All posts by John B

What I’ve been up to, week ending 2010-01-24

  • #ebz The snow that falls in the Neath every December is something of a mystery. Condensation from the … http://fallenlondon.com/c/7853 #
  • Bombay wins awards for excellence. Enjoying life far too much to be inspired to poli-blog/tweet… #
  • One exception – the cops involved in this, and anyone who defends them, need their skin removed by cheesegrater: http://bit.ly/5COfiB #
  • Terrorism isn't a threat; if you think it is, you are an imbecile. Authoritarianism is a threat; if you think it isn't, you are an imbecile. #
  • (incidentally, "a threat" here means "causes serious changes to our way of life", not "kills a statistically negligible number of people") #
  • …and *breathe*. Wow, all that carefully-dispelled tension's coming back; need to stick to beer, shopping and playing Echo Bazaar #
  • In Bombay airport awaiting flight to Goa. It's tough, but I think we'll survive. #
  • Who says there are no new ideas left on the Internet? http://cheesesurfer.blogspot.com/ #
  • Meanwhile, am about to see if there are good restaurants in Thiruvananthapuram that serve a) meat b) beer c) not solely coconut sauce #
  • Yes, there are good restaurants in Trivandrum that meet my criteria, although apparently they're all affiliated to posh-ish hotels #
  • Armed police at the London Fire Authority meeting, say @LondonFBU – what, I leave the country for a week and it turns into China? #
  • Spiral coffee houses rule: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Coffee_House – inside it looks like a helter-skelter too #

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What I’ve been up to, week ending 2010-01-17

  • #ebz What we have instead of moonlight, down in the Neath: the uncertain glow from phosphorescent thin… http://fallenlondon.com/c/4939 #
  • #ebz The Masters of the Bazaar – Mr Wines, Mr Spices, Mr Veils and the rest – speak in high-pitched wh… http://fallenlondon.com/c/5342 #
  • #ebz In a city where death can be temporary, lunatic murderers are not treated with especial respect. … http://fallenlondon.com/c/5696 #
  • Everything packed or binned. Bills payed; refunds claimed; addresses redirected. now BEER #
  • …and as I sit with my beer, it occurs to me for pretty much the first time that this is REALLY HAPPENING. from now, i'm not a UK resident #
  • "goan fish curry" sounds more like an offensive imprecation than a lunch menu dish #
  • #ebz These little charmers sneak into the bedrooms of sleepers and bite their eyes off. They take them… http://fallenlondon.com/c/6713 #
  • UK successfully fled. Hurrah! Mumbai is exactly as sunny, loud, polluted and EXCELLENT as it's supposed to be. #

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Reversion to the mean

The BBC has an article based on an interesting House of Commons report on alcohol consumption… well, more accurately, it’s a very bad report on alcohol consumption with some interesting data.

The data shows that, before the global descent into miserable puritanism around World War I that led to prohibition in the US and draconian licensing rules in the UK, alcohol consumption was around its current level.

It then spiked after the war ended, fell during the Depression, rose slightly during the mid-late 1930s and WWII, fell in the austerity period, and then rose fairly consistently from 1950 onwards – accelerating slightly since 1995 due to increased wine consumption [*]. We’re now at about 9 litres of pure alcohol per head per year, compared to 11 litres in 1900.

The obvious conclusion to draw is that, with miserable busybodies out of the equation, 10ish litres per head is the natural level that Brits want to drink, that this is all well and good, and that the puritans should be deported to America on pain of pain, as we did in the good old days.

The House of Commons report instead draws the conclusion that OMG FFS AAAGH the sky is falling. Particular stupidity lies in:

Ten million adults drink more than the recommended limits and between them knock back 75% of all alcohol consumed in the country. More than two-and-a-half million adults (8% of men and 6% of women) drink above the higher-risk levels – more than double the government’s daily guidelines.

…but we know that the daily and weekly guidelines are based on *nothing at all*. And we know that, on aggregate, the only people who show a greater risk of mortality or morbidity from alcohol than teetotallers are those who drink more than 30 units a week, which is equivalent to 17 litres of pure alcohol a year. So we can crank up our national drinking by another 70% before we need to start worrying about health impacts.

