The Death Of Ian Kilmister

7 Feb

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So he finally died and an era of a kind ends. Lemmy, the quite studiedly larger-than-life, heavy metal monster has finally left this earth. He did it in suitably grand style. A cancer diagnosis two days previously and then he died on the couch playing his favourite poker-based video game. It’s as rock and roll as a quiet death at home surrounded by your family gets, and truly in keeping with the underlying sentiment of his artistic oeuvre terminally ill.
It was always going to become edgy at some point. Playing songs that are essentially about living a short life at an absurd pace and dying young, when you’re getting on a bit yourself, creates a kind of tension. You’ve boxed yourself in, as an older heavy metal demigod, either you have to tone it all down a bit, do some blue numbers, sit on a stool and play, retire to a five bed in Surrey; or stick it out to the end. Lemmy opted for the latter path and managed, against the odds, to pull it off with a last act of terminally ill showmanship.
I’ve always felt that Lemmy’s approach epitomised the pitfalls of a very strong constitution. His intake was the stuff of legend. He lived on a diet of Jack Daniels and amphetamines for a very, very long period of time. Motorheads famous live album was called ‘No Sleep Till Hammersmith’ which expresses his casual take-it-or-leave-it approach to an activity most of us have forced upon us. In the usual run of things you’d expect some health issues after a short time, but Lemmy held stubbornly on for years, behaving much as he always had.
In common with many people, I’ve always been notionally fond of Motorhead and found Lemmy an interesting and compelling figure. I’ve observed him continuing to act like a man in his twenties while in his fifties and sixties. He never had to change in the way that the rest of us do.
Most people moderate their drinking because their hangovers become more and more unpleasant. The impact of a night of interrupted sleep coupled with a thumping head and nausea outweighs the joys of drinking heavily into the small hours. Having young children seals the deal.
We stop taking speed, because the high isn’t worth the low which, unjustly, arrives after the good, exciting bit.  We are forced to adapt our behaviour and develop and mature in the face of the forces of time and life passing. Not so Lemmy who, to an extent, never had to…. or wasn’t forced to until it was too late. He was diagnosed with type two diabetes in 2000 which slowed his partying down a little. Type two diabetes is a variable situation. You can manage it, to an extent, with dietary changes; which he eventually did…. by caving in and switching to vodka and orange.
In 2013 he had an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator fitted because of his irregular heart beat. The diabetes slowed his recovery and caused complications and then in 2015 he was forced to walk off stage at the beginning of a show. He died a couple of months later of multiple cancers of the brain and neck.
Maturity wasn’t imposed by physical heath considerations for a long time, until it suddenly was. In Chinese medical terms you could see Lemmys’ death as an abrupt failure of the bodies capacity to contain constitutional threat.
We all do this, locking up incoming physical dangers that would kill us or impair our internal organ function. We store toxins and pathogens in bone cavities and fatty areas, in our gums and hips and shoulders. We hold things; preventing them from causing a vicious circle of downgrade causing further failure of containment and further downgrade. We do this with pesticide residues, dioxins, PCBs, heavy metals, car fumes, and the other multifold sources of toxicity that go hand in hand with modern urban life. From time to time, when we are strong enough, we will clear some of them out on the back of a fever and some sweating.
There is a whole subsystem of Chinese medicine known as the Divergent Meridians that are based on helping maintain this holding, and prevent the release of things into the internal organs for as long as possible. It’s used in chronic health problems characterised by flare ups, where old symptoms re-appear and disappear again. Any auto immune condition, chronic back pain, rheumatoid arthritis, herpes, IBS, eczema, colitis, psoriasis, migraines, menieres disease could all be examples of a condition which would benefit from an approach based on the divergent meridians.
