Wednesday, November 26, 2014

In Search of Fettuccine Bolognese

Fettuccine Bolognese? You know, like spaghetti bolognese only with flat cut pasta strips and not round pasta. I find the texture and strangely enough the flavour a little different and more to my taste. It sounds simple enough to make, so why do I have so much trouble ordering it?

Our first contender is Alessio's, the Italian food stand at the Ponsonby International Foodcourt. The last several times we've eaten Italian there I've ordered Fettuccine Bolognese with extra parmesan cheese. The woman that used to take the orders had no problems, but she seems to have been replaced, twice. The last 4 times I have had problems. The first replacement order taker managed to record the order wrong, simply as "Bolognese" and spaghetti bolognese arrived. I'm not sure why but I accepted this. Normally I'd check my order before accepting it but this time I didn't notice until both Tessa and I were already eating so I didn't say anything. Next time, when spaghetti bolognese arrived I sent it back.

The third time, I read what the order taker had written on her pad and politely pointed out to her that she hadn't written "fettuccine" anywhere. She corrected it with poor grace. Once again spaghetti arrived and once again I sent it back. This time it was the chef's mistake.

Finally a few days back I attempted to order my favourite from them and there seemed to be a new order taker at the counter. It took a long time to explain to her that I wanted Fettuccine Bolognese, just like spaghetti but made with fettuccine ... she seemed unsure what fettuccine was ... once I'd convinced her to write it down I then asked for the extra parmesan cheese. She wanted to know what parmesan cheese was and which menu number it was.

At this point I realised that whoever this woman is, she isn't an Italian food stall order taker so I walked off and had a different cuisine, Chinese from Golden Express. While I was there I remarked to Tessa that I didn't think I'd return to Alessio's and why. The Chinese lady who fronts Golden Express was listening to my explanation and even she laughed when I got to the bit about an Italian restaurant not knowing what parmesan cheese was.

Tonight we went a little bit upmarket. Precisely to Niko's Pizza, Greek and Italian food place in Takapuna. I still wanted my fettuccine bolognese so when I saw that they had both a fettuccine dish and spaghetti bolognese on the menu I asked the waitress if I could order it, she took the order and all seemed well ... until the food arrived that was ... when it arrived it was fettuccine all right but in some kind of creamy chicken sauce. Tessa sent it back for me. Next we had the owner bringing the dish back saying that it was their fettuccine dish to which Tessa explained that this wasn't what I'd ordered.

Eventually he got it and wandered back in. Tessa's meal arrived; mine arrived a good 10 minutes after Tessa's. To be fair it was a damned good fettuccine bolognese.

We've eaten at Niko's a few times before, but getting the wrong meal delivered to the table, having the owner argue about it and then our dishes being served at different times makes me positively disinclined to return.

OK I've ordered something that isn't on the menu. I'd accept three possible outcomes as fair:
  1. Refusal (Either through policy or an inability) to make the dish,
  2. Offering to make the dish at a different price,
  3. Making the dish at the same price as the spaghetti.
What I won't accept is having my order taken and then not getting what I ordered delivered. If you take the order, deliver what you've agreed to supply. It's really that simple. OK, mistakes do happen, if you take the wrong dish to the table, apologise, don't argue the point.


Unwilling to spend any more time or money at Niko's, we drove back to town and went to Circus Circus for dessert and coffee. Unusually for them Circus Circus made a mistake with the order. When this was pointed out to them they immediately apologised and fixed the problem. Right answer Circus Circus.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Suddenly it's difficult again

I've done 80 days, 80 long smoke-free days, yet at lunchtime today I was thinking how much I'd like to have a smoke, I went Passion Food at the Newmarket Plaza food court and instead of my usual crispy pork had Mapo Tofu on rice for lunch and when leaving the food court walked past the local branch of The Tofu Shop (For those who don't know it, this is actually a grocery chain specialising in East Asian foods) I'd bought cigarettes there before giving up and I seriously considered buying a packet.  I was even working out what to do with the other 19 in the packet.