Paraphrasing the report’s conclusion:

It was not inevitable that per capita alcohol consumption was only one third as high in the middle of the 20th Century as its natural level. The decline was fuelled by miserable prohibitionists lying about the data, a draconian licensing regime and massive propaganda budgets. Now that we’ve returned to normal levels, let’s bring back the 1950s. Who needs fun anyway?

[*] which, as it’s mostly consumed in moderation and with meals, mostly doesn’t have negative health effects anyway.

What I’ve been up to, week ending 2010-01-10

  • Certain of the Masters of the Bazaar – Mr Stones, Mr Apples and Mr Wines, and possibly others – s… http://fallenlondon.com/c/3522 #
  • Longrider is good on Anjem Choudary: http://bit.ly/5CiYsj #
  • Icelandic president bottles out, bows to public demand to steal our money: http://bit.ly/4F06ax #
  • Remind me not to go on Twitter between 10pm and 11pm weekdays #freakshowtwathouse #
  • Never mention the Second City to the Masters of the Bazaar. Mr Wines will look at you narrowly an… http://fallenlondon.com/c/3735 #
  • Snow whiners put thoroughly in their place by @tygerland – approved. http://bit.ly/7PnAkl #
  • Reading the Gilligantastic river report, I suddenly understand why right-whingers were so upset about taking the Thames off the Tube map #
  • Right, it's time to tie Hewitt and Hoon together, put them in a sack of rats, and throw them in the Thames. Treacherous bastards #
  • (and no, I'm no Gordon fan, but doing this 4 months pre-election is unforgiveable) #
  • (and no, I'm no Gordon fan, or even a Labour supporter, but doing this 4 months pre-election is unforgiveable) #
  • Yanks incapable of understanding Not Everyone Is A Yank, with hilarious 'false accusations of racism' consequences: http://bit.ly/7DBUys #
  • It must be, in part at least, frozen water: when it melts, it refreezes as black ice. Tiny, despe… http://fallenlondon.com/c/3934 #
  • CITV enhanced my life as a child. The ads on CITV didn't blight my life. Therefore, those who'd ban kids TV ads are eejits… #
  • I'm not normally a fan of political executions, but I'd make an exception for idiots who claim we've just had "12 years of socialist gov't" #
  • I'm not sure the Hitler motif adds much, but I like the revised copy: http://bit.ly/5ULSTR #
  • In London's trendy Camden, awaiting London's trendy @devilskitchen, of London's slightly odd LPUK #
  • London's trendy Camden is playing London's trendy Cure, preceded by London's trendy TT D'Arby #
  • London's trendy bar lady is very attractive, although possibly too young for London's trendy @johnb78 #
  • http://fallenlondon.com/c/4184 #
  • Shorter Steve Hilton scandal: man doing nothing wrong gets mugged for gbp80 by evil jobsworths; 2 years later people pretend this is news. #
  • NHS Constitution includes "right to choose to die at home". Easy one: just don't call an ambulance… #
  • #fl With so much business in Fallen London, you can't expect the inhabitants of Hell to go home at th… http://fallenlondon.com/c/4471 #

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I’ll drink to that

An excellent piece on CiF on the neo-puritans and their efforts to wage class war on the poor through banning and taxing booze. Killer quote:

The 19th-century temperance movement was defeated by an alliance of liberals and the working class, and it looks like a repeat performance might be required. A prohibition bill was squashed in the Commons in 1859, the year in which John Stuart Mill in On Liberty savaged the “beer house purism” of the religiously inspired anti-alcohol lobby.

Let’s face it – irrespective of the issue, if you’re lining up against JS Mill, you’re most likely on the wrong side of the argument…

Quick Icelandic banking redux

Just for the avoidance of doubt:

1) the democratically elected Icelandic government, under EU/EFTA financial regulation equivalence rules, agreed long before the crisis even began that it would guarantee compensation of the first EUR20887 of deposit to retail depositors in Icelandic banks from other EU countries.

