Thursday, March 20, 2003

Watty should have gone to bed an hour ago...

Instead, here I sit, tired and full of annoying sniffly cold which has made me lethargic and irritable, and I've got a window open with a live image of a street in Baghdad, and I'm just staring at it.

I mean, part of the fascination is that such a thing is possible - - look, there goes another car, an Iraqi car, with at least one real Iraqi person in it, just driving around their city in the middle of the night. Frankly, it could be Bradford or Bristol in that picture, and I wouldn't know the difference. Except I would. Because there's some eerie sense of something not quite right about the whole thing. Every so often, there's a faint sound, like distant thunder - it might very well be distant thunder, I see no other indication of any military activity; perhaps I'm imagining it; perhaps it's just another truck passing, nearby but out of sight. It certainly doesn't feel like I'm at war with this street, or that it's at war with me.

I think that what strikes me tonight is that for the first time in my life, I cannot understand the position of those who want to take up arms. As a child, I was used to the irregular bombings and shootings - never close enough to directly affect me, of course, but nevertheless, happening in my country - and I could see why people wanted to fight back. I could also, if I squinted a bit, see why the bombers felt their methods were necessary. When this country went to 'war' over pretty much nothing at all 21 years ago, I could see why it seemed so important; I could understand the motives on both sides, and there was a spark of sympathy in me for the position the British government found itself in; easy for me, a pampered child of a postwar generation, to sneer at military posturing, but what else, realistically, could have been done? The same impulse applied in 1991 - you can't just stand aside and let countries be overrun by dictators; but what seemed sadly inevitable then seems faintly absurd now - we've spent 11 years starving these people, now let's drop some bombs on them. I know that's a simplistic view, but what can be more simplistic than several tons of metal and high explosive raining on your head?

Like I keep saying, there had better actually be some weapons of mass destruction hidden away somewhere, and they had better not be reluctantly dragged out and used as some desparate last resort.

Well, goodnight, Baghdad. I hope that street's still there in the morning, and I hope that, having got this far, some kind of swift resolution can be found. But it's a pretty faint hope, and I'm not holding my breath.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Watty doesn't particularly want to be at war with anyone

I think Lou Reed said it best

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Watty's been doing his duty:

I am the proud owner of a silver badge. It doesn't sound much, but it means something to me, and for all I know, it means the difference between life and death for someone I'll never meet.

I've been a blood donor all of my adult life, and today was just another donor session, really - save for the little silver badge. The mobile unit parks right outside the office these days, and we can make appointments so that the whole thing is quick and efficient. I wandered down nice and early this morning, with my forms all filled in, and was processed in short order by the usual efficient crew - it's generally the same faces every time; it strikes me that seeing the same people each time must signify that what cannot be a well-paid profession must have a lot of rewards. I like to have the blood taken from my right arm, being left-handed; the trouble is, the veins in my right arm aren't always as keen. This morning, there was a bit of a struggle - I offered to get the chisel, but we managed it in the end. As I lay there, steadfastly not looking at the needle, I naturally found myself thinking about all those previous donations...

The very first time I gave, I had only been eligible for about 3 weeks - it was November 1980, and - I know I'm not making this up - all first time donors were being enticed with the promise of a half pint of Guinness. Of course, this was inside the student union builldings at Potterrow in Edinburgh - I suspect the Guinness was not on offer to the general public. It wasn't the Guinness which tempted me, though; it was simply one of those things I had alwways known I wanted to do. I remember vividly lying under the striplights in the refectory building, and feeling very pleased with my little blue book and my elastoplast. Over the years, I've given blood in a wide variety of locations, from the Usher Hall in Edinburgh, via a 19th century hospital in Inverness, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, somewhere I've drawn a complete blank on in Perth, various church halls and, oddly, once a nursing home, to the current mobile unit. I have only once had an unpleasant experience - in a church hall in Rickmansworth, when I didn't press hard enough after the needle had been withdrawn, started to drip blood on the floor and promptly passed out. It wasn't the sight of the blood, I'm pretty sure - I can watch the bags and test tubes being filled with no problem - more a case of donating on an empty stomach. Since then, of course, I take donation day as one of my many excuses to overeat.

No dramas today, however. I am awarded my silver badge marking 25 donations, and warmly thanked, as always, and I make my way back out into the persistent drizzle, feeling a little better about myself, and only briefly wondering if there is someone lying on an operating table at Watford General about to benefit from a simple gift, freely and anonymously given. And I smile quietly to myself and get back to work.

Monday, March 10, 2003

Watty also remembers:

One year ago today, I consumed my last deliberate caffeine.

