Not taking sides — updated


I gather there were some issues with people not being able to see the previous version of this post. Apos for that! I had restricted the access condition to subscribers, naively imagining that my readers mostly had a subscription. Some do, but have difficulties opening posts. I have taken this up with WordPress, but not gotten very far. I have definitely changed the setting on this updated post to Access: Everyone. People who get the alert, but can’t see the whole post, could try refreshing their browser.

Anyway, I am putting this update at the head of the post, so people who could read the content previously posted don’t have to scroll through it again. I previously discovered that the channels on the turntable were hooked up incorrectly, in the sense that the right hand channel was actually the left, and vice versa. Then I wondered whether I was having the same problem with my disc player. It wasn’t easy to determine, because I didn’t have a stereo check CD or DVD. However, the player (a Cambridge Audio) has a fairly primitive YouTube browser built in. So I found a stereo check video and played it back. This was basic in the extreme, consisting of someone reciting “Left channel, left channel, left channel”, then “Right channel, right channel, right channel”. (The sound was put through the correct stereo channel alternately, obvs.) Anyway, it showed me that each channel is coming through the correct speaker. Here endeth the update.


Warning — ultra nerdy content ahead.

I had an interesting trawl through my local op shop yesterday, coming back with three DVDs and two LPs. We watched one of the DVDs last night, quite an interesting 2007 “neo-noir psychological thriller”, Disturbia . A good mid-week flick, featuring a breakout role for Shia LaBeouf. (The other discs I haven’t seen yet.) I regard op shop DVDs as a cheap indefinite loan. For convenience I have the region settings of the Blu-ray recorder in my phone, so I don’t end up buying something I can’t play.

The vinyl was pretty interesting. The first one I played was Vangelis’ sound track to Chariots of Fire. (Not going to link this, you’ve all seen it!) Side 1 comprised various tracks from the movie sound track, all played by the monomynous Vangelis, except for the original choral version of “Jerusalem”, by Hubert Parry. (This must also have featured in the sound track — it was so long ago that I saw it, I really don’t remember.) Side B was a kind of fantasia on the main Chariots of Fire theme, played on various keyboard instruments also by Vangelis. This was all quite a blast from the past, and a very well produced LP.

The second one was quite an ear opener. This was a demonstration disc called “Miracle in Sound: the Festival Stereo Sampler” (Festival Records, SFL-2/1). Strangely, this is an Australian label, although the content originates in the US. Side 1 began with a follow-the-bouncing-ball track, intended to show whether your speakers are set up with the correct left to right orientation and phase. A bouncing ping pong ball sounded first out of the left, then the right channel. Following this, the bouncing ball is heard alternately left and right. Finally, the ball appears to be bouncing in both channels simultaneously, to allow one to hear the elusive “middle channel”.

I have had stereos since the 1970s, when vinyl and cassettes were all there was. I used to have about 300 records, most of which I gave to 3MBS-FM. However, the vintage Luxman tube pre-amplifier I bought about seven years ago has a very good phono stage. This has encouraged me to start collecting vinyl again. Well, when I played “Miracle in Sound”, I was glad I was sitting down! My speakers were reversed — for the turntable, at least. What I had thought was the left channel was actually the right, and vice versa. This is totally a rookie error, which I couldn’t believe I had made. Still less, having made it, that I hadn’t noticed it! Que?

Something that made the reversal harder to pick up was that the balance control worked correctly, i.e. when turning the knob to the left, sound was transferred to that channel, and vice versa. My stereo also is hellaciously complicated to set up. This is because it has not only a separate power amplifier and pre-amplifier, but also a powered subwoofer. My valve amplifier guru Dallas drew me a diagram to aid me in which leads have to hook up to what. Physical access is quite complicated also, with little room to get behind everything and check. So the possibility that, at some point, I swapped over some leads is quite a real one.

There is a subtler extenuating factor, if you like, to do to with orchestral layout. Growing up and going to concerts in Australia, one might think that orchestras are always sitting with first fiddles on the conductor’s left hand, followed (reading left to right) by second fiddles, violas, and cellos. Second and third tiers are woodwinds and brasses, with double basses behind the cellos. Percussion at the back. Well, after looking at maybe a hundred Berlin Philharmonic concerts (on their Digital Concert Hall service), I can tell you, their string sections sit quite differently. First fiddles on conductor’s left (same as here), but then violas and cellos next to them, then second fiddles on conductor’s right. Alternatively, the violas can swap with the second fiddles. Double basses can be behind the first fiddles in the second tier, on the conductor’s left, or in the middle. It all depends. All these seating arrangements affect the sound stage; otherwise, I might have realised something was wrong earlier.