In the context of this way of looking at the body, the idea of detoxing is slightly absurd. The benefits of detoxing are probably more about rest and possibly improved diet. The most useful thing you can do in terms of detoxing is sleep more eat well, make yourself stronger and let your liver get on with the rest of it.
As we know with Lemmy, sleep wasn’t particularly his thing. He evidently had enormously powerful holding mechanisms for toxicity. They’d started to give out when he developed diabetes. Diabetes is a big system downgrade affecting micro blood flow. The lack of blood flow continued to downgrade him until it affected the function of his heart. With decline of the heart goes the blood flow necessary for maintaining containment of toxicity. With the collapse of this, physical masses, tumours and cancers form in the internal organs. They do so as a way of containing inflammation and toxic processes occurring in the organs.
This last ditch, desperate attempt to hold the problem at bay itself impairs organ function and leads to further downgrade and death.
Lemmy didn’t have to change for a long time. In the early years of his career he forged a unique sound that fused punk and heavy metal. He was a compelling comic book figure, almost a parody of the hard living outsider, but conveying a degree of weight and menace. In short he was a very powerful and influential figure in modern music. As time wore on this initial creation didn’t mature. Physically he was able to occupy this position for a long, long time. He continued partying on terms of “Dogged insolence in the face of mounting opposition to the contrary,” as he put it in a recent interview.
Emotionally, he didn’t have to grow, his constitution would allow him to carry on as a much younger man. If growth is, in part, a series of compromises made with your own physical life process, he didn’t have to compromise. If you roll with those compromises, if you change with change, then there is the possibility of spiritual and emotional growth that goes hand in hand with the changes of ageing. He didn’t have to, and so he didn’t.
The live fast die young principle he epitomised is, arguably, more relevant to a time of cushioned affluence; where there are social circumstances to pick up the pieces. A good NHS, sickness benefit, sheltered housing, make all the difference when it’s all over. Really pushing it, Hunter S Thompson style, is at the end of the day, a bit of a luxury.
Or, arguably, it could be said thats what we’re collectively opting for, in terms of our approach to fossil fuels and the biosphere; we are all, at a certain level, Lemmy. Whatever; there was a feeling when he died that this might all have passed its sell by date. Been there, done that, got the badly cut, black T-shirt with the transfers that peel off after two or three washes.
In more personal terms, the enormous psychic force that forged the huge personality that was Lemmy Kilmister was in emotional decline long before the physical limitations kicked in. His self confessed ‘dogged insolence’ implies this rising limitation. He had a great deal invested in this idea of himself, as did many, many others. This was who he thought he was and it became less and less elegant, less viable, which suggests that it might no longer have been the case. The diabetes diagnosis is the point where the emotional limitations have led to physical limitations.  By the time he was absolutely forced to change, he had no energy or time to suddenly grow up, change, become something different and new, and then it was too late.
Where others grow old slowly he stayed young past his years and then his constitution  suddenly collapsed.
I mean that said, he did this all on terms of his choosing, picking at the ‘flaws’ in his process and life path of anyone is ultimately arrogant, especially someone who whilst a product of his times and his own wounding, was in essence a free spirit who clearly did it very much his way.
There is a saying in Chinese medicine ‘No illness short life, one illness long life,’ and Lemmy was the epitomy of that. He might have lived into his nineties with the power of his constitution, but he never had to care for it, and never really knew what he had had, until he’d lost it.
But isn’t that always the way?