Sure I try and present a largely positive picture especially when encouraging those whom I support on quit-line, but I also try and warn them that we are on the hardest journey of our lives.

This should be getting easier, and for a long time it was but suddenly it's hard and this is the point I don't get.

Since coming off the Champix I've still felt gassy and often nauseous. For the last week or so I've had a passable imitation of a smoker's cough -- I wish I knew where that came from. Tessa says it sounds a lot less worrying than the cough I actually had when smoking, so at least there's that.

I'm still exercising after work. Tonight it was walking and at the 1 hour mark I was in Cornwall Park near the big roundabout. it took me over ½ an hour to walk the slightly over 2km home ... I was really dawdling by that point.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sugar Overdose

When I first started giving up I was handling the oral desires by using sugar-free gum and also munching out on nuts, almonds, dried peas (salted or chilli). This was good for keeping my mouth busy but also appeared to be leading to increased flatulence and other digestive discomforts. Subsequently I've decided I'm unsure about the flatulence as I now blame Champix for it.

To cut a long story short as my need for oral gratification decreased I decided to switch to sugar-free sweets. Great idea, lousy execution. Today I discovered that the brand of sweets I had picked wasn't sugar-free at all. I have no idea why I thought they were.

To rub insult into the injury, I've also been munching on Vicks lozenges today. I knew they were mostly sugar, but wasn't expecting to have doubled up.

Update 20/11/2014 @21:21: There's no secret, they're Mentos. There are regular Mentos with sugar and sugar free Mentos. I probably started with a roll of the sugar free ones and then switched to the regular without noticing. Mystery solved.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Back pain

Nothing special or world shaking about today's write-up. I've just had this nagging pain in my back for the last couple of days.

Yesterday I went for a walk at lunch-time to try and lightly jolt it back into full service. I ended up walking past the hospital (1 to 2 km away). When I realised I was going there I decided to have lunch at the Sierra cafe on the street nearby, got there and realised that it was a Columbus cafe instead,  saw the smokers clustered just outside the green line, and panicked. Next thing I knew I was jumping a bus for Downtown, nothing inspired there, nor at Ronnies.  I had a nice chillied tofu lunch in the food court at the bottom of Albert Street and hopped a bus back to the Symonds St end of Grafton Bridge. I walked back to work from there, passing the green-line and the Columbus cafe without incident or panic.

Mid afternoon the back came off my chair at work and my already sore back was jerked a bit. Come day's end I decided I'd try going for a long (in time terms) bike-ride. After coming home I hung the washing and then lept back on the bike and rode down to Cornwall park. I ended up riding around for about 1½ hours, pretty much non-stop. It was a gentle ride, but plenty of lateral flexing of the spine. Afterwards I felt a lot better. Was shaking a bit, not sure why and it wasn't a bad or unpleasant shaking so I pretty much ignored it.

Today I felt better but I was getting a tightness in the back. Come day's end I really felt that I wanted to give it another shake-out so after bringing in the washing from last night I headed down to Cornwall park for another ride-around. A little shorter today at just over an hour and my leg muscles weren't happy with it but my back felt good.

A couple of hours later I decided to go for a shorter power walk to even up the leg exercise.

After all this I feel pretty good, certainly better than I would have felt after the same amount of exercise a couple of months ago, but my general lack of exercsie this year was showing. I can see I need to keep my exercise levels up.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Going back for more punishment

I scared myself a little at work today and realised that if I'm going to succeed at this non-smoking game I need to get my life re-integrated so I can simply do the things I like to do without worrying overly about the smoking vs non-smoking identity.

Angela and I are due to resume bridge early in the new year and I've been wanting to go back to stand-up and have another try for quite a while. I haven't felt very funny since the 6th of September, but I was having a bit of humourous "verbal diarrhea" in the office today and decided I am ready to put a new set together and have another go.

