Saturday, December 31, 2005

Best Wishes for The Coming Year

Sinna Luvva and Bright Light send our best wishes for 2006 to all our readers.

Friday, December 30, 2005

A Reluctant Hero

In an age when heroes seem to be in short supply, or perhaps that’s a reference to any age, it really is good to be informed of one whom I had overlooked. This is the man to whom we should be grateful that we were not all annihilated in September 1983; his name is STANISLAV PETROV.

I am grateful to my friend Nigel for sending me this link, along with his New Year’s greetings.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Plus ca change

Having watched ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, last evening, in which it gave one a warm glow to see the greedy get their come-uppance, this evenings viewing for my beloved and myself was ‘Bound For Glory’ (The Story of Woody Guthrie). As Guthrie, temporarily ‘exiled’ in California in the late 1930's, recalls his Oklahoma home, he states that it’s “easier to put up with nature, dust storms and all, than it is to put up with greed”. As we observed the great gulf between rich and poor Stateside, we couldn't help feeling … plus ca change!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Simple Pleasures

The Christmas period has once more enabled us, (or should that read driven us), to ‘lapse’ once more into the routine of having our main meal at the dining table. The dining table is usually the preserve of Sunday lunches alone, our bean bag supported lap-tables being the more usual resting place for our dinner plates. Each meal, sat at table, becomes somehow a more significant event. Even the little ‘grace’ of thanksgiving, before we apply our snouts to the trough, seems more gracious.

As circumstances dictate that I spend most of my day lounging around, the move through to the dining room serves to add variety to my day. I admit there are times when even that exertion would seem too great but, in general, it is good to have an extra reason for using my ambulatory gift!

Monday, December 26, 2005

A Special Time

Christmas has once again restored a childlike magic in my life, this influence is magnified as once more I felt like a participant in the Nativity story. On Christmas Eve, after our preliminary preparations for the morrow had been completed, Helen and myself relaxed in the evening which culminated in watching, and participating in spirit, the Midnight Mass from Gloucester Cathedral. After a somewhat jaded day, I felt refreshed as we celebrated the birth of the Christ child … the best way to welcome Christmas Day.

On Christmas morning, as we lay abed, I enjoyed and felt uplifted by the Mass for Christmas morning from Clifton cathedral. Much emphasis was given to the outcast and the dispossessed during the address … the Christmas story should not be a comforting message to those who would preserve the status quo! A slow emergence from the duvet’s lair, however, did not preclude my fatigued collapses at intervals during the day, so it became something of a priority to take little naps, the better to enjoy the day.

We were joined, for Christmas Dinner, by Beth and Mahmood whom we welcomed with an appetizer of Waitrose Vintage Champagne, 1996 … a beautifully balanced elaboration of P&C Heidseck. To accompany our traditional Christmas Dinner, we partook of a glass of ‘Andrew Garrett Coonawarra Reserve Cabernet, 2002’, a wonderful mouthwatering bramble concoction with a cinnamon tingle derived from the oak ageing.


Our guests left us late afternoon and ma belle and myself slumped into a relaxed evening, with an early ascent of the wooden steps towards duvetdom. Although tired, despite my preceding periods of rest, sleep did not come too easily … bodily aches, pains and general discomforts tend to have a way of overwhelming the desire/ necessity for sleep.

Following a brief midnight ramble around the house, I lay on top of the bed watching my beloved sleep. This simple act gave such a warm glow, she is so precious and, I just lay stroking her hair and cheeks rapt in adoration and feelings of overwhelming protectiveness. Love is such an amazing thing!

This morning, we once more enjoyed a very relaxed start, au lit, to the day … as we became totally enraptured by ‘The Magician’s Nephew’ on BBC7. It’s so amazing just how much more vivid the pictures produced by a good radio production are, in comparison to televisual portrayals of the same or similar stories!


I’ve just realized that I’ve made no mention of presents received, in fact we still have some of our main presents to open …. But it is a wonderful Christmas, here with my beloved.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Impromptu on Faith, Dogma and Belief

When I consider FAITH I definitely don’t mean DOGMA nor, come to think of it, do I mean BELIEF. Faith is an overwhelming necessity, which in the final resort overrides all our actions and beliefs. At times it even seems as if Faith is simply another name for God, it is that in which we live, move and have our being. A rudimentary faith precedes any action, without it we could never make the first step, that first tentative move.

