The Grand ME/CFS Big Milestone Birthday Season, Part 1: Lockdown

Oh look, yarn and chocolate!

A birthday in lockdown. Despite my normal life looking a lot like lockdown, the COVID lockdown does actually make a difference. The regular delivery services are overloaded and unreliable, but some really amazing places are now delivering. Also, I have usually made an effort to go out for dinner on my birthday. Fine dining is normally quieter than pub grub, so I tolerate that better. Plus I mostly feel more well in the evenings than mornings or afternoons. I’m hoping to go out for some meals after lockdown, so this is birthday part 1. Who knows when part 2 will be? The Bloke predicts November.

For me, it’s been “Birthday Season” for decades, as the Bloke’s birthday is a couple of days before mine and it’s also the anniversary of when we met: my 18th birthday, his 19th. A mutual friend asked me to a party, which in those days meant squeezing as many people as possible into a college room, playing music – cassette tapes or a guitar singalong – and drinking really cheap and quite horrible stuff like blackberry nip or flagon port, because we had no money. Sometimes we made fake Bailey’s with cheap rotgut whiskey, cream, instant coffee, and sweetened condensed milk. As I recall it, the Bloke was sitting under the desk. I may be wrong, as he often did that. Different events may have blurred together.

I started preparing in advance with researching good food delivery. And I placed some orders for presents to be delivered, for both of us (I got him some brew kit that he wanted, plus a few Mexican cooking goodies and Federation chocolate). My mother usually gives me money, so it’s nice to convert that into some Stuff. Yes, you guessed it, yarn and chocolate! See above. But also some French marrons glacés and griottines, and a decent bottle of Tassie sparkling (Arras Brut Elite).

I’m not a big wine drinker, but I did feel that something was required. I asked the good people at Ainslie Cellars for advice, and got a $50ish bottle. We’re basically beer and whisky drinkers, so I don’t have the specifically educated palate to care for even finer wines. I recommend Ainslie Cellars very highly. They sell a really good range of spirits and beers and I presume wine, many of them local or unusual imports, and the staff are all friendly and happy to advise. They’re a little indie business, not quite as cheap as the big box places, but the service and range make it well worth a couple of dollars extra.

The lead up was the Bloke’s birthday. We had one guest for lunch – his mother, as she lives alone and we are her designated household. And we had pizza for dinner, from Solita. This was our first order from them, but it won’t be the last! The pizza was the best I have ever eaten outside Italy, made in a proper Neapolitan blast oven. Chewy, lightly charred crust, perfecto! The warm olives were a very generous serve, the salad super fresh, and the cannoli superb.

Next day is the in-between day where I get to rag the Bloke for being SO OLD. This is compulsory. Especially good this time, since he’s in his sixties while I’m only in my 50s. Ha! Food is basically light, recovery, leftovers, and getting ready to tackle the big day.

And for my birthday… a big surprise! Lockdown rules lifted so a couple of local NSW postcodes are allowed to visit, and we’re allowed two visitors! Our Jerrabomberra friends can now visit after all. I was so pleased. Company at last, and our regular Friday movie nights can now resume.

The day started a little early and headachey. Slightly underslept, in part due to a massive storm last night, with great crashes of thunder around 11:30pm. Pity I couldn’t sleep in, but sadly illness does not take a holiday. I did a few basic stretches but was too tired for weights.

When the Bloke woke up there were presents! A truly massive amount of Haigh’s chocolate from him, and also a very cool Catzilla T-shirt sent by Melbourne friends. This seemed a good time to also spend my planned money on game currency for Fallen London. I don’t usually spend money on games, but this is a very special one. It’s hard to explain just how awesome this is – a text adventure in an underground gothic Victorian setting, with talking cats, rats, spiders and who knows what else? The language alone is exceptional. Go play it and see. It’s free. Spending money gets you some premium content, but it’s not pay to win.

So, the day started as with lounging on the couch, sipping coffee and hoping my headache goes away. Playing some games, as usual. Keeping quiet and resting in anticipation of the evening. The Bloke went for a bike ride before the predicted storms. I got phone calls from my Mum & my Melbourne friends.

It was a wonderful evening. The Arras sparkling was lovely, the food utterly delicious, and matched well with the red wine that M brought from his favourite winery. H gave me a gift certificate for a yarn shop and am tying to decide how to spend it. I want a specific project, not an assortment, but which? I am very drawn to Newgrange, by Lucy Hague, though I do not normally make triangle shawls. Perhaps I could reshape it to a rectangle or a parallelogram.

For dinner, I ordered from Inka, a Peruvian-Japanese fusion place: not as mad as it sounds when you realise that a lot of Japanese people settled in Peru in the early 20th century. And what’s not to love about miso-jalapeno glazed beef? Seriously excellent sushi, sashimi and empanadas, too, and some exceptionally good vegetables (OMG those crispy roast brussels sprouts!). And I got gelato from the new Spilt Milk Bar in Dickson. With six very fine flavours, the griottines, some wafer roll bicuits, and cream, we could make our own sundaes. Mine was chocolate, sesame and pistachio, but I did taste the rest (the lemon-blueberry sorbet was amazing, honeycomb good, fudge brownie a bit meh but only in comparison to how great the rest was.)

We ate wonderful food, and drank wonderful wine, watched a wonderful production of Hamlet, and engaged in wonderful conversation. I loved it all. We were merry and silly and intellectual and discursive, and I felt almost normal for a few hours.

I knew there would be payback, of course. I ate too much (3 courses of restaurant style food); I drank too much (5 drinks over 5 hours); I engaged in too much mental effort (Hamlet and conversation); I stayed up too late (11pm). The Bloke and friends did nearly all the fetching and carrying of plates and glasses and cleanup, so I didn’t move around too much, at least.

The payback started more quickly than I expected, though. I had thought I might sleep like the dead, with the booze on top of my meds, but I could not sleep. My heart was racing. I ended up reading Sherlock Holmes stories from 2am to 4am, when I finally felt calm and tired enough to drop off for five hours.

The next day was a complete write-off. Exhausted beyond belief, sore and sick and immobile, unthinking and aphasic, wincing at every sound. I was unable to eat, or even drink coffee and take panadol for a few hours. I could do nothing but mindless games. I did get to open my delayed present from my sister. It was a fun collection of buttons and stitch markers and a tissue box (that I wanted to contain yarn for colourwork) plus a nice pen and whisky glass. I managed to post a pic on FB to show her it had arrived, but I had no ability to form words. By evening I was just recovered enough to eat a light dinner and watch Midsomer Murders (good brainfog TV, that), and even say goodnight to the Bloke in actual English sentences.

Today, as I write, although I have slept adequately, I do expect malaise. And indeed my glands are up and painful and I’m aching, and no way was I going to exercise this morning. But I CAN use words now. I plan to check facebork for the messages I saw notified on my phone, and basically rest up a lot more. I hope, since there was not very much movement and the excess effort was mental and digestive, that the malaise will be mild. So far, so good. Anyway, even if it isn’t mild: 100% WORTH IT!

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