100 days

At the start of my self-isolation, this landmark seemed a long way off – but yesterday was 100 days since I locked myself away! I think the official lockdown started 100 days tomorrow, but I’d not been out a few days before they made the announcement.

I remember thinking at the start that having to stay indoors until mid June felt like a prison sentence – and we’re now past that and we still have no idea when things might get back to normal! I know pubs and restaurants are allowed to open with restrictions from this weekend, but there’s no way I’d venture into one of them for the foreseeable future!

One thing that has taken a bit of a hit during this lockdown period has been my fitness. Obviously, with the whole heart-failure thing, I’ve been aware of how much more easily I get tired, and how my general fitness level has been pretty low, but I had eventually managed to get into a bit of a routine with going to the gym and building up my cardio fitness. But since lockdown, that’s all gone.

I’ve hardly been out of the house over the last 3 months (you can count the times on one hand!), and I’ve not really been able to get myself to do any decent exercise indoors. I know I could probably find somewhere pretty remote to go out for a decent walk whilst avoiding people, but the flip side of that is I’m worried that if I’m out somewhere and I have a problem caused by me heart, then there’s no-one around to help! I know it’s probably ridiculous, and it shouldn’t stop me, but it does stop me getting out there.

Flooring finally goes down in the living room!

Anyway, onto something a bit more positive – I finally got the flooring in the living room sorted! I originally bought it all way back in January 2017, but it’s been sitting there ever since, and then finally a few weeks ago I got Craig to lay it all! It looks really nice, but I now need to find a decent carpenter to box in the utility meters and to build some floating shelves in the left alcove, but it does feel that I’m a lot closer to everything being finished!

Another thing I’ve been doing is sorting through old photos that were taken before I had a digital camera, and there are lots of them! I’ve also got tonnes of the original negatives that I need to sort out, and I really want to look at scanning them all so that I have high quality digital copies. I’ve been doing a bit of research of the best way to do it, so today I’ve ordered a negative film scanner which will let me scan them all – it looks like it’s out of stock everywhere at the moment (I assume others have had the same idea during lockdown!), but hopefully it won’t be too long before I get it!

Bob

So it’s fair to say the pandemic has completely trashed my efforts to try and get back into work this year, with any jobs I had lined up cancelled. So when I was asked to help out with a short comedy drama to be produced in lockdown, I jumped at the chance!

A stand-up comic friend of mine is also an award-winning writer, and she’s penned a short script about a family getting to meet a new baby for the first time over a video call.

Katie, Daniel, Eithne and Emily rehearsing ‘Bob’.

It involved 4 actors (and a baby!), so I needed to find the best way to record and edit it. I’ve not really used Zoom at all, other than for Emma’s wedding back in April, so did a bit of research, and originally I was planning to get them to record the footage locally on their phone cameras, just using the video conferencing to be able to hear each other.

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Day 70 in the Big Brother house…

So it’s now been 10 weeks since I started self shielding, and it’s been quite a weird period – I am suffering a bit from cabin fever!

I’ve only been away from my house once in that time, when I had to go for a scheduled blood test, which in itself was quite weird because I didn’t see any other patients in the surgery, and the nurse was wearing full PPE, looking a bit like a welder! The last time I was in a supermarket was 20th March – for the first month or so, I managed to get some delivery slots from Amazon through my Amazon Prime app (although I had to log in just after midnight to have any chance of getting one!)

But I found it a bit hit and miss over whether the item was in stock, or what they chose to substitute stuff with, so the last month I’ve been able to get delivery slots with Tesco (again, you have to go on at the right time!), and this has been more reliable so far.

At the VE Day Social-Distanced Street Party.

A few weeks ago, I did get to speak to a few of my neighbours because we had a sort of socially-distanced street part for VE day. Compared to some I saw on TV with congas and questionable distancing, ours was very low-key, with just a few houses taking part, and sitting on the pavement or road in camping chairs whilst enjoying the sunshine, and listening to ’40s music! Natalie had put some food out on a table, which I guess could be problematic, but the only thing I had from there was a slice of cake, and no-one else’s germy hands had been near it!

