Thursday, March 23, 2017

FAITH Matters

This posting was first published on my 'Mal's Murmurings' blog in January 2007

Faith Matters

FAITH is that set of values, and ultimate questions, by which we lead our lives. Questions and doubts are an integral component of faith, if we are not to become stuck in a rut of blind belief. I have been grasped by certain concepts and values of community and compassion, and much of the reported teachings of Jesus (acclaimed by many as the Christ), throughout my life, both those in which I have been unwittingly indoctrinated and, those which I have arrived at or returned to through a prolonged period of questioning.

It has always seemed a major mystery that some people seem to "need a faith", some "seek a faith" by which to measure their life’s course whilst others are quite simply "grasped" by an ultimate concern which they have neither sought nor been aware of a need for.

In my personal journey, I have at times embraced (or been embraced) by each of these modes yet, a deep rooted scepticism has proffered me a deep rooted intellectual and emotional resistance to making room for such a faith. That same stubborn resistance also occurs when anyone attempts to fob me off with multifarious scientific hypotheses disguising them as facts. I suppose I’m slightly averse to ‘fundamentalisms’ be they secular or religious.

Perhaps, with my low level reserves of physical and emotional stamina, I do not pro-actively fight for my beliefs as much as I should, but the mystery of LOVE (almost) always compels me to accept a transcendent reality.

I am "grasped" by the person and work of Jesus the Christ yet, am unable to accept much of the dogmatic doctrinal baggage with which he has been encumbered. Some emphasize his humanity, others his divinity, fully God and fully man proves a bit of a conundrum yet, in this myth of the Christ  many, including myself, have found the strength to challenge the social and economic injustices of our day.

In spite of my deeply rooted sceptical nature, it is far easier to accept the existence of God (all the flawed ontological/ teleological arguments for His/Her/Its existence notwithstanding) than it is to understand how it is possible that so much bigotry, intolerance and, upholding of the status quo can possibly be carried out in the name of Jesus Christ. It’s as if the ideological baggage of state blessed Christendom has blinded us to the truly radical nature of the Christ.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Sat to please

                            SAT TO PLEASE

Piper gently whines missing his mistress, and (the now back home) recuperating Beth; no matter how he laments these absences, regardless of duration, they never seem to affect his appetite. The prospect of a treat brings out his sunnier disposition, and his heart melting gaze of adoration; a non-stop supply of food would be his idea of paradise!

I can frequently be a miserable bugger, feeling totally emasculated as physical and emotional stamina rarely seems up to (e.g. furniture shifting / re-arranging) tasks that once would have been a doddle.

No matter how much I appreciate those activities that I can (and do) manage, an aggressive and anxiety laden self-pity, far too often, takes over. Our wonderful hound quite frequently alleviates these more morose moments, just by his close proximity and his readiness to please.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Just A ... Day

The day started with a generalized non-specific ache, nothing major this time, aching rather than painfully discomforted. Part and parcel of these aches is a sensation as if an arterial infusion has embalmed one into a state of physical, spiritual and emotional shatteredness, a temporary shutting down of any apparent future light. I manage to upset my beloved OH as a result of my wimp inspired tetchiness, a fear of being alone, a fear of physical collapse.

As the day went on, utilizing a 7" tablet pc seemed to put too much stress on my arms; an ache in the elbows transmogrified into a sensation of bruised tenderness in the armpits and down the inside of both upper arms. The application of tubular bandage and elasticated support to the elbows seemed to alleviate the most nausea-inducing element of the discomfort although, by this time I was already donning knee-supports in preparation for the dog's evening walk.

Add a touch of IBS and a throbbing headache to the equation, and what do we have? Just a(nother) perfect day.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

new post on Mal's Factory

I have posted a new poem (or maybe perhaps a poem in progress) on 'Mals Factory' entitled "in the moment"

Wednesday, February 08, 2017


To sleep, perchance to dream; no that’s not it, I dream that I may once again experience a sense of refreshment from my sleep. I have, quite simply, lost track of how many months, or even years, have passed since I last remember having felt really refreshed after a night’s sleep. The one thing that’s for certain is that I now require at least eleven hours of bed rest per night just to function quite modestly.

