Thursday, 11 November 2010

On Armistice Day

I didn’t need November 11th to remember those who have died in wars, but it did focus my mind on it:  in those two minutes silence time stood still and I reviewed in my mind the members of my family who were involved but lived to fight another day, and those who didn’t make it.

I watched on television British people standing to attention at the Cenotaph in London, and heard the commentator reminding us that it is not only world wars which are remembered, but the conflicts that have happened since - Suez, Korea, Viet Nam, Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, the Gulf... and the Falklands.  Just to hear the mention of the latter gives me pain, and I still don’t know whether to refer to it as The Falklands Conflict or La Guerra de las Malvinas.

Imagine your parents have split up, and there are such strong feelings between the two families over the issue that they come to blows.  Imagine you’re standing on the sidelines, powerless to help as you watch your maternal uncle beat the living daylights out of your paternal grandfather, and your cousins from both families rushing in to retaliate.  You watch them fall, first one side, then the other.  You’re weeping with grief for both, your hands outstretched to beg them to stop – to no avail.  That’s what it feels like when you’re brought up to love, respect and understand two different cultures and two languages, and it is intolerable when they come into conflict.

In my own family there were volunteers from Argentina in the two world wars – in World War II my mother’s eldest brother joined the British Army and spent time in Italy, bringing back a German helmet as a souvenir (?); she lost several close friends with whom she had spent happy teenage years – one in particular who had joined the RAF and was stationed in Ceylon (Sri Lanka today) and was involved in a fly past to entertain a visiting RAF bigwig, demonstrating how they dropped depth charges.  Something went wrong, the plane was too low, and it got caught in the explosion.  It plunged into the sea, and when her friend’s body was found, he was perfect and intact, but without his lifejacket - he hadn't worn it.

While looking through my father’s papers a few years ago I found this picture of a very handsome young man...

David Bridger

...and learned that his name was David Bridger (my family name), and that he had died in 1915 aged 23 having volunteered for World War I from Argentina.  He was the youngest of 9 children...

My great-granparents and some of their children. 
My grandfather stands behind his father, who holds David,
the youngest.  I love this image - unusually for these old
family group pictures, they look relaxed and happy.

... and sailed to England in 1915 to join up.  As a Trooper in the King Edwards Horse Regiment he had no time to see action or even settle into his new life - meningitis claimed him in April that same year.  He must have already been ill when he was on the ship.  What a waste.

My father was one of five, four of which were boys.  In 1940 the third brother volunteered from Argentina and started an intense period of training in the RAF on arrival.  He learned to fly Spitfires, which became his passion, and he was impatient to become a fighter pilot.  Alas he was not to see action either.  On a training session in the Orkney Islands in August 1942 while doing a diving manoeuvre his plane crashed and he was killed – there are theories about how this happened, as he was by now a skilled pilot highly rated by his superiors.  A colleague who knew him well in those days told us that he had had a blackout previously while going into a dive, so it’s possible that it happened again.  He was buried in the Orkneys, on a lonely and windy hill, and many Bridgers have been there on pilgrimage to see it.  What a waste.

And his name... was also David Bridger.

 (The youngest wasn't born yet).  On the left is David,
with my father next to him.

Uncle David wrote copious numbers of letters to his family, in a compellingly eloquent style.  This was a handsome young man heading for a great – if risky – career, overflowing with charm, humour and enthusiasm, by all accounts.  I recently visited his sister, my aunt who is now 92 and lives on the south coast, and she has lent me the file with a lot of his letters.  A cousin in New Zealand has investigated his brief RAF career, so once I have transcribed the letters and matched them with what was happening to him at the time, I shall enjoy telling his story on my blog.

David Bridger

To give you the complete picture, I would also tell you that on my mother’s side, her father and his ancestors were German – there are fifth cousins living in Entringen, Germany, with whom my mother kept in touch in the last decade of her life, and I remember her telling me that as a twenty year old during World War II she longed to volunteer, but was told it would be too difficult because her surname was Schiele. 

Gaby, my German friend who loves England so much that she has bought a home here, has nevertheless felt upset and alienated by the anti-German war nostalgia attitudes she frequently encounters here prompted by television repeats.  She feels it’s time to move on, and time for people to understand how present day Germans feel.

All this was going through my mind this morning, and along with gratitude to all these people who gave their lives, I also felt overwhelmingly that in the final analysis we are all part of a world community.  If only we could confine ourselves to declaring war on want, on polluting the planet, and most of all, on intolerance.


Photo Finish:
From Lonicera's non-digital archive



Friday, 5 November 2010

Pool Rage, a hypo and an unfill

As a bandit I haven’t had a very good week – I’ve lost a few pounds but for all the wrong reasons (no I don’t want them back, it’s not that bad).