Fortunately the pre-amp has a nifty feature — a “Reverse Stereo” switch. This swaps around the channels left to right, without having to touch any wires. Everything suddenly sounded as I imagined it should! Simple. Except that now I have to figure out whether the outputs from my my disc player are reversed left-to-right as well. If so, when I am going from playing a record to a CD or DVD, I have to remember to un-reverse the channel reversal. Hifi paranoia, here we come!

PS Please, no advice to ditch the stereo for something simpler! If I didn’t have this to fiddle with, what would I do?

TV or not TV

I recently stumbled across the title of a book that I read, then lost track of: Bowling alone, by Robert D. Putnam (Simon & Schuster, 2000). The author, professor of Public Policy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, was exploring the phenomenon of the decline in social capital since the 1950s. By “social capital” Putnam meant the participation of Americans in social institutions by standing for public office, and joining political parties or trade unions, religious groups, parent–teacher associations, veterans’ organisations, volunteers with Boy Scouts and the Red Cross, and service clubs such as Rotary. People are now less prepared to join these groups than was the case in the post-war decades. The level of trust they express in governments and social institutions generally has also declined.

I don’t doubt that this trend was a general one. In my childhood in Darwin, I remember my parents going to card nights, singalongs around the piano, and picnics with friends. OK, Darwin was a pretty small place then. The past is a foreign country, as L P Hartley observed. If you lived in Darwin in the 1960s and had a family, you mostly made your own fun. But when we moved to Sydney, my parents stopped participating in most of these forms of socialising. Of course they knew many fewer people there. Sydney offered substitutes, however, such as the Mensa organisation, which would probably not have been an option in Darwin. Joining this gave my father the opportunity to organise bridge and chess games at our place. There was also TV.

Why have overall levels of sociability and trust receded from their high in the decades immediately following WWII? Putnam attributes these phenomena primarily to the increasing prevalence of television and other electronic forms of entertainment. Other factors included the increasing participation of women in paid employment, and the effects of suburbanization, commuting, and urban sprawl. (I have cribbed these and other details from the Wikipedia article about Bowling Alone.) It all might sound rather dry, but Putnam, as I recall, is a graceful writer. As one might expect, his conclusions are all well buttressed with survey and other data, and his book has a substantial bibliography. It made quite an impression on me when I read it, so I was glad to be reminded of its title.

Independently of this, I had been thinking about television and the tremendous ways in which it has evolved. This was particularly clear to me, given that Darwin in the 1960s did not have TV. (The fun I had to make there included playing records and listening to Tarzan serials on our Kreisler radiogram.) I first saw TV in Brisbane during a family holiday to Queensland in the 1960s. I found it entrancing. As soon as we returned to our accommodation, I would switch the set on, regardless of what was being broadcast. The medium was truly the message.

TV then of course was black and white, and limited to a handful of channels. My beloved grew up in a regional area where there were two channels — the ABC and a commercial. She became an authority on the programming available at any given time of day or night. Before programs were shown, at 8.00 or 9.00 in the morning, the test pattern was broadcast. The evening’s viewing always concluded with the Union Jack rippling in the breeze, to the strains of God Save the Queen. (I’m sure some people would have stood up at home while this was playing. When writing this, I was curious about whether this had actually been a thing. All I could find was a story about how the Mission Barbecue chain in the US plays The Star-Spangled Banner at 12 noon, at which patrons may stand, doubtless with the encouragement of some of their fellows.)

A former housemate of mine referred to a female life partner as “she with whom one watches TV”. During the thousands of hours of TV I have watched with my beloved, we have gone from her flickering old black and white set, to a hulking Philips colour cathode ray TV that I lugged around to three domiciles, to our current Panasonic flat screen. We had the Philips CRTV for about 16 years. it had the boxy 4:3 aspect ratio; when digital channels came in, it required a set-top box to receive them. When we bought our place in Burwood in 2014, I refused to move this heavy old relic one more time, and bought the wide screen Panasonic from a Dick Smith store — back when these places still existed.