What has brought this state of affairs to a head is the (apparent) payback I’ve experienced the past couple of days, a result of having an early appointment at the local hospital on Monday morning. By early, I’m talking a 9.20 appointment which incurred my curtailing my bed-rest by just over two hours; that experience may, perhaps, demonstrate that I do in fact receive a certain amount of refreshment from my normal extended bed rest, hence the payback yesterday and today.

Yesterday was the first time, for a while, that I was totally unable to tackle the short evening walk with Piper; a sudden onset giddiness alongside unsupportive (de-boned sensation) lower limbs. Today, I started the evening walk but was suddenly overwhelmed by a sense of breathlessness / gasping for breath accompanied by a not unfamiliar discomfort in the upper abdomen, alongside a bruised tenderness in the armpits (axillary lymph nodes).

Apart from the sleep deprivation (early appointment), the hospital visit went well; I saw consultant, went for X-Ray, saw consultant again and, in spite of having heard an apology for delay in the clinic, was back on the road home, with ma belle chauffeuse, within 80 minutes of the clinic appointment time. I now await an appointment for an arthroscopy of the right knee.

The excitedly enthusiastic welcome home from Piper, our delightful hound, was overwhelming; he re-acted as if he’d missed the pair of us (ma belle et moi) for at least a couple of weeks. Of course my excursions away from the immediate vicinity of the homestead are quite rare occurrences so, the simultaneous absence of both his people may prove a little unsettling for our boy Piper.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

CHANGING NOCTURNAL TRADITIONS - (one man, one woman, and their dog)

Last night, once again, was of the somewhat discomforted variety, regardless of a pre-emptive dose of amitriptyline and tramadol. It was rather difficult to clamp down on the moans & cusses that seemingly forced their way out of my mouth; my beloved responded by cuddling me tight (until she was overwhelmed by sleep) but then, the cuddles were followed by a gentle patter of feet, approaching the bed, as our beautiful hound came to add further comfort, stretching his forepaws across my upper arms and his head across my shoulder, and onto my neck as he lay along the edge of the bed.

You may well think that Piper, our beagle–podenco hybrid hound, was very clever to hear, and respond quite swiftly to, my moans upstairs, when his bed is in a room, behind a closed door, downstairs. Up until a few short weeks ago he did indeed sleep downstairs, usually on a sofa in preference to his quite de-luxe bed. Matters changed when Helen had a bad coughing fit, at night, to which the solitary Piper responded by whining, barking and finally banging against the living room door.

After this sustained barrage of sound we succumbed to his whiles / concern and allowed him to run upstairs. That night he settled himself on the duvet, creating his own cradle in a ridge between the recumbent bodies of Helen and myself.

After a couple more evenings he had decided that he needed to keep an eye on us, sneaking through the living room door in the time it took to switch off a light. He soon decided that he didn’t like being alone and commandeered the bedroom armchair, equipped with an old blanket and towel, as his customary nocturnal roost.

Come morning, he pays a visit to our bed, as if to check we’re alright and still there. If he outstays the welcome of his inspection routine, he can generally be persuaded to go back into HIS chair!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Marking Time

There are moments when time weighs so heavily that the prospect of longevity seems like a cruel joke; at other times life seems far too fleeting. The heavy weight is especially apparent when ones achingly exhausted brain and body seem to resist any appropriate onset of refreshing sleep; the light-footed moments are those spent in awe and wonder before nature and ravished by the miracle of love.

It seems to me that sundry aches and pains, regardless of excruciating degree, are far better coped with in daylight hours than in sleep denying darkness. Nothing against darkness per se, I used to love the experience of being out in the countryside enraptured by a star sprinkled blanket night; these days physically discomforted, bed restrained, night can seem a desperate time of isolation as much needed sleep drifts, remorselessly, just out of reach.

The close proximity of my beloved, even though frequently deep in slumber, serves to alleviate the worst excesses of my despairing self-pity, without her these momentary lapses into a sense of grievous desolation would be even more unbearable; even so ma belle frequently deludes herself into thinking that she’s unable to help me!

