Wednesday 28 October 2009

It's All in There Somewhere

Probably the main joy of blogging is the contact with others. Ideas and experiences are exchanged which means you never stop learning. I happened to be reading the blogs of Violet Sky, a Canadian lady who never ceases to interest. The particular blog in question talked of writing on five unconnected words chosen by the good lady herself. An idea that grew on me so here goes. The five words chosen for myself were:
Railroads Smoke Pillars Phobias Fish
As children many of us were avid trainspotters. Plus Derby was very much a railway town. Its all a long time ago but some of it is still there in the mind. The engine classifications, Jubilee and Patriot classes; the wheel formations, 4-6-0 and was it 4-4-2 and the names, Leander and Bahamas.
But more memorable was cycling to a lonely spot away from adult examination. Then placing pennies on the track and hiding behind bushes as an express train roared past. And retrieving the now much larger pennies, hot to the touch, trophies to be secretly admired at home, but unseen by prying grown ups eyes. Stupidly dangerous, unforgivable but never to be forgotten.
The joys of learning to smoke, walnut leaves in home made pipes and nub ends collected in the streets. A dirty, dangerous secretive past time. How did we ever reach adulthood when we could earn money to smoke Woodbines, Park Drives and, when we wished to show off, Passing Clouds.
Plus memories of granny trailing a plastic bucket, bottomless through the house, leaving behind a line of smouldering 'peg rugs' set alight by the hot ashes she had deposited in the bucket to take to the dustbin.
'This modern stuff, rubbish' was her dismissive appraisal of the problem.
A baffling choice, well done Sanna. I seem to remember a dream, or was it just a story from childhood. This chap (was it my dream?) has this enormous Turkish Delight which he devoured with great difficulty but which was tremendously enjoyable. Then he woke up and the pillar was missing.
Intrigued I looked up pillar jokes on the Internet.
What pillar can't hold up a building.
Answer, a caterpillar!
And who spotted the 'deliberate' mistake! The word is of course pillars, totally different. Yet another sign of my declining powers! On a serious note such an error could have major consequences, for instance if the mistake was made whilst dispensing medicines. But what the hell, no need for seriousness today. Remember the girl who wrote 'a pessimist was something her mother bought from the chemist'. And the boy who thought an enigma was 'something you put up your bottom'.
(Both from pupils in my English teaching days) And I had the nerve to be critical of such efforts. Oh how is the biter bit!
PhobiasI don't personally have any phobias that I know of. But I remember as a child a man putting his arm down a rat hole. No way would I do that, but that's pure common sense! My youngest daughter is sensible, mature, level headed and has the most awful phobia imaginable concerning mice. I wonder where such severe phobias come from. Any experts out there?
Again stories of childhood danger. Being orphaned at thirteen I had an upbringing often lacking adult supervision . In my early teens I had a very near miss in the River Derwent, falling into ten feet of water whilst trying to retrieve dead fish from a tree stump with the aid of a stick. (I was a non swimmer at the time, the spot was a favourite for swimmers due to the close proximity of the power station. The water was warm, hence the dead fish.)
I also remember as a young child shopping on dark autumn nights with my mother and taking home her favourite, yellow fish. Never my favourite but I am reminded every time I see it.
I remember too of fishing in the local brook with home made nets, catching Sticklebacks and Bullyheads, otherwise known as Millers Thumb. I wonder if the children of today still do the same.
And there you have it. I believe everything we ever experience is still in the brain, waiting to be retrieved. The real clever amongst you might suggest where all these thoughts and experiences go after we are no longer 'earthlings'. Nowhere I suppose. But what was it we were taught at school 'Energy can be neither created nor destroyed.'. What the hell was that all about! Deep thoughts, and all from five random words. (Which amazingly reminds me of Arthur English's stage act as a spiv. He sometimes ended 'raving' and uttering the words 'open the cage.') Thank you Sanna. If any of my readers out there are interested, the following five words of my choice might stimulate those grey cells.