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Dragon Clinics in Sussex

21 Apr

Dragon hJINGroom2as expanded to three clinics in Brighton and Worthing.

they are:

Central Brighton:

Open monday to wednesday. Call 07760492136

We offer acupuncture in a multi-bed clinic and one to one treatment

Price £15 to £35 per session depending on how long a session needs to be.

The north Laines  clinic

28/29 Bond Street,BN1 1RD.

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Worthing/ Goring;

Open on thursday, we offer treatment in a multi bed practice Treatment costs £20 per session with £35 for the initial consultation.

Call 07741 463 888.

The Goring Beach Clinic,
92 Alinora Crescent
Goring-by-Sea, Worthing
West Sussex, BN12 4HJ

Withdean Sports Complex

Withdean Stadium.

We offer one to one sessions in the clinic: price £45 per sessions.

Call 07760492136

Withdean Sports Complex,

Tongdean Lane, BN1 5JD

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Back Pain: Do’s and Don’ts.

15 Apr

JINGroom2Bad back? You’re not alone.  Most of us, hunched over our lap tops and driving everywhere, get it from time to time and for some of us it’s a day to day problem. The standard GP approach, use pain medication, has gone out of the window. Paracetamol doesn’t work and it’s bad for your liver.

At Dragon we treat back pain all the time, more successfully than a GP, and we’ve all had bad back pain at various times, so we know our way around it.

Keep your back warm.
As a general rule cold makes muscle tissue contract & tighten. And tight, contracted muscle tissues are one of the main features of back pain. So keep warm, especially in the area that is painful: hot baths, saunas, hot water bottles, warming liniments could potentially help. And don’t ice it. “Ice is for corpses” as the Chinese  saying goes.
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Keep moving (gently).

As a general rule, human bodies work better (and recover from injury better) when they are mobilised. Being sedentary is usually a bad idea. Obviously this comes with the proviso that bad movement could aggravate the situation. A good rule of thumb with stretching is to watch your breathing as you’re doing it; if you find yourself involuntarily holding your breath then what you’re doing is too extreme. Go gently.

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Try and gauge what may have lead to your back pain.

Does it have its root in exhaustion? If so then rest will be an important part of the recovery process (rest doesn’t mean being too sedentary).

Is stress a significant contributor? It may be necessary to drop some of the responsibilities that you’ve been shouldering, or to lower your expectations of yourself. This is often easier said than done, but unless there is a clear mechanical cause, an episode of acute back pain is always a sign that something needs to change.

Get some treatment.
Sometimes back pain is so debilitating that you can’t really get started with the recovery process (gentle stretching etc) until something has given you a bit of leeway. It’s also good to get an informed opinion from someone with experience as to what exactly is going with your back, which might be the most suitable stretches for you, etc. And yes, acupuncture is right up there as one of the most useful methods for helping a bad back. The national institute of clinical excellence recommends that doctors provide ten sessions for patients with back pain and recommends acupuncture for neck pain.

Don’t panic.
Again, easier said than done. Acute back pain really is distressing. But as mentioned above, in some senses back pain is a warning light on the dashboard; once you understand what has lead to the pain that you’re experiencing, and how to support your body in rectifying the problem, there is the real possibility of ending up better off than you were before it happened. An experienced healthcare practitioner can really support that process.

Don’t accept it

In the longer term, it’s possible to live with a chronic bad back, hurting a bit most of the time and occasionally a lot. This is a bad idea.  When my back hurt the best advice I got was not to accept it and to keep working at it till it went away.  A bad back isn’t a given, ultimately you can usually get rid of a back condition through the correct exercise and postural change. Don’t stop trying until it’s gone.

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The Persistent Winter Bug

20 Feb

JINGroom2We have seen a particularly unpleasant and persistent phlegmy cold that seems to hang around for over a month.  It causes secondary infections in the lung, sinus and throat and leaves people suffering from it, exhausted. Here is a general guide to managing this.

1)This bug tends to lurk down in the digestive system. It seems to go with either nausea: or gas, bloating, poor digestion and loose stools. If you are experiencing these symptoms try eating very simply, with food you know you can digest well. Stay away from rich dairy and sugar.
Roasted garlic: individual cloves cooked under the grill and then peeled will boost the immune function and assist in clearing the gut. Cider vinegar and honey will similarly boost immune function.Unknown
2) Do not over do it. Rest and allow your body time and space to resist the pathogen. Stay well hydrated, eat well, abstain from sex.  Work with the process of the illness, not against it.

Rub the area of the kidney with your hands. This is just under the ribs on your back although rubbing anywhere between the ribs and the bottom of the back will help. Do not allow your kidneys and feet to get cold. This will sap your body of energy.
Rub the spine at the top where your neck starts and at about the same height as your belly button on the back until it is warm. These are hot powerful points on the spine which will boost your energy level and immune system. If you are over thirty, get someone else to warm the area with a moxa stick.Unknown-1
3)Using a soft edged tool such as a Chinese spoon and some oil, Gua sha the areas around the back and the sides of the neck under the ear.  Click the link for instructions on how to do this.  Work along under the clavicle, which is the long bone at the top of your chest. and along into the dip below your shoulder.  Someone else will have to do the area between the shoulder blades. Do not work on bone, especially vertebrae, do not worry about bruising, this is part of the process. If it hurts, that is ok and you want to work on areas that produce a lot of redness and bruising. Find fleshy areas on the areas described that hurt and bruise and really concentrate on them.