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

un-Common Cold and Burning Toes

 For the first time in many years I’ve succumbed to a full blown cold, hardly surprising, one might say, as my elder step-daughter Beth who stayed with us at Christmas, and my younger step-daughter who had her Christmas dinner with us at the end of December, were both ‘full of cold’. This time the whole caboodle, complete with headache, neuralgia, sinusitis, sore throat, coughing and sneezing, has taken possession of me. Quite strangely, since succumbing to M(yalgic) E(ncephalomyelitis), a full blown common, or even uncommon, cold has scarcely hit my radar; it’s almost as if the bodies dysfunctional immune system mysteriously managed to ward off these additional ailments.

Those many cold-free years seem even stranger as, in the run-up to my major ME collapse, flu-like symptoms seemed to be permanent squatters chez moi (see item STUMBLING THROUGH in ‘Mal’s ME Jottings’ PDF -

Last night, although I felt desperately tired, and in need of recuperative sleep, that was not to be; additional forces militated against this necessity. Having dosed on sundry analgesics, at intervals throughout the day, I later took my regular amitriptyline prior to anticipated sleep-time alongside a small dose of tramadol; it was an irksomely familiar ailment that served to prevent any efficacious slumber time. A sustained bout of ultra-sensitivity, a sensation of tingling, throbbing’ burning toes, at whose base there seemed to be an invisible ridge which couldn’t tolerate the touch of bed linen, and even the weight of the air at the duvets edge became unbearable at times. This found me struggling to mute my anguished cries and cusses of discomfort, and even an additional dose of tramadol failed to alleviate the pain.

Monday, January 02, 2017


Today has been one of those where sundry, apparently minor, ailments decided to stamp their cumulative presence at the forefront of my consciousness. Earlier in the day, after an all too familiar restless and discomforting night abed, nothing troubled me more than my familiar nagging aches in limbs and torso but, by mid afternoon, cold-like symptoms in palate, sinus and gravelly throat moved dramatically to the fore. Quite early in the afternoon I’d felt rather light-headed, as the room became giddyingly hazy, moving in and out of focus, and I felt rather nauseous; although the experience was reminiscent of when I suffered with labyrinthitis, on this occasion it dispersed rather swiftly.

Unfortunately, a couple of hours later, as I prepared to take Piper for his evening walk, the light-headedness returned with a vengeance and I had to reach out to the hall wall to prevent myself falling. Strangely, I’d been considering whether I should once again resort to use of a walking stick, to support me on my gentle perambulations. My OH helped me back to the lounge where I rested on the sofa feeling pitifully sorry for myself and indescribably fearful. It seems that too many consecutive nights of un-refreshing sleep aren’t too good for one’s sense of well-being. Never mind though, I should by now be more accepting of the state of unwell-being that has accompanied me for the past thirteen years.

The persistent detonation of fireworks, by persons known and unknown, preceding and subsequent to both Bonfire Night and New Year’s Eve / Day have at times turned our outgoing rescue dog, Piper, into a quivering heap seeking sanctuary in corners, under cushions and, squeezing into previously non-negotiable spaces, besides, between, and behind the seated forms of ma belle and myself. On New Years Eve he, meaning Piper, ran up to the bedroom and snuggled into the bed behind my beloved, and as the erratic explosions continued well into the early hours, eventually burrowed under the duvet to settle down between the recumbent forms of his people.

Fortunately for ma belle, very little disturbs her slumbers and, even after the aforementioned disruption of the nights’ more usual routine, she still emerged bright and early to give Piper his morning walk before going out to lead worship and preach at Harlow Moor chapel. As for me, my fitfully erratic sleep pattern was only marginally more disrupted than is the norm.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


A general mode of tetchiness rapidly transmogrified into an explosive compound of anger, frustration and despair. All of a sudden, slow oozing droplets of distress became a raging torrent of tears. The trigger for this outburst was the conclusion of Zadie Smith’s “NW”, as dramatised for lasts nights transmission on BBC2; the drama itself had plenty of pathos, quite brilliantly portrayed, but much of this, though moving, still left me as an involved observer of the characters lives but, far from an emotional wreck.