punctures embarrassing coincidence feet poems

Friday 23 October 2009

Thinking Out Loud

I had no idea two years ago how frustrating a computer could be. Boy oh boy, has the darn thing given me grief this week. And seemingly the cause is Html. Which stands for Horrific Terrorising Mystifying Language. I had problems setting out my last blog; no big deal, right. But being unable to solve my problems has had an amazing effect. At times this week I have questioned my very existence, began to look at some aspects of life differently and have even dreamt about Html. (In my dream basically Html took the form of an oblong card, not unlike a credit card. It followed me around but refused to go home to any slot offered.Plus it was not tiny but large and very intimidating.) In hospital five years ago I had a strange reaction to morphine. I hallucinated and at one stage it was so vivid I saw things that I was convinced, absolutely convinced were real. My Html dream was on a par with this experience.I began to think Html has a mind of its own. Me versus the computer, both capable of independent life but the latter cleverest and in better nick. Now I know this is rubbish but it really got me going. When you do something over and over again, come what may, unsuccessfully, you begin to think you are going mad. Question, if someone is, for use of a better word, mad, do they know it themselves. (I fully realise the term is politically incorrect and rightly so but I'm intrigued as to how they see themselves in relation to others when they are mentally ill.) I have one or two friends who are manic depressives (bio-polar). But I can only guess as to their conception of life.
All illnesses are difficult but I suspect physical illnesses are easier to interpret.
The idea of 'losing' it inevitably figures in our lives, the more so as we get older. Dementia is a much feared part of life today. Terry Pratchett has bravely done much to improve the profile and understanding of dementia. I liked the answer of a reader of my blog who suggested that if you think you have dementia, then you haven't. At times the last few days, baffled by Html, I suspected I was going mad. Presumably I'm not! I was never over technical and one's ability to improve does not improve with age. Add a TGA not too long ago and it's a wonder at times I function at all. (Some say I don't!) I do try, honest. I have a copy of Blogging for Dummies. I also recently purchased Which's 'Computing Made Easy for the Over 50's.' I own 'The Computer Book (Vista Edition)' and '1001 Computer hints and tips.'
Yet I sit with a glazed expression, incomprehension at its finest. My cards read 'blogger extraordinaire'. Perhaps they should read 'blogger extraordinarily stupid'.
Apologies to all you out there with real problems in life. My problems are tiny in comparison. All this just because I couldn't get a computer to do as I wished! And I'm much happier now I've got it off my chest. Wiser, no, but happier. Any thoughts, support, encouragement welcome. Or is everyone out there expert in the technology stakes. And I promise I won't do another 'heavy' blog for a while!

Monday 19 October 2009

Nostalgia Ain't (is) What it Used to Be.

I sat here on Saturday morning, blank, wondering what on earth to write. It reminded me of my short 'career' as a Barber's boy. What was it I was taught to whisper as I collected the customer's money at the till. (Five bob for a gent's hair cut.) 'And something for the weekend, sir?'
A year or two ago I wrote a book of short stories entitled 'There's Nowt so Strange as Folk'. It was to have been called 'There's Nowt so Queer as Folk' but that was deemed to be politically incorrect in these modern times! Its in a few libraries and I'm informed I'm entitled to 4p in royalties every time it go goes out! Only no one seems to know how the 4p is paid. Which is a pity as I reckon they (the government?) owe me around 88p by now.
Now I mention this to show that I reckon 'people' are the most interesting aspect of a fascinating life. Places, your Chatsworths, and your churches, Coventry Cathedral for instance, marvellous. But the idiosyncrasies, the sheer variation of the human race is a joy to behold. (The cover of my book depicts a sign on an estate in Shropshire. How odd, delightfully individual, a credit to English eccentricity.) And this blog is written partly with eccentrics in mind.
Last weekend was spent in 0008 PAU at a jukebox show in Kempton Park. (Jukebox Madness, the premier event of its kind. In its twenty first year and featuring jukeboxes, classic American cars, pinball machines, records, dancing and much more.) Not normally our scene (the jukebox bought recently is to blame for the interest) but an event to cherish for months to come. I have seldom been in more awe or enjoyed an event so much. So many enthusiastic, delightful individuals with a love of the past, particularly the fifties. I wouldn't necessarily view the period with rose coloured spectacles (what do you think) but 'whatever turns you on'. The point is, it was a supremely happy event in rather hard, frugal times. (Though not as frugal and hard as the fifties if my memory serves me right.) Plus many were seventy plus years of age, but with the wide eyed enthusiasm and glowing interest that would have shamed many a youth. (George Bernard Shaw said 'Youth is wasted on the young'.) I will not labour the point. (Did I hear someone say hurray!) Just a little taster of my geriatric enjoyment of people and an event that will stay long in the memory. I may well be seventy next month but so what!