Before we ‘knew’ we could take our first step, we had already embarked on that exercise and so, we start to walk. It’s almost as if we question the reasons for our being confined to sitting, rolling over and crawling. There must be more! Without that step of faith, our lives are restricted in terms of both action and thought. We breathe because we can, it is not an act of reason … a rational decision … it simply is! For most of us, not being able to understand how this amazing organism, the human body, functions doesn’t lead us to give up on breathing. We don’t have to ‘believe’ in breathing in order to partake of the activity but, I must admit, our lives would be much poorer without our participation in this particular activity.

Our faith may later have a set of doctrines/ beliefs as its foundation but, the faith is much more than the beliefs that we affirm. Coming from a Christian background, I tend to use a broadly Christian terminology; at its core my life (in thought and action) is shaped by various Christian myths. Dogma is an easy way of handing over responsibility for our faith, to the traditions of learned (and not so learned) others, whereas faith itself isn’t averse to questioning and doubt. [Of course, I have to acknowledge that without some of these dogmatists we wouldn’t have the canon of scripture from which I draw my inspiration.]

Christ said that He came that we may have LIFE and have it ABUNDANTLY. Dogma, on the other hand, is that which restricts this fullness … to question a dogma is frequently confused with denying the faith. To question is to have faith; to blindly follow is to renounce the muscle of faith.

Our Christmas faith tells of a helpless child, whose birth causes the political and religious establishment to tremble. This helpless child, the “word made flesh”, still holds out a challenge both to the pious and to the politically powerful. Though frequently stumbling, I try to follow His call.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I Am Not Alone!

After a few discomforted weeks, in terms of collapses and general disorientation alongside my traditional muscular spasms and erratic body thermostat, I finally got around to seeing my GP again. This visit, ostensibly a follow up on the effectiveness of the nasal spray which I’ve been using for the past eight weeks, as a result of which I’ve only experienced miniscule improvement in the mucous stakes, provided the doctor with an opportunity to update on my general state of (un)wellbeing.

A positive note, regarding my general health, is that my thyroid function has improved, although I must admit the practical correlation to this improvement has been imperceptible. Although the phrases “post viral” and “chronic fatigue” had been thrown out en passant, during my GP visits, over the past twenty months or so, it wasn’t until the physiotherapist started visiting me, a few months back, that she diagnosed my condition as ME/CFIDS. Today, I discovered that the endocrinologist, who I had consulted with about eighteen months ago, had suggested ‘chronic fatigue’.

So now, apart from the acupuncture sessions, I have an appointment with my link worker for CBT in January and have today been referred to the Chronic Fatigue Unit in Leeds. Although I’m not expecting any miracles, it is good to feel that I am not alone! For this small mercy, I give thanks.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Aberrant Conditions

The apparently speedy recovery, from Saturday’s little collapse, may have been a mirage. ‘Temporary’ remission may be a better way to describe it as, fatigue, minimal concentration and, more than a modicum of tetchiness provided the inharmonious keynote of Sunday and, even today, fatigue and the lack of ability to concentrate are my constant companion. There are times when I begin to wonder whether to treat ‘collapse’ or ‘recovery’ as the aberrant condition.

The occasional ‘loss of balance’ I have been experiencing recently, whilst performing such energetic tasks as wiping my hands on a hand towel, opening the room door, or standing up to stretch my legs, have set me wondering whether it’s time to visit the GP again. One side of me, that which gets stressed at the thought of moving away from the familiar terrain of home, views such visits as a waste of time (in spite of the respect I have for the doctors in the practice I attend). The more rational side says, “well, doctors are busy people … you shouldn’t really bother them with trivial ailments”.

A redeeming feature of recent days has been the relative absence of muscular and joint pains. For this I give thanks!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Chilli-ing Out

After just over one and a half good days, the seemingly inevitable collapse took a swift, although on this occasion mercifully brief, swipe at me. Yesterday, I managed to make reasonable progress with the Christmas decorations, as well as performing my usual chef’s duties. Today, after a reasonably lengthy lie-in, I managed to prepare my own variant ‘Chilli con Carne’ and par-boiled the herb and spice infused potatoes ready for roasting this evening.

Suddenly, early evening, the living-room lights seemed far too bright … pure sensory overload, whilst my hands, feet and torso became excessively cold. A general sense of discomfort and tetchiness soon overwhelmed my earlier affability. The good news, this time, is that forty minutes rest (blanket covered on the sofa) brought me back to a near human state of being. By the time our guest, Helen’s sister Janet, arrived for the evening meal, we were all able to share and enjoy each other’s company, a few good laughs, as well as the chef’s special concoction. A bottle of ‘Vina Tarapaca’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, proved a more than adequate companion for the Chilli.

