Feeling Peckish?

My current bout of depression has done wonders for my cycling.

The weight has been dropping off me, and I have been cycling longer distances faster than ever before.  A regime of low-fat yoghurt and energy drinks?  Nope.  I just have no appetite at all, at least not since my doctor started prescribing ever-increasing doses of Citalopram back in August.  I have breakfast every morning out of habit, and if I wasn’t cooking supper for the family in the evening, I wouldn’t think to eat anything else.

The quest to reduce and eliminate unpleasant side-effects of medication, psychiatric or otherwise, is one of the key motors that drives the pharmaceutical industry.  Anxiety, diarrhoea, sleeplessness, sexual dysfunction and vomiting, are just some of the most common side effects that stop people from taking prescribed medication.  One of the most common side effects of  medication, such as Lithium and Sulpride, is weight gain, with all the related health problems, like type 2 diabetes, that go along with obesity.

So, surely, an anti-depressant that means I lose weight (about 2 stone, so far) is a good thing, considering I had developed a rather unattractive paunch?  In my case, yes.  I needed to lose some weight, and have done so.  However, for people who live alone, appetite-suppressant pills can have disastrous consequences.  It can lead to dehydration, poor diet, risk of eating food that has gone off, because food shopping is hard to do when you have no appetite at all.

If the weight is still dropping off me in the next couple of weeks I will have to start eating cream cakes for lunch.  Lunch?  I remember – that was a meal I used to eat before I started taking Citalopram….

In the summer of 1970, I celebrated my seventh birthday; Eddy Merckx won The Tour de France, and The Tour d’Italia, among a host of other honours, too  numerous to mention here.  His nickname was ‘The Cannibal’.

The exploits, on both track and road, of Belgium’s most famous cycling son make me think of what I would do if survived a plane crash in the Andes, and with little prospect of survival and no food, would I eat my fellow passengers in order to survive?

Eddy Merckx – looking how I feel most days…

This scenario actually happened, when a plane carrying a team of Uraguyan rugby players crashed in a remote area of the Andes mountain range in Chile in October 1972.  29 passengers and crew were killed in the crash, or died of their injuries on the mountain.  16 survived by eating some of their dead friends and team-mates.  They were rescued over two weeks later, when two of the survivors made a 12 day trek over the mountains to alert the authorities and describe their location.

The Talmud discusses cannibalism in some detail.  There is no reference to humans eating their own kind in the bible, so what happens if a Jew finds him/herself in a situation like that of the Uruguayan rugby players?  Not surprisingly, the sages are divided.  Some claim that there is no reference to cannibalism in the bible because it is so taboo that the Almighty did not feel the need to even refer to such a scenario.  Others argue that it is permitted in a case of saving a life since that means that the person can live and perform good deeds in the future, which his death from starvation would prevent.  The talmudic debate closes with no ruling, save that we will have to wait for the Messiah to decide, one of only a handful of such cases.

With a month to wait before I see a psychiatrist to review my medication, I wonder if the Messiah will arrive first.

Autumn is my favourite season; below are some seasonal lines from one of Liverpool’s most lyrical sons.

from Autumn Leaving


dead leaves

drift through your words

cold winds

blow between your sentences

eddy between paragraphs

wet leaves flat

in the backyard of our love.

I am fed up with hanging out your words

on the washing line of my life

my dirty linenfor your public


between your

wet alleyways your dead

wastelands trees

not growing in the lamplight

dark spaces between the lines

and your words don’t tell

how our city is empty and

how for seven years

bound to you syllable by syllable

street by street paragraph by paragraph.

I shall not wait for the telephone

to tell me the poems you write for others

nor wash your lies from the kitchen floor

our love

as silent as words

as noisy as backyards

as desolate as sentences.

I shall no longerclean this bedroom

other women’s words snug beneath your pillow

the bedclothes stiff with adjectives

away from you


in this abandoned valley

drifts of dead nouns

drowned verbs

hills spread apart

rich orange-red slopes

brazen to the sky

to the sound of you still

on the tip of your tongue

I will no longer

Hoover the corners of our life


lie back and let you

bury your words in me

words apart

and only the streetlights between us

waiting these years

between lamplight and morning

Adrian Henri (1932-2000)

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