulty, or the I just had a bad batch but… it turned out to be something quite different: I’d been using the ‘wrong’ liquid for a year, the ‘wrong’ VG/PG balance.

The liquid I’d been using was, apparently, too ‘thin’ for the kit/atomiser/coil combination I had. As a result, the nicotine in the lemon-flavoured liquid – a pale yellow liquid – was being heated too high… by my kit.

So I was advised to change the liquid.

So I did.

Sticking with the same brand (well, same manufacturer) I changed to a 50/50 mix, but similar light citrus flavour. (I was warned up front that I’d have to get used to it; it’d take time, after a year of the other liquid.)

So… anyway, I bought three bottles & tried it.

I. Hated. It.

The closest flavours tasted horrible compared to the old liquid. And I really didn’t like anything about it: the feel of it in my mouth, the hit to my throat, not a bloody thing.

Hated it, hated it, hated it.

And the sad thing was that I knew that a part of it – how big a part is up for debate – was because I don’t like change, I don’t like ‘new’.

So, as I used my last bottle of the ‘new’ liquid, I’m was torn between toughing it out…

…or saying ‘fuck it’ and going back to the ‘wrong’ liquid – accepting the genuine annoyance of the dirty bit, and wiping it out – at the end of the tank.

No surprise that after a couple of night’s sleep, I went with the latter.

And yes, like drinking scotch with a mixer, there’s also an element of “I’m paying for the liquids, so I get to have the liquids I like rather than what someone else tells me I should have”.

But, yes, also, there’s a huge part of: ‘you’re a stubborn bastard, budgie; you’ve just decided you like things the way they were.

And when I told close friends about this, especially the ones who started me on this ‘quiting cigs, use a vape’ journey, they very good-naturedly sighed… and nodded. And smiled.


Something else tomorrow.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday on 17th August 2019. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.