A new year dawns, and to re-cap 2022 … where to even start? 2021 didn’t have a great ending, so maybe I should start there.
From cat mum to cat nurse
Early October 2021 one of our cats, Monkey, started showing a decline in eating. This was odd, because he’s quite the food hound. By mid-October this had reached concerning levels and he was seeming unwell. Cue two weeks of going in and out of two different vet hospitals for testing and eventually a biopsy surgery, and a week into November he finally had a definite diagnosis: small cell lymphoma of the liver. Luckily for cats, it often responds well to treatment. Non-invasive (and relatively inexpensive) treatment at that, all he would need were a daily steroid pill and a chemo pill every two weeks. The rest of 2021 entailed caring for a cat who was recovering from surgery – and then jaundice – and getting to grips with all the medications and everything, and ensuring he was stable.
By mid-December it was clear that he had developed a rare side-effect from the chemo, so by early January 2022 he was switched to a different chemo. After that, things improved and he started showing an interest in playing again. Then there was a lump on his belly. Not the cancer spreading and turning into tumours, as we initially feared, but a hernia. Essentially, a part of his innards were poking through the stomach muscle walls, which can be dangerous if it gets trapped. So, early February he went in for surgery to fix it. He had to be in a medical suit afterwards, which he really wasn’t happy about. There were a few complications around this as well, but we eventually got back to neutral ground again.
Since then there have been a diabetes scare (long term steroid use can induce diabetes, but we lowered the dose and put him on diabetic food and he’s, finger’s crossed, been stable again without needing further interventions), two bouts of cystitis, and low lymphocytes due to the chemo, so we had to change it to once every four weeks instead of once every three. We thought things were sorted, but early December he got a corneal ulcer – either from scratching himself or from being scratched by our other cat, Elbie. He’s been on six eye drops a day since the 8th, and because of the cancer treatment his body is agonisingly slow to heal, he’s also been on serum eye drops every two hours since the 16th. He hates it, understandably, and I hate having to inflict them on him.
Elbie has a bad case of fear aggression when going to the vets, so having a check-up while getting his annual booster at the beginning of the year would have been good, but he wasn’t properly drugged beforehand and put up a big fight. He almost didn’t get the booster as a result. By summer he was looking thin, but he’s never been big on eating, unlike Monkey, and normally gets a bit thinner over the summer months anyway. But he was looking really skinny. When he was more interested in eating Monkey’s food, I thought, “wait, maybe he doesn’t like his own food?” He was on a chicken free fish-based dry food (chicken makes him itchy), and trying to find food without chicken or fish? Surprisingly difficult! Found a duck one and an insect (!) one, and a combination of the two has worked. He would consistently eat all the food in his bowl (as opposed to leaving up to half), and started to fill out into a normal cat shape again. Phew! Problem solved!
We decided it would be good to give him a proper health check, because of his age (they’re both 11.5 years old) and what’s going on with Monkey. If something was wrong, hopefully we could catch it early. This entailed us drugging him enough to be manageable, then putting him under anaesthesia to be able to do all the tests. Turned out he needed a couple of teeth removed, he’s at the early stages of kidney disease, and there’s a cyst on one of his kidneys. But aside from that he’s fine. He was booked in for dental surgery in December, at which point the kidneys would be scanned again to see if the cyst had changed size and would require surgery. Fortunately, only those two teeth needed removing, and the cyst was the same size as before. They gave him a long-working antibiotic injection so we wouldn’t have to worry about trying to pill him, but still had to figure out how to get the painkillers in him. Turns out Dreamies (of which Elbie is a big fan) now do a squeezable version, which is enticing enough even when mixed with ground up painkiller. He’s still a bit funny about eating at the moment, but hopefully we’re coming to the end of it now. He’s healed well, as far as we can tell, and is back to his normal self.
The prognosis for Monkey is uncertain. His time on this earth is limited now in a way it wouldn’t be without the lymphoma, regardless. Some cats go on to live for years and years with SCL, some don’t. He’s done well so far, he’s still with us a bit over a year later, but at any point the chemo could stop working and then the decline can be quick. He could live for two years after diagnosis, he could live for five. We don’t know. Sometimes it’s long-term use of steroids that catches up with them rather than the cancer itself. All we can do is take every day as it comes and make sure he’s happy and loved. I just wish his eye would heal up so he can go back to two pills a day, instead of four pills and 16 eye drops a day. Fortunately he’s a great patient (easy to pill, easy to mix any additional meds in food), and the vet staff are all very fond of him.
Being Monkey’s carer has taken up a lot of time and energy, understandably, so there have been few spoons left over for other pursuits. I did manage to buy a few tomato plants and a chili plant, the progress of which I’ve been sharing on Instagram over the summer. I should try growing them in the ground instead of in pots next year, so they grow even bigger.
