Monday, 27 January 2020

Ceasar the day or Waldorf off? - 27 Jan 2019

On Thursday morning I had a visit to see my doctor to see if I could sort out a couple of outstanding issues, the primary one being to find out if any progress had been made on the recent eye endevour, the others were about making the most of the standard 15 minute allotted time slot. I'm what would be described in the property market as a "unique fixer upper", a synonym for "has seen better days".  The answer to the eye progress question was that of a blank expression. The passing of  time that I had hoped might be enough to just about get things moving in the right direction had not proved productive, It was the however the answer that I was expecting, just unique in it's presentation. Other than that It was amazingly non-amazing in it's overall predictability,

Despite the conversation that I had with the specialist I had seen previously, the talk of him writing to my doctor to explain the issues we had conversed upon had not been transcribed or forwarded. The doctor had not received any information to act upon and the result is that nothing is further on now than it had been 6 months ago. In my head I can hear the booming voice of Mike Reid shouting "Run Around" in his uniquely recognisable manner. A reference point that even for me is pushing it somewhat, being about 40 odd years past it' s "best before" date.

So the plan now is for the Doc to contact the Eye Hospital in Bristol to ensure that my annual appointment (now due) doesn't slip too far behind. It might seem a bit anal but this is where I was trying to get an appointment for back in July, before being sent to the opticians to pay too much for glasses I didn't really need and being referred for further checks on pressures that (as luck should have it) turned out to be normal. Hopefully now I will get to see those able to tell me one way or another what my options actually are. But as tick follows tock, it's already been and elongated passage to get to somewhere that I should have been able to reach around 6 months ago, That would have been beneficial for many reasons, not least because I wouldn't be passing my time writing paragraphs permeated with needless butt references for no real reason.

Whatever happens hereon in however, I have reached the point where I definitely want to leave these shores, operation or not. As far as I can tell there has been no further loss in my vision, outside the degradation of the visual acuity and that I can likely attribute to working back in front of a monitor for long periods of thyme. I am finding myself flat and uninspired on many of the days here. A combination of grey vistas and dreary wet streets are hardly nourishing food for the soul. The antisocial behaviour and attitudes by some of those who live in this city are nothing but unwanted croutons on an unsavoury salad. The Tomatoes are cursed with warped skin, the cucumber has lost it's crunch and the potatoes have been contaminated by the colour of the old beetroot and the flavours of watery salad cream that has fused with dill. The whole package in which it is contained is bloated and raised up through it's still fermenting air. If you eat the salad, turn to page 62**. 

I have tentatively started researching again into how I can leave these shores and make a go of it elsewhere, drawing a shortlist of countries where maybe my unique set of skills might be taken on board and appreciated a little more than they are here. As with everything diabetes related, there are always extra considerations for doing things to accommodate the condition. Availability and cost of the treatments and tools to manage it against the potential income is perhaps the most prominent one.

Whilst places such as Vietnam and Thailand might be relatively cheap to live in (by Western standards) and undoubtedly still hold a level of appeal, the cost of drugs and equipment I need to get by is bound to take a hefty chunk of any salary I could initially command. It may be a case that I therefor need to look at places such as Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan or Japan as ways to settle somewhere more interesting than where am now and where I could attain the treatments that I need more easily. But the question then would have to be whether I would be suitable for those places and would they let me grow into a place I wanted to be. Would the place be suitable for me.

The chances of me finding the perfect solution quickly are perhaps, unlike me, a bit on the slim side, but things worth getting to seem to be never easily attained. Importantly I remember hearing on my travels past, a wise lady once* saying that "you never, ever know if you never ever go..." and think she may have been onto something.

Plus , I really have had enough of grey now.

* perhaps more than once.
**Page 62 doesn't talky exist. I'm not Ian Livingstone. If I was however and it did, you would probably find that you have been struck down with stomach cramps to accompany your well deserved sense of self loathing for eating something well past its prime. You are also surrounded by flamed torch weilding elves with a look of menace in their eyes.