I zapped off an email to Scott at the Classic Comedy Club asking for a slot and then Tessa and I went to the Club last night and while I was there had a brief chat with Scott letting him know that I want him to give me a few slots so I can't run away and hide again. As soon as he gives me my start date I will no longer be an ex-raw-comedian. Hopefully the comedy unquit will be as sticky as my smoking quit.

It was a little funny as I stood there last night looking out through the glass and into the terrified eyes of those soon to be sacrificed to the crowd as they sucked the nicotine into their systems as fast as possible to calm their nerves.

Will I be able to resist the nicotine before my first set? Will I need it afterwards? I'm hoping that the answer to both of these is "No", but I can no longer look at my reflection in the window, floating translucently among the raw comedians and not want to be back on that stage. Life is full of risk; when you go to KFC, every single drumstick has the dog-killing bone, and it's just as effective against humans as dogs, yet we continue to go to the red and white stripes to lick our fingers.

I need some material ... I think I have enough to do a set on quitting smoking, if I can make it into a coherent story that's funny otherwise I might just have to talk about something else, but smoking or not smoking I will be up on that stage.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Finished with Champix

I haven't enjoyed the Champix, but it was (I believe) the differrence between my being able to quit smoking and not so I will always be grateful to it for giving me the option of becoming smoke-free for life.

Like many people I was having sleep disturbance and a few weeks back I stopped having the evening tablet. A couple of weeks back I missed a day, after a bit of thought I went back on the stuff. On Sunday the 9th I forgot to take the morning tablet and didn't notice any negatives.

Following this I'm now 4 1/2 days since my last one, feeling a little strange & the burping was definitely still with me this afternoon. I've had a slight smoker's cough since Sunday evening, and I'm feeling a bit stressed but, and this is the important thing, I'm not feeling any strong cravings for a cigarette. No stronger than I've had for the last few weeks.

I've had my Champix in my backpack since Monday in case I needed to go back on it in a hurry. I can't see that happening now, but will take the foul stuff if I need to.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Parakai Pools

Tessa and I spent the day at Parakai hot pools.

It was great not having to punctuate swimming with scheduling smoke breaks. I just went about my day switching activities as I felt like it. It was great to feel free.

I spent a lot of time on the hydro-slide and think I've swallowed a lot more water than I should.

I'm pretty sure I forgot today's Champix (I've cut back to 1 a day to reduce side-effects). I'm not suffering any bad effects or cravings so I'll leave it until tomorrow morning's scheduled one. A lot less scary than when I forgot one a week or 2 back.

I can't recall who mentioned becoming super-sensitive to the smell of tobacco smoke but at one point I was in the water and smelled over the strong chlorine the smoke from a cigarette 20 metres away. It didn't ruin my day, I didn't even concentrate very much on the other cigarettes around.

These tobacco cravings seem to come and go and punctuate their timings.

Update: This was the end of my taking the Champix. I was OK the next couple of days withoutg it and decided I didn't need the side effects.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Here's to other quitters

All's pretty quiet in my own smoking cessation process. Meanwhile I've had time to think of others on their own journeys.

Although there are many others, there are four people I'm going to call out to.

First up Ladylene. She made the first ever comment on my first quit-line blog and was one of my supporters in the early days. Yesterday she reported severe burns to her hands in a cooking fire. Tessa (Wifi Wifie) and I send you our best regards and hope you fully recover without resorting to nicotine.

JohhnyRed was another commenter on my first blog entry. Johnny has since relapsed as a smoker but is setting a quit date and is going to give up in the next few days. Johnny I send you my best wishes for your quit.

Maanu and Calmwaters are other lapsed quitters. Maanu was another of my supporters in my early days. They, joined by a few others quit together on the first of NO-Vember. Some of us are actively supporting them. NO-Vembrists, I send you my congratulations,  support and wishes for a permanent escape.

As for me, I'm going to be starting the third smoke free month in a few days and I hear that's one of the danger areas in quitting so I'm chilling and marshalling my strength. Meanwhile let's all get in behind our fellow quitters who have a more immediate need of support.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Champix Withdrawal?

