ADRIENNE'S HIV BLOG – Hivine's Weblog

HIVINE is written by HIV positive women but still with a sense of humour

Archive for June, 2008

Nelson Mandela’s 90th Birthday Celebration

Wasn’t that a wonderful event in Hyde Park and a heart lifting sight to see all those people gathered together to celebrate the amazing achievments of one very special man. During his speech he asked us to take forward his lifelong struggle against poverty, opression and sickness and wants to hand over to us the reins of his 46664 campaign against HIV/AIDS.

It’s in our hands –

So come on hiviners – come on everybody – let’s do something about it

A Little Weed?


I’ve been pottering around in my garden tending my sweat peas and doing a little light weeding, light being the operative word because I’m never really sure what a true weed is – apart from me of course when I’m going to the dentist, or worse the fandango clinic otherwise known as the impossible, at least for me, to pronounce colposcopy clinic.

Yes, bad news I’m afraid, Postman Pat delivered yet another dreaded brown envelope from the hospital informing me that my last smear revealed a mild case of dyskaryosis. Whatever dyskaryosis was, it didn’t sound very mild to me and in gardening terms, which as a born again gardener I am now prone to think of everything, sounded more like a poisonous flower – or worse, a cactus. I looked it up on the internet and found that it was the early signs of cervical cancer resulting from an immune system which has been weakened by smoking, poor diet, and other infections, such as HIV. Well, that definitely applies to me, but early treatment apparently can be effective, so all in all, it doesn’t sound too drastic.

I can cope with that – I think.

I will try to visualise it, not as a flower, nor as a spiky cactus, but as a little weed that has taken root on the banks or railway sidings of that lesser known station in the outback of my reproductive organs known as the cervix – although on saying that, no train or Thomas the tank engine has been shunted in that particular siding or station for quite some time. More a case of Virgin trains these days as opposed to Great Northern Railways – or least of all a Thomas, a Harry or heaven forefend, a Dick.

I have always secretly desired my very own train set. Then again, I would dearly love a dolls house or even some Lego. I bought a play mobile train set for my son one Christmas, but all it did was go round and round in a circle, which simply wasn’t enough for a child born in the era of transformers and the like. Life was so much simpler back in my childhood days when all we had to entertain us was a few wooden bricks and a black and white television set featuring ‘Picture Book’ and ‘Listen with Mother,’ with rag tag and bobtail and Andy Pandy jerking around, if you’ll pardon the expression, on their clearly visible strings.

We also had the Woodentops, a family of puppets representing the ideal family role model of the era, because whilst Daddy Woodentop was off busy doing ‘men’s work’, Mummy Woodentop was busy in the kitchen with assistance from Mrs Scrubbit. Those were the days, were they not, and what one wouldn’t give nowadays for a Mrs Scrubbit.

My favourite puppets however were ‘Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men’, although the storylines, or ‘flower-plots’, were pretty boring it has to be said, as so would mine be I suppose if I was consigned to live in a flowerpot for the remainder of my days. Whatever did happen in lieu of a plot could only take place when the gardener had gone off for his dinner and then it was always a case of who was the guilty flowerpot man. Was it Bill or was it Ben – whilst an annoying sunflower would poke her head up between the flowerpots and keep repeating in a quizzical high pitched wine – weeeeed weeeeeed.

How were we supposed to know as small children whether she’d weeeeed herself or not – and frankly, did we even care? We were probably still in nappies ourselves and weeing at random, whenever or wherever the need or the desire came upon us and unlike now, incontinence issues and necessary items such as ‘tema ladies’ were the last things on our minds.

Bill and Ben’s peculiar language, which was officially called Oddle Poddle, went something like this: “Waddle oo tikoo dop? Gloob a waddle a hop” in other words, “What do you think of that? Gloves as well as a hat.”

Incomprehensible to some, although it sounds like Dutch to me – and I don’t mean double.

I don’t know about you, but in the tangled jungle that is my garden, I am never really quite sure what a weed is. Anyway, who decided what a weed was in the first place? The term sounds derogatory to me and something that Trinny and Susannah might say if they were dressing or undressing your flower beds. ‘You madam are a weed, get out of that bed immediately and go and stand in a field or an embankment’ – or worse, be banished to a railway siding.