Good luck

Sunday, 5 January 2020

2020 Vision. New Decade, New Challenges, Older Me - January 2020.

The travel bag that I brought lays empty 100 miles away from where I am currently located, propped against my old bed and still wrapped in the same plastic sheet that covered it when it was delivered. The urgency of wanting to embark on (what I hoped would have been) a more permanent adventure before I reached the age of 46 years has passed. Time has trundled on relentlessly and I've been left somewhat in it's wake and it may now be a little while before I get the chance to get going again, or regain the desire and energy to do so. I'll just have to see what happens.

The eye situation carries on. It was the beginning of August that the sight in my left eye was deemed ineffective enough to warrant the non-renewal of my UK driving licence. Nearly 5 months since and it's still debatable depending on who you ask, whether an operation to remove the still forming cataract is possible and/or beneficial. The fact that with glasses on I can read the letters on a chart at a certain level means that I have yet to reach the point where the operation is deemed necessary, but of course this doesn't take into account the demise of the peripheral vision which in my case is the aspect that has got progressively worse. The last consultant that examined the eye was amazed that I could see as well as I could through it, given how thick the cataract has become over time, but suggested that there could be a slim chance that the case could be made for the operation to be funded given my circumstances. The case would need to be made through the respective medical channels and the same consultant was also keen enough to point out that he's not known of such a case that has successfully had funding approved for as yet.

Oh boy.

So whilst I wait to see how this saga unfolds, I am working in front of a screen all day, staring at texts for long periods and straining my eyes further. The impact has been that my visual acuity has diminished sharply over the past four months that I have been back in my role, which now perhaps understandably, is leading me to question just how much longer I can, or should, keep pushing on. Initially this was going to be a temporary role until I could get away and it was a situation that suited both parties, the workplace itself being busy but enjoyable most of the time and the people (generally) good fun and affable. There is no shortage of tea to be drunk and "so poor they are funny" jokes being made, but there have been days recently where I am feeling more Donald Pleasence than Steve McQueen. Moments have arisen where briefly, with or without my glasses, my vision hasn't been sharp enough to do my job effectively and have required me to break away from my screen for a while. These blurry moments whilst admittedly rare are an unfortunate development and this again is giving me some food for thought. Not  nice, mouthwateringly succulent food thoughts, but more a dry leathery chewy meat type affair that may eventually need to be spat out. Now all I need is Dickie Attenborough to stick his foot out and trip me up and my work time there will be complete.

So what now?

I've endured a bit of a poor few months health wise, either from a recurring flu type virus or an ongoing bombardment of smaller (but no less effective) illnesses which have managed to beat the crap out of me. This kind of thing has not only hit me physically, but has also drained almost all enthusiasm for learning or pushing any ideas forward. The last couple of weeks however it does seem to have relinquished it's grip enough for me to make small steps forward. For now this involves me making a concerted effort to restoring my health back to where I feel it should be and this task has already begun. I am heavier than I have been for about 8 years or so, which hasn't been helped by a small spike in weight that has happened since putting myself back into training. In the coming weeks and months however I am determined to lose just over 2 stone and whilst this might seem hopeful, I believe it to be doable. It's just going to take a bit more determination and effort than it has done in the past

When this first part of the puzzle starts coming together, hopefully I can start thinking of new ways to move forward. If I can get a decision one way or another on the eye then perhaps that will free up some mental resource for me to be able to work towards something else. I have thought of a few projects that I have almost forced myself into, but none have enthused me in the way that I believe that I need to be enthused in order to make any new venture worthwhile. Perhaps I haven't yet hit on that one thing that is a big enough kick to get things to whirring properly again.