I know I'm not supposed to do this but I've been hating the sleep disturbance at night and the feeling that I had to sleep during the day (At least at weekends I could give way to it) that a week ago I cut back on the Champix to just having one in the morning.

I wasn't noticing any bad effects with the non-smoking and certainly have had better sleep pattens, but this morning I forgot to take the tablet.

I know that what's going on today is from my brain, but I don't know if it's brain chemistry or entirely psychological because I know I don't have my magic shield blocking receptors or if it's partially the chemical addiction, but I've noticed three things today
  1. There's a funny bubbly feeling in my lungs, a feeling I know from when I've attempted to give up in the past cold turkey or with patches. Coming on today I think this has to be psychological.
  2. I've been coughing up a little phlegm, like a weaker version of a smokers' cough. I haven't had that for several weeks.
  3. I really really really wanted a cigarette at lunch time. If one had found its way into my hands I would have lit up.
So, what does this tell me? Thats' what I'm trying to work out. If I go back on the Champix they will run out in a week or two anyway.  Should I just stay off and tough it out? Is there some Champix giving up process or is it all psychological? If I go back on the Champix will it be just as bad in 2 weeks time?

For the moment, my plan is to sleep on it.

Update 29 October 08:20

I decided to go back on the Champix. Had one before bed and have just had a second so for today, at least, I'm back on full strength,

Friday, October 24, 2014

Labour Friday Evening Blues

I've been sneezing, coughing, wobbling around and nursing a sore throat yesterday and today.

It's not a flu, but it could be a cold. Possibly an allergy or just another symptom of the not smoking. I'm not overly worried, I quipped at work today that I think I'm allergic to public holidays. This is the start of Labour weekend.

Funniest thing about the sneezing is that now I've given up the smoking I'm noticing for the first time how strong the eucalyptus smell on the Kleenex really is. I don't think I'll be buying them again, sticking to the aloe vera ones instead.

I've really been feeling like a smoke off-and-on today. It started on the way to work. I didn't feel up to cycling or walking to work so I caught the bus for I think the first time since giving up. before giving up I would have had a smoke on the way to the bus stop finishing there or had one after getting of the bus. Today I was dimly aware of smoking on the way to the bus stop. I'm guessing this is why I didn't get triggers then. I most definitely had one as I walked up to work from the bus stop.

Lunch was at the Indian place in the food court. Usually I only go there when I've already decided I want a vegetarian lunch, today I'd pre-decided I wanted a meat lunch, and happened to be close enough to the Rialto that I went up for a lamb curry. The lady serving was quite surprised when I asked for a non-veg curry. Despite planning on lamb I ended up having beef.

Walking back to work after lunch I could so easily have lit up. Going home tonight I needed to pop into the supermarket for some weekend supplies and heading home after that the feeling was strong.

It's lessened a bit now, but I'm still aware of it going on in my head.  48 days into non-smoking I know I can do it and I will do it. I don't know where these triggers are coming from today and tonight, but I will defeat them.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Redefining myself

I had a little chuckle when I wrote that title. Ten years ago I started this blog with a single paragraph posting about how I was redefining myself in the wake of a failed relationship, except I used 225 words to effectively say nothing. Following that paragraph was a five month hiatus until my next posting. Now I'm saying the same in the tail end of ending my relationship with tobacco. The difference is that at least I've built up a habit of regular blogging over the last 6½ weeks.

For that 6½ weeks I've been thinking of myself as a person who was quitting smoking. and quitting has occupied a lot of my attention over that time. As it exposed me to support and advice from an audience of other New Zealanders who are also quitting, this made quit-line a good place for my blogging. I'm now finding that I'm thinking about other things a lot and if I find I mainly want to discuss those things, then this or ¿Que? are the venues I'd prefer.