2) the Icelandic banks, with explicit permission from the democratically elected Icelandic government (as part of the economic boom that vastly enriched Icelanders for many years), actively marketed their savings accounts to depositors from other EU countries.

3) The Icelandic banks then went bust and lost their depositors’ money.

4) This means that, unequivocally and in every possible sense, the Icelandic government is responsible for paying the first EUR20887 of compensation to retail depositors in Icelandic banks from other EU countries. They agreed to take on that debt, and retail depositors in the Icelandic banks made the deposits on the basis that the Icelandic government weren’t a bunch of ropey shysters who’d refuse to pay debt that they owed.

5) For understandable reasons of domestic harmony, the governments of the UK and Netherlands (where the majority of Iceland’s victims were located) agreed to pay the compensation themselves, and subsequently chase the Icelandic government for the money it owed.

6) Today’s populist refusal by Iceland’s president to pay the UK and Netherlands government the US$5bn it owes as a result, despite the extremely generous payment terms they’d been offered, represents every single Icelandic person nicking more than US$10,000 from British and Dutch taxpayers.

If that’s democracy, screw it.

Obvious scam is obvious

The usual suspects are in full-on froth mode about the non-news on Goldman Sachs allegedly moving to somewhere godawful to escape a small, one-off tax on salaries.

Obviously, like nearly all right-wing frothers nearly all the time, they’re talking complete and utter bollocks. US culture site the Awl nails it on why:

Goldman Sachs “is understood to be considering its options in the wake of the UK’s windfall tax on bankers’ bonuses, a new 50pc top income tax rate, and increased banking regulations” is hilarious, and it is also a dead giveaway that the Telegraph uses the phrasing “is understood” to introduce this idea. Let’s see: here’s an incredibly-secretive, super-private financial institution of which it can be “understood” that they’re going directly to the papers as the first volley in a bargaining plan. But: hilarious! They’re going to pretend that they’re willing to leave London? They’re going to offshore the London office? To where? Glamorous downtown Sofia? Belfast? Tallinn or Toronto? Think it through, boys. Nobody who works in that office will leave London! What’s the point of being rich if you have to live somewhere crappy? It just doesn’t work like that. You can near-shore and off-shore the jobs no one wants to Salt Lake City or wherever—but you can’t move the income producers to a town where they can’t get a cab and a fat steak. If you give Goldman Sachs anything at all to stay put, it means you both are huge morons, just like New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg was when GS pretended it was going to move from downtown Manhattan to more expensive quarters in midtown, and they wouldn’t even have done that. Ever.

Word.

