Even softer

UPDATE: For people searching for Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis blogs, I’ve got a dedicated PSC blog called Pesky PSC (which doesn’t seem to have gotten to Google yet). Go have a look!

I’m back!  Did you miss me?  Does anyone even read this blog?  HELLO?!

Well, if that’s how you’re all going to be, you’re going to miss the following advice: If you have a dependent, a wife, or pay a mortgage, get life insurance NOW.  Don’t think about it.  Don’t plan it for when you’re a bit older.  DO IT NOW!!

Life insurance costs summat like £10 a month if you’re a non-smoker.  £2.50 a week.  Not much more than it costs to buy a lottery ticket.  The chances of winning more than a grand in the lottery (5 balls) is 1 in 55,491. 5 balls plus the bonus is 1 in 2,000,000! From my own perspective, the chances of anyone having PSC is 1 in 16,666.  The chances of having cancer are even lower – something like 1 in 100.  That’s not even including the chances of being in an accident..

I can’t get life insurance now – no-one will cover me.  That means that when I die, my family are going to be financially screwed.  If I’d taken the time to get life insurance, they would’ve been fine.  My biggest regret about this whole thing is that life insurance was on ‘the list’ at the time that I first went to the GP with jaundice, but I’d been delaying it.  My only hope is that I can get to retirement age without dying, but that’s pretty unlikely.

Back to bikes!

But enough about that!  I’ll only mention PSC again if it’s related to cycling.  Speaking of which; my jaundice went away a month ago, and my chest infection has finally cleared up!  I’m practically healthy, although I’m now weedier and thinner than I used to be.  My only remaining excuse for not cycling into the icy cold wind was that I was too out of practice to jump onto a singlespeed bike – I needed to start slow, which meant using gears.

My geared racer was still out of action, as it turned out the seat tube was indeed eliptical.  I didn’t really want to start out on a racer anyway, and something else had been bothering me; why on earth had I ever thought that single-speeding my MTB was a good idea, and why did I continue buying puke-green parts when it should’ve been obvious that they looked shit?  Had my illness also affected my brain?  Maybe the yellow hue of my eyes had masked the true nature of my ‘upgrades’?  What I do know is that when I opened the shed door, my MTB was practically begging to be put out of it’s misery.  Fear not, faithful steed – I shall save you!

A few days later, and the parts arrived – Alivio shifters, brakes, both mechs, a new cassette, and some red cable outers.  Cheap stuff, but still better than the Altus stuff that it’d had before.  First, I swapped the seatpost for the original, then I took off the green handlebar with the brake levers and their cables still attached (but not to the brakes, obviously), then I took off the chain device and the chain.  They now all live under the stairs, awaiting a day when I can be bothered to clean them up and put them on ebay.  Maybe next year!

All the bits went on easily enough, but then came the cables.  I know brakes – brakes are easy, so they went on first, but gears.. When I mess with gears, it usually ends up with only one or two of them working, and the chain frequently trying to escape.  😛  This time, I consulted the interweb, and followed the instructions of 3 different websites at the same time, to make sure I was definitely doing it right.  Put the chain on, this goes here, that goes there, tighten, tighten, adjust, adjust, tighten some more, turn the bike over, change the gears to test, aaaand..  they’re both shifting backwards??  aaargh!

It turned out that I’d had the rear shifter set to high instead of low (or the other way around – I can’t remember), and I’d skipped a load of routing for the front mech, which meant it was pulling down instead of up.  More adjusting, and…  it worked!  Unfortunately, the chainwheels are bent out of shape from when I last tried to remove the crank, and didn’t think I’d need them (I never did manage to remove it), so I can only use the biggest gear on the front, but the rear gears are all working fine.  Better than they used to, in fact.  I think I might even understand their workings enough to be able to adjust them on the fly!  🙂

I’ve now cycled into work a total of 4 times, with gaps in between to let my legs recover.  The commutes were okay during the Easter holiday, but the traffic always seems to increase to above-normal levels after holidays.  It’s always the same; a week or so of free flowing traffic during the holiday, followed by 2 weeks of solid traffic, followed by several weeks of dense but moving traffic until the next school holiday.  There’s so many HGVs involved that I can’t cycle any faster than the traffic around me.  I have a rule about not going around HGVs or buses if I don’t think I can keep ahead of them for a decent amount of time.  Life’s too short to be dicing with death in that way.  In fact, life is too short in general, and my fun with PSC has caused me to think about things a bit differently lately.  It’s made me want to try and enjoy life more, wherever possible, and there’s one big thing that’s been bugging me since I moved to Manchester: how bleak everything is.