Because weed rhymes with my surname, which is Seed, I was often called ‘Weedy Seedy’ at school. It was also said of me that I was the seed that fell on stony ground and I think they were probably right. But I am now trying to make amends and live up to my name by becoming a born again gardener, although my attempts at growing tomatoes were, I’m ashamed to admit, an unmitigated disaster.

My kindly neighbour trusted me with some tomato seedlings with the strict instructions to tend like new born infants and keep in the conservatory, where it was sunny and warm. But like the unfit mother I probably am, I managed to commit infanticide by putting them outside for a breath of fresh air.

I thought you were supposed to do that with babies. How was I to know they didn’t like draughts?

However, being a forgiving kind of woman, she offered me a second chance by offering me some baby tomato plantlings of her own to foster, which under her expert mothering skills had flourished to the point where they now resemble triffids. I’m a bit scared of them to tell the truth and even more so after I found out that tomato leaves were poisonous and gave off some kind of noxious dust. They look like something out of the ‘Little House of Horrors’ and will probably spawn giant tomatoes that will eventually eat me – Feed me Seymour feed me.

The Little house of Horrors is a good description of my house actually these days, the neglected state it is in, as opposed to Little House on the Prairie. I could really do with a Mrs Scrubbitt to lick it back into shape, although I couldn’t be that cruel to a hired hand. I would of course provide her with a scrubbing brush leaving her tongue free for gossiping purposes only.

There is a magnificent sunset tonight out of my study window, the room where my laptop is situated and therefore the place where I now spend most of my time. But as the window faces north, I am now literally faced with a worrying quandary, because whilst burning the midnight oil writing my memoirs, not to mention this blog, I am constantly facing north. Is this healthy I ask myself in view of the ongoing debate about which way round our beds should face in order to get the best nights sleep?

Ideally, according to some experts, we should all sleep with our heads in the north and, unless your body is a very peculiar shape, with our feet pointing south, which aligns the body with the magnetic field of the planet. I am obviously facing the wrong way round and that is probably why I am feeling a bit depressed of late, although it has to be said, I have no trouble sleeping whatsoever. Would I feel happier and be able to write more creatively if I turned my lap top the other way round and faced south?

North to South, East to West, that is the question. According to one renowned female feng shui expert, the master bedroom should ideally be situated in the southwest, in order to benefit from the calm, grounded territory of the earth element. Avoid at all costs, she advises us, sleeping in the southeast, since the fire element is strong there and can inflame your emotions. Well, I don’t know about her, but I’m having enough trouble with my haemorrhoids as it is – the last thing I need is my emotions inflamed as well.

If your bedroom is situated in the southeast however and you absolutely cannot move it, she recommends moving the bed to the southwest quadrant of the room.

Where does this crazy woman think we all live – in stately bloody homes?

But no matter where you happen to reside, even if you live in a cardboard box, don’t worry she says, because if all else fails, you can always install a Venus yantra face up underneath the mattress – or presumably under your wad of newspapers.

What’s a Venus Yantra when it’s at home? Does she mean a mantra – or perhaps she means a mantress, which I believe is a male version of a mistress.

But be further warned, and this is a matter of the utmost importance, whatever you do, don’t have your pillow, even if its ten copies of the ‘Big Issue’, placed in the north, as this apparently is draining and – oh no, ageing. So that’s what I’ve been doing wrong?

Although, someone who describes herself as ‘forever young’, so she must know, heartily disagrees and insists that sleeping north with your feet pointing south is the best place for old people or anyone who has recently had an operation or been divorced. I don’t quite get the connection do you?

For anyone else, according to ‘forever young’, the best way to sleep is south with your feet pointing north as the earth’s electromagnetic energy fields will be flowing from the south pole to the north pole.

Confused – so was I, but things were to become even more confusing, as in order to keep in harmony with the rising sun, one must continuously point one’s head in the direction of sunrise.

What does she think we are – human sun dials and doesn’t she realise some of us are way too old for all this sleeping around stuff. The very thought wears me out. But then she sagely quotes, that only you and you alone will know the best direction to take in regard to sleeping around. But what I say is this – if you must sleep around, always keep yourself safe by making sure you use a condom, otherwise you might end up like me.

