Three Years, Three Months On

Starting to write this while watching an extremely aggravating Six Nations match is probably not the best way to kick off a review of the past year. Better to have a clear mind, surely? To offer a dispassionate view of the past thirteen months and all that they’ve contained.

Nah. This particular repetition of the Six Nations has already caused me heart palpitations, during the epic first half between Ireland and France, so I think I can handle a ramshackle Ireland trying to avoid falling apart against Scotland in Murrayfield. Probably. In any case, I’ll provide a final score when the match gets to that point. (Currently it’s 7-8 to Ireland at 54 minutes.)

So, to my own situation. It’s actually pretty good, all things considered. As my late-year catchup post probably stated, I had a pretty good 2022 overall, despite getting caught with Covid not once but twice. In fact, the second time, coming around the end of November, presaged something more serious. The cough wouldn’t shift and proceeded to get worse. By the time an early January CT scan rolled around, I was pretty certain I knew what it was going to show.

My old friend alectinib had, after three years, decided to hang up its boots. The cancer was back on a growth path and new options were needed. Luckily there was a new candidate ready to go. Second choice it may have been, but lorlatinib was an able deputy: one pill once a day instead of four twice a day, and a new suite of side effects to take stock of.

Three months down the line from that changeover and I’m pleased to report that things are, if anything, better than they were. The cough and raspy breathing are gone, I have plenty of energy, and the side effects seem restricted to a rising cholesterol level. For which I need to take another pill. The final count on the pill front has thus halved, so I’m pretty happy, and if I get another three years out of lorlatinib, I’ll be ecstatic.

Thinker/crank Aubrey de Grey has a concept called longevity escape velocity, according to which there will come a point at which expected lifespans will be increasing so fast that that mortality itself will be left behind. There’s not much sign of that yet, but I have my personal version of “cancer escape velocity,” in which advances in cancer treatment outpace my cancer’s ability to colonise my lungs.

On that front then, so far, so good.

(The match has now ended, with Ireland winning 7-22, so add that to the good news. Six days to a showdown with England in Dublin, a Grand Slam at stake.)

As for the rest of life, no complaints and onwards and upwards. The job continues to be fascinating and engaging (and the office is walkable in good weather), and the family are all well, with the gaggle of nieces and nephews expanding in recent months by two of the former, Clodagh and Brigid. There’s even a family wedding to look forward to later in the year and Best Man duties to be executed in a fashion that suggests I might actually know what I’m doing.

It all suggests something of a return to normality, and in truth I’m even planning some travel for later in the year, Brussels this month and something new and worthy of a blog post or two around September time. I might even (whisper it), dig out the running shoes in the next week or two and see if the lungs are up to a light jog.

So everything seems to be going pretty good for me. I wish I could look around and say that the same is true for the rest of the world. While politics in Ireland seems to be running along more-or-less standard lines (which is to say, venal and dishonest on the part of the ruling power block), things either side seem to be taking a distinctly nasty direction.

The U.K., of course, remains consumed by the mire that Brexit was always going to become, and it trundles on seven years in, currently trying to heave its bulk over the largely flattened roadblock that is Northern Ireland. (Where the fundamentalist DUP have come to the end of the knots they’ve spent the last few years tying themselves in, only to find that they’ve, well, run out of rope.)

The Conservative regime, desperately unpopular and now on its fifth Prime Minister since Brexit, is reduced to culture war gestures, targeting refugees and trans rights in a desperate bid to gin up a bit of good old-fashioned hatred. Their latest efforts on this front have led to them going to war with the BBC’s Sports department, or rather its personnel, who have left work en masse rather than condone one of their number being victimised for having a public opinion contrary to that of the government.

Transphobia, meanwhile, is being used as a wedge issue by the U.S. far right—sorry, the Republican Party—as it plays its own games of hate and works to make the Hunger Games a real thing in time for the next Olympics. There’s a weird cultural cross-contamination process going on, as right-wing groups on both sides of the Atlantic spout the same talking points within days of each other, even when they’re wildly inappropriate.

The claim that “15-min Cities” were a globalist conspiracy to restrict movement may have made some sense in car-addled Los Angeles, but in much of British suburbia it’s just how life is lived. And faking moral outrage at children being brought to drag story time at libraries is a lot harder to do in a country where most children grew up watching drag performers on stage during pantomime season, every Christmas.

But logic and common sense require a firm footing in reality, and there’s precious little of that to be had these days. Facebook groups share all the poison gossip in restricted circles while Elon Musk burns Twitter to the ground in the desperate hope that someone, somewhere might someday like him. You’d be forgiven for forgetting that there’s a war on, but though Ukrainians are bleeding for Bakhmut as I type this, there’s a breed of online narcissist who’d as quickly blame them for the bloodshed.

Beyond even that, there’s the accelerating degradation of the world we live on. The increasing desperation of fossil fuel companies to extract as much wealth as they can from the planet before their business model crashes into the ground and takes us all with it. The way that market-driven capitalism cheers them on, a system for extracting value, never suited to run a society filled with complex human beings, now governing the fate of a planet. The only planet we know of that we can live on.

It’s all a bit much, and far beyond the compass of a blog post to comprehend. I can only reiterate what I have read and found to be good: that no person is illegal. To which I’d venture that no person is good or evil either. Only deeds. People are complicated and sometimes broken, sometimes by choice but more often not.

Given the option, most of us would help and share rather than hoard and compete. I believe that. I still see it regularly, even in the middle of myriad systems that encourage the opposite. Green shoots push through concrete, given time.

And if nothing else, there’s a Grand Slam to look forward to. Now who do I know might get me rugby tickets?