There have been a few experiments in Sicilian cooking (again, see Instagram) now and then. Most recently I tried my hand at cuccìa on St Lucy’s Day a couple of weeks ago, which was quite reminiscent of Swedish rice porridge. At least the way I did it. Would eat again. Also did cannoli for Christmas.
Would have liked to have done some writing writing, but again, a lack of spoons. I have managed to at least populate this blog with a bunch of new reviews, so there is that. Maybe next year.
The summer saw temperatures reach 40°C in the UK for the first time ever. It reached 39°C here in Nottingham, I think, and during the worst days we blocked off the windows and kept them and the doors shut. The cats were unamused at not being let out for their own safety, but we managed to keep the house relatively cool. (Air conditioning isn’t really a thing in British homes.) Now we’re mostly keeping the windows blocked again, but this time to keep the cold out and the heat in, so we can keep the energy bill down …
The pandemic has meant we haven’t been able to travel, and because we’re still trying to be careful we haven’t wanted to. Now we can’t, because we can’t leave Monkey alone 23h a day if we got a cat sitter to check in on them, if someone was to stay here with them we don’t know who we’d trust to give him medications and recognise when something’s wrong, and we can’t put him in a cattery because his boosters aren’t up to date (he’s not allowed them due to his medications) – and because it would be an infection risk for him. And, as Mr T pointed out, even if I was to fly home to visit family on my own (with him staying here to look after the cats), I’d be too worried about Monkey to actually enjoy it. So we’re staying put. The rest of the world can wait a few years.
My mum came over for a visit in September. She was last here in July 2019, so it was wonderful to finally see her again. Then she came back in November because she got tickets to see the Supervet live. I never knew my mum was such a fangirl (she even joined Twitter (!!!) to follow him), but hey, at least we now know where I get it from! Ironically, she could have got tickets to see him in Stockholm in December instead, but she didn’t know that at the time.
Other than that, can’t say that we’ve been up to much. Just trying to get through each day, really.
Oh, and I turned 40. Yay?
Stuff that actually relates to this blog/site
For the first time ever, I’ve seen the Rocky films this year! They’re classic films, so I figured I should get around to watching them, just for the sake of having seen them. The first one was surprisingly enjoyable. I didn’t expect that. Have always thought of Sylvester Stallone as a kind of one note macho action dude type actor, but boy was I wrong! He’s genuinely a great actor, and the Rocky films weren’t brainless sports films. Granted, I didn’t like the third one much, but it would be interesting to see the recent re-cut.
We haven’t been to the cinema since December 2019 (Star Wars: Episode IX), but we managed to get a stupidly good deal on Sky Cinema – especially considering it also includes Paramount+ – so we’ve managed to catch up on a few of the films we would have normally seen at the cinema but that haven’t appeared on Prime or Netflix yet. Some have been reviewed this year, some will be reviewed in 2023.
Here are all the film reviews posted in 2022:
- The Adam Project (2022) – Sci-fi
- The Angriest Man in Brooklyn (2014) – Dramedy
- Big (1988) – Comedy
- The Bubble (2022) – Comedy
- Eternals (2021) – Superhero
- Feast of the Seven Fishes / A Christmas Feast (2019) – Christmas drama
- Gangster Land (2017) – Gangster
- Going in Style (2017) – Heist
- How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003) – Romcom
- How to Please a Woman (2022) – Romcom
- The Many Saints of Newark (2021) – Gangster
- Ocean’s Eight (2018) – Heist
- Once Upon a Time in America (1984) – Gangster
- Spotlight (2015) – Drama
- Strul / Framed (1988) – Heist comedy
- Weird: The Al Yankovic Story (2022) – Comedy
We got a three month free trial of Apple TV+. During this time we watched the Foundation series, and … a couple of first episodes of other shows. That was it. There was nothing there we wanted to see. After finding the first episode of Invasion excruciatingly slow, plus the exit of the one reason I wanted to watch it in the first place, I had a look at what user reviews said about it and from there we decided not to continue. The other series, Black Bird, I wouldn’t mind seeing the rest of, but we didn’t prioritise it. The surprising part was that there was very little content on there, even fewer things either of us actually wanted to watch, and while you can buy/rent a lot more things, we can just as easily do that on Prime, which we’re already subscribed to anyway and has a larger free to watch catalogue.
2022 saw the return of some of my favourite shows, and also some interesting new ones. Cracking miniseries like The Offer and We Own This City, and first seasons of new shows like The Gilded Age, The Lazarus Project, and the US remake of Ghosts, which was surprisingly good. We tend to look at US remakes of British shows with skepticism over here, but Ghosts has adapted really well.