Alongside the 'premature' narrative line of our Advent Calendar, the Christ child arrived on the 12th December rather than the ‘prolonged labour’ I anticipated earlier, [ tonight “The Shepherds didn’t know what was happening”, they are not alone], the contents of the Xmas Crackers provided a fresh source of mirth; tawdriness is all!

Despite the roller-coaster ride my physical (and consequently emotional) health takes me on, I am always wonderfully amazed by the consistency and intensity of the love my beloved and I share.

In this day the Lord has made, I am glad to rejoice!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Still Hanging After All These Years

A dream brought into my conscious/waking life; having leapt from one side of a vast chasm, I remain hanging in mid-air. The air is rather turbulent, occasionally it pushes me toward a more secure foundation, across from the leaping off point, at other times it forms a gravitational pull towards a distant barren and rocky valley. Seems like the story of my life; I’m sure that it represents my faith journey.

No amount of reasoning can lead me to any theistic position and yet, I feel there is much more than a series of chemical re-actions, and it’s implied fatalism, to this universe of ours. My frequent struggle with “the problem of suffering” was only overcome when I could find no solution to “the problem of love … of full blown self giving, self-sacrificing love”. Just how does such love fit into the survival of the fittest?

I realize the line of thought here is over simplified but, the nooks and crannies of my ‘questing’ would require an encyclopaedic volume rather than a simple posting. Anyway, suffice it to say that for me it was necessary to take “a leap of faith”. It’s not that I needed to be presented with all the answers, just think how dull that would be. Sometimes it seems that I have actually landed in the rocky valley mentioned above. When the going gets really tough, I feel that it’s better to have my feet firmly planted on terra firma, albeit a barren and rocky location, than moving forward in what seems like a vain hope.

I suppose the Advent season has brought these matters of faith to mind and, as I’ve scoured the blogosphere I’ve found much food for thought. This morning as I read the posting Strength from God concerning “the servant’s mission”, on ‘Just As I Am’ I felt both moved and challenged; that’s when I recognized that my current position on the spiritual path is one of ‘hanging in mid-air’!

Earlier this evening, I read the text of Rowan Williams Christmas Message and was particularly struck by the following lines:
“We must give an answer to suffering and tragedy in what we do - because the one thing we know is that this is what God does. Faith is restored and strengthened not by talking but by witness in action.”
“There is something about Christianity that always pulls us back from imagining that everything will be all right if we can find the right things to say - because for God, the right thing to say at Christmas was the crying of a small child, beginning a life of risk and suffering. God shows us how, by his grace and in his Spirit, we can respond to the tormenting riddles of the world.”

I never imagined myself being grateful to an Archbishop of Canterbury for moving me, albeit tentatively, towards a renewing of my FAITH!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Seasonal Greetings

I finally seem to have finished my addressing and posting off of Christmas Cards but, I daren’t open my address book to check up on whom I’ve overlooked. No doubt there’ll be the odd greetings card received from the ranks of ‘the forgotten’ … cue violins and traditional seasonal guilt! Truth be told, I feel the most important seasonal greetings transmissions have been those to friends in prison, one of whom so rarely hears from anyone!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

How To Lose Friends and Disinterest People

This evening found me all on my ownsome as my beloved has been out at her second Christmas ‘do’. As far as I’m aware there’s only one more of these events this season but, it does her good to get away from her old moaner. Half an hour after her departure the phone rings and, guess what, the call is for Helen. Ten minutes later it buzzes again but, this time it is for yours truly.

The call is from an artist friend, who I’ve not heard from for some considerable time. This is when the first mistake occurs, “How’s things with you?” he asks. The second mistake follows swiftly upon the first; I start to tell him, not in a ‘down in the dumps' manner I hasten to add. How does one describe a filing cabinet full, of miscellaneous physical and emotional ailments, in a telegram.

As it’s a friend, one realizes it’s not the formal courtesy of enquiring after your health … “How are you?” … which one knows requires a response of, “Fine, and how are you”. On the other hand, they don’t expect a whole diatribe of ailments but, how else does one explain why they’ve been out of circulation for so long.

What he found difficult to understand was why I’ve not got myself up to the loft to do some painting! That’s when the explanation follows, about requiring at least half-an-hour’s rest when I’ve been sufficiently energised to take a shower. Oh, what a joy the conversation must have been.

Monday, December 12, 2005

More Food for Thought

"Globalisation seems to me like a system where the man with power uses a big stick to put the man without power in his place," he says. "If you squeeze every last drop of blood from a Jamaican labourer and at the end of the day he hasn't got enough money to send his children to school or put food on his table, then who benefits?"