Stay away from the front of the neck and throat. If in doubt, don’t do it.  

It may well bruise . If your throat is sore concentrate on the are below the clavicle on the chest and the sides, if the ear is blocked and painful then concentrate on the sides below the ear.

 

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You may not get immediate relief, but it will ease up and bruise less easily each time you do it. As it bruises less easily the tissue is clearing. This may look alarming and painful, but it isn’t that bad.

Do not go out in the cold after you have opened up the skin pores with this technique.  Wear a scarf.

4) Massage the area next to your nose on your face in small circles working out along the cheek bone towards the ear. Warm and loosen the tissue. Do it until the sinuses loosen up. Release of the sinuses allows the release of the pathogen out of the body. If the sinuses are very blocked work out along the eyebrow looking for areas of tightness.

 

5) Stretch and loosen the calves which will release the bowels. This again allows the release of pathogenic material from the body.  Lengthen the calves and loosen them with self-massage.

6) If the sinuses are infected then rinse through with mildly salty warm water. If the throat is infected then gargle with warm salty water taking it as far down the throat as you can.

7) If you think you have a chest infection then go to your doctor, as this can become very serious very quickly. Green or Yellow phlegm are potential indicators. If in doubt, go.

8) Rub and warm the nail bed of the thumb, first third and fourth fingers, do the same on the toes on the first, third fourth and fifth. These are the beginning of the layers of the outer immune system according to Chinese medicine. The areas recommended to gua sha on the neck and chest begin here.

For acupuncturists reading this; this is a simple application of the sinew meridians or jing jin to address an invasion of wind cold damp into tai yang, shao yang yang ming and tai yin.  I have seen one patient where the pathogen dropped into the heart and kidneys.  this is a nasty bug.  The basic recipe is open the orifices,both windows of the sky and doorways to earth, tonify yang, clear the zones and release the jing well point. 
These are recommendations from Classical Chinese Medicine to handle a cough or cold. If in doubt seek western medical advice. Dragon will accept no responsibility for injury resulting from mis application of these suggestions. Use them carefully and wisely.

Pills, Thrills and Bellyaches

14 Feb

We’ve been quite involved in healthcare news of late and there have been a few things that have caught our eye.  In case you missed them here they are:
1) Apparently it’s ok to eat fat and that high cholesterol isn’t necessarily linked with heart disease and arteriosclerosis. They got this wrong through the mass application of really lazy science. If you’ve been swearing off high cholesterol foods, picking miserably at salads and low fat alternatives, then you can stop now.1.11688-124806859
2)We’ve also been told that a wide range of routinely prescribed medicines have been linked causally with Alzheimers disease. Also the co founder of the Cochrane Collaboration, the worlds foremost body in assessment of medical evidence has stated that NSAID painkillers have other serious side effects, as do SSRI antidepressants and are of questionable effectiveness. Vioxx, one of this class of pharmaceuticals has been linked with the deaths of half a million Americans.
Lets just have a moment for that.
3)There are accusations that pharmaceutical companies have been cooking their trial data.

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Can we just go back to the cholesterol thing again. We can all eat fried eggs now and butter without fear of an early grave. This is surely cause for some sort of high cholesterol street party?
The change cholesterol science casts doubt on the the mass prescription of statins.  Statins are a controversial medication, especially in people who have been told to to take them and hate them.
So  a number of the things routinely prescribed by your doctors are actually quite surprisingly bad for you and the data supporting there usage is suspect.

This suggests that the most sensible thing to do is to minimise strong intervention as much as possible.

Seriously, have more acupuncture. Use herbal products, do things that help manage stress, enhance your breathing and physical alignment.  You are the person most able to look after you.
Ok, as you were…. and pass me another sausage.

