Are you aware that you may well die a bit sooner than you were hoping? Serious question. The disease of Type 2 Diabetes, hereafter D2, is currently sweeping Scotland. If, like me, you are over 65, have relatives who have had the disease and have been living a relatively lazy lifestyle, you may well be destined for an earlier visit to your local crematorium than you expected.
Just to be transparent about it, I am a D2 sufferer myself and no, I'm not asking for your compassion, since your derision might be a bit more appropriate. My mother was a diabetic and I paid no attention to the risks and became quite fat and lazy. 'Bad' – as President Trump might tweet. It's particularly annoying that I've probably brought it on myself. Now I'm unlikely to ever get rid of it and the prospect of dying early after enduring likely complications such as losing toes and even my eyesight is hardly a barrel of laughs.
What was it that Woody Allen said? He wasn't afraid of dying; he just didn't want to be there when it happened. Personally, I was anticipating probably dying watching 'Cash in the Attic' aged 85 or thereabouts. I've always thought that Rothesay might be a good location for death, since being dead and being in Rothesay meant that one would hardly notice the transfer.
But now having been diagnosed with D2, things are quite different. No more slipping away under a tartan rug in Rothesay aged 85. Aged 73 with no toes, dodgy eyesight and screaming for a nurse who doesn't come due to the meltdown in NHS services from nobody paying much attention to what was happening to D2 costs in 2017 – is now far more likely.
Actually, compassion is always handy. Please send cheques, cash or any white sticks you may have lying around the house. And if you love Rothesay, spare me your letters. I've troubles enough. Ye maune laugh when ye daurna cry. Ah, you scoff, it won't happen to me. Wild exaggeration. And hey, even if it does, I hear that all I have to do is lose a bit of weight and puff – it's all gone.
Before you are too dismissive have a look at the stats. Whilst you are at it, have a thought as to what this might well do to the national health in Scotland and particularly if we go independent. So here's the hard statistics, taken not from the tabloids but from the British Medical Journal: There are now 3.2 million people with D2 in Britain, and not only is that already using up 10% of the National Health budget, but the numbers are rising steadily. Bear in mind that people don't just drop off the perch (although your chances of dropping dead with a heart attack are higher), they take up a good deal of time and money as they attend to the horrendous side-effects. There are, for example, around 450 toe or foot amputations taking place each week through diabetes, and that's just in England alone. Scotland's worse.
Right, so what's to be done? Well, you've probably heard about the amiable Professor Michael Lean of Glasgow University who has been grafting away at the problem for half a century and now recommends that it's well worth trying to lose a great deal of weight and then keeping it off, and upping the exercise. Do that and you have a good chance of keeping the disease in remission.
Professor Lean is quick to make it plain that this is not a quick fix and that whilst his research results have been encouraging, they are still controversial. Naturally, I was quick to follow his advice and, after losing the better part of three stones in a couple of months, was indeed declared to be in remission. However, the news was given to me with the sort of sigh that indicated that it wouldn't necessarily be wise to be investing in expensive shoes. I wasn't out of the woods by any manner of means.
That's when my troubles started. I found that it was easy enough to lose weight when you are terrified out of your mind. The business of setting up a lifestyle for the rest of your days in which you would not only remain skinny but also be engaged in daily exercise was far more challenging.
And so I set up 'Ionamylife'. Whit? Yes I know the name is a bit cheesy but it's the best I have come up with so far. The project started when I contacted a few artist friends (I've been writing a column in Artwork for over 20 years and so know a few in the game). I offered to take them to Iona for a week if they in turn were prepared to give me one of their paintings which we would donate to Diabetes UK. The project, which initially seemed as plausible as an ashtray on a motorbike, turned out to be something of a success and you can see an exhibition of their 50-odd paintings at Edinburgh's Summerhall for most of October.
From the expedition another idea was hatched. To establish an app for those suffering from D2 and desperate to keep their weight down and exercise up. They would be supported by a cheerful and irreverent message board that would ask them each week how they were getting on in the struggle and recommend good recipes, exercise regimes and even social events.
Will it come to anything? Who knows. One can but try. Anyone wanting to join the experiment can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
and maybe come round for a coffee. There will be no biscuits served.