Our previous place, in Camberwell, had ushered us into the era of the second TV. The first of these was a tiny set, purchased in about 2013, which had a screen about the size of a microwave oven door. This tiddler went originally to the sunroom of our house in Camberwell, then to the study of our current place in Burwood. It gave up the ghost (no pun intended) just a few weeks ago. I replaced it with a much bigger Blaupunkt set, purchased in a Coles supermarket for $210. (Only a few TV manufacturers make their own screens, so a no-name TV will probably work as well as a recognised brand, and certainly last as long.)

When we bought our first VCR, this ushered in the era of time-shift programming, a.k.a taping off-air. The Green Guide insert in Thursday’s The Age lists the TV programs for the week. It became a ritual to go through the Green Guide and set up the following week’s programs to record. This could be a delicate operation: allowance had to be made for programs which started early and finished late. The commercial stations were the worst for running behind time, particularly when the programs had been preceded by a football match, charity broadcast, or other program likely to run over time. Much unhappiness was expressed when once (once!) I failed to sufficiently “pad” the end time of a recording of Cold Feet. Consequently the precious last few minutes of an episode were missing in action. (Of course this was the exception which proved the rule. On a very few of those occasions, too numerous to mention, when we had been able to watch the entirety of a program, I allowed myself to point this out. This did not prevent some good helpings of hot tongue and cold shoulder from coming my way after the initial offence.)

Other pinch points occurred with taping off-air. The early machines had a limited capacity to record, so when multiple programs earmarked for off-air recording overlapped each other, some bargaining had to be engaged in to pick a winner. The VCR could not record while a program was being played back. Thus when we were playing something back, and the VCR began setting itself up to record a second program, the playback had to be suspended until the recording of the latter had been completed. Our current hard drive recorder allows not only the recording of three programs at once, but also playing one of these back while it is still recording. Better still, it records closed captions. A program broadcast over several episodes, such as a series, can be set up to record in one go, and will stop recording when the series is completed.

Despite all these refinements, our current HDD recorder will probably be our last. I still engage in the weekly ritual of setting up programs to record. Each time yields fewer noteworthy offerings, however, to the point where it has become bit of a waste of time. The streaming services have such a wealth of content that I can’t remember when we watched something on a free-to-air channel. Like everything, this has its advantages as well as drawbacks. On our recent trip to Singapore, we found the TV set in our hotel room had none of the streaming services we watch at home. Fortunately, I had installed the apps for these services on my Samsung tablet. The TV in our room, also fortunately a Samsung, had a feature called screen mirroring. Using that I was able to first tune into Netflix on the tablet, then mirror the tablet screen on the TV — including captions. The broadcast could be paused and continued at will. None of this would have been possible before the advent of wifi, streaming television services, et al . (Perhaps my rigging up this Rube Goldberg arrangement restored a few brownie points, after having cut off Cold Feet, as it were, many years previously.)

Streaming brings a torrent of content to our living room. It can also split us into electronic tribes. When free to air TV was all there was, at least this provided a lot of people with a water-cooler topic. In the glory days of FTA, gangbuster series like The Ascent of Man, The Forsyte Saga, and Brideshead Revisited gripped millions of people, all at the same time. Everyone had a theory about who shot JR (except refuseniks like me who didn’t watch Dynasty). Apparently, whenever a commercial break occurred in these shows, water and electricity networks experienced peaks in demand, as their audience everywhere got up to have a pee and put the kettle on.

Ironically, now I think of it, the one time I overheard someone on the train talking about last night’s TV, they had been watching Frontline. Seinfeld was a TV show about nothing; Frontline was a TV show about a TV show. Can we get more postmodern than that? Of course — now we have Gogglebox. At least this program “surfaces” the all-pervasive aspect of TV by depicting people doing what they actually do, most of the time — watching the box. Now we can watch them doing it.

I’m not having a shot at TV — I watch as much as the next person. I am just fascinated by the way it simultaneously isolates us while (kinda-sorta) connecting us. Can we imagine life without it? There must be a show about that.

