Starting the year on a worrying high

It is time for an update, which I’m thinking will at least be once a month on here this year. This will likely be more when I’m doing more gigs and a particular month in the summer. More on that later. 

My 2023 began pretty badly, with a visit to the doctors. I was booked in for minor surgery for a very minor thing that I will one day explain more about on stage in what I’m hoping will be a new show. However, the surgery could not go ahead. Because it turned out that, before I’ve even turned 40, I have high blood pressure. 

They took four readings and all of them were dangerously high, which was rather concerning. I put it down to a combination of things. One of them is a family history of high blood pressure on both sides, with the steady decline of two close family members brought about by either a series of strokes or a brain haemorrhage. 

Although I am convinced that my ridiculous diet over Christmas did my blood pressure absolutely no good. Turns out that having chocolate biscuits for breakfast for a couple of weeks while consuming salty snacks throughout the day is not the best thing for your health. 

Stupidly, I thought that if I ate enough fruit and veg a day and got plenty of exercise, then I could eat what I wanted. Well, those days are gone. So too are the days of trying to eat a six-pack of Mini Cheddars in the ten-minute drive home from the supermarket. For the record, I succeeded in this challenge. 

On the train home from the cancelled surgery, I immediately started reading about the foods that were good for lowering blood pressure. I then went to a health food shop and a supermarket to stock up on supplies. 

I have had to reduce my salt intake dramatically. I have stopped adding any to everything. I am also eating a few slices of beetroot a day and pineapple a few times a week. If I want to snack, it’ll either be a handful of unsalted nuts or a few squares of dark chocolate. My caffeine intake has also gone down to just one cup of tea in the morning. 

I’m also reducing the portions of food on my plate. Just because I can easily put a load of food away, it doesn’t mean I should. I’m also trying to do more running, with a park around the corner from my flat proving particularly useful for this. 

My diet is really boring at the moment. But it is actually working. The horror BP reading pre-surgery was 148/106. This week, I had a reading of 133/65. This is a substantial improvement in just over two weeks. I have also lost weight and have a lot more energy, despite the lack of caffeine. Who would have thought that eating more healthily with increased exercise would actually work? 

More good news

Continuing on the good news theme, I can confirm that I will be returning to Edinburgh Fringe this year for the full run. The show will be called How To Win A Pub Quiz Returns. What I am also looking forward to about the run is that I’ll be at the same venue where I had so much fun in 2016 and 2017, where I’d also return in later years to look solemnly around a venue that was home to so much fun and was now empty. But I mainly returned to use the nice toilets in the venue. 

There was further good news yesterday when I finally managed to get a payout for my Help To Buy ISA bonus. It’s a government scheme, but you can only apply for the bonus in the tiny window between exchanging contracts and completion of the sale of the property. When I closed my ISA account to get the funds needed for the deposit, my bank told me that I’d have 12 months to claim the bonus and that I would be sent a closing statement and form to fill in to claim the bonus. Only, the closing statement arrived with no form – or any other advice or information, for that matter. 

Thinking I had 12 months to claim the bonus, it wasn’t a priority in that manic week in June last year when my purchase was completed. Thankfully, I didn’t need the bonus for my deposit and had enough in savings to cover that and all my other costs.  

When the form never arrived, I started some research and found out about the exchange-completion window rule and how the bonus can only be applied by the purchaser’s solicitor. My solicitor did tell me this, but I told him what my bank had said to me and suggested the rules may have changed. He said this could be possible. Well, it wasn’t possible and I had been given the wrong advice. 

My solicitor was pleading my case with the government contractor for a few months. The scheme was clearly set up to make it as difficult as possible for people to claim their bonus. And as this particular contractor is most famous for stripping disabled people of state benefits after passing them as fit to work, I did not think it was even worth trying to reason with such a brick wall of an organisation. So, I wrote a formal complaint to my bank. Then yesterday, I received a phone call from my bank to say that they would pay out as they were at fault and the £3,000 I could have done with months ago finally came my way. 

A third piece of good news this month is that the loud dickhead in the flat beneath mine is getting evicted by his landlord. For the last few months, I have been wearing industrial-strength ear muffs around my flat to avoid hearing him shouting or his poor dogs barking. This probably hasn’t my blood pressure much good either. Thankfully, these days are nearing an end. Although I do now rather enjoy the tranquillity enabled by the industrial ear muffs and may continue wearing them at times, perhaps just not for such long periods. 

January has ended much better than it began, and I hope this upward trajectory will continue for the rest of the year – although I wouldn’t put any money on it, especially not the funds I’ve been waiting months for. 

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