Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Agony. Pure, unadulterated agony...

This week, I have been mostly suffering from…


Yes, that’s right, gout; that disorder suffered by blimpish, port drinking retired colonels and a certain much-married homicidal Tudor monarch.

Yes, that’s right, your eyes didn’t deceive you; gout. G.O.U.T.

And now that you’ve been able to stifle your giggles for long enough to wipe the tears of laughter from your eyes, let me tell the uninitiated amongst you (you lucky, lucky people) something about it.

It is, without doubt, quite the most painful thing I have ever experienced in my life and whilst modesty and a desire to allow you to hold on to your last meal prevent me from going into any further detail, allow me to say, I am no stranger to extreme discomfort including, amongst others:

1. Toothache – a mere bagatelle
2. Severe cramp in the muscles of the small of my back rendering movement impossible – a trifling inconvenience
3. Post operative infection – bit of a nuisance

Unfortunately, I am also no stranger to its predations. I suffered my first episode before the age of thirty and between that age and thirty-seven or eight, it struck me a further four or five times. In the intervening ten years, I’ve only been struck a further three times, possibly because I started eating more sensibly and got myself fit.

But it still came, nonetheless.

It always begins the same way. I wake up in the morning to a vague, tingling stiffness in the large joint of my left big toe. If caught quickly at that stage with the appropriate medication (thank the Lord for NSAIDs!), a couple of days later and I’m as right as rain. Left untreated, by the second day, the toe is too stiff and painful to move and even putting a sock on is a procedure, carried out through gritted teeth.

By the early hours of the third morning, the agony – there is no other word to describe it – is so intense that the weight of the bed sheets on it is enough to wake me up creased in pain and the mere thought of putting a sock on is too much to contemplate, let alone a shoe.

The first time it struck me, I honestly thought I had broken my foot in some way, possibly by having it run over by a lorry when alcoholically inconvenienced; that is how much it hurts. Indeed, I have often mused as to whether it would be less agonising to take a blunt, rusty old knife and cut off the offending toe without anaesthetic.

Apparently, the condition is more common amongst the more intellectually gifted. I couldn’t possibly comment about that, but what I am sure of is that I inherited the gene which makes me susceptible to it (it is essentially caused by an inability to rid the body of uric acid) from my late father, who was also struck for the first time in his early thirties. Just for good measure, my pencil slim elder brother is also a sufferer. Unfortunately for my son, one of my brothers-in-law is also prone to the condition, so if, as is widely believed, it is inherited, the chances are that he can also look forward to becoming a sufferer in about fifteen or twenty years’ time.

What then of Mrs RtoK when I am in the midst of an attack, unable to walk at more than a hobble, my face a twisted mask of pain?

I don't suppose anyone would be surprised tolearn that she generally laughs at me, tells me not to be such a wimp and to try giving birth if I want to know what pain really feels like!

No change there, then.

Now where did I put those pills…

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Football predictions...

Well, all too soon, the holiday’s over and the sun and sand have once again been exchanged for the cooler, greener pastures of home.

I have to admit that whilst we were away, other than the odd look at the English papers, I didn’t really make too much effort to keep up with the news, so I thought that for my first post-holiday post, as it were, I’d have a look at another one of my passions: football. More specifically, the predictions made in the Daily Mail (which I read on the plane home) as to where the twenty Premier League clubs will finish come next May.

These are the predictions as made by Neil Ashton…followed by mine in red…

1. Man United (Man United)
2. Chelsea (Chelsea)
3. Liverpool (Arsenal)
4. Arsenal (Liverpool)

Not too much to argue with there, as to the clubs which will make up the top four and hence take the coveted Champions League places. My only quibble is that for all their loss of important players, I can’t see Arsenal being beaten into fourth place by a Liverpool team despite the acquisition of Robbie Keane.

Moving on…

5. Portsmouth (Everton)
6. Spurs (Aston Villa)
7. Everton (Portsmouth)
8. Man City (Spurs)
9. Aston Villa (Sunderland)
10. West Ham (Newcastle)
11. Newcastle (Man City)
12. Sunderland (West Ham)

Hmmm. Some interesting suggestions there. I can’t see Portsmouth finishing above Aston Villa or Everton and given Dr Thaksin’s current difficulties, Man City may be looking for a new owner with enough money to pay the wages at Christmas rather than dreaming about potential glory. I fear that Mark Hughes has jumped out of the relatively pressure-free safety of Blackburn Rovers into a financial maelstrom at City which could well see him leaving his new post before the nights start drawing in.

Other than that, the perennial suggestion that Spurs are launching a bid to force themselves into the top four is always a source of hilarity when it once again collapses in failure and to suggest that a poor West Ham team will finish tenth is taking London-centric reporting to new extremes of optimism. Sunderland, meanwhile will surprise a few people this season, whilst Newcastle will remain in steady mid-table position.

And bringing up the rear…

13. Middlesborough (Blackburn)
14. Wigan (Wigan)
15. Fulham (Bolton)
16. Blackburn (Fulham)
17. Bolton (Middlesborough)
18. Stoke (West Brom)
19. Hull (Stoke)
20. West Brom (Hull)

Intriguing. Dealing with the easier ones to predict, much the same as the top of the league, I suspect that the bottom three select themselves, for the simple reason that the gap between the Premier League and the Championship is now so wide, I cannot see any promoted club surviving until QPR come up, backed by the massive resources of Bernie Ecclestone, Lakshmi Mittal and Silvio Briatore.

That aside, there has been much talk in the press of a crisis at Blackburn Rovers in the wake of Mark Hughes’ departure and the transfers of both David Bentley and Brad Friedel. I have no doubt that they will slip from their seventh place of last season, but not as far as Ashton suggests. After them, I see their Lancashire neighbours in Wigan and Bolton - both clubs have strengthened considerably over the summer - followed by Fulham and Middlesborough, both of whom will finish several points above the relegation zone. Indeed, it wouldn’t surprise me if this season saw the largest ever gap between the tem relegated in 18th place and the one staying up in 17th.

Of course, these are only my best, relatively well informed guesses…I will return to my predictions at the end of the season to assess my crystal ball gazing and doubtless demonstrate my profound lack of ability as a pundit…

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Off on holiday...

Off on my holidays now - back in ten days or so, when the Throne will be celebrating its second birthday!
See you when I'm back...