Down a snake

I have been a bit remiss in writing up my consults with Dr P, having missed the previous one (11 May). However, as has been previously remarked, the trend (rather than the quantum) of the PSA results is what matters. Unfortunately, the trend is not my friend at present. The previous number was 3.9; the most recent one (from 8 June) was 6.2. This is not doubling, but more of an increase than anyone would like. So I will be having another round of chemo.

Before that I am booked in for another CT scan on Monday, 4 July. This will reveal any new developments. I will be seeing Dr P on Wednesday, 6 June, at which time he will fill me in on the CT scan results and arrangements for the chemo. This will be my second round of this treatment, one of the “cut, burn and poison” trilogy. Fortunately, I seem to tolerate all these pretty well. As with the previous round, the chemo will be administered at Epworth in Box Hill, pretty close by. I don’t at this stage know how long it will take, the frequency of the doses, etc. Stay tuned for details.

Fortunately as well, I am feeling fine. I put this down in large part to continuing to exercise, mostly in the mens’ oncology classes at my exercise physiology practice. (I will be informing them I will be going back onto chemo so they can adjust my program if necessary.) My walking has been curtailed quite a lot by soreness in the left ankle. This has been a problem for a long time, so I think this is just an overuse injury after a lot of walks during lockdown. Before I used to just strap it up, but now even this isn’t having any effect. So I will probably get an exercise bike for an aerobic workout (the ankle isn’t bothered by that movement).

I have been occupied recently with installing a new Denon receiver in the living room. The previous one, a Harman Kardon, worked perfectly well, but was just a bit unexciting. I was initially looking for another stereo receiver, but the home theatre-type ones were actually much more reasonably priced, as well as offering more functionality. I have the Denon hooked up for 5.1, (something that took most of a weekend), and it is definitely much more punchy. It bristles with useful features like internet radio, sound modes, and numerous digital as well as analog inputs, including one for the turntable. (The HK only had analog inputs). Staying home and watching movies or TV series is a good winter activity, but the receiver works equally well for music.


Onwards and upwards

We saw Dr Parente on Wednesday. The PSA is continuing its gentle rise: 2.9 at the last test a week before the consult, up from 2.5 previously. Dr P continued to emphasise the trajectory of the increase over the quantum of the score; the former remains low. This time he also made the following points:

  • If I were not taking Enzalutamide, the increases would be much steeper. Therefore (my words not his) it’s doing its job in damping things down.
  • I asked if I needed another scan, but he doesn’t think I need one.
  • At this rate, my doubling rate (i.e. the period of time in which the PSA score would double) is about four months. He said he would only start worrying if the doubling rate got to about four weeks.

I understand Dr P’s reasons (which he has previously explained) for wanting to get the most out of this treatment regimen before switching to another one, giving me another line of chemo, etc. Everything else is still the same, i.e. I’m feeling fine, keeping up the exercise, staying busy, and am not too worried about developments. I continue to see Dr P every four weeks. I start to get a bit anxious around the three week mark, peaking when I have the blood test about a week before the consult. After this, however, I tend to relax and think, well, I’ve done everything I can, we’ll see what he says. The effect of the anti-depressant and CBT combo helps to keep this anxiety manageable, as do the two exercise classes a week.

This week I also had my biennial consultation with my psychiatrist, Dr T. I need to touch base with him periodically so that he can renew the authority for my dexamphetamine prescription. (This last is very helpful for my ADHD.) Dr T said he had a friend with prostate cancer, who was controlling it entirely with diet and exercise. I just said “Good for him”. It’s interesting how many people know PC patients who are using complementary treatments, and who implicitly recommend these treatments to me. (Apart from medical professionals, no-one has ever recommended surgery, chemo or radiation.) I have had the odd comment here and there about the importance of maintaining a positive attitude, and so on.

I think these comments all come from a good place. People want to pass something onto me that they think could be helpful. I’ve no doubt that complementary therapies can be efficacious with less aggressive cancers. (Of course spontaneous remission can occur at any time.) No-one has explicitly recommended complementary therapies to me, but if they were to, I would ask them for a citation to a gold standard, double blind study, published in a high impact, peer reviewed journal. Evidence for these treatments, however, tends to be anecdotal, and involves only a single subject. The cases mentioned also seem unrepresentative, in that only the success stories are reported. No-one would boast about having abandoned their conventional treatment for complementary therapies, only to find their symptoms recurring; returning to their oncologist, they find that their cancer has become too advanced for any further medical intervention. Statistically, of course, such outcomes must occur. Complementary medicine researchers are attempting to build up a research base of properly conducted studies of these therapies. Meanwhile, I will stick to the treatment I am receiving, unless and until I have a reason to change it.

