Saturday 28 January 2012

If Canute couldn't hold back change I've no Chance!

Not the post I intended but the 'two times' clowns have got to me. The lady giving the motoring news on Ken Bruce's Show on the radio announces a person was a 'two time' winner. Bob Wharman, presenter on the ITV Tonight programme, old enough to know better announces an event happened 'two times'. Sloppy, infantile, clumsy, strange, unnecessary, inappropriate choice of words. Whatever happened to the word TWICE for goodness sake. Where did the word TWICE go, when did it go and why. I honestly would love someone to tell me. Come on, any experts out there. (As a matter of interest, am I the only one whose noticed, or is it just another sign I'm cracking up, so to speak!) The following short story I wrote when I first became aware of the problem a year or two back. My apologies if I've used it 'two times' before! Just another sign the slide into oblivion becomes ever closer!

“If things were to be done twice, all would be wise.” G Herbert, Outlandish Proverbs, 1640

                                                                       Two’s Company

    Horacio lay on his bed in the Royal Kingswood Psychiatric Hospital, formally the Royal Derby and District Asylum, idly contemplating the fates that had contrived to incarcerate him in so fine an institution.
There was no history of mental instability in the family, at least not massively so. True, Cousin Walter had been thought of as eccentric, with a predisposition towards silk dresses, chiffon and lipstick. Plus Cousin Elsie was banned from the local park for nude sunbathing at eighty years of age, which amused the locals but frightened the ducks! But Horacio was the first to be an involuntary patient in the aforesaid establishment.
He smiled at the irony of being first at anything. Second, yes, he was definitely a number two person, that was the problem. Where had it all begun?
    Born at two am on the second of February 1922, Horacio was the second son of George and Clara Smith.
    The family lived at number two South Street, in a two up and two down cottage between two shops. His childhood was uneventful, though his mother often recalled his tantrums when negotiating the tribulations associated with children during the ‘terrible twos’.
    He had a special friend, George from his days in junior school, standard two, but tended not to associate with other children besides George, believing from an early age the maxim, ‘two’s company, three’s a crowd’. There were no two ways about it. Horacio and George were like two peas in a pod.
    At the local secondary school he enjoyed both football, as a full back, shirt number two, and also cricket, coming in to bat at number two. “Too right, two strings to my bow, works wonders,” thought Horacio.
Academically average, Horacio left school having gained a pass level in two minor subjects and joined Toogood the Tailors. He enjoyed the work, selling more Tootle and Double Two shirts than any other trainee. “What a pity they don’t sell tutu’s too,” Horacio thought to himself when praised for his salesmanship. Horacio could also be lackadaisical, though any attempt to jolly him into extra effort resulted in the muttered retort, “I can’t be in two places at once!” Nevertheless Horacio was happy at Toogoods and life was good, but not without its problems.
    Though it never occurred to Horacio that there was a problem at all. True, he caught a number twenty-two bus to work when a number nineteen passed the shop doorway and ran more frequently. Never mind the extra half-mile he had to walk to a number twenty-two bus stop. Plus the time taken waiting for a double-decker twenty-two bus. “Too bad,” Horacio used to say to himself.
    And Horacio would probably have continued his mundane, unobtrusive, happy existence had it not been for a strange inexplicable quirk on the part of the media that sent him over the top, so to speak. There’s no two ways about it! Horacio noticed that the word twice had inexplicably disappeared from the English language. The radio announced the Wimbledon Champion as a two-time winner. The local newspaper reported that Donald Peers was appearing two times nightly at the Hippodrome. Food evidently cost two times as much as three years previously. Runners ran two times round tracks and men were apparently two times more likely to die before retirement than women. The effect on Horacio was catastrophic. Too afraid to read the newspapers or listen to the radio, lest the deterioration of the language be too fearful even to contemplate, Horatio sank into a veritable pit of despair. It was all too much.
    The ever-indefatigable George persuaded Horatio to visit his doctor. The doctor was sympathetic, prescribing antidepressants and sending Horacio for two blood-tests. “Take two tablets twice a day and come back and see me in two weeks,” he had said. Two days later Horacio visited his local library and spent the entire morning surreptitiously tearing out all the page twos he could find from the books in the reference section. Ejected from the library, he made his way to the local supermarket. Two hours after his library escapade he was again apprehended, by two shop assistants. This time lining up all manner of produce in twos up and down the shop isles: two tins of beans, two loaves, two cabbages, two pumpkins, two bottles of lemonade, the pairings were endless. Only this time events took a sinister turn when the shop assistants were threatened with violence by an extremely excitable Horacio.