Extract from 'We will pay for cheap bananas with prisons, fear and fragmentation' - Guardian, 12 December 2005

Walk Like An Egyptian

After some 13 hours bedrest and, freshly emerged from my warm duvet lair, the doorbell rings. Forgetting that I’m me, make a swift dash to the staircase and, foot on the top step my knee-joint goes into painful spasm. Undaunted, I revert to a crablike gait, hands firmly grasping the rail and, just manage to catch the parcel delivery man as he prepares to retreat.

An uncomfortable re-ascent of the staircase follows, to grab and apply my knee support. Thinking of the various strappings that I apply to shoulders, elbows etc. on a multiplicity of occasions, my thoughts then turned to the Ancient Egyptians.

Perhaps we’ve got it all wrong about these bandaged figures, recovered from the various sarcophagi! Maybe the bandages weren’t applied post-mortem but, rather, had been applied at various life stages to deal with the most excruciating muscular and joint pains.

Makes you think, dunnit?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

And Sometimes There Are False Alarms

Methinks that Mary is in for a prolonged labour. On opening the Advent Calendar for today I was somewhat unprepared for the message, "So Mary and Joseph spent the nght sheltering in a stable with the animals". Let's hope there aren't too many complications!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Tales of the UneXpected

Tonight, my beloved and I are still in a state of shock. Brenda, after two amazing performances, is out of 'The X Factor'. With the exception of Andy, all the performers excelled themselves this evening but, with the voting being so tight we just knew it had to be Andy or Journey South who'd be going home. Perhaps the problem was that so many potential voters assumed that Brenda was 'safe'.

Brenda has gone from strength to strength throughout the series, whereas Andy peaked early and over the past couple of weeks his performance declined. Of the finalists, Journey South are our favourites but, I still feel (despite the odd dodgy performance mid-series) as I did before the proper contest began, that Shayne will be the winner .

In the end, it's just entertainment ... but, nonetheless involving!


Certain friends of mine have suggested that if I didn't allow my body to waste its energy on allowing my residual hair to grow freely, I'd maybe feel a bit less drained. Unfortunately, I remember the story of Samson and what happened to him when his hair was cut. Starting from my current low reserves of physical and emotional stamina, I dread to think where such an exercise might lead. I'd even have to give up being a seriously balding plain clothes Santa Claus.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Theology Lite: Massaging The Message

An interesting article in today's New York Times:
When Christmas Falls on Sunday, Megachurches Take the Day Off

Some of the nation's most prominent megachurches have decided not to hold worship services on the Sunday that coincides with Christmas Day, a move that is generating controversy among evangelical Christians at a time when many conservative groups are battling to "put the Christ back in Christmas."

Thursday, December 08, 2005

John Lennon Day

The letterbox goes “clunk” around lunchtime and, among the post is the 2CD set “Working Class Hero – The Definitive Lennon”, part of my Christmas Present from my beloved. That’s a present I’m really looking forward to receiving and, currently I’m listening to the “Afternoon Play: Unimaginable” (BBC Radio4) written by a journalist friend of John Lennon.

I’ve just done a quick scramble through my drafts of poems and, came across this one, a bit raw but then, it was an impromptu response to the shooting of JL … so here it is!


They say imagine
no more humane songs
and this at Christmas –

the fir trees baubles
weighted many-fold
like lead. He finds

his final peace
through this destruction –
no longer shall he ache

for universal love.
Crushed like a beetle
closer to Colorado

than his scouser’s home.

Perhaps gun-toting Reagan
will sleep in peace, relieved
at another “pinko’s” demise.

Malcolm Evison – 9 December 1980

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A Few Tired Words

As unsolicited fatigue once more preoccupies my day, on both a physical and emotional plane, I find myself wondering whether I have anything to say. The cynic in me says, “who cares?”, as he recalls the fruitless political activism, spiritual questing, striving to put the world to rights, of my earlier years. Although I still hold dear the same social, political and spiritual aspirations, I no longer have the stamina to don my sackcloth and ashes and get out there where it’s all not happening!

One begins to wonder how long they must cope with interminable dis-ease filled days. At least I have the sense to realize just how fortunate I am, to have a roof over my head, food on the table and, warm clothing on my back. Even the pains, I frequently feel in joints and muscles, are usually tolerable; the real dispiriting factor is the lack of stamina and, inability to concentrate for any sustained period.

My good fortune extends even further when I acknowledge all the love I receive from friends and family and, especially from ma belle Helene. Perhaps the hardest part of not being ‘well’, is recognition of the stress it causes those who are concerned and care about you. Secondary to that, is the sense of guilt one has, on occasion veering towards the tearful, at not having any results to show for the passing of yet another day.