Having completely re-evaluated Sly as an actor also meant that there was now yet another reason to get excited about Tulsa King landing on Paramount+ in November – as if one of my favourite actors and other people connected to Boardwalk Empire and The Sopranos weren’t enticing enough! I won’t review it until I’ve seen the whole thing, so we’re looking at the end of January at the earliest. If you have Paramount+ it’s well worth a watch. It starts out in a similar vein to Lilyhammer (which is another show I got into this year), meaning they’re both about a seasoned NYC mobster settling in Nowheresville with ensuing hilarious culture clashes, but they go in very different directions after that. After the events of episode 7, I can’t wait to see what the remaining three episodes hold. All I can wish for is that Chickie survives the first season!
Here’s what I had to say about some of what I’ve been watching this year:
- Babylon Berlin: Season 1-2 (ARD/Sky, 2017) – Noir thriller
- Babylon Berlin: Season 3 (ARD/Sky, 2020) – Noir thriller
- Babylon Berlin: Season 4 (ARD/Sky, 2022) – Noir thriller
- The Gilded Age: Season 1 (HBO, 2022) – Costume drama
- The King of Warsaw – Król (Canal+, 2020) – Gangster
- The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: Season 4 (Amazon Prime, 2022) – Comedy
- The Offer (Paramount+, 2022) – Dramedy, based on a true story
- Vigil: Season 1 (BBC, 2021) – Thriller
- We Own This City (HBO, 2022) – Crime drama/social commentary, based on a true story
- The Wheel of Time: Season 1 (Amazon Prime, 2021) – Fantasy
I haven’t read as much this year as I wanted to. There are several books on the go, but by the time I get to bed I tend to just turn the light out and try to go to sleep. There were three I managed to both read and review, though:
- 1922: Scenes from a Turbulent Year by Nick Rennison (2021)
- The Godfather by Mario Puzo (1969)
- The Mother of the Brontës by Sharon Wright (2019)
I’m currently reading the next book in The Godfather sort-of-trilogy, The Sicilian, so that might be the next one I finish.
For the most part of the year Mr T and I had both our computers on the same table, so it was mostly him that was playing music, meaning my Spotify Wrapped for 2022 was pretty … underwhelming. It happily proclaimed my most listened to song had been played a whole of two times! Heh. It didn’t even show which podcasts I’d listened to, and okay, I still have a whole bunch of episodes to catch up with, but Thomas Anders launched two of them, both autobiographical – one in his native German and one in English. That’s right, one in English! So happy!
Mr T and I did brave the general public back for the first time back in June, spending over five hours at the local concert hall listening to a Wagner opera. We don’t go to concerts or plays or musicals or that kind of thing very often anyway, but it was fun. Okay, the opera itself perhaps wasn’t, but still.
Francis and I have discussed a bunch of different opera productions this year, and for next year he says we’ll mix it up a little and move away from specific productions to have discussions inspired by the stories instead. Might even move it to the third week of the month instead of the fourth, but we’ll see. We haven’t discussed it yet.
Here are this year’s crop of Opera Chats:
- Opera Chats: The Barber of Seville (Arena di Verona, 2018) – Rossini, Italian
- Opera Chats: Carmen (Opera Australia, 2013) – Bizet, French
- Opera Chats: Così fan tutte (Royal Opera House, 2016) – Mozart, Italian
- Opera Chats: Fidelio (Theater an der Wien, 2020) – Beethoven, German
- Opera Chats: HMS Pinafore (English National Opera, 2021) – Gilbert & Sullivan, English
- Opera Chats: Il Tabarro (Royal Albert Hall, 2022) – Puccini, Italian
- Opera Chats: La Bohème (Opera Australia, 2018) – Puccini, Italian
- Opera Chats: Parsifal (Opera North, 2022) – Wagner, German
- Opera Chats: The Phantom of the Opera (Royal Albert Hall, 2011) – Lloyd Webber, English
- Opera Chats: Rigoletto (Bregenzer Festspiele, 2019) – Verdi, Italian
- Opera Chats: Turandot (Opera Australia, 2016) – Puccini, Italian
What’s coming to Area53 in 2023?
So far (based on what’s already ready to go) we can promise more superhero films, more gangster films, some Scandi noir, and more opera discussions. Other than that? Got at least another couple of Sorry I’m Late posts up my sleeve. If I can convince him to, maybe Francis can contribute something that isn’t even opera related, but we’ll see.
Aside from Tulsa King, and season 5-6 of Somebody Feed Phil, hopefully season two of The Wheel of Time, and the fifth and final season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel to name but a couple. It will be a shame to see it go (and I adore Susie Myerson), but it has been a great ride.
Hopefully 2023 will be a better year than 2022 was, because 2022 didn’t seem to be that great for a lot of people, us included. We live in hope, right? On behalf of myself and Area53, wishing you a Happy New Year!