    “I’ll fetch my shotgun and shoot you both,” Horacio announced, “dead easy to do, it’s a double barrel.”
Which is why Horacio resided in the Royal Kingswood, having been overpowered by two policemen, certified by two doctors and carted off, so to speak, by two men in white coats.
    The resident psychologist at the Royal Kingswood had studied many unusual individuals. But he recognised Horacio was that little bit special, even measured amongst those who thought they were Napoleon, Jesus Christ or giant rabbits incarcerated in the confines of The Royal Kingswood.
    Two days after his committal the psychologist took Horacio into room two on the second floor.
    “Hi, I’m Doctor Russell. We are going to do an experiment, you and I,” he announced in his best patient friendly voice designed to put Horacio at ease. “Yours is a very interesting case.”
    “Too true,” thought Horacio.
    Dr Russell produced a number of cards, several, definitely more than two!
    “Now I want you to look at these cards, in your own time and tell me what they suggest to you.” The psychologist had used the cards many times in his illustrious career. Called Rorschach Cards, known to lesser mortals as the Inkblot Cards, they are meant to capture the unconscious thoughts of participating victims. The psychologist handed Horacio the first card.
    “In your own time.” He invited a response. Horacio studied the inkblot thoughtfully.
    “A car, my favourite car. Yes definitely a Deux Chevaux.”
    He handed Horacio a second card.
    “A bike. A tandem. Riding in the country with George on our tandem.” Horacio’s answer was immediately forthcoming. Dr Russell made no comment and showed no emotion.
    “Food, tea, biscuits, cream cakes.” The psychologist raised an eyebrow at Horacio’s answer to card number three. A possible change of direction, perhaps?
    “Tea for two and two for tea.” Horacio destroyed the illusion almost before it had begun.
    “Ireland, my favourite place.” Doctor Russell made no presumptions as to Horacio’s response to card number four. He was a fast learner.
    “Visiting Twomileborris, Two Mile Bridge and Toomore with George. In a two berth caravan on a two week holiday.” Dr Russell betrayed a nervous twitch in his left eye.
    The response to card number five was instant. “The Bible, definitely the Bible. It’s the animals in the Ark, Noah’s Ark.” Horacio needed no prompting.
    “As if,” thought Dr Russell somewhat unprofessionally.
    “There went in two and two unto Noah.” Horacio demonstrated his Biblical knowledge. Dr Russell demonstrated his inability to control a tendency to sweat as well as to twitch.
     “My favourite dance. The Tango.” Dr Russell’s eyes glazed as he contemplated the answer to number six.
Dr Russell steeled himself for the inevitable.
“It takes two to tango.” The psychologist’s body language suggested someone who was decidedly unwell.
    He tried one last card. Horacio for once reacted with indecision.
“My favourite song, ‘Two coins in a fountain’.” The psychologist broke the golden rule of Rorschach card testing. No comment and no involvement by the tester.
Dr Russell looked nervously at Horacio. “Surely it’s ‘Three coins in a fountain?’”
    “Not in my fountain it’s not!” Horacio’s withering look contemptuously dismissed the psychologist’s apparent lack of musical expertise. Not that Dr Russell noticed. He had gone for a lie down in a suitably darkened room!
    A panel was appointed to decide Horacio’s fate, so to speak. The panel debated the pros and cons of two possible treatments for the enigmatic Horacio.
    Both Lobotomy and Electric Shock Treatment (ECT) had supporters on the panel as well as detractors. The former involving surgical invasion of the brain, a procedure guaranteed to bring tears to the eyes. The latter using electrodes attached to the head in order to pass electricity through the brain. Two shocking alternatives, awesome choices indeed! The panel was in two minds but the ECT won by a short head, in this case, Horatio’s.
    Two sessions took place, both at two o’clock, two days apart. The treatment went well. Horacio had no memory whatsoever of life prior to his treatment.
George walked down the ward past the notice ‘Psychiatric Ward Rules. Strictly Only One Visitor At A Time.’ Something puzzled George but what he wasn’t sure.
Horacio was a good friend and one good turn deserved another.
Horacio saw him coming and put down the story by H G Well’s, ‘In the Country of the Blind the One Eyed Man is King.’
“How are you, my friend?” enquired George.
“Fine,” answered Horacio. “I really think my problems were a one off.”
“How’s that?” enquired the ever solicitous George
“Because I’m cured of the curse of the twos,” exclaimed Horacio.
    “One knows when one’s not ones self. And one knows when one’s cured. One way and another life can only get better. And that’s one in the eye for modern medicine.
    ''As soon as I’m out of here we’ll go riding in the country yet again.”
    “But I’ve sold the tandem,” stuttered George.
 “Don’t be silly,” said Horacio fondly. “What would we want a tandem for?”  “I’ve put an order in for two unicycles!”