‘Forever Young’ also advises us to adapt these same techniques to our places of work. “Your position should provide a full view of the room,” she informs us, “because when your view is expansive, so are your opportunities. Likewise, sitting in a swivel chair, makes you flexible and open to all kinds of opportunities.”

What does she mean? I know that people get up to all kinds of mishcief in the office, like photocopying their bottoms etc. but isn’t this taking it all a bit too far?

As it happens, I do believe that we all have inbuilt magnetic fields and that the human body has magnetic polar energies. I for one know that I have an inbuilt navigation system and have not as yet had to resort to a sat nav, although some of my fellow passengers might beg to disagree. The fact that I am a human compass is obviously ingrained in my genes and inherited from my dad who was a navigator in the RAF. On saying that, in the Second World War when he flew off on Dambuster type missions on the Lancaster bombers and they returned one by one (or not) back to base, the expression went, as legend has it, ‘Then along came Seed.’ Also, later in his navigating career when he was assigned to air sea rescue choppers, they could often be seen swooping down, hovering over signposts, so my dad could work out where they were.

As well as a human compass, these days I also view myself as a kind of human cannonball in my attempts to try to raise awareness about HIV. In fact, I am offering myself as such to the media, but as yet neither Phillip and Fern nor Richard and Judy have taken me up on my generous offer. Somebody had better take me up soon before I run out of fodder – so, I’m telling them fodder last time – or as they say in Ireland – fodder love of god.

Remember that lovely old crooning song by Perry Como – fodder good times?

To get back briefly to weeds, the original subject of this rambling blog, and an interesting recently discovered scientific fact. A small weed called Arabidopsis (sounds like another gyeanological condition) has apparently made history by becoming the first plant to have its entire genetic code read by scientists, which has given researchers new insight into human health as some of the plant’s genes look very similar to the faulty genes that cause disease in us. The Arabidopsis genome apparently repeats itself and less than half of its DNA is unique – the rest is copied.

Does that sound familiar to you – bit like our old mate HIV.

Well, on that final note, I’m just off to seed my lawn and feed my weeds with some some miracle grow. It’s a shame they can’t come up with a similar product or some grass seeds for thinning hair – but then again, I would only have to go out and buy myself a special flymo to trim it.

Shrinking Violet

I can’t seem to get myself back in gear since I came back from Ibiza, hence the delay in writing this blog, but at least the dreaded cough, known in Spain as the ‘Benidorm Bark’ has nearly come to an end, just in time – because as they say up north, “Its not the coughing that carries you off, its the coffin they carry you off in.”

As a result of my travels I now seem to be suffering from an unaccustomed and uncharacteristic ‘shrinking violet’ syndrome, as in the overwhelming desire to hide myself away from the world, especially Ibiza. However, I still managed to drag myself down to the POZFEM-UK conference last weekend in Derby, where my Benidorm bark proved to be much worse than my bite and despite the Benylin disturbed the proceedings at every available opportunity. I fear the poor woman who had the misfortune to share a hotel room with me didn’t get a wink of sleep for the two nights we were there, even though in the end I attempted to sleep sitting up in a futile attempt not to disturb her. I should have worn one of those collars with a device built into in it that stops dogs from barking.

My roommate was one of the two lovely positive women who came over from Northern Ireland to join us and who were absolutely amazed by the fact that we could be so open about our status. Apparently, over there, stigma and prejudice still reign supreme and HIV positive women really do have to live invisible lives. I am dreaming of and constantly working towards the day when HIV will be viewed as any other illness and where we will all be able to speak openly about our status and still receive the same support as any other person with a chronic disease.

When I got back from the conference I went straight to the garden centre, like you do, to buy some sweet peas and came home with a veritable jungle of plants and foliage in my boot. My idea was to create an old fashioned English country garden with hollyhocks, night scented stocks, lilac and sweet peas etc. in fact all my mum’s favourite flowers. When you first lose people you love there is a tendency to deliberately avoid any memory or connection with them, because it’s just too painful. But as time goes on, the opposite occurs and you resign yourself to the sad fact that any connection, no matter how remote, to that person you loved is better than nothing, than no connection at all.

