Tuesday, 27 March 2012


For once in my life I’m watching a rugby match. This is not a thing I do lightly nor do often. Not that I’m opposed to the sport – rugby was something I once played – but it’s the watching of it, en mass, and the tribal shouting that I find hard. Hysterical commentators. People wearing stove-pipe hats and with their faces painted. Overweight grown men dressed in the tight sporting kit of their teams. Chanting drunks. Middle-aged women in lycra carrying inflatable dragons. Kids dressed as daffodils. The whole deal gets to me. But not today. Wales vs. France, the arch enemy. It’s the 2012 Six Nations Grand Slam which Wales are about to win. And how.

I watch the game on my wide-screen television, polymyalgia subdued for once, a flicker just below the surface. Once the game’s done, an hour and half or so later, and the world has erupted in celebration of Welsh victory, I realise that I’ve been out of the room to the toilet at least 8 times. That’s a lot. Even by my standards.

During the night I shiver, can’t get warm. Then I overheat, can’t get cool. Something isn’t right. Pain in the bladder. Pain passing water. Pain standing up. Pain sitting down. The GP decides the symptoms are those of classic bladder infection. Prednisolone predisposes the taker to infection. The immune system is suppressed. Polymyalgia triumphs again. I spend the week fighting.

Hello toilet my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again.

The frequency of urination increases. Sleep dissolves into a rapid fire set of getting up. Stumbling through the night’s half-light. Checking the quantity. Pain. Discomfort. Constantly feeling there’s more to come. Then getting back into bed again.

The chemist is five minutes’ walk away. I rush down. There they tell me that all those neat cures offered for sufferers of cystitis won’t work for men. Men have a different structure. Inside, you know, the pharmacist softly says. You could try these. She offers me some sort of branded sodium powders. They stop the stinging. I know it says for women only on the packet but you can ignore that. They won’t do any harm. I try them. Nothing happens. They might even have increased the rate of going, and I’ve got the urge for that. Joni Mitchell once again.

The first anti-biotic used to fight the invader, Trimethoprim, fails. The world closes in. Then Nitrofurantoin, prescribed by the GP after the usual performance of getting an appointment and taken as a sort of second front, starts to work. Turns your pee bright green. Kas, the pharmacist turned tea shop owner at the Waterloo Gardens Tea Shop who I meet in the park on the way back warns me about this. Lloyd Robson sends me an email suggesting that this might be what happened to Rigsby in the film of Rising Damp. Technicolour waterworks.

Passed urine should look like a glass of chardonnay. Mine resembles greengage slush puppy. But like all things, it won’t go on for ever.

By day nine I go out again. Can face the world. Sue reminds me that at the start I was pleading for hospitalisation just to get away from the pain. Now I can walk about in the sun. Prednisolone you two faced whore. You’ve done for me again.

The dose drops. I’m now on 8 mgs / 9 mgs alternating days. The GP thinks it’ll hold the polymyalgia back and it does. So far it has. On a planet which offers two places to go – polymyalgia or bladder infection – which would you choose? At the time of specific suffering the answer is always obvious. But stood back a bit it really is hard to say.

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