There is the possibility of course that this fabled "thing" doesn't exist anymore, lost in time against an ever grey skyline of dirty rain and dull buildings, uninspired graffiti and tags and the smell of dope endlessly hanging in the Bristol air. I hope beyond hope that this is not the case. Whilst I'm not overly worried yet about what I would do if I ever found the means or desire to leave for a different existence, I am more concerned about what should happen to me if I don't.

Perhaps I could become an Olympic Ski Jumper...


Sunday, 20 October 2019

Jazz Club..Nice...20/10/2019

It's been a month. Not a funny month, an interesting, dull or an exciting month. just a month. The most accurate description I can give it is the one with which I started. It has all been rather non-descript. That in itself isn't necessarily a bad thing.

I have rented a room. This is more difficult than you might imagine at this point in my life as many of the rental spaces are for young professional adults, or students, and I no longer fall into either category. Despite my best google searches for variants of "awesome but reasonably priced rooms for middle aged grumpy diabetics", the market does not appear to be awash with such places. In light of this I loosened my search criteria a little. I am now an awesome grumpy diabetic in an expensive room.

I have committed myself to staying here for the next six months. Many people my age have a different set of commitments than I find myself with. Whilst some may have things such as mortgages, marriages and children to be wary of and/or responsible for (or even the odd poker night or football match to attend) I now find myself with something far more serious. I have a pricey gym membership with it's own card and everything. So far I have been a member for just over 10 days, attending 6 times, leaving my wallet behind once and my membership card behind another. I have found in the past that losing a wallet tends to be the easiest way to lose a few pounds, however this time everything was returned intact. I'm just going to have to go about losing it all the hard way.


6 Months I thought would give me the time I need to drop 2 stone/10 kg and get myself back to where I really should be. I have dropped 2lb in the first week so I know that with my regime it's going to be an achievable target. The problem at the moment, as always, is that it's getting the diabetic control and insulin levels to a point that I can really hammer myself productively in an exercise sense. I am, maybe rather surprisingly, by no means unfit. I can go in a do 2 or 3 hours cardio in an evening when my sugars allow it. It's just at the moment my base insulin level that runs in the background is resulting in the need to drink an excessive amount of energy drink to stop myself from crashing. I would like to be less dependent on these going forward, although technically not going forward as the majority of my work is being done on treadmills and stationary exercise bikes. Still, being full up on cherry or orange lucozade sport to the point where you want to be sick just to avoid  collapsing whilst exercising is something that I could really do without right now.

I'm also hoping that these hours will help me to formulate an idea, or even ideas for moving forward. I have been working back in-front of a screen now for just under 2 months, but it's amazing how quickly working on the monitor all day whilst squinting at code has reduced my visual acuity. There are days now where I feel that wearing glasses is beneficial, where over the previous months and years that I have been away from such work, my vision had returned to a point where glasses were not really that necessary. It's clear then from the fact that things are ultimately getting unclear, that my future should probably involve something away from what I am currently doing, or maybe at least for the amount of time that I am doing it. It's a shame really as I do quite enjoy it sometimes. It's nice to be able to lovingly take the piss out of people in a safe environment, where everyone knows that's all I'm doing.

In 6 months here the winter will be almost over and whilst I have no real doubts that it's going to be (on a personal level) a long hard one (whehey?), I hope to have in that time, gained an idea about where I can go from here. The U.K it seems has gone quite mad. Brexit has divided much of the population, people wear shorts in the cold along with bobble hats at the same time to keep warm and this morning I saw people lining up to buy cheese toasties in the local market that were priced at £5.00 a time.

It's not the madness that gets you...

it's the utter, utter madness.

now back to the overly expensive beer, which is unfortunately, worth every single penny at the moment.

...and a bit of jazz.