What I’ve been up to, week ending 2010-01-03

  • Bloomberg to close its non-business news team, outsource European coverage to the Daily Sport: http://bit.ly/6jKSjT #
  • INSTRUCTIONS: 1) read this headline: http://bit.ly/6gBgBi 2) despair 3) emigrate. I hate NIMBYs and BANANAs *so* much… #
  • …and it's particularly sad to see T Pratchett on the side of the arseholes: http://bit.ly/5hsbwb #
  • Brilliant piece on Crooked Timber on group profiling: http://bit.ly/5lFHDv #
  • Post this interview http://bit.ly/8bYKtu I'm no longer sure K Haskell is lying/mad, but I do think he's mixed up 2 different guys (via @ijg) #
  • I suggest we kick off the executions with Leo McKinstry: http://bit.ly/7leqUw #
  • More Tim Minchin excellence: http://bit.ly/75nMSc (via @leftoutside) #
  • Depressing to see Diane Feinstein joining the idiot club "if your dad says you're naughty, you're banned from planes" http://bit.ly/6y84Bk #
  • Daily Telegraph proposes politically correct restrictions on freedom of speech: http://bit.ly/7DUNto #
  • (also, a "world-renowned terrorism expert" probably ought to know that Moazzam Begg is a native-born British citizen…) #
  • Fail by @mediaguardian http://bit.ly/4wiw3a – antisemitic hate is classed as incitement to racial hatred, not religious hatred #
  • It's distressing to have to take the Catholic Church's side in a lawsuit, but this is a good result: http://bit.ly/4W7aqT #
  • RT @mattfraction 2009, you were a real mthrfckr & I'm glad to see you go. Tonight I'll stand over your grave til I'm sure that you're dead. #
  • Most of the time, I think Jack Straw is a tool. But today, he's spot on http://bit.ly/4Y0ieh – especially for having the balls to say it #
  • (very much looking forward to going round the assorted idiot-copper blogs tomorrow, and watching them incandesce…) #
  • Iraqi human rights minister speaks out against upholding the most important of all human rights (ie fair trial): http://bit.ly/6tGzBg #
  • We can't get enough gas down here, see. So you know what we burn for heat? … sinners. http://fallenlondon.com/c/2996 #
  • Amused to be followed by a Gilligan's Island spambot, after tweeting about the oafish London hack who shares its name #
  • Anyone who thinks it's correct to compare the train fare with the cost of petrol for a journey should be cheese-grated to death. #
  • The not-known-for-its-generosity Inland Revenue credits 25p/mile *marginal cost*. That is the figure you should be using. #
  • …and the award for 'stupid' is won by http://bit.ly/7HHeYj (BR ditched all Xmas and Boxing Day services in the 1960s) #
  • This may have the highest (sanity of original post) / (sanity of commenters) ratio I've ever seen: http://bit.ly/7cZMOz #
  • In simpler times, Hell would take a soul on the death of the body. Death is more complicated in F… http://fallenlondon.com/c/3221 #
  • Stephen Baldwin? Oh dear. Remind me to sell my TV and leave the country… oh, good, I have and I'm going next week. Hurrah! #

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What I’ve been up to, week ending 2009-12-27