The other thing to consider is that giving up smoking is a process.
  • Smoker - Self explanatory - becomes
  • Quitter - Someone who is no-longer smoking, probably with great difficulties, possibly using chemical aids, support groups and services like quit-line - becomes
  • Ex-smoker - able to resist smoking without using chemical aids, still recognising an addiction, may need a level of support - becomes
    Non-smoker - Able to resist smoking without using chemical aids or support groups. No-longer thinks much about smoking.
    There's lots of other scales, for example quit-line goes straight from Quitting to Non-smoker, I want the Ex-smoker step in there, because I see it as a measurable step in my recovery from nicotine addiction and one I want to get to and then go through. I would like to define myself as an ex-smoker today, except that today I am using Champix, I am due to use Champix for the next 3 weeks. I don't at the moment know if I could successfully continue quitting without using Champix, and I've decided not to try and find out. This means by my definition I'll still be a Quitter for those 3 weeks. Of course there isn't a sudden transition from one stage to the next, obviously going from Smoker to Quitter is sudden, but the other steps are progressions, one day you realise you have moved from one to the other and even within each stage there are a lot of levels.

    One of the things I'm finding on Quit-line is that when I read postings by those who have just quit (or are just about to quit) I know that only 45 days ago I was where they are now, but it seems a lifetime ago. They and I are at opposite ends of a wrong-way-telescope; I try to give useful advice to their questions and know from what I've seen that those who survive will be where I am now around Christmas / New Year, to me when I was there the people who had managed to stay given up for 40+ days seemed to be in an unimaginable position of success; now that I'm there I know that it's just one day at a time repeated a lot of times. It may only be  one day repeated lots of times but I know that it is moving me closer to my goal.

    I'm hoping I can move on and find the energy to think of blogging about other things that fit here; or at least some more small essays for ¿Que?.

    Sunday, October 19, 2014

    A nice day for a smoke

    After Sunday market Tessa and I occasionally go down to St Heliers beach for a "picnic" late lunch from the local bakery.

    We've done it plenty of times, including the nicer Sundays over the winter but this was the first time we'd done it since I quit smoking.

    We sat on the bench seats looking out over the beach to the sea, eating our lunch, watching the people go by along the promenade. I finished my lunch, leaned back in my seat looking out to sea. As I did this the thought "Nice day for a smoke" came unbidden into my head.

    I said "Yeah, it would have been" quietly to myself and put it out of my mind but it's interesting how often the first time I do something I haven't done since quitting, or go somewhere I haven't been since then causes a smoking trigger to be released.

    When the trigger comes up I often realise that yes, this was a place / time I regularly smoked. I almost certainly would have lit up after having lunch in that very seat in the past.

    Alternately, as I'm now going to places I only occasionally visited before quitting, I'm wondering if I really do associate those places with smoking or if the addiction is asking "maybe here??" If it is the latter, will visiting places I've never been before act as triggers in the future. Will thinking I should have a cigarette become my standard reaction to new places? If so, I wonder how long will that last?

    Rust never sleeps. Nor, it seems, does addiction.

    Friday, October 17, 2014

    Moving Beyond Quit-line

    Tomorrow morning I will have been 6 weeks without a cigarette, but as recently as last night I had a craving for a smoke. It came on while Tessa and I were in the Ponsonby International food hall.

    I think there were a number of things behind this craving hitting. Having two blog postings censored on Quit-line had stressed me and being a bit bored and having my increasing stress at dinner not noticed by Tessa helped increase the gravity of the situation. Suddenly there it was. It was strong and it was difficult to shake but I got Tessa to drive me home. As soon as I was away from sources of temptation I could work on dispatching it from my life; this time.

    Previously I would have probably posted something about it on quit-line, but having had two postings censored there yesterday. I really didn't feel like talking about it there. I was shaken but not out. The rest of the evening wasn't very pleasant but I got through it; which is in itself a lesson.

    I got to bed, a little late, and slept without any problems. Today at work I wasn't having any nicotine cravings. Obviously while it helped a lot in the early days, I think my recovery has advanced to the stage where I don't benefit greatly from the quit-line board. It is consuming a lot of my time and it's probably time I started to wean myself from it.