Tomorrow, I’m due for another session of acupuncture and, insofar as it means that someone is attempting to do something about my condition, I look forward to it!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Victor recognizes the Truth

“People in this country are crying out for a Conservative party that is decent, reasonable, sensible, commonsense, and in it for the long term of this country. And that is the party we are going to build, and I want everyone to join in.” – David Cameron, 6 December 2005

It really does me good to find that the new Tory leader admits that his party is neither decent, reasonable, nor sensible or commonsense … I’ve known that for a long time!

Permanent Opposition

“I want and I will lead a Conservative party that when the government does the right thing, we will work with them, and when they do the wrong thing we will call them to account and criticise them.”David Cameron – 6 December 2005.

Obviously the man thinks that the Tories role is to be the Opposition party; there’s no suggestion here that he expects them to be the Government.

Monday, December 05, 2005

A Time of Testing

Yesterday, Heterocon commented on how I needed to “call upon all my reserves of stamina and courage” in order to keep an appointment in town. These words proved so prophetic and, the visit turned out to be quite a test of nerve. Firstly, I arrived in town early for the appointment and, what with my erratic bladder and spastic colon, thought I should visit the loo before heading across to the dental surgery. Surprise, surprise, (or should that be NO surprise, NO surprise?), the only public toilets in town were CLOSED / OUT OF ORDER! So, it’s off to BHS we go … thank you BHS.

Arrived in good time at the surgery and, dazzling sunshine was streaming through the waiting room window, total sensory overload! It was such a relief to be called up to the treatment room! Now, it’s waiting time until treatment commences in the New Year.

After the appointment, went to collect my beloved chauffeuse but, her appointment with Working Link was running over time. That’s when the panic attack kicked in! However, as you’ll see, by the fact that I’m writing this blog, I did eventually get home safely.

So that’s today’s big adventure out of the way … (Sinna Luvva sighs and mops his brow in relief) … nicotine sticks have been much in demand!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

A belated entry (for yesterday)

Last evening, I realized that I hadn’t done a blog entry and, I didn’t (really) feel guilty about it! In fact, for most of the day I never felt too alert even though, in Heterocon mode, I did manage an early day(well, early afternoon) posting on what could have been a profound issue. The sensation that I’m either just starting, or in the midst of, a cold was once again quite to the fore; for the past couple of weeks this teetering on the brink presence has been a constant companion.

It was a lazy dining day, for me; remove Pizza from freezer … pop into preheated oven for 18 minutes … et voila. Come late afternoon, I felt sufficiently inspired to commence preparations for Sunday’s dinner, whilst listening to ‘Jazz Record Requests’ (BBC Radio 3). The result of my endeavours, which I’m looking forward to sampling in the next couple of hours, a Chicken (Tikka Masala variant) casserole, which will be served with my special recipe roast potatoes and broccoli. Early evening, listened to and enjoyed Jann Wenner’s interview with John Lennon from 1970 (BBC Radio 4). I love John Lennon warts and all; perhaps this is a subtle form of self-love as, my beloved kept commenting, “He’s so much like you, how he expresses himself … it could be you!” Just how flattering (or insulting, dependent on where you’re coming from) is that?

‘The X-Factor’ (ITV1) held few surprises but, Brenda is definitely the best vocalist / performer on the show, at least in the opinion of my beloved and I but, I still think that Shayne will win (confirming my opinion from the audition phase of the show). Journey South are consummate professionals and Andy’s a great balladeer! For sheer entertainment value, we’re going to miss Chico but, perhaps he’ll inspire some maverick TV producer to bring back an old fashioned Variety Show!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Singing The Greys

Having enjoyed a 20 minute fairly brisk walk, out into the dull grey mizzling day, came back to prepare dinner for my beloved and myself but, failed to enjoy it. There seems to be something about my taste buds/ digestion on a Friday; at least it means that my beloved can enjoy even more!

After the exercise / exertion, a degree of fatigue cum disinterestedness in what I was doing, or attempting to do, became a prominent feature of the evening. A degree of release from this detachment came, when the gods of technology conspired against us, after dinner; the Sumvision Wireless Card on Helen’s laptop gave up the ghost … totally kaput. I tried re-installing and repairing the software etc., but, all to no avail. Methinks the product is crap, this being the second such card since August but, this time we’ll require a refund and not a replacement! Meanwhile, I’ve installed the Netgear USB wireless adaptor, which I’d been using on my PC, on my partner’s laptop and, the PC has reverted to its Ethernet link.

