Shut The Gut Up

I’ve just read the name on my new bottle of herbal tincture.


Whoever Jean is I wish her well! Hopefully the herbs will work for me too.

In 1972 I got a great review in The South London Press as ‘Jerry Barrett’, and if I have had a quid for the number of times I get mistaken for Lisa Tarbuck, I would be dipping my toes in the Turks and Caicos Islands rather than listening to the incessant rain on the skylight.

Last Friday I went to see a herbalist, turned acupuncturist. The gentlest of men who asked me whether I had any wee in me so he could take a sample. I had just enough for the two of us to pore over the PH strip. The result was for all to see, my gut is playing silly buggers. The old git’s diagnosis in March went to the very core of my colon. When you are the support player it pays not to major on your own misadventures, biting your lip, shouting into a pillow, watching films into the early hours of the morning. Friends and practitioners keep asking me how I am.

‘Fine’ I say.
Because I was – am – will be, but the ‘oosbinds trips for blood tests, the immunology, the drive to Maidstone, the parking in Pembury, the ins and outs of it all exhausts him, and because we’re joined at the hip it exhausts me too. He is one of the lucky ones, 6 months in and the mass has shrunk. I choose my words carefully, not wanting to call it a tumour or The Big ‘C’. Not wanting to draw attention to what is happening to him. I whisper behind a closed door so as not to let the carcinogens hear me. Ignorance, in this case, is blissful. The less I know the better. He is tired and irritable, he is 80 and battling, but he is still one of the lucky ones. His kids are great, I’m here and we have access to the most wonderful band of healers.

But me, well if the gut is the second brain I’ve got double the trouble. If you are what you think then my first brain is creating havoc.

‘The brain is the most complex part of the human body. This three-pound organ is the seat of intelligence, interpreter of the senses, initiator of body movement, and controller of behavior. Lying in its bony shell and washed by protective fluid, the brain is the source of all the qualities that define our humanity.’

I rest my case – every aspect of my life is being interrupted by that overworked three pound organ. My mind, of course is the chattering, battering enemy. The brain just keeps it all ticking over, but my mind is the Devil, fighting and flighting, impinging and imagining.

Of course I meditate, and swim and sit in the hot Jacuzzi, and the steam room, and turn the sand timer upside down so I get twenty minutes in the sauna, but when the gut is playing silly buggers it’s better to be at home.

The ghastly men playing war games don’t help. The ghastly newspapers playing the fear card don’t help either. I heard that to keep the body healthy an hour of belly laughing every day does wonders for the microbiome. If anybody out there can find anything to laugh about for ten minutes, let alone an hour, could they please send it to me on a postcard. I can make myself laugh, if I force it, I can end up making laughing noises, but 60 minutes of guffawing is beyond me at the moment. The sad truth is that the old git was the initiator of mirth, asking a poor, wee northerner to get out his tickling stick at the moment feels a tad rude wouldn’t you say?

Dennis has just gone out through the cat flap, he’s been mithering for ages but I won’t give him any more food, so I bet you a pound to a penny he’ll be back in twenty minutes with the remnants of a mouse. He’ll be wet and cold, and I’ll lose my resolve and give him some biscuits. Even Dennis The Menace is feeling the strain. But we are the lucky ones. Warmth, shelter, food, silence.

We really are the lucky ones. I asked for a prayer and found this

‘I Pray for those who are terrified, mourning and suffering in Israel and Gaza. I ask they be saved from despair – that the trauma and violence they’ve experienced doesn’t overshadow hope.
I pray that people in Gaza and Israel don’t lose hope and that peace is possible.’

Both brains are churning now. But I wish us all serenity.

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