A trip to that particular garden centre is also a trip down memory lane for me because my mum and dad used to take us there as children when it was a ‘pleasure garden’ with those old fashioned swinging boats, rabbits stacked in high rise hutches, a bedragled looking parrot with a Lancashire accent that said ‘eh up’ and bright blue and yellow budgies in cages – and where they sold the best homemade ice cream I’ve ever tasted with little lumps of ice in it. We did enjoy hours of simple ‘pleasure’ there, although it was nothing special if you compare it to theme parks such as ‘Altham Towers’ or the like, but going there makes me feel closer somehow to my mum, especially when I’m feeling a bit low, like now. It’s also near the graveyard where my mum’s two babies, my brothers that weren’t to be, are buried and Annie my grandma, although I can’t find the actual graves as sadly the graveyard is very neglected. My mum and her sisters used to play in the graveyard when they were little girls and each would be assigned a special grave to tend and look after.

Anyway, by the time I’d planted all the new additions to my old fashioned English country garden, which took all day, they seemed to blend in and mysteriously disappear. This did not bode well for my ‘invisible’ woman paranoia, or my obsession that I am starting to shrink. I can tell that this is more than a mere theory or neurosis on my part by the indisputable fact that my legs are now dangling off the end of my swinging seat and are no longer able to touch the ground. This makes actual swinging very difficult, if not impossible, unless you have someone to push you – which I don’t, in any sense of the word. I can also tell I am starting to shrink by the fact that I have to keep taking the hems of my trousers up and shortening my skirts. If it goes on at this rate I will be forced to unearth my old mini skirts and wear shorts for trousers. Although my specialist insists that this could be an age related condition, I am convinced that it is more to do with the toxic, bone shrinking effects of the medication. The thought that I might be slowly starting to disappear from view is not a comfortable feeling and is making me even more panicky about doing something about raising awareness about HIV before I really do become invisible.

I think my obsession with my garden and planting stems from this, if you’ll pardon the pun and is therefore all part of the regeneration as opposed to disintegration process of which I appear to be suffering. If I carry on shrinking at this rate I will be like Alice when she drank from the wrong bottle, but looking on the bright side, at least I will be able to fit through the hatch in my loft and if the worst comes to the worst, I could always become a borrower (aside from money) I suppose.

On the subject of shrinking, I think I really need to go and see a shrink myself. Shrink is a slang word for a psychiatrist or psychologist and is derived from the word headshrinker, which is a bit of a contradiction in terms as I always believed that therapy was supposed to broaden your mind, not shrink it. If like me you are a therapist but are tired of listening to other people’s problems, there is a website called ‘Shrink Rap’ which is a blog by psychiatrists for psychiatrists and is described as a place to talk where no one has to listen. I don’t think I’d pay good money to go and see one of those therapists, do you? However, as fate would have it, it was only through visiting this particular site that I became aware of a very odd but totally fascinating delusional behaviour named ‘koro’, which is the belief that one’s penis is disappearing or shrinking into one’s body.

How wierd is that?

GRS or genital retraction syndrome as it is known in the trade is a condition in which men presumably, are overcome with the belief that their external genitals are retracting into the body and shrinking, or in some cases may be removed, as in stolen, or just simply disappear. It can also happen to women in relation to their breasts, but thanks to lipodostrophy this definitely does not apply to me, as fortunately, or unfortunately as the case may be, they certainly aren’t disappearing, the opposite in fact and they haven’t been subjected to a smash and grab for quite some time.

Resulting from this phobia there is a very real and apparently not uncommon phenomona called ‘penis panic’ which produces mass hysteria when males in a population suddenly believe they are suffering from genital retraction syndrome. Penis panics have occurred all around the world, but most notably in Africa and Asia. In Nigeria a woman narrowly escaped a recent lynching from an enraged crowd after a market trader claimed she had stolen his penis. As far as I know this kind of thing has never happened on Blackburn market, but nevertheless, I’d better warn my male friends to be constantly on their guard if they go to do the weekly shop to make sure their fly is zipped up, or better still padlocked, to ensure the safety of the family jewels.