Saturday 21 January 2012

Derby, a Quiet Little Backwater.

The local paper, The Derby Evening Telegraph included an article this week concerning Mrs Alice Wheeldon. There is no doubt she was 'set up' by government agents. (MI5). (See article from Wed 27th August 2008). There are moves afoot to clear her name. Governments are 'all powerful' and I view the attempts to clear her name with interest.  

Deja Vu, Coincidence, Take your Pick. Article dated 27th August 2008.

On January 29th, 1917, the police arrested Mrs Alice Wheeldon, her daughters Hettie and Winifred and Winifred's husband Alfred Mason. The charge, plotting the assassination of the Prime Minister, Lloyd George, using a poisoned dart whilst he was out walking on a Surrey golf course. It was a far fetched almost unbelievable scheme but Mrs Wheeldon, was a known anarchist involved with women's suffrage and her son Willie was a conscientious objector. Though much of the evidence was gained by the use of government agent provocateurs, William Rickards and Herbert Booth, Mrs Wheeldon and her fellow conspirators were sent for trial. Mrs Wheeldon was sentenced to ten years in jail, Mason to seven and Winifred to five; Hettie was acquitted. (Mrs Wheeldon was released after only a few months in prison, Rickards was committed to a mental asylum.)
Mrs Wheeldon ran a second hand clothes shop and lived over the premises in Pear Tree Road, Normanton, a poor area in the town of Derby.
Today's local newspaper headline concerns the arrest of a man in Derby on Tuesday. The fourth arrest in connection with a plot to kill the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. Mrs Margaret Beckett local MP was quoted as saying, "I would be sorry that anyone from the city is being considered as having been involved in something so serious." But she would, wouldn't she and of any case she's not originally from Derby so as we say in Derby, "She knows nowt!" Oh, I forgot to mention, the arrest took place in Moore Street, Derby just another street in Normanton, over ninety years on still a poor suburb of Derby. Some things never change.

(I was particularly interested in the case concerning Gordon Brown. The man arrested was an Albanian. He received a sentence of seven years imprisonment at Preston Crown Court in November 2009. Evidently he is to serve half his sentence and then be deported. The charges related to items found in his Moore Street house. Items including: 71.8 litres of petrol, The Bomb Book, a video titled Mobile Detonators. The Hezbollah Military Intruders Manuals and a document titled Ragnars Detonators. Life in Derby in the 21st century?)

I hope justice is achieved for Mrs Wheeldon. But so much concerning these cases astound me. Two Prime Ministers, separated by many, many years. But apparently hated to such an extent that people wished them dead. Life goes on, for better or worse. Just another story in a newspaper, todays news, tomorrow's history. Derby, my home town seldom attracts more than a passing glance. I think I prefer it that way. What do you think?

Saturday 14 January 2012

I'm Gonna Make it Through the Night.

     Its been a bad few days. My wife and I have clocked up over ten hospital and doctor appointments in around twenty days. (The memories none too good and I have long since lost count.) Including in my wife's case a potentially life threatening condition. The worry has been enormous, in a way part and parcel of life for those of 'senior' years. Which made me eternally grateful that we live in the western world with all its imperfections. I have no doubt that had we been born in the so called 'Third World' I in particular would have been long since gone, though where to exactly I am none too sure; consider the following and wonder.
    I recently lay on the bed, minus clothes. (Not a pretty sight!) And I marvelled as to life's little joke, starting from the feet up. Two feet, size six, delicately formed, one big toe reddened by gout, a condition that is proving persistent. Two fairly handsome lower legs, though a little 'bandy', the effect of wartime rickets, common enough in the Second World War. The result of poor diet and inadequate pre-natal medical attention. One lower leg scarred (Motorbiking), one knee scarred even more so, rebuilt in 1959, (Ah, those motorbikes), both knee joints very, very worn,  need replacing, wear, tear and general old age.
Hip joint, left,  one ceramic replacement, works quite well, not surprising, the newest of my parts, everything else is over seventy years old. Hip, right, scarred, the result of removal of bone to rebuild left knee. We'll skip quickly over the private 'bits', (work quite well Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Or is it Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday!) Still moving 'northward', one scarred torso, a long term reminder of an operation performed when 24 hours old. (I was told it was to correct a twisted bowel, I am reliably informed it was probably for the condition pyloric stenosis.)  I was evidently christened in order to be buried; being placed in a box by the fire probably ensured my survival.
    Onward, ever onward; one shoulder joint, damaged, recently subjected to ultrasound examination, prognosis not promising, I think the technical term is 'knackered'. Two arms and hands, work quite well in spite of two broken arms, two broken collar bones (falling off cycles, cricket rollers etc.) and one broken thumb (Fighting at school) Being below average height meant you tried harder to 'compete' with the 'bigger boys'.
    Life is a lottery. My face is battered and 'lived in'.  My teeth are worn and far from complete. One of my eyes has never worked properly and one ear bears the marks of a skin cancer operation. (Too much sun at 'sunny Skegness as a child methinks!)
    Life takes its toll. There is an inevitability about it all, in view or out of sight. (I have twice suffered internal hemorrhages. For pint after pint of donated blood I will forever be grateful.) I have twice suffered bouts of TGA. Scary but I'm still here. I could give my body for medical science! But its not in very good 'nick'. On a scale of 1-10 what do you reckon. Two, three max! Has your life been a  roller coaster up to now?  Never mind, it will soon be spring!