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And Breathe

3 Oct

When we were growing up the woman next door weighed twenty seven stone. Even by lardy modern standards this is an impressive weight for a five foot four woman. She was getting close to spherical.
In honesty, twenty seven stone was a high point. At times she went as low as twenty four stone. She was a compulsive eater, and found dieting in any meaningful way very challenging. Practically speaking this meant she broke furniture. On one occasion I watched her flop heavily down on our valuable-ish antique sofa and the caster explode from beneath her. She had trashed a number of chairs up around our street in the day to day round of seventies gossipy-housewife-coffee activities. As wood groaned and shattered she would brightly comment ‘well that wasn’t very well made’; shift to something more robust and reach for yet another biscuit.
She is still alive and in her eighties, where she should be long dead. This may in part be genetics. Indisputably, someone who maintains this kind of weight for much of their life and is still with us has a strong heart. She was, and is, an enormously good laugh with a huge spirit. Being around her was always a world away from the usual run of passive-aggressive, local mothers. She was exciting and unpredictable and lived a life rich with feeling.
Her real secret though is that she was an opera singer. She didn’t get into the top echelons because of having children, but she had an immense powerful voice and sang in a practice room next to our house which meant she was a regular feature of half of the upstairs in our childhood home. She really knew how to use her diaphragm working from deep in her body so that her voice could be heard clearly across an auditorium; or booming in our upstairs toilet.
Recently I’ve been working a great deal with breathing and Chinese medicine. The twenty-seven-stone-woman-next-door-alive-at-eighty-two is a clear example of the power of effective breathing.
The diaphragm used well will enhance the oxygenation of the blood. It will also through movement down into the abdomen move and massage the internal organs. The digestion system is assisted by this movement. The kidneys, which travel ten miles per day, are very closely connected to the raising and descent of the diaphragm the right kidney slipping behind the liver on a descending in breath. The movements of the uterus are affected by the diaphragm, particularly in giving birth.
The internal organs move around a great deal in the day to day. MRI imaging reveals a complex ever moving world of biological interaction of which most people are unaware. The pulsing movements of the diaphragm are a crucial part of this dynamic and one over which we as humans potentially have control.
Good free diaphragmatic movement means enhanced flow of blood, lymph and interstitial fluid. It takes some of the weight off the heart as a pump. It massages the spine, releasing the lower back and crossing over with the illiopsoas muscle to release back and sciatic pain. This relationship with the illiopsoas leads to a situation in which this combination of muscles links to and beneficially affects every organ in the body.
Good diaphragmatic movement is the cornerstone of health and well being affecting back pain, digestive issues, circulatory problems, kidney problems, releasing the adrenals, enhancing the immune system. It’s at least as important as not living on fast food or drinking and smoking too much and very, very few people are able to do it.
Can you breathe properly? An easy test of this is to take deep breath and really fill your lungs. Exhale and then do it again, and again. If the idea of keeping this up for five minutes seems dauntingly tiring, then you’re definitely not.
The trick is to get the diaphragm to descend rather than lift the rib cage which quite a number of people find challenging in much the same way as learning to ride a bicycle, learn to use windows, blow smoke rings or any other learning experience that ends with an ‘oh I get it’ moment. From there there are a number of approaches and schools of thought from yoga, meditation, tai ji, buteyko method. The commonality is moving the diaphragm fully down into the abdomen.
The only other issue from a body work point of view is the tendency for effective breathing to bring to mind uncomfortable emotions. You can feel the impact on your breathing of thinking about something that makes you emotionally uncomfortable. The body will suppress protracted emotional discomfort by shallow breathing. So emotional suppression will lock up the diaphragm and prevent you really being yourself.
Yes breathing well is emotionally healthy too.
It frees the spirit to sit around in kitchens breaking furniture, bitching and laughing, between singing in a way you could hear half way down the street. It’s that simple and you can’t really be as good as you could be without it. And breathe……

DEATH

14 Sep

Nowadays, there is no way the death slide in Mrs Boucher’s back garden would be seen as an appropriate plaything for children.   Even back then it was edgy. The term ‘death slide’ was slightly hyperbolic: falling off it didn’t actually result in death. It hurt and, apparently, it could break your arm, as Ken Harris (8) discovered at my brothers birthday party.

It was, in retrospect, rather an auspicious event. This was because one of the guests became the current chancellor of the exchequer (we were at a super posh school) and because Ken Harris fell from about ten feet up, like a big bit of fruit, and broke his arm.