  • Yes, English libel law v bad, etc. But wouldn't it be lovely if R Pachauri busted & ruined the odious Richard North? http://bit.ly/7Uycj9 #
  • Added bonus to #ratm Number 1 – it annoys po-faced far-right arseholes like this chap: http://bit.ly/7GSlAG #
  • RT @sueperkins: Middleaged woman on bus – 'Christmas is such a FUN time of year, not least because I always forget to take my medication…' #
  • Yes dear, of course there's a conspiracy between libel lawyers and terrorists. And lizards: http://bit.ly/8w7Nta #madmel #
  • Amazed that Edinburgh council still wastes money doing bins, street cleaning in-house. Do they make their own biros? http://bit.ly/654kRZ #
  • Sudanese climate negotiator Lumumba Di-Aping a vile piece of work http://bit.ly/5giHzh – a Sudanese govt official vile? Say it ain't so… #
  • Maine state representative Andrea Boland (D) is very, very stupid – http://bit.ly/5gbsdo (via @davidgerzof) #
  • In a city where death can be temporary, lunatic murderers are not treated with especial respect. … http://fallenlondon.com/c/2343 #
  • Interesting to see the Dixons campaign discussed – I think it's one of the best examples in years of making a virtue of brand limitations #
  • RT @thrustfault: FYI: A pizza with depth a and radius z has a volume of Pi z z a (via @ianvisits) #
  • Best Trailer Ever: http://bit.ly/9pQyC #
  • The Daily Mash nails it on tedious transport whiners: http://bit.ly/7SLOqg (although 'go outside and make a snowman' a fair alternative) #
  • It's *December 22*. If you're worrying about the impact of snow on anything work-related, rather than delighted, you're a massive prat #
  • Don't approve of this: http://bit.ly/8PasRO – BNP won't win HoC seat under *any circumstances at all* and depriving voter choice a Bad Thing #
  • Worth remembering that the public still loathe the Tories, they just hate NuL even more at the moment: http://bit.ly/5es98P #
  • Given that US airlines are even more corp-welfared and inept than banks, this post seems a bit off: http://bit.ly/8BUYDZ (via @felixsalmon) #
  • Very much enjoying Stumbling & Mumbling's Xmas post on logical fallacies in pop songs: http://bit.ly/4oDQB9 #
  • Evening Standard: "we need an expert on the economy – let's ask the manager of a bureau de change" – http://tinyurl.com/yzczac3 #
  • Obvious stuff, but needs doing & spreading: RT @leftfootfwd: Exposé of Daniel Hannan’s “Ten reasons to leave the EU” http://is.gd/5xq3O #
  • If you only read one niche-but-spot-on political viewpoint this holiday season, read Mark Wadsworth on home-owner-ism: http://bit.ly/6QlF7R #
  • Tools, printing-presses, guns, steam-engines: taxes from trade in these are payable to Mr Iron. T… http://fallenlondon.com/c/2512 #
  • Saw Catherine Tate on NMTB Dr Who special. Is she normally a) that thick b) that annoying? If so, perhaps she could team up with Peter Kay #
  • by "team up with", I mean "enter into a suicide pact with", obviously #
  • Confused by this post – http://bit.ly/6PsDaU – surely point of pic is to set 1950s pulp stereotypes vs West's cultured & Gaga's lairy image? #
  • New "violent deaths of teenagers" data unlikely to make the tabloids: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8424574.stm – yup, way down. Again. #
  • Lying Chinese propaganda of the day: http://bit.ly/6vH8Rd – #shamewedidntbreaktheplaceupproperlyinthe1860s #
  • No, I don't *actually* think we should've done more colonialism in China – just that world would be better with fewer superpower states #
  • RT @BorisWatch Q: 'What's got three doors, two staircases and no point?' A:Boris's Magic Wonder Bus. #
  • Today's ID card story http://bit.ly/76qXP5 isn't anti-ID-card at all: it merely proves travel operators = inept tossers. Which we knew. #
  • (*I* knew the Manc cards were happening nowish – if P&O's head of compliance didn't, what the hell is s/he paid to do?) #
  • Jamie K wins the "can't kill the festive spirit" award: http://bit.ly/7Jlhst – now I'm off for a gin-and-codeine #
  • Surprisingly good Cohen piece on rape http://tinyurl.com/yjpmq9c – although he does spoil it with mad deviation into made-up sharia rubbish #
  • Wow, far-left-blogland having a big China lovefest http://bit.ly/7SyG8a – CSIS funding, or just 'support anyone who says they're a commie'? #
  • Letters in and out of the city are routinely read. But one does not often intimately search a gen… http://fallenlondon.com/c/2750 #
  • REPLUG: if you only read one tale of mirth and woe this Xmas Eve, read my blogpost of mirth and woe: http://bit.ly/7bIIbB #
  • Oooh, the most middle-class tweet competition of the day is hotting up! #
  • RT @agentcharlotte DISASTER. All Plymouth pubs appear not to have mulled wine. DISTRAUGHT. #middleclasstweets #
  • RT @politic_animal Bugger. Knew I should have brought cooked chestnuts with me to mid Wales. I now have a terrine crisis. #middleclasstweets #
  • I was sceptical about the Obamacare deal, but this piece (wingnut alert) http://bit.ly/8v2BUV makes me think it's likely a Good Thing #
  • Xmas eve in, for the first time in ages – had to bale on cousin's bday clubbing for surgery-recovery reasons. Boo! #
  • (on plus side, a big group of mid-20s women were begging me to come out drinking with them, which is Insufficiently Prevalent) #
  • Blimey, it's not been a good month for evil old men who live in Italy. #
  • Merry Xmas. Let's hope it's a good one, without any John and Yoko. #
  • Presents opened, turkey stuffed, baconed & ovened, 3 hours til lunch ready. Woken at 7 by clock-misreading family, so back off to bed #
  • http://bit.ly/6rUBmZ "by celebrating Christmas one is really celebrating what humans are capable of creating for themselves" by @jackofkent #
  • Considering a move to Wimbledon #lies #gavinandstacey #
  • RT @kevcecil: Shame that Christmas day football match in the trenches was marred by the violence before and afterwards. #
  • NW253 debacle hilarious. Sane news sources say 'random nutter with French bangers'; Fox say 'Al Qaeda with special explosives from Yemen' #
  • If I set off a firework on a plane and tell the cops I'm the King of France, will Fox report a state-sponsored attack by French terrorists? #
  • Via @anattendantlord, "take me to Detroit!" "We're already going to Detroit" "Oh, err, good" – http://bit.ly/5fIJER #
  • Now AP quoting a Congressman who thinks NWA flies a LOS-AMS-DFW route: http://bit.ly/4Exlep – erm, yeah, crediblesourcetacular #
  • Still, congrats to Abdul Mudallad – despite no backing from anyone and nothing of any danger, he's gonna go well beyond his 15 minutes' fame #
  • I wonder if we'll get more pointless & stupid checkin & baggage restrictions as a lasting tribute to the AM-ster? #
  • RT @MalkyMuscular Plane bomber story – Now not the time for cool heads to prevail. Last man with unshat pants is the most appeasementy. Fact #
  • Pleased to see the chap who restrained nutjob Abdulmutallab is a cheese-eating European, not a red-blooded Yank: http://bit.ly/7V8lXl #
  • I can state with 100% confidence that Kurt Haskell is either lying or mentally ill: http://bit.ly/8DQjRm #
  • "before I start busking on the Gaza strip" – yes, this is excellence: http://bit.ly/13kSxW #
  • Dr Who is campy kids TV fun. The Wire is art. Pretending the former is superior to the latter is pretentious inverted snobbery. #

