Thursday, July 24, 2008

M R I and me

We want to study your brain. That's what the official looking letter from the Menzies Research Institute said. A study to contrast the brains of diabetics and non-diabetics.

OK, I thought, I'm willing to go along with it. An MRI scan, a blood test and a questionnaire. I could do that.

Saturday afternoon I present at Calvary Hospital. I'm not certain how much I have to do before the scan, but it turns out to be not much.

Since they're only interested in my head, I don't need to get undressed or even remove my belt. So long as I removed my watch, keys and coins it's fine.

They slide me into a long tube and give me ear plugs. Half an hour can be a long time flat on your back listening to a blacksmith in the next room.

They started off with a repeated bang-click-click, then after a few zing-zing sounds it settled into a steady clunk-clunk clunk-clunk.

I had a panic button in case I became claustrophobic. There was a little window so I could see out, but since they'd taken my glasses that was just a blur.

Thirty minutes isn't long usually, but I had no way of telling time so I tried to pace myself. I thought of some normal calming things for a while, then I sort of drifted off with the rhythmic pounding coming from all around me.

The next thing I knew I heard a muffled voice and I began sliding out of the tube. The technician looked down at me and said something but I couldn't understand her. Then I remembered the ear-plugs.

When I got my watch back, it was just half an hour.

If you're in a similar situation, I suggest you do what I did and don't look up the MRI page on Wikipedia until afterwards. I know if I had researched it in advance I would have found it hard not to think about all those atoms bouncing around in my skull !

Monday, July 14, 2008

world of winter

When we pass the shortest day, the days begin to lengthen but the cold begins to strengthen. The truth of that old saying is certainly proved by this winter. Some of the mornings have been breath-takingly cold and chilly.

Doses of gingko biloba keep chilblains at bay, but the skin on my fingers is beginning to crack. My remedy for this is to apply a cream for dry skin before retiring and put on a pair of white cotton gloves.

This seemed a bit strange at first, but you get used to it. In fact it's an advantage, helping to keep your hands warm on these near-zero nights.

There has been snow on the mountain for about a month now. Every year this sparks a debate about the merits of the mountain road. Whenever it snows, lots of people want to drive up Mount Wellington to see it, but they can't get there because.... well, because the mountain road is covered in snow and ice.

It seems to me that this is something to do with the modern attitude that everything should be accessible and user-friendly. What good is it having snow on the mountaintop if you can't get to it? Some have written to the local paper expressing the opinion that we should simply tell people to walk to the summit, the way they would have done a century ago.

That idea would be unacceptable to many, and the debates weigh up the merits of improving the road, putting in a cable-car or building a light rail service.

I don't know. I enjoy seeing the massive bulk of the mountain looming through the clouds, speckled with white streaks. It's a part of life in Hobart and personally I don't think we need to make it into a 24/7 tourist trap.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

It's a new car! (Well, newer...)

"Now into its tenth generation, it's the world's biggest selling badge, with 32 million owners to its credit in its 40 year history. And, somewhere in the world, in one of the 140 countries where it's sold, someone buys a Toyota Corolla every 23 seconds."

When I started looking around for a new car, I thought I'd end up with something cheap and boring. I am still a little surprised that I ended up with a flame-red Corolla with mag wheels. Hardly the sort of car most of my friends would expect me to turn up in.

I saw Robin Johnson at the theatre the other night and I mentioned I was getting a new car. "I'm not surprised," he said drily. Cheek!

When you've driven the same car for decades, it becomes almost part of you. You know without thinking how much pressure to apply to the controls or how close you can come to another car. Then you get a new car and suddenly everything is different!

It's actually quite scary. The first few times you go out, you're concentrating fiercely. If you can avoid stalling when you start off from a red light, you're doing well. And going round a corner is enough to make you break out in a cold sweat.

After a while it gets better, but I don't know how long it will take before I can just get in and drive off without consciously thinking about what to do.