In more cheerful news, we got our new vehicle a fortnight or so ago, a Toyota RAV 4 hybrid Edge. It glides along in a beguiling way. I have clocked up about 270 kilometres in it, mostly just doing trips to the shops and exercise class. The needle in the fuel gauge is still showing 3/4 full. I gave it its first wash this morning; it was pretty clean, just rather dusty. It is noticeably higher than the Camry: I had to stand on a little step to wash the roof. Of course it towers over the GT (which has become my beloved’s car). I drove behind a GT the other day, and could see right over its roof. The extra ride height on the RAV is handy for getting in and out, although I think the GT kept me somewhat flexible. The former is the sixth Toyota that we have owned, jointly and severally.

Level pegging

Updates to this post are minor, made only for clarity.

My beloved and I went to see Dr P on Wednesday, October 27th. The PSA is very slightly elevated — 1.01, up from 0.94 at the previous test. However, Dr P. said this is within the measurement error of the machine. So we weren’t to worry. He emphasised that he was still happy with where I was at. I am to see him next on 22 November, on which date I will also be having another Zolodex implant.

I am a bit late posting this because the consult came at mid-way of an extremely busy week. On Monday I parked the GT at the back of the IGA supermarket on Maling Road, Caterbury. I noticed a truck unloading in a right-of-way next to my parking space. I went to four places on Maling Road, at all of which I checked in, using the Service Victoria QR code reader and digital vax certificate. When I got back from the last stop (the IGA supermarket, as it happened), the truck had gone, but I noticed a bit of damage on the car bonnet and driver’s side guard. (There wasn’t a note on the car acknowledging responsibility.)

I whizzed back to the supermarket and asked if they had had a delivery that morning. (I’d chosen not to get a receipt for the items I’d bought, but, via the Service Victoria app, was able to show them that I had been in the store within the last half-hour.) They were very helpful and gave me a copy of the receipt that they had received from the delivery driver. The latter wasn’t an employee of IGA, but was working for a transport company. The invoice gave me his name and other useful information.

When I got home I wasn’t sure whether to call the transport company or my insurance company. I hadn’t seen how the damage occurred — I was only inferring that that it had been caused by the truck driver who’d made the delivery to IGA. So I rang my insurance company (Apia) and explained what had happened. They agreed that there was only circumstantial evidence that a third party was involved, charged me my excess (which I paid over the phone by credit card), and set an assessment and repair appointment in train.

After this I rang the transport company. They were unexpectedly sympathetic and said they would speak to the driver, and that someone would call me back. I didn’t have great hopes from this. However, I was pleasantly surprised to hear from the company the next day. They had indeed spoken to the driver, who said he hadn’t had any traffic accidents on his run. However, they had looked at footage from a video camera mounted on the back of the truck. This showed a pole, called a pogo stick, which the driver used in unloading the truck. The driver had leant the pogo stick against the truck, causing it to fall onto the bonnet of the GT as the truck reversed out of the right-of-way. So they acknowledged responsibility for the damage. (I thought this very decent of the company to put their hand up for this, and said so.)

To cut a long story short, after exchanging a few SMSs and emails, I received an indemnity form to fill in and send back. According to this the company said they would pay the amount of my insurance excess, if I, my heirs and descendants and so on, undertook to make no further claim on them in this matter. Rightio, I said, and filled it out and returned it to them forthwith. (What is this mysterious company’s name? I haven’t received the money yet, dear readers, so I am keeping schtum until I do. However, I expect the amount to be forthcoming.)

In the same week

  • I had two in-person exercise classes at the exercise physiology practice;
  • via Zoom, had a German lesson (for which I hadn’t done much hausaufgabe);
  • also by Zoom, had an appointment with my psychologist;
  • hooked up our barbecue (which had been sitting out in the garage for eighteen months or so after having been gifted to us by a former neighbour), in preparation for a Cup Day get-together with friends;
  • drove the GT out to Blackburn to the damage assessor/body shop place, where it resides until Friday (Apia shouted me an Uber back home); and
  • baked two sourdough loaves.