A rant
Manchester city centre is a natureless hellhole.  There are a few tiny green bits, where there’s consecrated ground, but most of it is concrete.  There used to be a ‘peace garden’ outside the town hall, which barely counted as a green area, and was really just the last refuge of the homeless, but they bulldozed it last month. Years ago, there used to be a nice-looking (in photos) bit of park near Picadilly (hence the area being called Picadilly Gardens, despite the lack of gardens), but they bulldozed it after the IRA bombs, with the excuse that it was run down and only used by drug dealers (every councils favourite excuse).

I came from Southampton, where half the city centre is greenery, and parks and greenzones spread off to the outer limits.  Portsmouth was similar.  Less large parks, but the sea was never far away.  A proper sea, with waves that move and crash.  Not like the so-called sea you get on the West coast, which is phoning it in (when it can be bothered to appear).  Northampton was quite small, so didn’t have much room for parks.  Maybe that’s why I never liked living there, although I couldn’t put my finger on the reason at the time.

So, I think I must be some kind of nature boy at heart, which means I need more nature!  I’ve tried visiting nearby places at weekends, like Bramall Park, Poynton Park, Lyme Park, Etherow, Tatton Park, the Ladybower reservoir, and many other places, but somehow they fail to fill the hole in my heart.  If I can find a place that’s even half as beautiful as the crappest part of the New Forest, then I’ll be happy.  I’m sure something like that must exist somewhere around here – I just need to find it! Until then, I’ll have to make do, so I’ve adapted my commute!

A change of commute
My old commute was up the A6 from Hazel Grove to Longsight, then down Plymouth Grove and across the A34 to get to Oxford Road and work.  The only greenery on that journey is an empty playing field behind the Plymouth Grove pub.

My new commute takes me through the back streets of Davenport, to Cheadle Heath via Edgely Park, then onto the Trans-Pennine Trail to Parrs Wood, then down Parrs Wood Road to Fallowfield, and onto Oxford Road.  It adds 2 miles to the journey, but also adds a metric shedload of greenery!

I tried it for the first time yesterday evening, and it was sooooo much better than the old commute!  The initial battle with buses, students, and the mad drivers of Rusholme was a bit worrying, but no worse than getting through Longsight and Levenshulme.  Edgerton Road and Parrs Wood Road are much quieter than the A6, and have a barely-needed cycle lane, which made for quite a relaxing cycle.  Then there was the Trans-Pennine Trail, which took me through fields to the litter-strewn banks of what I assume is the Mersey river, which I followed for quite a while until finding a bridge to get across to Cheadle Heath.  There’s some posh houses in Cheadle Heath!  I’d never been to Edgely Park before – it never looked too great on Google Maps, but it’s now definitely on the ‘to visit with son’ list, as it has a cool looking playground, and a pond with ducks and geese.  The rest of the journey was so-so, just through the suburbs of Stockport which I’d travelled through on countless occasions.

I wanted to try it this morning, but I left too late and had to get the train.  I’m looking forward to the journey home, though!  Maybe this time I’ll adjust my camera so that it’s not just filming the hood of my hoodie, so that I can add some photos!  😀

Be safe!

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Not the best xmas ever

UPDATE: For people searching for Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis blogs, I’ve got a dedicated PSC blog called Pesky PSC (which doesn’t seem to have gotten to Google yet). Go have a look!

Well, it didn’t take long for my blog to hit a snag!  My last post was over a month ago, mainly because I haven’t done anything bikey in 2 months.

The reason for the lack of cycling isn’t laziness, or even the weather – it’s due to a medical condition that I’ve been cultivating since the start of the year.  It’s still being diagnosed, but the doctor’s currently think that I’ve got Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis – inflamation and damage of the bile ducts that connect the liver to other stuff. The overall effect of this is that my liver is slowly being killed by my own immune system, and I’ll probably need a liver transplant in a few years time.  The more direct effect is that when my immune system fights something, it also fights my liver, which leads to cholangitis..

Imagine the worst hangover you’ve ever had..  the pounding headache, the nausea, the bloodshot eyes, lack of apetite, photosensitivity, the feeling of still being a bit inebriated.. now add liver/spleen/gall bladder pain, eyelids that feel like sandpaper to your eyes, and skin the colour of custard. Now imagine that lasting for a week.  Remember that the lack of apetite stops you eating, so you’re also suffering from malnutrition, and your breath stinks of ketones because you’ve been burning your own fat reserves!

That’s how I spent my Christmas..

I’m still recovering from it, even now.  My skin’s almost back to normal colour, and my innards have stopped hurting, but still I can’t stomach most types of food, so I’m living off of fruit and pot noodles (not sure why i can eat those!).  I ate through 5kg of body fat over the past 2 weeks, but it seems that that was my insulation layer, as I’m now really feeling the cold.  I haven’t got the energy to cycle 7 miles anymore.  I barely managed the walk into work without getting wibbly legs!

But I will recover (until the next one), and I’ll be quite glad to be back on the bike, I can tell you!  Trains are such an undignified method of transport!