Sunday, 15 September 2019

15/09/2019 - cataredaction (the eyes to the left have it)

With the failure to pass the visual field test ultimately being the reason behind the loss of my UK driving license, I started to wonder why it had happened now, after all this time had passed since the last bout of surgery that I had been subjected to. The only thing that I could think of which might have affected the result was the slow forming cataract that I have had in my left eye for the last several years. This was something that I had never been desperate to get removed as, until now, it had never caused me much of an issue. However, the option for it to be taken out had been touted to me by several consultants at previous hospital eye screenings. Perhaps then the time had now come to explore this option as a way of creating a chance of regaining my driving licence. At the very least though, further examination would hopefully indicate that whatever led to the failure of the test wasn't anything that was going to end up being be over aggressively negatively progressive, (I'm pretty sure that I've never strung those three words together before!)

Whilst I have been under the care of the eye hospital for a number of years, getting in to see a consultant again hasn't proved to be as easy as previous consultants have made it sound. The receptionist at the hospital informed me that I would need to get a referral from my doctors. The doctor upon referral was further informed that they would need a referral from an opticians. So it has gone from being told directly in the hospital some 8 months ago that if I wanted to get it removed then I should just get in contact with them, to having a few, seemingly unnecessary yet necessary links now added to the chain.

A trip to specsavers was step one. Here I needed to just get my eyes assessed and a referral made to the Doc. The first thing that specsavers did however was to update the records that they have on me and then scan my face so they could predict which glasses would suit my ever more rounded chops. This approach does tend to sow the seed that perhaps, your are there to be sold stuff first and be assessed second, but hey, that's astigmatism of capitalism for you.

To be fair there was little to complain about the actual assessment side of things. Eye pressures were taken, with the results showing that the pressure was higher than they would have liked in the left eye but everything in the right seemed fine. Surprisingly however, I didn't now meet the criteria for having the operation that I had been told I would be eligible for previously. Primarily the was because I am able (with glasses on) to read (with difficulty) text above the minimum level that they feel is required. The optician also went on to divulge however that if she was the person do the operation, it wouldn't be one that she would be happy doing. The process she said would be more complicated in part down to the extensive treatments that I have had to undergo in the past. Combined with the diabetic aspect, the process, in her opinion, would be far more dangerous than it would be normally. The risk is that this operation, simple and routine for many, could in my case instead of improving things, result in a degeneration or blindness in the affected eye.

A plus point however that there wasn't any sign of any active changes in the eye. Whilst good to know things are looking stable overall, this does makes the change that has occured in the vision a little bit more perplexing.

There was something else they wanted to try though to see if it made a difference. 

The glasses that I had been using have a fairly narrow lens, a little like looking through a wide screen TV with the bottom and the top of the picture missing from the picture. It was therefor suggested that perhaps it would be worth trying a larger set of glasses in order to cover more of the visual field. Then, with the new glasses on I could try the same DVLA test again with the new set on to see if it made any differenc whatsoever.

This was something that I thought was worth a punt.
The result was the however was same.

Instead of being in the opticians for a 30 minute appointment, I had now lost 5 hours of the day, the vision would still be a fail, I had become stressed to the max and thanks to the investment in new glasses, I was now £160 worse off. Glasses that I didn't particularly need. Glasses I didn't particularly like. Maybe that was just my fault for wanting to try almost anything I could to get an answer to one of my particular ills. I haven't been to pick up my second set yet. I really don't feel the need.

So where do I find myself (apart from in a rather nice cafe having breakfast and coffee)?

In truth, based on the information currently to hand, I probably won't go for the cataract removal. The risk vs the potential (not likely) reward just isn't worth it in my opinion. There is no guarantee that any operation would improve things, but at the moment there is no other route. I do not know how long the eye will be useful, how long it will take to decline or whether it actually will. It's difficult to get across how this realisation makes me feel. My head went a little bit light and I certainly felt more than a little nauseous. I started to feel like I needed a nice cup of tea.

It was a very British response I guess, but an old school British. Not the post Cambridge Analytica, falsely outraged, brexity, everyone else's fault “British”.

Just an “I need a cup of tea” British. The type of British I tried to be. The Michael Palin type of British.