I’ve just been wondering, this evening, whether I can be bothered with blogging as it only produces a guilt reaction when I realize, as the evening draws to a close, that I’ve not done any scribing. If it becomes too much of a chore it’ll be better to ditch it. Energy & concentration reserves are at a premium in any case; it takes a lot of effort simply to appreciate a life of inactivity, let alone record the relative inaction’s ebb and flow.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

All agoggle

Tonight we chose to settle down in front of a hot cathode ray tube. First ‘Bleak House’ (BBC1), followed by ‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart’ (More4), then ‘Doc Martin’ (ITV1) and currently, I’m half-intently watching ‘Sensitive Skin’ (BBC2). All but the first of these has reasonable comedic content.

In sum, this varied and enjoyable diet, provided a recipe for relaxation! Only now does it dawn how close to saturation we have come.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005


This day has proved another one of average inactivity, although I did get around to preparing the Christmas round-robin. It really is strange how, for special occasions, we prepare a communiqué for those with whom we have had no, or at most minimal, communication for the preceding 364 days. I suppose a brief summation of ones life situation has a certain validity but, perhaps brevity is of the essence.

Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way yelling a Scrooge-like “humbug” at Christmas preparations, I leave that to my friend ‘The Oxcliffe Fox’ and, I don’t really see too much wrong with a tasteful round-robin for the Christmas period. In fact, the winter solstice is a fitting time to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the year’s turning point being a suitable time to celebrate the one who by his life turned accepted values and expectations upside down. Little changes as the years pass by; the child of Bethlehem, for expressing views that challenge the status quo, is hounded to his death by the religious and the imperialist occupying forces. If only I could see the parallels …!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Todays Giant Leap

Step One: Pick up a telephonic communication device.
Step Two: Using normal digital dexterity, depress the relevant buttons.
Step Three: Confirm and dispatch the input digits.
Step Four: A voice acknowledges that contact has been achieved.
Step Five: [This is the big one].The preceding steps having been achieved; enter into dialogue with the voice on the receiving telephone. Respond to the voice in supplying the required information before being transferred to another disembodied voice. Receive instructions.
Step Six: Disconnect and attempt to follow received instructions in another area of my life.

So, that’s my major achievement of the day, carrying out a business transaction on the telephone without becoming unduly stressed. It’s too difficult to convey just what an achievement that is!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Tetchy & Guilty

Today, I seem to be a really tetchy sod but, I suppose, bearing in mind last night’s restlessness, it’s only to be expected. Things rather came to a head when, nearly three hours after my beloved went out, for an Indian Head Massage, she still hadn’t returned home and, all sort of worries started to dominate my thoughts. Decided to ‘phone her but, her mobile was switched off so, come 5.25pm I ventured out for some nicotine sticks. Having purchased the comforters, a lady from the church I used to attend (in those dim-distant days when I could cope with such social events) enquired as to how I was. My response, “not brilliant”, was snapped out in a rather off-hand manner and, I couldn’t be bothered to hang around to amplify or apologize for my curtness. Of course, the normal social understanding of such enquiries is that the enquirer doesn’t really want to know!

By the time I got back in the house I started to feel guilty for being so rude. Forgot to mention, I encountered my beloved whilst on my way to the shop and my ‘greeting’ was rather sharp … a result of concern and frustration … so; I suppose an enquiry as to my health was the proverbial final straw!

Now, I begin to feel guilty because I don’t feel at all well! Perhaps it’s no point waiting for the effects of my most recent acupuncture session to ‘kick-in’ and, I should accept that, on this occasion, the effect is purely negative.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Joy of Achievement

Oh the sheer delight of a nice hot shower, second only to my pleasure at having sufficient energy and inclination to partake of same!

Yesterday was of the out of sorts variety when, having been widely awake at an hour unsuitable for lethargic drones like me (i.e. before 7.00 am), I drifted off into regular bouts of unconsciousness, finally emerging from the duvet kingdom around 11.15am.

It was a day of sore burning moisture veiled eyes, sundry modest aches, pains and generalized dis-ease … in fact pretty well typical of at least 50% of my time … with it’s inevitable burden of fatigue.

But, today is a different day when, not exactly full of vim & vigour, I commenced reading a book whilst propped up in bed alongside my beloved, a feat well nigh unimaginable during most of the past 500+ days. The book in question “Letters From A Lost Generation: First World War Letters of Vera Brittain and Four Friends”, being epistolary in nature, suits well my spasmodic periods of concentration.

The achievement: 84 pages consumed, and digested, before I realized the motivation was present to get myself under the shower.