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A cock and ball story

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, and/or plough through the Twitter updates that get posted here instead of actual blogging, and/or know me in real life, you might be aware that I’ve been a bit out of sorts for the last couple of weeks.

By “a bit out of sorts”, I mean, “part of me died and started to rot inside me, and not in a poetic-metaphor kind of way, so I had to have emergency surgery to remove it after a week of unspeakably terrible pain and misery. And now I’m on copious quantities of prescription medication waiting for my stitches to heal“.

An important part in this saga is the utter rubbishness of the human male reproductive system – in itself proof either of no God or of a God who hates us. This manifests itself in many ways, but the most obvious is putting the testicles outside the body, conveniently mounted on a string that also carries their blood supply. [*].

If you wake up with a sharp pain in one testicle, there are three possible causes: cancer; epididymitis; and torsion. The first is, well, just cancer. The second is one of the most painful infections it’s possible to get, but responds well to antibiotics and time. The third involves the testicle having twisted on its blood vessel, like a knotted garden hosepipe, and means that the tissue will die of lack of blood if you don’t have surgery to unknot it within a few days.

Torsion normally happens to boys aged 14-20 who’re engaged in active sports. Epididymitis can be triggered by STDs or urinary tract infections; it’s most prevalent in men in their 20s and 30s when STD-caused and in men in their 50s and 60s when UTI-caused. And cancer happens to anyone who’s unlucky, but doesn’t usually hurt very much (unlike the treatment, which does).

I went to the doctor on Tuesday 8th December with A Massive Pain In The Balls (which, by the time I’d got through 24 hours of denial-this-was-anything-serious and 12 hours of signing-up-with-a-GP-and-getting-an-appointment, was a day and a half after onset), he examined the symptoms and decided that I almost certainly had epididymitis. Aside from the demographics, if it had been torsion, the testicle should’ve shown signs of dying after 36 hours, with the pain and swelling actually diminishing. So he prescribed me antibiotics, painkillers and bed-rest, and told me to go to the hospital urgently if things got better in the next day.

They, err, didn’t. MY GOD THEY DIDN’T.