With regard to speaking with other people, I haven’t really done so other than with direct family every so often on the phone. You see everyone going on about socialising with each other over Zoom or Facetime, but I don’t really have anyone to do that with to be honest… the only thing I have been doing is a quiz that Dave Bateman’s been doing on Friday nights, but it’s through YouTube so is only one-way, so it’s not particularly sociable!

There’s talk in the media about trying to get back to normal life soon – I was reading a story on BBC News just today where the government’s own scientific advisers are warning against lifting the lockdown too early. The way I see it is that nothing’s changed scientifically – the main reason for the planned easing is because of the economy rather than health. Currently there are 50% more deaths and twice as many new infections daily than when we originally went into lockdown! So I don’t think I’ll be heading out in the near future!

Emma’s Zoom Wedding

Emma and Matt’s wedding.

Well, yesterday was supposed to be Emma’s wedding to Matt, but because of Coronavirus, everything was up in the air. I was originally supposed to be helping with some of the photography, but a couple of weeks ago had to make a decision not to go because of probably needing to self shield (luckily I was able to cancel the hotel I’d booked in Llandudno. When I let Emma know, she told me they’d have to postpone the main wedding, but just have the marriage bit with only 10 people attending.

But since then, full lockdown was introduced, so even that wasn’t possible, so that was the last I’d heard until I happened to notice on the Facebook event page that they were going to be having the wedding on Zoom instead!

The wedding was scheduled for 10am, and I didn’t see it until about 40 minute beforehand, so didn’t get a chance to dress up… so I attended wearing a hoodie, with a mug of coffee and some toast!

It was my first time using Zoom, and it can be quite overwhelming with so many voices, but when the actual ‘service’ started, they muted everyone’s microphones other than those doing stuff. Emma and Matt were in one house, and the minister in another – they’d got permission from the Baptist Union of Great Britain for him to marry them from a different location, so this was basically the ‘church’ part of the service, and they’ll be doing the ‘civil’ bit as soon as they’re able to!

Obviously, it was a shame not to experience it properly (although easier to get there and more comfortable than wearing a suit!), but hopefully they’ll be able to have a proper celebration later on in the year!

Lockdown

So last night, the UK was finally put in lockdown, after quite a bit of uncertainty and confusion over the spread of the Covid-19 virus these last few weeks. I’ve not actually been out of my house since Friday – I did a supermarket trip then to make sure I have enough stuff in to get through the next few weeks.

I’ve found it a bit confusing as to what I’m supposed to do with regard to my health issues. I’ve seen in quite a lot of places that I’m in the high risk group, because the virus causes lots of issues with your lungs, and generally your cardio system, which isn’t ideal when you’re living with heart failure. What has been strange is that heart failure was showing up on the official government list last week when they were suggesting that those people would need to shield for 12 weeks, but now they seem to have slimmed that list down, focussing on what they class as ‘particularly high risk’.

I follow a couple of heart failure social media groups, and they’re recommending shielding for the 3 months if you’re able, because the risk is still high, and it comes down to how your body then fights it you get it. And whenever they talk about people who are dying from this, it’s often the case that they have ‘underlying health issues’ which when you examine what that means, heart problems seem to be part of that.

So I’ve decided to self-shield for as long as I can, even though I’ve not had any official instruction from the NHS (but I’m hearing that other people who expected to be part of the official group also haven’t been contacted, so I get the impression they’re trying to keep it to a minimum).

The thought of staying in my house for such a long time is pretty overwhelming – I mean, we’re looking at the middle of June at the earliest, and it’s only March now… that’s quite crazy. It’s really annoying too because the last few months, I’d finally got into gear to make my house more liveable (after the world’s longest ever DIY project), and had electricians and decorators in doing stuff the last few weeks, and I was about to get my wooden flooring and carpets fitted, which meant I could then sort out proper furniture like a sofa and a decent bed, but now everything’s shut down, I don’t know when I can get that sorted!

Recent gigs

Just thought I’d do a bit of a catch-up on some gigs and shows I’ve been to so far this year.

Last night I was at the Manchester Arena to see the Stereophonics. I had a seated ticket, and I was in a block quite near to the stage, so had a pretty good view. With the current situation regarding Coronavirus, I was a bit concerned about being in such a big crowd, but luckily there was no-one nearby coughing crazily(!), and I tried to make sure I didn’t touch my face, or touch too many doors or bannisters! It made me feel glad I’d only been able to get a seated ticket when I saw how much the people down on the main floor were squashed up against each other!