For this small mercy, I give grateful thanks.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

It's X Factor Time

Tonight it’s going to be a tough call on The X Factor, even though some of the contenders didn’t perform at their best. I have little doubt that the Conways will be in the bottom two but, who’ll join them there? Brenda absolutely shone, such a soulful performance of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You”, perhaps the performance of the series. Shayne enjoyed himself in The Darkness number, which I’ve never particularly liked and, Chico was entertaining as always. The second outstanding performance of the evening came from Journey South … incredible how the final two acts of the show [Brenda and Journey South] proved their star quality and, for me, alleviated some of my earlier boredom.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Belated Greetings

Today has been a much better day for me, although stress remains not far from the surface. It’s amazing how much emotional turbulence can be caused by the inability to find a particular book, solely for one specific reference; we seem to have tomes of all shapes and sizes scattered all around the house (which in itself is a virtue). Once I calmed down a bit, having spent 40minutes or so searching throughout the obvious shelves and corners, nooks and crannies, the cause of the offence to my sensibilities turned up in an unexpected area.

During this period of disruption, the craving for a nicotine stick proved too hard to resist [I have temporarily relieved myself from the psychologically strenuous process of applying, and subsequently removing, the NRT patches] and boy, did it taste good! The planning and preparation involved in quitting in an organized way has proved far too arduous.

For dinner this evening, I prepared a couple of char-grilled salmon fillets sprinkled with ginger, garlic, freshly ground back pepper and light soy sauce. This was served with jacket potatoes topped with char-grilled cherry tomatoes and mushrooms. An absolute delight; today I am certainly back into food. Acute earache extending into the neck muscles was swiftly alleviated by the application of a microwave heated lavender bag. Oh, that such a simple salve could be applied to the rest of my condition.

In this day the Lord has made, I find much more reason to rejoice than was imaginable yesterday. With yesterday’s distractedness, I forgot to extend my thanksgiving Day greetings to my North American friends together with a recommended read:
“Thanksgiving: A Native American View”.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Defeat 1 - SinnaLuvva 0

Tonight, the flag of defeat is draped around my shoulders and, ashamedly, I admit to returning to the dreaded weed. I have no longer quit smoking and, insult was added to injury when our local 7 - 11 store was closed early for refurbishment, just when I needed to purchase a packet of twenty comforters. Salvation was close at hand though, in the form of an off-license a couple of doors down and, fortunately they stocked what were (and I suppose may soon have to say "are") my regular brand.

It is a sad day when I have been unable to eat one of my culinary delights from a position of queasy discomfort. Delights are few and far between and, I must admit that although the flavour of the first three cigarettes was not as enticing as I imagined, the process of imbibing nicotine orally is far preferable to the cutaneous transfer method.

Below Par

I hope to God that tears are beneficial as, I’ve shed a few this evening. I’m also trusting that yesterday’s acupuncture session has yet to kick in, as I’m generally feeling like shit today. Knees suddenly giving way as I stand up, followed by what feels like a cramping electric shock through the base of the spine, are simply the current (not of the AC or DC kind) intermittent manifestation of my physical well-being! Even the necessary effort of clearing mucous from my throat has, today, become a cause for self-pity.

The lack of energy, coupled with an inability to concentrate on anything, for more than a few minutes, is taking its toll on my usually good self-esteem. The ugly beast of guilt rears its head for my shameful inactivity; there are just so many social pressures that make “the unproductive” feel like lepers.

Today, you may have gathered, has not been the best of days!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Getting the needle

After a much better night’s sleep, SinnaLuvva emerged bright and early into the waking world, almost leaping from his duvet cocoon at the crack of 9.00AM. As a precaution, I re-don shoulder and elbow supports. Sad to say, I haven’t a lot of activity to report from these additional hours, simply more of the same, so I won’t bother.

The earlier awakening (at least a couple of hours before emergence into moderately ambulatory mode) took its toll by early afternoon, a fatigued emptiness replacing my bright and cheery demeanour.

After a quick trip down to Comet, chauffeured by my beloved, had a little time to relax before the physio arrived to administer a little more acupuncture. By the time the treatment was done, a return to the world of the zonked-out posed little challenge. I try not to anticipate the benefits of the needle-match but, I do have the feeling that the proximity of my “better days” to the last acupuncture session couldn’t all be put down to co-incidence.

As a concerned participant in the ritual, I also serve by lying down to wait!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Looking forward

Eventually climbed back under the duvet at 3.20AM but, had difficulty settling. Thermal support strapping around my shoulders and an elbow support, on my left arm, eased the situation a little. After struggling to find a comfortable position, for my intermittent sleep, eventually returned to the world of the (almost) fully awake around 11.20AM.

Despite my familiar lack of energy, and low level concentration, I still managed to enjoy the day, grateful that so many of my body parts are still in reasonably good working condition.