The loaves turned out well, the BBQ works fine (although I have to clean the grill plate soon), and I have been adapting well to only having one car between us. Actually, my beloved and I got by perfectly well with one car between us for twenty years. It is only in the last seven years that we have had a car each. As far as I am concerned, I would be happy to trade both the Toyotas in on an EV.

I can’t preview this post as I used to be able to, so I am just going to post it as is.

Down but not out

We went to see Dr P yesterday, and the news was good: the PSA was 0.94 at the last test. He said “I told you I’d get it down to zero”, and he has. As I understand it, anything under 1.0 is undetectable, so this is as close as makes no difference. (Or, as Dad would have said, 5/8 of SFA. That’s the expurgated version, anyway!) We walked away with a script for the next lot of Enzalutamide, a copy of the latest blood test results (“pristine”, according to the good Dr), a screed for the next blood test, and the receipt for the consult. After the Medicare rebate, this last was only a few dollars — 5/8 of you-know-what! Frequent illness points, or something.

I had been expecting the number to continue its downward progress, but still felt rather tired and drained afterwards. Had we been able to go out for a coffee we would have; as it was, we just had one at home, and watched “My Unorthodox Life” on Netflix. The show is about Julia Haart, who left an orthodox Jewish sect in New York and went on to make a major career for herself in the fashion industry. (There is a rather academic account of the show in The Conversation, which nevertheless covers most of the bases.) Whether you are into fashion or not, it is a lot of fun, and is beautifully shot in the Haart penthouse in Tribeca, her fashion company, and various other locations in Manhattan. In the last episode we watched, she, her husband and four kids also go to Paris for the fashion season. They hire a 13th century chateau as well (presumably close to Paris). You get the picture — they have plenty of dough — but this makes the show a great bit of escapism!

I had a small win also, closer to home. The study, where I spend a lot of time, had a picture which, for historical reasons, was situated oddly in the right hand corner of the rear wall. I wanted to move this picture to the middle of the wall, and hang my masters and long service award from RMIT on either side. The fact that all these are a different size — and that I didn’t have another hook the same as that which the picture was hanging on — made this a mañana project. A catalyst that enabled me to Move Forward with it was reading an article in the New York Times about picture hanging. This article made a couple of helpful suggestion for hanging pictures of disparate size together:

  • give them a common top line, and
  • using painter’s tape (AKA masking tape) to show this line.

I had the further brainwave to use a blob of Blu-tak on the top of this line of masking tape to show the position of each hook. (Saves making pencil marks on the wall.) So the tape gives you the horizontal and the Blu-tak the vertical reference. Et voila!


Of course I mucked it up slightly in the execution — measure once, cut twice, and all that. (Not saying where!) But eventually I think it was quite successful. Oddly, from this slight angle, there is a slight optical illusion that makes the large picture look a tad higher than the others. From where I am sitting it actually looks a bit lower. I can tell you they are the same distance apart, however they might look in the picture! Anyway, it is “rough enough for the bush”. More importantly, it has the elusive WAF (Wife Approval Factor). This is no small thing from someone I have been known to refer to affectionately as Der Fisch — as in, an eye like a dead fish! (This is meant to be complimentary: I can’t understand why it is not always so taken.)

The teabag challenge

I generally don’t include video or any other links in blog posts. However, I am making an exception with this clip because it is really fun — even if you’re not normally into this sort of thing! The Teabag Challenge is a 58 second video clip (.mp4) showing a rather nifty bit of heavy vehicle driving. (I think the truck featured is a B-double: maybe someone could confirm or correct this? You know who you are.)

Here is the link to a YouTube copy of the file. (It will open a 15 second ad at the beginning, but you can skip this.)

Marching on

I had my appointment with Dr P this morning. The PSA has gone up slightly again — to 4.8 from 3.7. However, the scans I had on Monday didn’t reveal any new activity. So I am still radiologically in remission. Dr P said there was a spot on my chest which was probably causing the increase in the PSA. (On the way home I checked the list of metastases, or “spots” in doctor-speak, that he gave me in February, 2019. This showed one on the sternum — this is probably the one he was referring to this morning.) Dr P referred me to a radiation oncologist for stereotactic treatment of that spot; I will be having this treatment starting on the 23rd.