The best kind.

sub note - (ping)

Originally on completion of my studies and with my newly completed degree to hand, I had planned to work for a couple of months in the U.K before heading away in search of work, adventure or both. My old employers initially welcomed me back on that basis, but let it be known that they would be keen for me to stay longer and, with the eye situation as it was, I told them that I would give them as long as they needed me around. As always I have been straight with them about everything. In my mind I was thinking any operation would have a waiting time of at least 6 to 12 months so would be happy to commit to at least 6. To their credit they have just turned around and taken me back on permanently in the knowledge that some point future I was likely going to leave again. 

I don't think that this is solely down to me being an amazing employee in the past however but probably does have something to do with it being less paperwork for them to complete their end.

It's hard to get enthused about sitting through another cold, wet UK winter, especially one in a place with shitty public transport and devoid of a car or my own. This is going to be a winter of riding my newly purchased pushbike with handle bars to steer wider that those of any steer or bison. I do so in the hope my eye doesn't deteriorate to the point that future travel or work becomes something that is a more daunting prospect. Time, of course will tell. These are challenging times for sure, but everyone has them don't they. Its at times like these when its useful to remember the words of the great Rocky Balboa, who once eloquently quipped that "it's not (mumble mumble mumble) you can hit, it's (mumble mumble mumble hard (mumble) can get hit and get back up" Perhaps that's not quite up there with his previous "if I can change, and he can change, then we all can change" speech after he tussled that big Russian guy, but it's pretty damned close to be sure. It's pretty damned close.

sub sub note.

I found myself looking at a map of Asia again recently as I wanted to see how close Phuket (that I've never been to) was to Krabi (that I had). I was soon drawn to looking at where I had been again, and perhaps more tellingly, where I hadn't.

So perhaps it's not all over yet.

Perhaps it's time to try something new.






Saturday, 17 August 2019

17/08/2019 - Well the world turns...

But mine is taking a long,  deep breath.

I had been writing a blog post recently that was detailing the baby steps that I was taking towards formulating a plan for further travel. I covered things off such a the hunt for a new bag to replace the one that failed on my last trip to Bangkok (replacement found and brought), the search for a pair of shoes that match the Merrell's that took me around Asia and in between from 2013 - 2016 (nothing coming close) and the renewal of passports, bank cards and the like that would be close to, or be set to expire if I left these shores for more than a few months.

I had been looking at potentially embarking on doing a CELTA course in Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand in November and this would have fitted in with the small things that were starting to take shape. Moves had been made to return to my old place of work for short period, providing them with a couple of months holiday cover for my old department whilst affording me a little breathing space to sort out everything that I would need to sort out before departing, The CELTA course would give me a good grounding in the fundamentals of teaching English abroad and even if this form of teaching wasn't something I carried on persuing, then I'm sure that it would provide transferable skills that I would be able to make use of in one way or another.

And then I received the letter.  During the process of renewing my driving licence I had been subjected to a test which checks the field of vision left in your eyes. I have had extensive surgery on both my eyes, but for the last 10 years or so everything has been stable with no changes detectable or signs over this time that things were going awry. I have successfully renewed my licence maybe 4 or 5 times since the last bout of surgery took place, this time however, I received a letter telling me that I had failed and therefor, my licence would not be renewed and I would no longer able to drive.

It was as though time just stopped as I read the letter through. It still seems a little unreal. With Diabetes you kind of live with the risks, and perhaps the knowledge that things can go wrong, but you do what you can to  keep going along, trying to stay fit and healthy.  You hope that you can go on as long as possible without it chipping away at too much of you. You just do your best, but as my old doctor once told me, It's liking running a 4 star engine on 2 star fuel. "It will run for a bit" he said, "but eventually..."

So now things are on pause, maybe indefinitely so (although I obviously hope not.) 