In my opinion he should have held firm in the face of peer pressure, and accepted his limitations. But he caved in and with shaking legs, climbed the rope ladder. To his credit, he gave it a go. He did things that several of the Bayswater dwelling posse my brother hung with found challenging. They’d been transplanted from the circumscribed world of Central London into the Lord of the Flies savagery of our back garden.  It wasn’t a comfortable space for them. I think he came unstuck at the bit where you had to turn, balanced on a sawn off branch, using some leaves for extra stability. Either he relied on the leaves too much, or his legs just gave way. Watching him go up the ladder, I kind of think it was the legs.

I don’t think there was any recrimination.  He just left in an ambulance and the party wound itself up. Nowadays, someone might perhaps have queried their child left in the care of others, returned injured. They might have asked about the safety of the play furniture, or parental supervision, of which there was none. They might have wondered about the death slide; as they might have about the games of long distance darts, the flamethrower, the petrol, breaking into building sites and everybody being tooled up with ‘black widow’ slingshots.

This was, after all, the seventies. The seventies were dangerous, in a word. You only had to look at the sanctioned play ground equipment.

I’m currently quite involved with playgrounds with my daughter. Playgrounds in the seventies had some quite excessively dangerous things in them. ‘The Witches Hat’ springs straight to the fore here. For those unfamiliar with it; it was a large cone shaped structure of supports and a wooden skirt you stood on. A group of kids would spin it and all hang on, as it both rotated around a central pole and bucked up and down. Practically speaking, depending on the size and fearlessness of your co-riders, you could be thrown around quite a lot. The whole apparatus on the move weighed a great deal and could move unpredictably, suddenly rearing up and knocking you off your feet/smacking you in the teeth/throwing another child into you. Naturally, because it was the seventies, it was mounted on a playground surface that was either paving slabs with a skim of treacherous gravel, or Tarmac.

A similarly unpredictable ride was the heavy seesaw rocking horse-style things which, with an appropriately fearless group of riders, could become something that reared and bucked like a tethered steel bullock. True the linear trajectory was more predictable, but these things had a mass and forward impetus like a battering ram. It made them quite challenging as either a passenger or innocent bystander.

Swings were similarly robustly fashioned, meaning that they swung with the force of a blunt executioners axe at young, delicate heads. There was a lighter swing, popular in back gardens, which would suddenly pop out of the ground when you swung too high; ‘too high’ being something you could only gauge after the event.

Slides were narrow, high and minimalist. The steel steps were unforgiving and slippery. When descending, you could easily fall out of them, again onto Tarmac.

A special mention should be made here of the ‘flumes’ or water slides at Richmond pool. Fictional scare stories went round about people putting razor blades in them. More prosaically the ‘black hole’ (a black coloured water slide) dropped you about nine feet onto your coccyx. This was actually closed for being too dangerous after some Stoke Mandeville accident occurred to a heavier adult.

Another special mention should be made of the lighter (but NOT safer) garden slide with the rail that I caught two of my toes the other side of when going at maximum speed.

Not good. Bad.

There was the roundabout that could trap young legs or hurl you bodily across the playground, various random climbing frames, thoughtfully set into concrete, one of which I remember lulled me into falling throat first onto a horizontal bar.

Then there was the have-a-go-how-hard-can-it-be freeform madness of the adventure playground. I suppose the addition of the suffix ‘adventure’ euphemistically underlined the extreme danger of, say, the swing at Holland park which dropped you a distance through empty space before any actual swinging went on. Or some of the vertiginous, hand rail-free walkways, made of rickety planks stolen from building sites by criminal adolescents. The only good thing was that falling tended to be onto mud.

I survived. Most of us did. I have some scars, one from the rusty nail, one from the axe: and a dot on my head which only really revealed itself when I went bald and which I’ve now identified as the place my brother threw the dart; deliberately he recently admitted.

I had to put myself out a couple of times when covered in petrol and I very nearly died falling off the half-built Ealing Broadway Shopping Centre.

Danger entered the home in the guise of toys. We survived crazy straws: fun but food poisoning was almost unavoidable; home balloon kits: not so much fun blowing bubbles of murky green toxic waste, if you sucked: hallucinations. We survived parents smoking, and paint stripping Dungeons and Dragons figures with Nitromors creating some kind of hyper-dodgy lead oxide. ‘I wonder why there’s always always a bright orange undercoat on these…..’