On Sunday morning I had my usual weekly treat of 3 rashers of smoked streaky bacon (grilled till crisp) and fried egg plus one small buttered toasted pancake/drop scone (no toast permitted by the band) and coffee, and in the afternoon we went swimming.  The pool was busy, with one lane cordoned off and various people steaming up and down as though their lives depended on it.

I did my 20 lengths swimming sedately (read ‘with the least effort’) in the lane next to it, but finding it difficult to enjoy because all the activity going on in the pool made it feel like a Channel crossing.  At one point I got kicked by mistake by one of the serious crawl swimmers from the fast lane, who apologised in a gasp as he lunged past.  It didn’t hurt, it was just one more annoying invasion of space, and – as frequently happens when I go to a public swimming bath – I finished the swim feeling cross and out of sorts.  However, I did, as they say “get over it”.

I noticed that evening as I had a small bowl of polenta, comfort food that normally sails past the band without difficulties, that the restriction was too great and I could barely eat it a small spoonful at a time.  I was hungry, so persevered and finished it after about an hour, but I wasn’t very comfortable – and in fact I wasn’t to eat again till three days later.  It was only after a couple of hours that I was able to drink – and I knew that something had changed pretty dramatically in the past few hours. 

Goodness knows where my brain was, but before I went to bed I gave myself an overdose of insulin because I had switched the colour coded caps on my insulin pens by mistake.  I realised immediately after giving myself a hefty dose of the strong instant-acting insulin, and to compensate I therefore didn’t inject with the slow acting one at all.  My body knew the difference though.

I had a terrible night because I woke up four times drowning, and a fifth time at 4:30 a.m. feeling like a newborn kitten, which meant I was having a hypo (low glucose levels in the blood).  On these occasions getting myself out of bed and walking to the loo is a tremendous effort of will – difficult to explain to non-diabetics, and it scares the hell out of me.  I chewed a couple of sugar pills and prepared to wait ten minutes for my glucose levels to rise and therefore to regain my strength, but alas my restriction had well and truly kicked in and there was no way I was going to get those lozenges down, however well chewed.  I started to panic as I felt a stalemate situation coming on. 

After a few minutes of scrambled thoughts I remembered that I had runny honey in a squeezy bottle on the windowsill put by for when I occasionally need to crush large bitter tasting pills that won’t get past the band, and thank goodness enough glucose got through to bring my levels up a bit.

I stayed home the following day, Monday, too exhausted to do much except sleep in a semi-reclined position and worry about the fact that it was getting harder and harder to keep water down except in tiny sips.  On the Tuesday I went in to work and only managed a coffee in the morning and a hot chocolate in the afternoon.  The evening’s cold milky coffee got undrunk.  On Wednesday John drove me to work – the lack of food had really weakened me, but we were due in Taunton that evening so I reckoned as long as I could drink a bit I’d be OK.  He collected me at the end of the day and drove me to Taunton, and I had lost 1.2kg – actually it was a great deal more than that, but I’m afraid I’d gained a bit since the last visit 3 weeks before and the 1.2 was a net loss...I know the true loss must have been nearer to 4kg. 

I was lucky that my surgeon was doing the clinic that evening, a rare treat, so he did my unfill of a quarter of a cc.  I took advantage of the opportunity to ask him about the strange development, and also the one I described some months ago when I coughed up a bean I had eaten 8 days previously, but – you know what? He just said “this is an art, not a science”.  He had nothing to contribute as to these two events, other than to reassure me that my port and band were all in place as they should be. 

Tina’s post today is bang on, this is what she writes, referring to the bariatric nurse she consulted –
I really don't think she (or any of the surgeons for that matter) are doing studies about living with a band. They just do their quantitative blinded crap and are muddling around in the dark as far as the actual details of the experience.

I couldn’t agree more.  Sandy has debated on her blog as to the reasons for sudden increases and decreases of restriction, and more study is evidently needed to understand how certain everyday activities – exercise, bowel movements, kicks in the ribs... – can rearrange our internal organs in such a way as to have an effect on the position and pressure of the gastric band.

The quarter cc adjustment has made a slight difference, but I can’t eat much.  I know it’s unwise to lose weight this way, as it encourages one to go for high calorie sliders, but I’ll give it a go till my next appointment in two weeks time.  At the very least I’ll have better figures to note on the weight loss chart on the right side of the blog come November 17th.

A rather obvious conclusion I had never really thought about before:  simultaneous over-restriction and hypos should be avoided at all costs.  It would be good if there were any other diabetic bandits out there who could comment on their own experiences – anyone?


Photo Finish:
from Lonicera's non-digital archive

Bonfire Night

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...