I am rereminded of the joys of a non computerised existance as I study this blog. I started it Friday. Several hours later I give up trying to place photographs in the place and order I wish them to go. Plus the gap at the bottom of the page my son in law will hopefully correct later. (Not just a matter of press delete, honest.) What am I doing wrong. Perhaps I have lived too long, or am I interlectually incapable of grasping the details of modern computer technology. I can turn a light switch on and off. I can nearly master a remote for the TV but mobile phones, no chance plus the on/off dishwasher switch, no fear. I have sold cars with buttons that I never did find out their purpose. My granny was right when she went next door and asked, "Does it say 'Normal Service will be resumed as soon as possible' on your television." Sometimes I think, why do I bother.


Tuesday 13 October 2009

Who are we to Judge.

I watched a recording of the Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling wittering on at the Tory Conference as to how he would solve Britain's problems if he were in government. I was particularly interested in his attitude to alcohol. Evidently he thinks the answer is to put extra tax on super strength alcohol. The price of a four pack of extra strength lager, he suggests, should rise by £1.33, alcopops under the Conservatives would cost £1.33 more. And where was I
when he was making these pronouncements?
I park my motorhome on a car park in a far from salubrious part of town when my wife goes to the opticians. I did so this week, my wife went about her business so to speak and I sat in the van reading. Two men approached, cans to hand.
'Nice van' said one.
'What's the picture on the back' said the other.
(It's actually Mam Tor in North Derbyshire.)
They were pleasant, curious about me and the van so I got out of the van and we chatted. I gave one a motorhome magazine which was studied profusely. These men were unemployed, perhaps unemployable, the motors on display in the magazine cost thousands of pounds yet there was no envy displayed.
I was offered a drink and declined but was curious concerning their choice of drink. Yes, Mr Grayling, it was exactly 9%, cost £1.36 from a shop across the road. We chatted amicably, others joined or merely passed through our little group. Suddenly the lager was secreted under my van, coinciding with the arrival of two policemen only yards away. We were 'eyed', of interest but not approached. It was some time later that I realised the pole alongside my van had a sign attached that simply read 'Alcohol Free Zone'. I have no doubt that my presence prevented the police from investigating further. I am also sure my number plate is now either in a little black book or on the computer at headquarters.
All concerned were alcoholics, but were not proud of it. Two had serious mental health issues. One has recently paid an £80 fine for drinking at the same spot. He seemed the only one with money and fetched a further supply for all. Even more interesting was the fact that he continued to drink in the same spot, though the tin and contents were secreted in a plain paper bag. They were civil and in the main far from unintelligent. All had worked at some stage in their lives; all were of working age. Alcohol was doing none of them any favours but they don't need you and me to tell them the obvious. No Mr Grayling, preach to the converted at conferences and retire home with a 'haven't I done well' feeling. By the way, Mr Grayling, a bottle of wine costing around £3 is likely to be 11% and would have the same effect. No mention, surely not because wine is a middle class drink in your eyes! You blinkered ignoramus, don't you realise my new friends will switch quite easily if you meddle with their supplies. And if still alive, will continue to drink under the sign or nearby. (One has already lost his wife due to alcoholism, one looks after an alcoholic mother.) The latter without the caring allowances to which he is undoubtedly entitled. My wife was shocked that I was still with the group when she returned. I have no answers. But the day I totally ignore my fellow man I will be ready to meet my maker, so to speak. For 'there but for the grace of God go I.'
Our little meeting was far from gloomy. One, suffering from depression and recently out of prison had tried selling dusters and similar. That is, until he had wandered, large bag at the ready, up the drive of a posh house in Breaston, near Long Eaton. Where he was quickly surrounded by fearsome, large men with guns. He dropped the bag and put up his hands, expecting the worst. He had had the misfortune to wander up the drive of Geoff Hoon, MP and Secretary of State for Defence at the time. No wonder my friend now prefers the comparative peace and quiet of a car park. The average British Bobby is far less threatening than MI5.

Thursday 8 October 2009

Stop Moaning and Count Your Blessings.

I travelled up to Chesterfield yesterday morning. What an awful journey. I've not been into the town for years and didn't know the place I was going to so it was a sat nav job. Only the bloody thing decided to play up from the word go. The picture went first though the sound seemed ok. The traffic was dreadful and every single traffic light was against me. There were constant roadworks and three separate hedge cutting machines on different narrow sections of road. I dropped my wife off half way to go to her sisters and promptly got myself blocked in. I got later and later and more and more agitated. I eventually arrived in Chesterfield and recognised very little of a new road system. The sat nav sent me round and round the town and deposited me at the football ground, announcing 'You have reached your destination.' Only it wasn't. I disconnected the thing in disgust, asked directions and with difficulty travelled to the area on the edge of town where I was supposed to be. I then showed a total of six different people the address I was seeking. No one had a clear idea as to where it was. Aliens from another planet would have had more idea. I even went in a pub and asked (as it happened around six hundred yards from my destination.) Most were clueless though one young girl fortunately pointed me in the right direction. I passed the building I sought twice before I finally realised I was 'home and dry'. (I had brought my wife's mobile phone but couldn't remember how to 'scroll down' as instructed!) I was fed up and decided it was indeed a hard life.