In some ways the Kensington kids were the harbingers of another future time. A time where kids don’t get to play unsupervised, and certainly don’t get to play with a can of petrol and a box of matches with a few close friends round the corner, in a conveniently L-shaped garden. They were lardy and physically uncertain, they had fear, which for me only kicks in now looking back at some of it. Particularly the flamethrower.

Having my daughter has brought these issues into sharp focus. It’s been a journey. My younger, childless friends look at me with horror and disbelief as I regale them with stories of getting up at five in the morning as a regular waking time, or never going out at night, ever. My reply has become simply that you can’t cheat life. That at some stage they will do this, or go through whatever process they have to go through to not do it, but that as healthy heterosexuals they will probably experience raising a child. Sooner or later, with some inevitability.

You can’t cheat life, but equally, despite our fond imaginings, you can’t cheat death.

Now it is pleasant to be able to take your young daughter to an environment in which she can play and return without bone deep lacerations, concussion, or the kind of bruises that ache when it’s damp for the rest of your life. At the same time, I do not wish to make her life risk free, nor do I think I can. If I do that then I starve her of something that she as an individual seems to crave, as we did, scrambling over the half-built roof of the shopping centre.

The debate on vaccination is very interesting in this regard. The one thing that both sides of the debate, such as it is, agree on is the sanctity of the life of the child. Not an unreasonable fear one might say, and I concur, it’s very important children don’t become ill or die. The tone of the debate though is based around fear: the horrors of the individual’s loss and pain. That we must at all cost prevent this.

The unfortunate bottom line is that kids die. This is an awful truth, but they do. How far are we prepared to go to try to prevent this, what are our motivations and at what point is this too far?

Recently my friend Diana died. She wasn’t a kid. She’d lived a lot of life and passed away in her fifties. She died in quite significant discomfort of cancers of the brain, lung and breast. To my mind she was too young to die, but I didn’t get a say.

There was something very special about Diana.

After her death I found out that she had had the diagnosis before she met me and that for the two years of our friendship she was dying of cancer. I treasure those years, not just because I loved hanging about with her talking about Chinese medicine, but also because she was someone facing her imminent death second by second. Every twinge and pain, and increased lump size. Every morning she had to look in the mirror at a face that was dying. She held what she had at bay for the two years with nei gong and Chinese herbs. Then it rose up, crippled her and killed her.

When I heard that she had privately lived with a terminal diagnosis I realised what the special thing about her was. I had seen who she really was, when the lies and evasions are stripped away, because you know you may not have long.

According to her friends in these last years her Buddhist practice matured, she took great strides forward. These were incredibly valuable years for her. I would love to ask her if she felt she had done the right thing in delaying treatment, but she’s dead. I’m left with what I saw there.

One of the prevailing dreams of science fiction and medicine is of immortality. Aside from the gritty likelihood that this would, nay will, be prohibitively expensive and only for the very few, this poses some interesting questions. What age would you like to stay at? I mean physically probably your twenties, but can a twenty year old body be a twenty year old body and hold five hundred year old emotions? What would it be like not changing physically? Nice, no degeneration, but no change either, always the same. A bit like living in California, which is very pleasant, but without seasons it apparently does get boring.

What would the position be with your own children? When would you have them, would they be the same age as you and what would your relationship be with them when you’re both in your twenties? Why would you strive for anything? A career would be effectively of infinite length. If you worked in a business organisation then with no one dying or retiring you couldn’t be promoted. Working for yourself, say as an acupuncturist, how good are you going to get before you’re as good as you’re going to get? Then what? Relationships? All of eternity with one person? Yeah, sure. How many until you just don’t want to go there anymore? Ten, twenty, fifty? What then?

What happens when you run out of ideas for new things, in short what happens when you’ve done it all? When does the boredom get you as you stare into eternity? It’s already bad enough in the leafy suburbs in Surrey where middle aged people are sitting the lap of material comfort, drinking themselves to death in front of sky tv.

You can’t cheat life. Equally you can’t cheat death. The two define one another. Somehow we’ve wandered down a road in western culture where the fear and prevention of death has been confused with the promotion of life. A negative confused with a positive.

Life hailed as some kind of poorly defined absolute, rather than a process of change.

