Mixed blessings

December 2002

It has been a tough year for me and my apologies to readers for not updating this site often enough.

The magical moment of the year was the birth of my first child, Nicholas Caldon, on 21st April. He has been a source of great joy since that day, though there are times when my overworked wife and I don't have the energy to appreciate him. Babies change your life. Not because of the hard work and the considerable expense (though that changes your life too) but because of the way your priorities change and your brain mellows after you have one.

Loving someone so totally vulnerable and dependent is something of a revelation, especially for us mean-minded chess players. Well I guess it beats slowly squeezing the vitality out of an opponent by pressurising his isolated d-pawn for five hours…

The downside this year has been a considerable deterioration in my health. I first experienced some pain on walking (just above the ankle) while playing in the Swansea tournament in early June. I complained to my doctor who thought it was a muscular strain and advised me to ignore it. When I later experienced additional pains in both my wrists I feared I had some form of arthritis and went again to my local clinic. After some tests I was referred to the Royal Free hospital and early in November I was diagnosed with Scleroderma, a rare disorder in the same family as arthritis.

'Derma' refers to the skin and sclerosis means 'hardening'. Apparently my body produces too much collagen, which can harden both the skin and also connective tissue. The causes of the disease are unknown but it is neither contagious nor passed on genetically. Unfortunately there is no known cure, though treatment of symptoms is apparently getting better.

Different people experience varying degrees of unpleasantness from Scleroderma, ranging from extremely nasty (when internal organs get involved) to not too bad and at this stage it is totally unclear what fate has in store for me. Currently, as 2002 draws to its end, the worst I have to suffer is some arthritic like pain in my wrists, but for now I can still manage long queen moves…so I have no intention of giving up chess just yet (though I already might have some difficulties passing the FIDE drugs test).

Apart from my usual varied activities, a new development is that I have been teaching at Woodbridge School, a truly lovely place five miles east of Ipswich. The school's 'chess experiment' continues next term in a more intensified, three-day-a-week format. It seems several Wood Green players have ended up teaching chess at schools as their main form of employment: Matthew Turner at Millfield and Graham Lee at Oakham. Now perhaps I will be joining them. We shall see.

That's it folks. My update is complete. I wish visitors to this site a happy, healthy and prosperous 2003.


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