Just thought you might want to know: my right testicle has swollen to the size of a kiwi fruit. This isn’t making me cheerful. #owowowowowow #

I don’t know if you’ve ever been in so much physical pain that, even though you’re desperate to sleep and have taken all the drowsiest painkillers you’re allowed without dying, you physically can’t? For me, that was the night of Tuesday 8th December. And the day of Wednesday 9th December. And the night of Wednesday 9th December. I managed to snatch a few hours’ sleep for 30 minutes at a time sitting on the toilet, as this was the only way of keeping the pressure off the afflicted bollock. I managed to read a couple of books, but had to change position at least once a minute. I ate some food standing up, mostly because I was aware I needed to try not to vomit up the antibiotics (partial success).

On the plus side, the doctor’s worst-case scenario of “if the pain gets better right away” hadn’t come through. So when, at about 3AM on Thursday 10th December, the pain dropped down to the extent that I managed to get to sleep in BED!!! for a few hours based solely on the maximum doses of codeine, ibuprofen, paracetamol and aspirin, clearly it was recovery time.

“Hooray Alexander Fleming, the wonderful antibiotics have quite literally saved my balls”.

By Friday evening, when the swelling hadn’t gone down at all, and the pain hadn’t diminished since shifting from unbearable to barely bearable, I was starting to be a little more sceptical. By Sunday evening, when the same was true but I’d also started feeling physically really nauseous and unwell, I’d moved on to becoming somewhat concerned. By the morning of Monday 14th, when the GP took one look at my swollen bollock, turned visibly pale and called the hospital for an urgent referral, the relevant emotion was closer to AAAAAAGHFECK.

A&E’s quite quiet first thing on a Monday morning. Having had my blood drained enough to feed a small vampire, and my piss taken more than an open-mic heckler, I got to see a specialist urologist, who seemed a bit less fazed than my GP. He reckoned it was probably an antibiotic-resistant infection, prescribed some SUPERTURBO antibiotics, but also sent me for an ultrasound scan to confirm what was going on. But the machine was booked up until Tuesday afternoon, so I went home with super-bug-killers and super-pain-killers to enjoy my recovery.

Yeah, haha.

Monday evening is a painkiller-y blur. I spent Tuesday morning trying not to vomit, since it’d be a waste of super-killers of both sorts, and waddled into the hospital (which, luckily, was just up the road from my house) for my scan. Unsurprisingly enough, being an ultrasound department, there were lots of happy-looking pregnant couples about the place; this didn’t help my mood.

The radiologist prodded around for a while, and then turned to me with an earnest, “I’ve just been on a people skills course” sombre expression. “Well, Mr Band, the good news is that your left testicle is perfectly normal”.

Yes. I know my left testicle is perfectly normal. Specifically, it’s not the size of a kiwi fruit and incredibly painful.

“But the bad news is that there’s no blood flow in your right testicle”.

Oh shit. That means it’s dead, right? And it’ll need chopped?

“I can’t comment on treatments, you’ll have to go directly to the urologist. Godspeed, etc”.

So, to A&E again. “Yes, I’ve just come from scanning upstairs. Yes, I know normally you send people up there… oh, look, please just let me see the nurse so she can see my notes… thanks”.

My urologist now looks a little more fazed. He’s seen the scan, he knows that the testicle is dead, he knows it’ll need chopped. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know anything about how the operation works, because he’s a junior doctor who’s only recently started urology rotation and has never actually been involved with an orchidectomy (cutting-bollock-off) before. Damn, maybe that was why he didn’t look fazed yesterday.

The operation is booked for 2AM the next day, Wednesday 16th December. My 31st birthday is on Thursday 17th December. I reschedule my party.

Then I phone my friend who’s a GP (for advice and second opinions), I phone my friend who had a testicle cut off when he was 20 (for consolation plus advice on wombling skills), and I phone the usual coterie of loved ones (minus the ones who’re sufficiently old and ill that they probably don’t need to know). And almost bang on cue, I’m escorted up to the surgical ward.

