Zero to a hundred

Sculpture at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Gallery, Madrid

Sculpture at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Gallery, Madrid

A change from the usual books and films. A spot of real life.

On Friday, my Granny celebrated her 100th Birthday. The family gathered, champagne was drunk, the card arrived from Her Maj. (A card also arrived from the Department of Work and Pensions, signed by Iain Duncan Smith. That lowered the tone a bit. We suspected he might be checking she still needed her pension.)

The day before, a friend gave birth to a baby girl; let’s call her C for the sake of this post. 8lbs of tiny human delivered with care and safety by the NHS.

It’s hard not to reflect on the different worlds that these two people were born into. You could pick any area of life and fill a book with examples. But as longevity is what we were celebrating on Friday, health seems like a good one to look at.

In 1913 there were no antibiotics beyond a few folk remedies. There were vaccines for smallpox, rabies and the plague, but not for diphtheria, whooping-cough, tuberculosis, tetanus, yellow fever, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis A&B, flu, pneumoccocus, HIB, meningoccucs, cholera, typhoid, chicken pox, Q fever, rotavirus, HPV. Continue reading

Little grey cells

Last week I saw inside my brain.

I’d signed up for a research study on aging which involves various questionnaires, tests and scans. My replies, actions, charts and images become anonymised data; points for the researchers to plot and analyse so that what they see might perhaps become a tiny percentage of the beginning of an idea about how the brain ages and changes.

My data will become anonymous, but with this MRI scan you can still tell that this is me, even to the stubble of my beard and the shadows under my eyes. Great, even on an MRI l look tired. And I appear to be suppressing a smile – in fact just a squeeze of my cheeks caused by the plastic frame I wore to keep my head still. And then that strange wood-effect on my skin, as if by slicing me in half like that you could count the rings to tell my age. Continue reading