Stereophonics.

Stereophonics.

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Latest health

Time for a bit of a health update. At my last meeting with my consultant back in December, we discussed me possibly needing an ICD (implantable cardioverter-defibrillator), which is kind of like a pacemaker, but monitors your heartbeat and gives you a shock if it ever stops. I totally understand the benefits of it, but the big downside is with regard to driving – you can’t drive for a month after surgery, and if it ever goes off, you then can’t drive for 6 months!

Anyway, the upshot was that I’d need to have another ECG to see whether my heart function has improved at all, and if it hadn’t increased significantly, then I’d need to have the ICD fitted. I had an ECG appointment at Stepping Hill hospital last month, and then I got the results of that last week.

When I was admitted into hospital last May, my LV systolic dysfunction EF (ejection fraction) was 32%, which is what’s classed as severe heart failure, and can lead to cardiac arrest and death. But since then, with the help of a lot of tablets that I have to take everyday, my EF percentage is now 45%, which means medically it’s now only mildly impaired. Of course, I’ll have to take my medication for the rest of my life.

I’m really hopeful that this I won’t have any more heart issues, although I do still get tired quite quickly – maybe this will improve as I get fitter. The only other thing is that last weekend I had a problem where I experienced incredibly painful gout in my right foot, and apparently that can be caused by an issue with your liver and kidneys, which can reflect problems with your heart, so I’ve got to have a blood test at the start of March just to check there’s not anything else. Once I’ve had the results from that, hopefully I can set my mind fully at rest.

Live music and comedy 2019

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be posting a list of all the films I’ve seen this year, so I thought I’d also do a round-up of all the live music and comedy gigs I’ve been to in 2019.

January

Snow Patrol at Manchester Arena (with support from Roe and Kodaline). Last minute ticket purchase!

June

Mumford and Sons at Manchester Arena (with support from Villagers). In the accessible area with a crutch because I’d only just got out of hospital!

Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott at Edgeley Park (with support from Richard Hawley). Really last minute – went with Lee & Katie because they had a spare ticket!

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Angiogram and comedy!

Changing into my disposable gown.

This week I’ve been in hospital again for an angiogram, following on from my MRI I had back in the summer. I had the procedure on Friday, and I was told that it was primarily to investigate my arteries, but that if they found that they might need to insert stents, then they had the option to potentially do that at the same time.

Anyway, I had to be at Wythenshawe hospital for 7.30am – my mum had come up to stay for a couple of days because I wasn’t allowed to drive, and also needed someone to be at home with me for 24 hours after the procedure. A group of us were taken to a ‘day room’ where I had to change into a disposable top which gave them access to stick sensors on my body for an ECG, and I had a cannula inserted in my arm, before signing a consent form for them to proceed if they find anything.

I was a bit apprehensive about having an angiogram – basically you’re given a local anaesthetic, so are awake as they insert a tube into your arm or leg, and move it up towards the heart to put a dye in there and then use an x-ray machine to see live images of the arteries. At this point, they then decide whether to the proceed with angioplasty there and then – this is where they try to open up the arteries and insert a stent, or whether I’d need to then go on a waiting just for a heart bypass operation.

Everyone kept telling me that an angiogram is classed as a pretty routine operation, but I was a bit nervous about it because my dad had the same procedure back in 1996 and the doctor messed it up, going through the wall of the main artery, causing internal bleeding. He was then rushed into surgery and ended up having a quadruple bypass – so that whole situation was at the back of my mind going into it!

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Work situation

I’ve not really written too much about this publicly, but this year has been a major upheaval for me work-wise. Back in February, some stuff came to a head which then led to me leaving the company I’d co-run for the last 12 years, and it was the most painful thing ever. It’d never even crossed my mind that I wouldn’t ever not be part of the business – I’d always thought I’d be there until the day I stopped working.

Technically, I left at the end of March, but was last working in the office in February, and that was the last time I saw any of the people I worked with. It’s now been nearly 6 months since I last really did any paid work for anyone.