(Think of all the cheerful songs that help to keep us going. 'Keep right on to the end of the road' springs to mind. And what cheers you up when life gets tough?)

Saturday 7 January 2012

Bye Bye December, Grumpy's Alternative News.

So what made the news in December. For starters the need for money is universal. Interesting how some go about getting it. In my home town, Derby, Daniel Thornton admitted over one hundred scrap metal crimes in three months. Including taking lead off one school roof FIVE times in one week! Are we more diligent than most in Derby! (There is a saying, Derbyshire born, Derbyshire bred, strong in the arm, weak in the head.)
Siegfried K, 22 previous convictions, tried to hold up a bank in Berlin that had been closed for four years. He took a hostage instead and forced her to withdraw £345 from a cash machine. He was traced by his fingerprints on a toy gun he abandoned in a stolen car!
Thieves in Rio de Janeiro were better prepared. They oiled a train track, forcing a train to slow down and stole fifty tons of grain using a tow truck with a hook.  
A burglar's 'hit list' found in Manchester gave food for thought. It listed every item to be stolen, where house keys were kept, which houses left windows open and so on. Let this be a warning! Mind you, you don't necessarily have to turn to crime to prosper.
The money paid out by NHS Trusts in private finance initiative contracts (PFI's) is interesting. For instance, £525 to move three beds. (County Durham and Darlington NHS.) £242 to change a padlock on a garden gate. (North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare.) £169 to open a locker. (Brighton and Sussex University Hospital NHS Trust.) Just three examples of many. If you want to get rich, do work for the NHS. It makes me mad, but not as mad as the motorist who swore at a policeman in Manchester on his way home from an anger management session. (He was on the course after an assault!) You do wonder about some people. There was an 'almighty brawl' (if those are the right words) at a Midnight Mass in Southampton and a man man had his finger bitten off at a school nativity play in South Shields, Tyneside.
So what else caught the eye? A road safety scheme in Paris was embarrassed when an electric car knocked down a pedestrian because she didn't hear it coming. Overweight priests are being paid mileage allowances if they use their bikes in the Diocese of Ely. I notice Hamleys the toy store has stopped having separate floors for boys and girls. No more cookery sets, fluffy animals and beauty products separate from construction toys and spaceships.  They say a Twitter campaign is a coincidence!
Amazing that there were two, not one bedbug stories this month. One told how bedbugs aren't too keen on hairy people, the other that genetically they can breed with near offspring, making survival easier. Talking of offspring, a man in an hotel in Harare collapsed when a prostitute he hired to visit his room turned out to be his daughter. He had to apologise to both wife and daughter. Bad taste, maybe, so how about the lottery ticket given to residents of New Taipei City for each bag collected. And what are they collecting, didn't I say, dog faeces of course. Up to now the total stands at 14,000 bags.
Party poopers included, the Methodist Church who argued that its ministers have no employment rights as they reckoned they served 'at the call of God'; the female disability claimant from Cardiff filmed on a waterslide whilst on holiday with her family and a persistent Pakistani criminal, Altaf Khan, guilty of attempted robbery, theft and battery and sex with an underage girl. Aggrieved because he lost his appeal in Strasbourg against deportation, arguing HIS rights were affected.  
Finally we must have some December 'feelgood' factors. Casper, the puppy born with cataracts who can now see after thousands donated money for an operation in Thornbury near Bristol. Similarly four month old Eva Joyce from Birmingham, the youngest person in Britain ever to receive a cornea transplant. The Rev Gavin Tyte, who conveyed the Nativity story in rap (winning £5,000 in the process. Plus the Queen travelling to her Christmas  'hols' in Sandringham by train, just like you and me. Mind you, she did travel first class! Just a few more examples of life in Britain: roll on 2012!