I need to get my eyes checked thoroughly to see if there is an underlying reason for the visual change. I do have a slowly forming cataract in my left eye, but that may or may not be the root of the problem and it's something that in itself, doesn't cause me too much of an issue in my day to day life. It may even have proved to have been a benefit over recent years as it allowed my right eye to become dominant and take control. The laser treatment that I had some years before in both of my eyes meant there was a conflict between what that left and the right eye saw, the image no longer perfectly marrying up, and the process of deciphering that information could and would often lead to dull headaches, intense headaches and the flashing spotted migraine.

There's nothing I can do now but wait, have a beer and suck in some deep breaths, obviously hoping that it might turn out o.k

But time will tell of course.


Friday, 5 July 2019

05/07/2019 - Something old. something new

It was over five years ago that I first thought about teaching English in a country other than the one that I had been born in, or had the experience that would eventually lead to that idea.

That day (Sunday 27th October) I had been recovering after travelling through Cambodia on a group tour. I had been spending some time just wandering in Ho Chi Minh city with my camera in hand, taking in the sights and the sounds of somewhere new before being approached in one of the parks by a few people who wanted to practice their English. What started out as a small group turned into something a bit larger in only a short period of time. I helped them with their pronouciation of words, and they passed on tips about staying safe in Saigon. It was an enjoyable experience and one that seemed like a worthwhile use of time and it was great to feel that I was helping people directly for a change.

It was very different from the jobs that I had been used to doing up to that point. It wasn't being worked to meaningless deadlines, ticking meaningless targets off a meaningless spreadsheet. It wasn't closing off a project ready for the next almost identical project to start immediately after. It wasn't work to me obviously, I was travelling at the time, just experiencing new things and heading towards the big Four Oh, but that wasn't to mean that it couldn't be work at some point. It was enough to get me thinking about the future.

Back in the U.K early the following year I settled back into a job and went about saving up for another trip away. During this time I put my life on hold, spending an inordinate amount of time in the gym on evenings and weekends in order to stay fit for the next adventure. I completed a 120 hour online TEFL in order that I could at least try a short teaching break when I was away to see if it an I were a decent match. I would travel for three months before in order to acclimitise to the different environment before embarking on my evaluation period, but unfortunately just before this was due to take place, I suffered a fracture in my foot whilst in Myanmar and upon getting it checked in Bangkok, decided it was better for me to withdraw from the placement and rest up for a bit to try to let things heal.

After I returned I carried on thinking. In order to work in some of the countries which I had been drawn towards, a degree qualification would either be deemed to be beneficial or a a legal requirement. To this end I embarked on one in a subject that followed my interests, a tool for storytelling and one that I found a little dark humour in given my eyesight issues in the past. At the end of this period I have now achieved a BA (Hons) qualification in Photography. It's taken almost 3 years, but I am now a Bachelor of Arts.

The problem is now is "what do I do with it?"

Five years has passed since that original encounter in Vietnam, a lot of water has passed under that bridge. I would be lying if I was to say that I didn't feel that passage of time. I feel older, perhaps less energised than I was and I am no longer sure of the path I should take.

The other thing that has muddied the water is that I have turned into a bit of a photographer. The final project I completed on my course was undoubtably the best module that I undertook and it is one of which I am a little bit proud, receiving positive feedback on it overall. I feel that I should be trying to carry this forward also, but again I'm not entirely sure the best way to go about it.

There could be a way to marry the two together somehow of course. Perhaps there is a job out there that would benefit from my particular set of skills. I will have to see if anything that fits, and if so find a route that can be taken to it.

I still feel I need to go somewhere. There's still stories to be found and perhaps re-told.

And if it happens you can all come for the ride.