When my father died twenty years ago, one of the most shocking things about it was the extent to which you were on your own with it. Now this is always true to an extent; death is a path that everyone, both the dying and the bereaved ultimately, walks alone. The contrast between the inner experience of loss and the upbeat, coca cola, western consumer culture was shocking; when I least needed a shock. There was simply no context for grief. There was and is no place in British ‘life’ for it. Shortly after he died, I went to India where black is worn by the bereaved to signify their state until they are no longer bereaved and ready to don normal clothes again. This may take years, as I know. Do you ever ‘get over’ the loss of another, so much as come to terms with their passing and live a life which is a different shape? Would you want to ‘get over’ the loss of one you love. In Mexico they celebrate the day of the dead and this day is a day for that remembrance.

Of course people die in India and Mexico more than they do here. They die younger, children die, women die in child birth.   They are, depending on your position within the economic hierarchy, dirty and dangerous countries.

When would you like to die? I think the answers a bit like your average Brighton thirty-something man contemplating having children, ‘a couple of years’ or ‘a time that’s remote enough for me to not worry about it just yet, shall I get the next one’. So not now; but when?

Sixty is obviously too early, seventy seems good, eighty not so sure and ninety plus is all a bit end of the bell curve. Most ninety year olds seem somewhat pissed off with it all. Over a hundred and whatever state you’re in, you’re a bit of an anachronism. One factor is seeing your kids right in the world, although I’m really not sure quite where that cut off point actually is. Another is all your friends being dead. Who wants to be the last?

Also, what if you’re stuck with a load of people who have been over cautious all their lives. Boring timid people, and you, all in an old people’s home, being patronised by twenty something’s with three GCSE’s. Ask someone in their seventies, and ninety seems ok with the fit-and-well-still-got-your-marbles caveat. No one wants to go just yet. It’s always something to put off, something in the future that is inevitable. Like an income tax payment, but much worse. Except of course that, for most people, there is a definite decreasing returns thing happening as time goes on, and the vague future date of imagined acceptably ideal circumstances is far, far from the reality of deaths calling.

Here we’ve ended up with a culture where we can’t even engage with death, yet we fear it at every turn. Who, honestly, gets through a day without some thoughts, however fleeting, about their own death? Yet narcissistically, we struggle to insulate ourselves from it, and because in our fear we fail to understand the equation, do we equally fail to live?

Sometimes it is ok to die; to go and leave it all behind. It was ok for Dianna, it’s ok for kids, because that quite simply is how it is. Watching my daughter running around I am acutely aware that we’re anything to happen to her, it would break me. Yet at the same time I want her to be able to safely balance on a sawn off branch, ten feet up, using some leaves for stability.

I’m not advocating a return to seventies playgrounds, nor railing against ‘health and safety’. I’m not really advocating anything, other than observing that we have become so locked up in the drive towards the eternal supremacy of the individual that we’ve completely lost sight of the wider context. We shore up our defences against fear of death with fantasies that have replaced the idea of going to heaven; it’ll be alright in the end, we’ll live forever, advances in medical science well… they’ll continue to advance won’t they? When the truth of it is, it won’t be alright in the end, particularly. You’re going to die, it’s probably going to hurt, you’ll likely lose your dignity and you’ll probably smell. The death bit isn’t important, the important part of the equation is life and living as fully as you can. Now.

My working hypothesis, which is partly derived from water method Taoism, is that your whole life is defined by your experience of dying. When you are finally dying, you have reached a point where there is nowhere to run and hide. You have to watch your life play out before your eyes and if you have regrets then you have to sit with them, whatever they may be. This, depending on the regret, may be a truly terrible experience when the possibility of evasion and dishonest narrative is removed and you truly have to sit with what you have done and the person that you are. The worst case scenarios are best avoided by living a full life, head on and with the minimum of regret and emotional dishonesty. The way one really avoids regret is to try very hard not to kid oneself. Tricky and painful, but ultimately easier. Trying to negate the fear of or avoid death is kidding yourself. Trying to live for as long as possible is missing the point. The truth of the situation is that an open heart is an experience of timelessness.

The real sadness in someone’s passing isn’t that they died, but that they might never really have lived.