No, really. I know that seems pretty much impossible in ths age of coffee, but it's true. I don't remember the last cup, as it happens - it would have been a Sunday night, but nothing more than that has stayed with me.So I thought I'd give it a go for a week or so, see if I suffered the same symptoms as last time, and then it just took on a life of its own. The last time I tried, I went cold turkey from around 6 or 7 cups a day. I suffered two days of dreadful headaches and by the end of a week, was actually suffering tremors. That time, I went back to one strong cup a day, and that's where I started from last year. There were no real physical effects to begin with; then after a couple of days, I began to notice how tired I was, and even now, I still expect to have more energy than I actually do - this does, of course, have several other contributing factors, but I still feel it as a lack of stimulant at certain points in the day. About an hour after lunch is usually the worst - no surprise, I suppose, but the loss of the post-prandial espresso is very noticeable if it's hot, or quiet.

And that's probably the most difficult part of the day, because everyone has an after-lunch espresso, and the smell fills the air for about half an hour. You see, I love coffee. I love everything about it except for the effect it has on my brain. So even walking down the street can be torture, as I pass Starbucks after Starbucks. I would comfort eat, but I gave up chocolate, too. Is there actually caffeine in chocolate? Of course there is. Alternatively, there isn't - I decided not to take any chances, so I have been a chocolate-free zone for a year, too. That part, strangely, has been relatively easy, considering where I work. I think that, as I have got older, my sweet tooth has abated a little - I do miss it sometimes, but not so's you'd notice.

So, I hear you ask, aghast, how on earth do I do it? Well, it's not too difficult. I found viable alternatives in the hot drinks stakes quite early on, and you'd be surprised how many places serve fruit teas and so on, if you just ask. The best seem to be the London Fruit and Herb company teas - I would link to them, if they had a website - full of fruit flavour, without being overly sweet. I probably eat slightly more than I did before, mostly savoury things, and I get past the coffee shops by just pretending that I can't smell them. Mostly I get by because I feel a lot better without the effects of caffeine - the depression is a lot more manageable; none of the mood swings which coffee seemed to induce; I have fingernails, as noted before, and although I'm tired, it somehow feels like a healthy tired, if that makes sense. I also seem to get fewer colds, although I have no idea whether that is related...

How long will I keep this up? I have no idea. I rather like the effect, but I also still crave coffee every now and then. Perhaps in a moment of weakness, I'll be tempted by a Snickers bar, or something, but I hope not. See you in another year.

Watty apologises:

Such is the way of the web. The second I post something, it vanishes. You'll have to take it from me, it really was rather affecting, and I wish I had contacted him now. Ah, well.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

Watty does a kind of webloggy thing, probably out of spite or something:

This isn't a link to someone else's weblog. It's more the kind of diary which I might have written when I started this, only I'm not quite ready to bare my soul so openly. The staggering thing about this guy is the almost exact parallel he has with my life. It's not a perfect fit, but it's spookily close in lots of places. Anyway, I was struck by it earlier today, and I thought he should have an infinitesimally wider audience. I also think I ought to write to him, but what if he turns out to be me...?

Watty's in reflective mood:

If you care to look back through the archives (I'm not saying you should, but if you should happen to be passing that way...) you'll discover that I started doing this a year ago today. I remember the trigger for it well enough, but I don't really know what I thought it would achieve. I just put some of my words out there for anyone who cared to look, and 12 months on, I'm still sort of doing it.

It has definitely been therapeutic for me - writing is one of the best ways I know to help me get my head round my head, if you follow me; writing in here has helped me work out how I'm really feeling about things on several occasions. It's also allowed me to complete some bits of writing I wouldn't have done otherwise; the Musical Memories project was great fun to write, but in hindsight I think I tired myself out a little, and I've never really got back into the swing of doing this regularly again. The Depression Index idea kind of fizzled out; I couldn't keep coming up with new ways of saying the same thing. Also, there's no doubt that I do this when I'm in a depression, and I really haven't been recently - people have even noticed that I've been more cheerful, which is good. Then I came to the conclusion that it was intruding on the lives of others a bit too much, and that I needed to make it more a place to put things I wanted to write down and less of a diary. And I'm more than aware that it's never been a weblog, however much I may have tried to make it look like one.

All of which leads to absolutely no conclusion whatsoever. I'm still here, I feel better about myself than I did a year ago (there's another significant anniversary coming up in a few days which may have an influence on that); I like doing bits of random writing, and for those reasons if no other, I shall continue to come here and post things. I can't tell if there will be devastating insights or chunks of orphaned fiction, or reviews of concerts, or more nostalgic ramblings, or something else altogether which I haven't thought of yet.

Or mabe it will turn into a weblog. You never know. In any event, Happy Birthday ...if you must; and thank you for reading this far.

Monday, March 03, 2003

Watty's fairly triumphant, really:

Project concluded, which is to say: phase 1 of project concluded - there's a lot more to come, but none of it should involve sleepless nighs and working weekends. And yes, I am mildly triumphant - well planned, and well-executed, it all has gone at least as well as could have been expected. I may have some time to write some stuff in here shortly. Probably. Maybe.