Wednesday, 1 May 2019

18/03/2019 - 19/03/2019 - Bangkok - UK (via Bahrain)

I awoke early on my last day and sat at my desk one more time in order to get some work done. As my flight in the evening wasn't due to leave until about 9pm there was going to be no great need for me to rush off to the airport, however I didn't want to be just sat around clicking my heels all day either. Noey on reception had been kind enough to give me a later than usual check out time and said it was O.K for me to leave some luggage at the hostel for a few hours if I wanted to go out and collect it later. After a short period of work I began packing and organising my bags ready for the journey home, ditching some items that were longer key requirements and were just adding weight. Jettisoned  items were several tops that had seen their fair share of miles and a large, lightweight travel towel. My "Rough Guide to South East Asia" book I gifted to Noey, who dutifully placed it amongst the other books in the communal area of the hostel, hoping it would be of use to someone passing through in the future.  

At just after Mid Day I decided to take one more trip to the food court at Terminal 21. I don't mind admitting that one of my favourite things about Bangkok is the food and I am still unsure as to when or if  I will be able to return again to get some more. The food from Terminal 21 had become a mainstay of my diet over the previous few weeks and I was sad to be leaving it behind. Nothing I have found in the U.K quite matches the flavours that you can find across places in Asia or in Bangkok itself. Nothing seems as vibrant in colour or taste no matter how much authenticity they claim. That's not to pour scorn on the food in the U.K itself, but somehow, for some reason, something is getting lost in the transition from the East to the West.

I had originally planned to get to the Airport a few hours before departure, but brought my times forward when it dawned on me that it was mid week and travelling at that time would sit me bang in the middle of the rush hours. I returned to the hostel to collect my things, removing my portable charger from the plug where it had been charging up to give it maximum juice to cover the upcoming hours, organising and re-organising my bags ready for when I arrived at the airport. At just after 3pm I said my final farewell to my hostess, took the elevator to the ground floor and stepped back out into the blazing heat to begin the overly long journey back home.

I arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport just after 4, and in the departures hall folded the straps of my rucksack into position, ready to be zipped away into the bag ready for transit. It was here that the zip of the cover failed which meant that I had to find other means to stop the straps from flailing about. Firstly I wasn't sure if the airline would accept the bag in the condition that it was now in, and secondly if they did, I didn't want the straps to get themselves caught up anywhere which might result in the bag being lost or delayed en-route to London. I tied everything close to the bag the best that I  could using the strands or strap ends available and when the gates opened an hour later, made my way gingerly to the check in staff to enquire whether my lacing efforts were successful enough to allow the bag to travel on it's own.

Luckily the two slim, impeccably dressed ladies on the business side of the counter were satisfied with the results of my endeavours and over the condition of the bag was still o.k. For me however the day was now taking it's toll, and having hauled the bag up and down the arrivals hall for the last hour looking for the Gulf Air gate, I struggled a little to lift the bag onto the weighing belt for its confirmatory 19.4 kg reading. On the other side of the counter the taller of the ladies then lifted and carried the bag from the belt like it was full of nothing but air and feathers and placed it easily into the awaiting tray. "Wow" I said, flexing my arm up through 90 degrees at the elbow and pointing forward, "very strong". It wasn't meant to be patronising and luckily wasn't taken a such. Both the counter staff seemed to see it as a light hearted acknowledgement of both their natural strength and my obvious weakness, the manner it was intended, and refrained from kicking the hell out of my checked in luggage, at least until my back was turned and my focus was moved onto getting through to the duty free area, and getting a bite to eat before the now imminent flight out.

To be fair the choice of "Seafood and Vegetables" before flying could be seen as risky at best, foolhardy at worst, but with a hand in the bowels of both good fortune and bad, what arrived in front of me bore little resemblance to what I was expecting to see or taste. Instead or succulent, fresh fish there was the occasional hint of something that perhaps, once, caught sight of water, encased in a thick blanket of overly greasy batter. Instead of a medley of fully flavoured vegetables, what arrived was a possibly a distant cousin to a British potato chip, hard and undercooked and coated again in yet more batter. On the plus side there was little or no fish present that was likely to make me ill over the coming hours, but on the other the distant cousin and sickly batter was probably what caused me to feel uncomfortable and off colour for the first flight from Bangkok to Bahrain. This was the worst food that I have ever experienced away from British shores, but perhaps, just perhaps it was their way of readying me and my innards for what to expect when I touched down again back on the other side.