(I had stereotactic radiation treatment a few years ago — after the operation and before the chemo/hormone treatment. So it is quite familiar. All these treatments are pretty refined, and fortunately don’t seem to cause me many side effects.)

Anyway, Dr P is not worried about the blood test and scan results — “not even close” were his exact words. I am certainly still feeling fine. The sleep continues to improve, and this always makes me feel better. I will continue with the exercise classes twice a week. (Ditto with the hormone treatment unless and until I need a different one.) I had another Zolodex implant after the appointment with Dr P. After that we had a coffee on Maling Road, and I went to the greengrocers.

The day went a bit pear-shaped after we got home, though. I should explain, for those who haven’t been to our place, we are in the rear unit of two. Another pair of units is directly to the north of us. As we approached our place, we saw a police car on the nature strip and a fire truck and an SES truck in the street. As we passed the units beside us, my beloved glanced up their driveway and exclaimed “Oh, my God!”. A car was sitting in their driveway at right angles to the boundary fence. When we got up to our driveway, the car belonging to the neighbour in the front unit was parked outside our garage. This was all highly unusual!

We asked one of the coppers what was going on. Apparently someone in one of the units to the north of us, while driving out of their garage, had lost control and gone through the boundary fence. This had flattened a section of the fence, and knocked a hole in the garage of the front unit on our side. (This was why the neighbour’s car was outside our garage.)

Our garage has a party wall with that of the front unit. The police and SES therefore asked to check inside our garage to see if it too was damaged. There was a small crack in our garage wall, but no other visible damage. As a precaution, though, the SES put a prop inside our garage to reinforce the roof where it joins our neighbour’s. The latter went to the trouble of tying up the prop to prevent it from falling onto our car, should the wall shift. (They were very concerned that they get this prop back — I assured them I would keep an eye on it. I reckon if the prop fell on the Camry, we would be up for a new car — they are hefty pieces of kit!) Our neighbour’s garage is quite badly damaged — one can see straight through the wall where the impact occurred. She will have to leave her car in the street for the time being. It was just lucky no-one was hurt.

Everyone was very calm and pleasant. One of the police helped me drag some stuff out of the garage to let the SES put the prop in. The police also helpfully supplied us with the contact details belonging to the driver of the car. Armed with this information we rang our insurance company and explained what had happened. They will be sending out someone to assess the damage to our wall in the next few days. No-one actually said “You can go on parking your car in the garage”, but we inferred that this was a fair thing to do while we are waiting for any remedial work that might be required. TBC!

Very nice what there was of it

Well, it has been quite some fortnight.

Not last Thursday but the one before, I had exercise class as usual at 11.30. My beloved came to lunch afterwards with a couple of the guys. After this I drove us to the first in-person meeting of our book group at 2.00 pm. The latter was a rather sombre affair in that we were all masked, and spread out around a large U-shaped table. Afternoon tea, which used to follow the meeting, was cancelled on health grounds. In spite of these rather no-fun aspects, and the fact that most people (including me) hated the most recent book, it was a really good discussion.

The real drawback was that the book kit for the March meeting was not waiting for us at the library as usual. Meetings of the book group take place at a community centre, which also houses a branch of the library service. Normally, at each meeting, someone picks up next month’s books before each meeting. These copies can then be distributed at the meeting. The fact that this arrangement had fallen through made the distribution of the March book much more of a hassle — see below.

The day or so after the meeting the book kit was sent to the branch, whence I collected it. I had hoped that group members could pick up their copy individually, but this wasn’t possible. Book group kits are only loaned out in one transaction to the authorised person, i.e. me. Rather than make everyone come to our place to pick up their copy, I undertook to distribute them all the following week. I notified everyone of the date and approximate time of the the drop-off. When the appointed day rolled around I entered everyone’s address in the satnav of the GT, and set off on a mini-trek around the eastern suburbs of Melbourne.