This bizarre belief in ‘Koro’ is several thousand years old and is not as rare as you might think as it still takes place today and occurs internationally. Minor ‘Koro’ epidemics have occurred in localised parts of Asia at various times, including a well documented 1967 outbreak in Singapore, although I don’t remember reading about it in the Sun or hearing about it on Sky News, do you? As the panic spread, apparently the hospitals became inundated with people worried that their penises were shrinking back into their body. Many resorted to pegs, clamps and even a constant firm grip from concerned family members (any excuse I say) attempting to prevent the member, as in penis, from vanishing entirely.

The word ‘Koro’ is thought to derive from the Malaysian word for tortoise, which is also a slang term for the penis. I don’t know about you but I will never be able to look at a tortoise again without thinking about men’s willies, not that I come across many tortoises these days as they are a declining species and probably about to become extinct. There again, I don’t see many men’s willies these days either for that matter, so they may as well already be extinct as far as I’m concerned. Come to think of it, in retrospect and in view of my condition, I wish my partner had been a bit more like a tortoise and kept his in its shell.

In Africa, ‘Koro’ is more commonly related to black magic or sorcerers and involves alleged penis theft rather than shrinkage. This can result in fatal consequences for the poor person who is accused of penis pinching, which is a bit like shoplifting I suppose as opposed to shirt lifting, and can result from a public accusation of penis theft after an unexpected or unwelcome touch from a stranger. So remember to keep your hands to yourself when you are walking along a busy street just incase a passing male accuses you of trying to nick theirs, although what earthly use it would be without a man attached to it is a mystery to me, although on saying that, sometimes having a man attached doesn’t make much difference either, especially if he’s had a drink or two.

It seems unbelievable that this charge would be taken seriously and that it could be easily refuted, but some victims in Nigeria believed that their penises were returned at the point of public accusation. Some even went as far as to undress to prove their accusation to onlookers, subsequently claiming that their ‘returned’ penis had been replaced but was shrunk, leading them to think it must be a ghost penis or perhaps the wrong one.

Well, I’ve heard some pathetic male excuses for having a small willy in my time, but that one definitely takes the biscuit.

In America according to a recent study three males were found to be suffering from ‘Koro’ after smoking Cannabis. In these cases the researchers suggested that ‘Koro’ was brought on by a combination of pre-existing worries over penis shape anxiety combined with the hallucinatory effects of the cannabis. Other case studies have reported on ‘Koro’ in relation to a phobia for AIDS – so where does that leave us?

Good old Freud of course believed that castration anxiety was an important stage of personality development, but then again, he thought that all women wanted a penis, so what did he know? Worries over desirable body shape are also common, for example Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a syndrome where sufferers come to believe that a particular part of their body is particularly ugly, unshapely or undesirable – or shrinking maybe? Perhaps that’s what I’m suffering from, but to be quite frank, after reading all that stuff about ‘Koro’ my own delusion seems quite rational and in comparison I feel quite normal.

If ‘Koro’ has captured your interest, whether or not you are the proud owner of a penis, or someone who lays awake at nights worrying that someone might nick it or come and steal your bosoms and you are interested in reading more about this fascinating phobia, apparently several analyses of the ‘Koro’ phenomenon have been written by a man called Robert Bartholomew, although the advice in the review was that this book is perhaps a little easier for the non-academic reader.

What are they insinuating – that hiviners are thick? How very dare they.

Mind you with a title like – “Little Green Men, Meowing Nuns and Head-hunting Panics: A study of mass psychogenic illness and social delusion”, would any self respecting hiviner want to read it in the first place?

Meowing nuns? Maybe that will be the subject for my next blog, although with a name like bartolo- mew, it is easy to see why the author has an interest in the subject.

A word of caution about ‘Koro’ – ‘Koro’ does not only refer to shrinking willies, oh no. It can also be a Japanese incense burner, a Fijian island, although I wouldn’t recommend booking a package holiday there, especially if you are a man and want to hold on to yours. There is also the Koro Sea in the Pacific Ocean, but my advice would be to wear a cod piece at all times if you go for a swim. If you are a music lover there is a screamo-grind-core band from Paris, France called ‘Koro’ and last but not least, ‘Koro’ the hardcore punk band from Knoxville, Tennessee. I wonder if they know what the word actually signifies?

I came upon another website during my research called, “Shrinktopia – the giantess shrine – devoted to giant women and the small men that love them.”

I wonder if there is also one for little women, shrinking violets or about to become borrowers?