The wait at Bahrain felt longer than the 90 minutes it actually was, probably because it is for an international airport at least, rather lacking in things to see or do. After arriving from the first flight I went through the obligatory mid journey stop over baggage scan before taking the escalator up a floor walking past the Duty Free shop and the McDonalds where I had eaten 6 weeks previous, and plonked my "slightly slimmer than before" arse down at Costa. In that one sentence I have probably described half of the places that were present in the departure hall, and all of those that are of any note.

Before boarding the next flight out we again had to go through another baggage check process. Wallet, phones, injections, watch, medical bracelet, laptop and belt out into trays, bag and self through separate scanners before redressing myself and repacking my bag. Sometimes it feels the other way around. Next time I might not wear a belt when travelling internationally. Perhaps given that it was 02:20 by the time we boarded the next plane, it might have been more fitting if I had been wearing a dressing gown and pair of slippers anyway. If I had possessed the foresight to dress as such  and been carrying my now discarded towel as a prop, I may have even been mistaken for to a modern day Arthur Dent.

The flight to London took over 7 hours and with the chair in front of me not in use, I was able to stretch out my legs under said chair until my feet had appeared from out the front of it. In what has become unheard of for me, I managed to get snippets of sleep during this time. 5 minutes here and 5 minutes there might not sound much, but that's only because it's not. With a few hours to go before we were due to land I was as uncomfortable as I recall ever being on a flight and now completely convinced that this was going to be my last trip, if not forever, than certainly for quite some time.

But here's the rub.

As much as I bemoan the lack of comfort and increase of physical toll that the more recent trips have seemingly taken on me, the fact still remains that I have seen and experienced things that many people wont, either through their own choice or through a lack of opportunity. It's important I think to remember that, and luckily there are still moments that present themselves, reminding me and reinforcing that sentiment.

It was in this moment, with the morning beautifully lurching over the horizon as we flew over Germany and Belgium that my I found tears were beginning to trickle. I thought of the people gone who would never see these things, or those with whom I could not experience it with. Travelling on your own certainly has its perks. You can move to the beat of your own drum, travel when you feel you are able to do so, and likewise slow down and rest when you feel that is something you need also. But by the same measure you are unable to recall many shared, personal moments in time, because as there is no one else there to share them with, those shared, personal moments just simply don't happen.

And that, in a nutshell is the danger of tiredness, and how it affects me. 

Luckily though, as we flew over the English Channel towards London, the cloud underneath began to obscure the country below until it was no longer visible. The change from the picturesque, bright morning sunshine from over 30,000 Ft to ground level blanket grey and rain were enough to dispel any and all sleep deprived over romanticised notions that may have been lingering. The smackdown and rumble of the Heathrow tarmac came with not only the relief to have landed at last, but the reality that now it was back to life underneath grey, wet skies. It couldn't be further away from the climate of Bangkok that I had been working and living in.

Coming through arrivals was a relatively quick and painless experience, with the exception of the over complicated and non functioning passport readers. This meant that almost everybody who tried to use the machines was rejected and then had to go and be processed manually by a person and turned what is an efficient, one step manual process in many other countries where they still trust people to do a job,  into an inefficient two step one thanks to the fallibility and reliance on technology in situations where perhaps it isn't really needed.

The last meal that I had eaten in Bangkok had tried to prepared me a little for my first meal back home, attempting to soften the blow between the previous Thai culinary experiences that had been both visually appealing and full of taste, and any expections that I had for the food that I would now be returning too. 

But even with low expectations I still wasn't quite ready for food with a complete lack of either.

That flight away again might not be at such a distant point in time after all