Ugly and got a bad hair cut? Why not just be ugly ?

Sign outside Australian barber shop

 

Australian Aborigines say that the big stories—the stories worth telling and retelling, the ones in which you may find the meaning of your life—are forever stalking the right teller, sniffing and tracking like predators hunting their prey in the bush.

Robert Moss

 

The Greeks have never been averse to strapping on their sandals and slitting a few throats in the name of Zeus so it was interesting to read their take on the power of theatre in instructing young men in the art of managing their emotions and thoughts when faced with dangerous situations.

In theatre, no-one gets hurt by the drama being acted out on stage even when it involves a trip to the Underworld. All sounds very grown-up and civilised.

The Greeks called this training the ‘Orphic Mystery School.’ Sounds like the name of a progressive rock band if ever I’ve heard one.

 

‘First time in human’ (FTIH) drug trials are an easy way to make some cash if you don’t mind being used as a guinea pig to test pipeline pharmaceuticals.

In David Cameron’s Britain you have to hustle to make a living which is why I found myself at a screening appointment to be a potential lab rat for SRT 3025.

I was cheered to read that SRT 3025 has been successfully tested on dogs and rats with side effects that could include abdominal hair loss, mucoid stools, red urine and weight loss.

All sounds bearable enough if you ignore the caveat a few lines down which says that ‘we cannot rule out the possibility that an unknown side-effect may be life threatening.’

SRT 3025 is an experimental drug for tackling diabetes which is poetically described as a: randomised, placebo controlled, single bind, dose-escalation, first-time-in human study to assess the safety and pharmacokenetics of single and repeat doses of SRT3025 in normal health volunteers.

Righto. Strap me, in dose me up and I’ll pick my cheque on the return trip from Alpha Centuri.

Not so quick, sonny. We don’t test on any old blood polluters.

First, you have to get through a rigorous four-hour screening which includes numerous forms to fill in, body measurements, blood tests, an ECG, urine sample, insufferable amounts of waiting, more form filling and a watery cup of cordial and digestive biscuit at the end of it.

So, here I am with a group of other sheepish ‘cohorts’ signing on the dotted line in a secure unit on the top floor of a hospital.

The NHS has yet to master the subtleties of central heating meaning you alternately freeze or swelter depending on where you are in the building. Then there’s the squeaky linoleum floor, sound of distant coughing and all pervading smell of over-cooked food that feels like its seeping into your bones. If you aren’t sick when you go in, there is a good change you will be when you get out.

The unit’s seventh floor windows quiver and rattle under a grey June sky as I lie topless and shivering hooked up to a heart monitor while answering the ministrations of some dour Eastern Bloc nurse.

Have you taken any recreational drugs recently? How much alcohol do you drink in a week? Do you smoke? How much do you exercise? And, my favourite, are you Spanish? Yo soy Ingles y yo no hablo espanol.

Eight of us are going through the motions in a line of cubicles. It’s the usual suspects. Students, the unemployed, the unemployable and some old pro who tells me this is eighth outing. It doesn’t look like it’s done him any harm although I note he hasn’t got any hair.

Cohorts who take part in FTIH studies – you can forget being referred to as a person once you enter the machine – are blind dosed with increasing amounts of a trial drug to see its effects on the body and how it is metabolised and excreted over several days or weeks.

Neither patient or doctor know who has been dosed or the amount they receive including a couple of patients who receive placebos.

I find out next week whether I’ve been successful in taking part in the trial. They have some dinky restrictions if you do get the green light including no consumption of Seville oranges or exotic citrus seven days prior to dosing along with no poppy seeds, alcohol, strenuous exercise or nicotine.

I could do with a drink just thinking about it.

 

Crank up the Chariots of Fire theme tune and break out the bunting. I somehow managed to win the  local running club’s annual handicap race.

Handicap being the operative word with the slowest of us given a head start over the better runners based on previous times.

The gods played into my hands on this one as my last race – a loose description – was nothing short of shameful.

It seems fate favours the slow, sometimes, although I had to fight off a sprint finish from a sprightly 50 something. There’s life in the old carcass yet. All hail the king.

 

Stiff upper lip on the bus this morning. The little one says she feels ill and the next minute throws up down the front of my shirt. Unfortunately, a flick of it hits the back of the guy’s head sitting in front of us. Not sure if he notices he’s got some vomit detritus in his hair but just stares straight ahead without flinching. Very British! The little one douses me a couple of more times before we get off. She nods off in the buggy and I have to wheel us five miles home in a puke soaked shirt at 10am in the morning. Must have been a hell of a night.

 

Nothing like a wet Friday afternoon in the hospital grounds in dampen the spirits. Rain pouring down the windows. Lost soul in the secure unit stares mournfully out of the window. The clock’s stopped and the rot’s set in.

 

No-one does huge semi-derelict hospital sites like the National Health Service. It’s like being on the set of an end-of-the world film.

The local cafe gets in on the act with customers who look like they’ve wandered in from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Some elderly Chinese gent tries to drink my cup of tea while someone else is engaged in a busy conversation (with themselves) in the corner. Another day in paradise.

 

There’s something disconcerting about going into a Chinese restaurant offering an all you can eat for £5 deal and seeing the owner sitting at the back tucking into a Big Mac and fries.

 

I had to go and visit a friend who works for a mental health trust based in one of those gothic old hospitals that still survive off London’s main drags.

I got lost and asked some bull-necked man-dog posing as a human if he knew where it was.

It took a few seconds for his head to turn in my direction like some slow moving tank turret.

“You mean the nutter hospital?” he said squinting at me with his little piggy eyes.

Yes, my good man. The nutter hospital. The place full of dribbling loons eating spiders and wiling their time away in padded cells.

And the ignorant dog-like homo sapiens shall inherit the earth and worship at the foot of the golden burger bar.

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