Feeling the pressure
A few months ago, as part of a feature for this newspaper, I was asked if I would have my blood pressure checked.
All men over the age of 40 are being urged to do the same, and especially so in Blackpool where strokes and heart disease are alarmingly common.
In fact, and rather depressingly, the resort has one of the highest rates of cardiovascular disease in the country.
So the idea was that I’d go and have my blood pressure done, then write about it in the hope it would encourage other blokes to do the same. Viewing this as a noble act on a par with Florence Nightingale and Mother Teresa (though slightly outdoing both), I unselfishly and bravely agreed to take part.
What I didn’t bargain for was the fact the nurse discovered I had worryingly high blood pressure.
‘Right Mr Canavan, just relax and don’t say anything,” she said with a kindly smile as she attached the blood pressure monitor to my right arm. ‘I shouldn’t worry. You’re below the age of 40, you don’t smoke, you look in good shape (I thought, for a moment, she was chatting me up), so there’ll be nothing wrong here.’
Then she looked at the reading and frowned. ‘Oh, that’s odd’. It was at that point my relaxed and carefree attitude wavered a little.
She looked for reasons for the high reading. She asked if I’d just run up the stairs. I told her I’d been sitting waiting for her for the last 10 minutes. She asked if I’d had a busy day.
I’d been at work all morning where the most stressful moment was when my porridge almost bubbled over in the microwave.
She took two more readings, went slightly pale (I’ve added that bit for dramatic effect), then suggested I see my GP as soon as possible.
That was in November but like all blokes I put it off. Until this week, when I was fitted with a 24-hour blood pressure monitor.
It’s an odd contraption – a large digital box, strapped to your waist and attached to a blood pressure pad on your arm by means of a long wire which loops up your chest, over your right shoulder, behind your neck, and onto your left arm. It is so bulky that it’s hard to get a shirt over the top. There was no chance of me pulling that night. ‘Now then Mr Canavan, it will go off every 15 minutes during the day and every hour at night,’ said the GP.
Those who have had a blood pressure check will know that ‘going off‘ means the pad on the left arms inflates and gets quite tight for several seconds, before it takes a reading and then deflates again. Coupled with a loud beeping noise just before it starts, I suddenly realised I was in for an uncomfortable 24 hours.
‘Could be tricky to sleep,’ I remarked.
‘Of course it won’t,’ she replied, slightly sharply I thought. ’You won’t even know it’s there’. She’s a liar.
During the day it was tough enough. I had to stop what I was doing every 15 minutes, most embarrassingly of all in Sainsbury’s when I was trying to stuff a nine-pack of toilet roll into an undersized plastic bag at the self-service till.
‘You OK there at the end?’ shouted a bald member of staff with glasses, who had obviously heard a loud beep, noticed my shirt bulge in various directions, and was wondering why I’d stopped dead and dropped the loo paper.
He was close to calling security, and possibly an ambulance, before I eventually, upon deflating, had chance to explain. Bad but not as bad as the night. I don’t sleep much anyway. People talk about how Churchill slept only four hours a night during the war. I do this now, in peacetime (though North Korea might have changed that by the time you read this).
Every hour I’d just be dropping off when... BEEP, followed by a surge of air and a clanking mechanical noise as the blood pressure monitor kicked in. I was not impressed, though not quite as unimpressed as Mrs Canavan, who chunnered until 4.30am before announcing she could stand it no longer and flounced off into the spare room.
‘Calm down, you won’t do your blood pressure any good,’ I almost remarked, before deciding a jocular comment may not be appreciated.
It was with relief when I handed the device back the next afternoon and I’m now awaiting the results – due during the week – with interest.
But despite the inconvenience at least they’ll either (a) find out there’s something wrong e and help treat it, or (b) tell me I’m fine. Either way, it’s better to be safe than sure.
My message, therefore, to every single person in Blackpool – especially the fellas (who tend to view a trip to the GP as the equivalent of drinking shandy on a lads’ night out) – is go and get yourself checked out.
Just don’t do your shopping in Sainsbury’s at the same time.
Night on tiles for Percy the cat and me(ow)
Well, that’s it. It’s happened. I’ve finally gone insane.
I’ve remarked before on the fact that I got a cat last year.
I didn’t want it but have now become oddly attached to what is essentially a thriving mass of fleas on legs.
But it went too far this week. Just shy of his first birthday, Percy Canavan (he’s taken my surname, not his mum’s), has started to venture outside.
For the first few days we’d let him out for about half-an-hour, and he’d always be there at the door waiting to come back in. On about the fifth or sixth day, I let him out at the usual time – 10pm (much like an A-list celebrity, he only goes out in the dark) – and opened the door a short while later to let him back in.
A few minutes later, missing Norwich’s crucial second goal on Match of the Day I might add (damn that cat), the same happened.
“Chush, chush, chush,” I whispered, making that pathetic noise all cat owners do and which probably means nothing whatsoever to the actual animal. He didn’t appear.
This went on until about 1am when, shattered, I decided he’d have to stay out.
I got in bed, tossed and turned, but couldn’t get the little imp out of my mind. I had a strange sense of foreboding, that something dreadful had happened.
At around 2.30am, and despite being in work the next morning, I could stand it no longer. I rose from bed, got fully dressed, and wandered outside, patrolling the local area and whispering ‘Percy, Percy, where are you, daddy’s here’ and other such embarrassing remarks.
About 10 houses down the road, Percy appeared on the roof of a garage. ‘Ah there you are,’ I said with genuine relief. The ungrateful little so and so looked at me with an expression that screamed ‘what the hell are you doing here at this time of night you idiot?’ turned on his heels and trotted away.
All I could do was walk home, get undressed, and slide back into bed – then get told off by Mrs Canavan for waking her up.
Parenthood. It’s not easy.