Waiting for the Death Panels to decide whether I should have a testicle cut off tonight #
Death Panels vote “yes”, partial castration in 1 hour and counting. Hurrah! #
My friend Nic has very kindly brought me a bag of plums and a sack of nuts to take my mind off the op #

Assorted nurses put me on a drip in a bed, with a big Nil By Mouth sign up. Visiting Time, and sister and Nic unexpectedly but awesomely appear. Nic brings a bag of plums and a sack of nuts, which amuses me. Sister brings collection of Alan Coren’s writings, which amuses me after they’ve gone, as well as fetching clothes [**], toothpaste, etc from my flat because she is excellent. Nurse chases sister and Nic away, because it’s the end of Visiting Time and this is a 1960s Ealing comedy.

At this point, through pain, tiredness lack of food and surfeit of drugs, things start to go a bit sketchy (this is also the point where the doctors meticulously explained to me what was going to happen, and where I signed the consent forms – hurrah). It became clear that the plan was to open up my scrotum, see what they could do about the right testicle, remove it if the answer was “not much”, and then pin the left one properly into place so it couldn’t twist and leave me in really serious trouble in future.

The Filipino porter chatted to me about his kids on the way down to theatre. “You’re 30 and you don’t have kids? You don’t know what you’re missing. What’re you coming down to surgery for anyway… oh, sorry”.

A friendly anaesthetist offered me a gin and tonic. “Do you like gin and tonic?” Yes, yes I do. “Well this is almost exactly like a gin and tonic, but intravenously. It’ll tend to make you feel a bit drunk”. Excellent, this will probably be the least miserable thing to have happened in a week. Blimey, it’s working. Ooh, this is fun. “Just noticed your date of birth – should we sing Happy Birthday?” No, it’s not til tomorrow “But it is tomorrow – it’s 3AM” No, it’s still the 16th “Ooops, sorry. Now, in a minute we’ll give you the main anaesthetic…”

“Wake up, we need to check your dressing” Ow, what’s going on? It’s light. Did the op get cancelled… oh, no, it really didn’t. “Hang on”. Ooh, why’s she putting a syringe in my mouth… ah, it’s oral morphine. This is probably OK…”

And, barring a drain-removal, massive pile of drugs to take home, and rapid same-day discharge from the hospital, that’s pretty much where I am a week later.

The ball was properly dead, almost certainly from an undetected torsion. The GP wasn’t incompetent, either – it just managed to stay alive for far longer than it should’ve done (thanks for trying, I guess). Its companion works properly (and yes, if you really must know, I’ve tested); scrotal stitches are bloody uncomfortable and take an age to heal and the discomfort gets worse as the hair grows back; and I still can’t really do very much [***] – but on aggregate I no longer trawl through life in misery and suffering feeling like death would be a merciful relief.

That’s the reality of physical suffering, and I’m not sure – despite various broken bones, bad flus and food poisonings – I’ve come anywhere close to it before. When the doctor told me he was going to cut off my testicle I was actually delighted, because at least that might, just about, MAKE IT STOP. The pain that I felt when my testicle was DYING INSIDE OF ME is more than the average man will undergo ever [****]. It’s humbling to reflect that whatever one’s brain might be able to achieve, the meat around it definitely has the right of veto over anything it proposes…

So, that’s about it for the story. Happy Christmas. If you’re a chap and your balls hurt, go to the doctor right now. And yes, I did still manage to raise a glass of champagne for my birthday – otherwise the gangrenous body parts Would Have Already Won.

Oh, finally: thanks, separately, to Stewart Lee and Richard Herring for sending autographed testicular memorabilia to cheer me up (I missed Stu’s gig because of the bollockage, but he very kindly autographed a DVD in memory of my loss; when I cheekily emailed Rich to ask him to rise to his former partner’s challenge, he even more kindly rose to the challenge and posted me [something which was excellent – I’ll update this with more detail when the Post Office actually brings it round]).

[*]The potential for short-term physical harm created by this arrangement is at least useful in evening up the fighting odds between men and women.
[**] she fetched clothes. They weren’t fetching clothes; in all honesty I wasn’t looking my best at the time so this was OK.
[***] insert “so what’s new” gag here
[****] the average woman apparently has it slightly worse a couple of times in her life, although usually it’s a jollier and more adrenalin-packed occasion. Even so, this has given me a whole new take on that process…