We are easily upset with what life throws at us. We are often obsessed with ourselves and oblivious of the problems of others. My destination yesterday morning was a community centre just off the Loundsley Green Estate. My purpose was to give a talk (There's Nowt so Strange as Folk) to the North Derbyshire Stroke Support Group. All shapes and sizes, of differing backgrounds, young and old, male and female. Twenty or so people with a common denominator, they have all suffered strokes. (Also present carers and two partners.) I spent a delightful couple of hours there (Not a two hour talk, no one could stand that!) And do you know, I never heard a single moan uttered. Though I did hear one young man suggest he was lucky as to the type of stroke he had suffered. He suggests he was lucky and I'm moaning about the traffic. The whole group was positive, cheerful, optimistic and were a pleasure to visit. I got totally lost on my way to pick up my wife at her sisters in Ashover and do you know, it didn't matter in the slightest.

A couple of years ago I had a 'funny turn'. My visit to the stroke group brought it all back. Never take anything in life for granted.

Blast from the Past no 7.

Hooray for the NHS
The health thing being the main reason for moving I suppose I'd better get it out of the way.On my 50th birthday in 1989 a strange thing happened. I literally could not remember who I was for an hour or two, a strange experience both puzzling and disturbing to say the least. Birthday presents on the table but I could not see the connection with myself in any way whatsoever. I felt like an alien from another planet, a strange sensation to say the least. I recovered after a while and celebrated my birthday with my wife and friends though I felt less than one hundred per cent. I had another attack weeks later and visited a doctor as a matter of course. His request for me to 'Talk him through it' would be funny in other circumstances. I was completely, utterly blank during the attacks and am reliant on others to tell me what happened. I received no examination or treatment, had no further attacks and got on with my life.
Fast forward eighteen years and I had a similar though short lived experience earlier this year.I refused an ambulance at the time, as is my wont but a GP examination followed, hospital appointment were made and then the fun started.
Initially a stroke was suggested, except that I had no paralysis or obvious damage; a TIA was suspected. I remember the TIA bit because I'd liked the drink Tia Maria in my youth. ( A coffee liqueur type drink over 20% proof.) In this case TIA standing for Transient Ischmetic Attack. Hospital appointments followed and the inevitable hospital visits. I'm not sure who was the most spaced out, me or the appointments.
I had an Electroencephalogram, EEG for short which is a brain scan involving twenty three electrodes. No jokes please as to whether they found one, I've heard them all a hundred times. I assume there are twenty three bits to your brain and not that our hospital has lost at least one electrode. Plus a Computerised tomography (CT) scan. Then followed, an anxious wait and eventually a diagnosis by a rather serious poker faced but presumably knowledgeable consultant.
The consultants informed me it was probably not TIA but TGA, which evidently stands for Transient Global Amnesia. 'Very rare, and by the way, both brain scans showed abnormalities and you have frontal lobe damage. But there are no signs of epilepsy.' Nice to have something rare and no epilepsy but the rest is a bit scary. And that basically was that. No treatment except that more pills were suggested. (Prescribed by the GP later but with such disgusting side effects that I took them for three days only. very naughty I know but I will go back to my GP eventually, honest)
I looked up TGA on the internet as you do, doesn't everyone with a medical problem do this. Evidently the exact causes of TGA attacks are unknown, but can include sudden immersion in cold water, strenuous physical activity, sexual intercourse, over excitement and acute emotional distress. Not all together of course.
By my reckoning anyone falling in the river in my condition is going to suffer a heart attack at least. I have no mistress and, having been married for all of thirty eight years so strenuous physical activity and over excitement during sexual intercourse can be ruled out. Which leaves acute emotional distress and there you have it. It's obviously all down to house prices. I knew it, I knew it, it's all the governments fault, result, yet another disgruntled voter.Long term prognosis is decidedly unsure. But if the gap between attacks is another eighteen years that will probably do me. Nevertheless one more reason to put your house in order, so to speak, the house in our case being a more manageable bungalow.
In a way it may seem a strange thing to say but I personally am glad than for the past eighteen years I've been oblivious to the the problem. I feel okay and am getting on with my life. But I can't help thinking what a genius I would be with a complete brain.