It was a hot day again — thankfully, the air conditioning was working fine. The satnav turned out to have a handy feature by which one could sort addresses by their distance from one’s current location. This made dropping the copies off considerably more efficient. Even so, with Melbourne’s traffic, it took a few hours to distribute eight copies. I did stop for a chocolate ice-cream at mid-morning. This turned out to be a very generously-filled single cone, and gave me quite a boost. All except one person was at home, and everyone was thankful for the delivery. (I should add that my beloved, and another group member, had gone through the same exercise a couple of times last year.) Everyone just hopes normal service resumes from the March meeting onwards.

The following Sunday was a 4.00 pm performance of Das Rheingold, at the Capitol Theatre in Melbourne. This was the first opera that had been staged in Melbourne since lockdown began last March or so. (I crossed my fingers when I booked the tickets for this late last year.) Good on Melbourne Opera for giving it a red-hot go! For anyone interested, they are planning to do the whole Ring cycle over the next four years. After the performance, one of my oldest buddies (a fellow Wagner tragic), my beloved and I repaired to Southgate for a Chinese feed. Like the opera, this repast had a strong finish, in the form of deep-fried ice-cream. I think I have eaten more ice-cream in the last seven days than I did during the whole of 2020!

The only downside of the outing was that, on our way home, the headlights of the faithful Camry seemed occasionally to go a bit dim. I dropped it off at the garage the following week for a checkup. This found a fault with the alternator, requiring a replacement unit to be fitted. Given that the car is 17 years old, one has to expect that things will need replacing from time to time. Fortunately, this operation will not be affected by the latest lockdown — garages are considered an essential service. I am just glad that these two excursions are all done and dusted before we are all confined to barracks again.

This morning I awoke a bit before seven — a real lie-in for me. We were running short of some essential supplies, so I grabbed a coffee and a piece of toast, and whizzed out to the supermarket. This turned out to be a good time to go — there were only a few cars in the car park when I arrived. Some shelves looked a bit depleted, but not many. Everyone knows the drill by now! Keep calm and go shopping — in whatever form this exercise is possible.

Post for 23 November 2020

I am pretty tired after an eventful morning, so I am just going to write the basics.

I saw Phillip P, my oncologist, this morning. The PSA has gone up slightly, now 1.4. (The previous reading was 0.5.) He said it is still very low, he is happy with how I am travelling at present, and that I shouldn’t worry. He is focused less on the quantum of the PSA than on the trajectory of the rise. A steep increase would be concerning, but a gentle increase like this is not. Nevertheless, he wrote me a referral for a couple of scans (CT and bone) to be conducted before our next appointment. These will reveal if there is any spread of the disease.

(After I came home from a walk this afternoon, I got a call from the scanning centre at Epworth Eastern. The scans are booked for 17 December. It is a convenient location in Box Hill, being where I go for the Zolodex implants. Speaking of which, the next consult with Dr P, and the next Zolodex, are booked in for 23rd of December. This is a bit better than the original appointment, which was scheduled for the 30th of that month. There are lots of places at which I would prefer to celebrate my birthday than a day oncology centre!)

Dr P was running quite behind, and I had a consult booked also later that morning with my GP. I did make the latter on time. Unfortunately, it was a bit jarring. After having discussed a few alternatives for sleeping tablets, he wrote me a couple of prescriptions for some new ones. I quizzed him to make sure I understood how I was to take them — alternating one with the other, or both at once — the latter was the case.

He then said I had had my fifteen minutes and I couldn’t have any more time. If I had further things on my list (which I did), I should have outlined them at the start. I did get one more prescription out of him, for the blood pressure medication. Anyway, I will be changing GPs. I get that medicos are stressed. They need to manage that stress, though, in ways that don’t involve taking it out on their patients.

Positive points to the day included sitting down in a cafe for a coffee after the GP consult — I needed a lift by then! Another was going to the local library, picking up my hold, and taking out a few other books as well. These were both things I had missed doing for most of this year (cafes and libraries having been closed in Melbourne). Op shops have re-opened as well, so things are really getting back to normal.

Last night I took out a monthly subscription to Netflix. This will allow us to watch some more episodes of Emily in Paris, previously mentioned, and a favourite of my beloved. We will also be able to bring ourselves up to date with The Crown. The Netflix Android app works well with the Chromecast, and we were able to switch on the closed captioning without difficulty. One can just renew the subscription monthly. Entertainment is welcome at present, particularly in the leadup to The Festering Season (as I grumpily think of it).