    On the subject of my censored postings, I did point out to them by email that I didn't feel that they should have been censored. I received an email from them today where they did concede the main point I made in my second posting; but I feel it was too little too late.

    That brings up my big problem with Quit-line. This blog posting is about a problem with my giving up, so it should belong on Quit-line, but because my annoyance with Quit-line either I couldn't tell the real story or if I did tell the real story they would immediately censor it.

    I have this blog. I think it's time that I started using it and just putting my story here.

    Thursday, October 16, 2014

    Censorship at Quit-line

    The government supported Quit-line service has rules about posts on their blogs. One of those rules is that you must be supportive of other bloggers. Tonight when I pointed out that their system confused following a bloggers postings with supporting the blogger they censored my post with a bland "it goes against the blog house rules, which includes being supportive towards other bloggers"

    Luckily as Quit-line can't control my ability to post in other places I can still show what I was trying to post. As you can see below I was not only not being unsupportive of other bloggers but explaining how I support them.

    I emailed straight back asking exactly what  part of my post broke their rules. They declined to answer, sending me instead a form letter claiming they will respond but as they've previously shown in actual fact they don't respond. I think they just like to brush things under the carpet.

    It looks like quit-line can't take a single piece of mild criticism.

    Update 6 PM Thursday

    They did respond with
    This blog has been declined as being unsupportive because it does not support fellow bloggers. However I will refer your email to the Team Leader for their consideration. 
    At around this time they also decided to remove the Original post after 11 hours.

    This was censored later: the original Post Thursday morning
    I just went through a strange little exercise. I was supporting about 40 bloggers and couldn't name more than a dozen of them so I decided to clean out the ones that were no longer of interest to me.

    When I've found that a regular poster stops interesting me I've dropped them off the list so this was only ever going to remove infrequent or departed bloggers.

    I just "unsupported" all the bloggers in the list after opening a fresh tab for that blogger's posts; I kept doing this until the "Bloggers I support" list was empty.

    After that I went through the individuals either adding them back into the list or deciding otherwise. I've ended up supporting 19 people,

    The regular posters and new ones that have posted in the last couple of days were safely back in. They haven't had time to change much and I haven't had time to lose interest in them.

    By the time I got back to the ones that haven't posted in the last week I was starting to find a mixture of people I miss because they haven't posted recently and a smattering of people who just posted once, either to say they were starting or to say they'd now given up for an extended period and were just checking back in.

    The further back in time I went the more people I found who were at day1, 2 or occasionally 3, blogged once or twice and then vanished from here. When someone was at day 2 a month ago and has said nothing since then I hope it was just that they found quit-line blogging wasn't for them and have continued their quit on their own.

    Alas I fear for many it is not so. To those people, I hope you can find your path to non-smoking, one that works for you.

    An earlier version of this posting was originally published on Quit-line on Thursday 16 October 2014.

    This is what they first censored:
    Update 17:00 Thursday - What do you mean by "supporting"

    I seem to have upset a few people when I said I was "unsupporting" people on Quit line when they no longer posted blogs that interested me or even posted blogs that I disliked.

    There's a flag on Quit line that makes it easy to find a small group of bloggers out of all the bloggers on here. This could have been called "Follow" as Twitter does, but no, Quit-line decided that to be more positive they would call it "Support" which means that when I no longer wish to follow a person's postings I need to click something that says "Unsupport" they really haven't though that one through.

    Get a life people, this flag has nothing to do with supporting people or not supporting people.

    When I really do support people I post encouraging follow-ups to their postings, or when I can't think of anything to say that hasn't been posted by a dozen other people I try to remember to at least give a thumbs up by clicking the "Like" button on their post.

    I think if you look through the past month of blogs here you'll find I've posted a lot of encouraging follow-ups to people's blogs. That's supporting.

    An earlier version of this update was originally published on Quit-line on Thursday 16 October 2014.