What really led to my emotional eruption was the closing scene where Natalie and Leah, regardless of their present more prosperous middle class status and location, almost yearn for the life and companions of their far from glamorous early lives together with their friends from that era. That early life was in Kilburn, an area with which I was quite familiar when I lived in NW6 in the early to mid-1960s. Even so, it wasn’t even the specific location that triggered my emotional collapse; their awareness of having roots in a community where friends and acquaintances retained significance.

It was almost as if a curtain had been raised on my social and emotional stage, a platform on which I stood alone and rootless. Having been born in Canterbury, where doodlebugs celebrated my nativity, I have absolutely no links or memories of this place. My parents moved us on a couple a couple of times in my early preschool childhood in Sussex and Hampshire, there was little chance of having or retaining any significant friendships. My clearest memory of our time in Bournemouth is playing with a toy red lorry whilst shouting out “mackerel, fresh mackerel” and misguidedly crunching an acorn or two. I also recall being in isolation hospital, together with my big brother, and seeing my parents on the other side of a glass screen, and also simultaneously remembering the excitement at having my very own tin of dentifrice.

From there, we moved to the industrial north, to parts of Lancashire, West and North Ridings of Yorkshire, and county Durham all before leaving school at the age of sixteen. Shortly after leaving school I travelled alone to the Sussex coast for my first temporary employment, whilst in the meantime my parents had moved to rural North Devon where I subsequently joined them and found further employment until I was able to start nurse training in Exeter. Since the age of 14, whilst a patient in hospital, I’d known that nursing was my ideal job but, sadly due to an inability to adapt to nightshifts it didn’t work out so, a brief return to N Devon preceded my move to London NW6 to work in Ministry of Labour HQ. Once again, whilst residing in the big smoke, my parents had moved on, first to Staffordshire then, three years later, to a small market town in rural Lincolnshire.

Having burnt the candle at both ends, indulging an appetite for various intoxicants and exotic substances, a mental health breakdown ensued and, I visited my parents for a few weeks rest. This rest swiftly took on another form as a cocktail of beer, spirits and sodium amytal, led to me putting my fist through a few windows before being picked up by the local constabulary, and a consequent period of sectioned containment in a psychiatric hospital on the edge of Lincoln. Ten months later I emerged back into the real world, returned to London, only to discover that I could no longer cope in that environment and, a return to Lincolnshire was in order.

From Lincolnshire we moved to a village in West Yorkshire from where I decided to apply for university to study Philosophy and Theology as a ‘mature’ student. Having received four acceptances, purely on the basis of interviews, I decided on University of Hull and one year after graduation pursued post-graduate studies in Sheffield.

I have lived in my present part of North Yorkshire since the late 1970’s but, it took considerable time before I took on any sense of belonging, eventually attaining a wide circle of friends and acquaintances through both my arts related and, subsequent, church related employment. My social life expanded greatly from the eighties of the twentieth century through to the early noughties of this century. Meeting ma belle Helen in  the last year of the old century, and marrying her early in the first year of the present century, has been by far the most wonderful event in my life. My love for her grows with every passing day but, I still manage to upset her with an angry tetchiness that simmers just below the surface of me.

Since succumbing to moderate ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis), late 2003, all contact with (apparent) local friends, indeed the friends themselves, have evaporated from my life. From being quite gregarious, I was transformed into a semi-housebound sad-happy git; no longer able to venture out to (or cope with) gigs, theatre, jazz venues or church services, even visiting the town centre (in the company of ma belle chauffeuse) can turn into a most daunting venture.

Where are my roots? I don’t seem to have them!

The church, where I had latterly worked as caretaker/ steward, turned its back on me because my illness, which lead me to an abrupt termination of employment, was interpreted by both vicar and curate felt as my deliberate letting them down. Indeed, when early in the illness I managed to attend a service, John the curate suggested to me that I was brazen/ had a nerve to show my face there. The only lay  member of the church, at which I had been a housegroup leader, a group leader on the Alpha course etc., came to visit me was to invite me to be another bum on a seat for Back to Church Sunday. Localised secular friends have been equally negligent, since the illness took hold of my life.

Isolation, loneliness, is the baggage that seems to accompany the onset of this dreadful illness – Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.