I’ve wanted to work in production since I was kid – I was obsessed by TV and how it’s made (I used to make TV studios out of Lego!), and even when I was at school spent a ridiculous amount of my free time filming and editing videos. When I was about 13, I even got to visit BBC Pebble Mill in Birmingham, and explore the various studios and galleries which was amazing, and just reinforced that it was what I wanted to spend my life doing.

So to then be doing the work I’d always dreamt of – I was always aware how lucky I was to do a job I was passionate about. Even though there would be bad days, and I’d sometimes work some ridiculous hours, there was always that reminder that so many people had to go to a job each day that they absolutely hated.

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Holidays 2019

I thought I’d post about my holidays this year – I’ve not done it sooner because I’ve been a bit pre-occupied with health stuff!

First off, over Easter I went camping with my sister’s family in Wales. We stayed at Abererch Sands, which is on the Llyn Peninsula, just between Pwllheli and Criccieth.

We all arrived at the campsite at lunchtime on the Thursday, and went on a part of the site where both caravans and tents could be pitched. It took me quite a while to get my tent up – I’d recently been getting tired really quickly (which I later discovered to be because of heart failure!), so I paced myself with it, and Brandon and Chloe occasionally broke away from playing frisbee to help a little bit when an extra pair of hands were needed. Vikky and Andy set up their caravan on one side of the field so they could plug into a heavy-duty electrical hook-up, whereas I pitched up on the opposite side, and made use of the electrical hook-up for tents. It was the first time I’d had electricity whilst camping, and it really does make a difference! I’d bought a small powered fridge to use for the week, plus a camping kettle which mean I could boil water much quicker than usual!

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Heart failure

So I thought it was about time I did a bit of an update as to where I am a health-wise. It’s taken this long partly due to me trying to take it all in, and also waiting until I got some more information from tests and from my consultant.

I had an appointment this week which has given me a bit more info. It turns out they now think I’ve had a heart attack (acute myocardial infarction) at some point, but I wasn’t aware that it happened. Basically the blood supply to the heart was temporarily blocked when it happened, and this then caused scarring on the wall between the two chambers of my heart, and this has led to heart failure. Apparently it’s quite normal to have a heart attack but not realise it. You kind of think of a heart attack being some big dramatic event, like serious pains or collapsing, but I think I was mixing it up with a cardiac arrest, which is what often leads to death if not dealt with immediately. The doctor told me that a heart attack can even be a feeling of anxiety, so how you’re supposed to know for sure is beyond me! Now I’m on a daily concoction of pills, my current status is NYHA1, which means that I shouldn’t have any limitation of physical activity, although I do find I can get quite tired if I do a lot, but that could be a vicious circle because I’ve not been as active as I might be.

I’ve been trying to think back to when it might have happened – I mean, I was feeling quite breathless last August when I was on holiday in Ireland, and I was kind of aware as I was getting closer to Christmas that my stamina was decreasing, and I’d find that even just walking up the stairs to the office would make me breathless, and my cough (which I’ve always had due to allergies etc) was getting much worse – which actually turned out to be pneumonia and fluid on my lungs. At the time I just put it down to lack of fitness, and having hurt my leg earlier that year, which stopped me going to the gym and being particularly active on shoots.

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Edgeley Park gigs

So this week, I’ve been to 2 different gigs at Edgeley Park stadium – handily just up the road from where I live!

The first one was Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott, and it was very last minute that I got a ticket for it. I saw Lee post on Facebook that he had a spare ticket available for the gig that night, so, having been a big Beautiful South fan back in the day, bought the ticket off his friend who couldn’t make it.

Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott.

I thought about walking up to the stadium, but with my health situation, took the bus instead! I met Lee outside the ground, and we went in to grab a drink, before his wife Katie and her friend turned up. It was nice to catch up with Lee having not seen him since the beginning of February, and hopefully I didn’t bore him too much talking about my heart stuff!

So back to the music, and they were really good – there are so many songs you just know all the words to! I was worried it might rain, but even though it was quite cloudy, it stayed dry. I had to have a sit down for about 10 minutes half way through because I was starting to tire a bit, but then I was fine for the rest of the gig. I only had one beer – I don’t normally drink that much alcohol anyway, but at the moment I can’t have more that 1½ – 2 litres of liquid a day, which is a lot harder than you’d think!

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