As I surfed the net and played around with RoboForm-Portable (Pass2Go) and portable Firefox, my rheumy eyes required regular rest periods, easily achieved as my mind insisted on meandering away from the task in hand.

As the day progressed, my knees became a bit unsteady requiring a conscious effort to maintain my balance as I moved around the house. My good fortune is to have a wonderful friend, lover and companion, my lady Helen, to keep me on the right track.

I’m quite looking forward to my acupuncture treatment tomorrow, as I’ve enjoyed more “good” days since the last treatment than I had experienced for some considerable time.

Restless ...

What is it wrong with me that, my first thought is in terms of punishment when some of the old familiar aches and pains return? It’s almost as if being unable to ask the question “why me”, I feel like some total wretch who deserves whatever discomfort befalls him … a punishment for my lack of caritas.

It’s only after a few “better” days that, one begins to realize just what assorted aches and pains they’d grown to almost take for granted in unalleviated days of all too recent yore. Today (meaning Monday) has been a day of gradual decline, certain jadedness as the day progressed, an increased awareness of miniscule irritations.

Accidentally decapitated a little wart on the inner thigh as I showered this morning, the bleeding disproportionate to the size of the wound but now, each little warty growth, especially those on the inner upper arm have started up their chorus of protest. Within twenty minutes, or probably less, of my head hitting the pillow tonight, an excruciating painful stiffness stemming from just behind the right ear and, extending down through the shoulder took possession of me. A nagging irritation in the ear, one of those that are always with us, has become an arterial throbbing, nausea invoking, pain in the posterior.

Anyway, the outcome is, that there’s no alternative to stumbling my way downstairs to take some painkillers and make myself a warm drink. Somehow the discomfort doesn’t seem so great, sat here by the PC as it was when attempting to sleep. Perhaps the warm drink, and the tablets, has so caressed my inner being that it sent up an unspoken prayer for healing. Perhaps I was over-reacting, or then again it could be that present keyboard activity is sufficient distraction.

I feel extremely tired whilst simultaneously wide-awake; perhaps sharing a woe carries with it a degree of healing! The question is, do I enter the overbearing duvet’s lair whilst still reasonably alert or, wait on the intervention of total exhaustion before allowing sleep it’s normal course?

The question is of course rhetorical, the decision to be made is real.

Monday, November 21, 2005


Another of those bright and crisp Autumn days but, unfortunately, I’ve not felt sufficiently energized to venture far from the fireside. Around sunset we experienced a beautifully haunting red sky once more so, I had to venture out of the backdoor just to grab a snapshot. It’s quite strange how much the lower layer of yellowish brightness counteracts the psychological warmth one would anticipate from a red presence!

Things aren’t always what they seem and, I’m afraid that words don’t always mean what one expects. I’m thinking especially of the word “immediate” which has presumably changed to mean “dilatory” (See “Tesco Jersey – “immediate” means when they can be bothered”, posted by Heterocon). I have contacted the offending institution twice today, requesting that they “come clean”!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

A reflection without depth

A beautifully crisp day once more and, this afternoon, after two exercise free days, managed a slightly longer (if still brief) brisk walk. The residual fall leaves, as we crossed the stray, hung so still they may just have been frozen. It was one of those days when I felt extremely grateful for my thermal hat and heavyweight, charity shop special, flying jacket!

The unfortunate aftermath of such exercise is that I wasn’t sufficiently energized to enter into discussion with a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses who’d called around especially for a chat. Much of the witnesses teaching fails to convince me but, I’ve always been impressed by their (courageous) anti-militarism. Their difficulties with Trinitarian doctrine are also something I appreciate, even though my personal theology veers towards an adoptionist (though omitting the dual nature of the monarchians) Trinitarian viewpoint.

Actually, my mind isn’t really sufficiently in gear to wrap around theological concepts at the moment so, I’ll just love you and leave you for the time being.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The X Factor - no disagreements here

No disagreements with the outcome of tonight’s X Factor. Andy was absolutely sensational, Brenda was … well ... Brenda ... and that’s more than good enough for me. Thought it was one of the weaker Journey South performances, especially as it began, although it developed well. Pleased to see Shayne on form once more and, still feel that his career will go a long way … not the market us oldies buy into but he’s good at what he does.

The Conways performed really well, considering the pressure they were under after last week’s controversy but, sadly, Nicholas once again failed to live up to any potential he may have. Three duff performances in a row are the reason he’s out.

And Chico ... it's the feelgood factor, great entertainment!

Friday, November 18, 2005

One Day At A Time

Today my concentration was slightly improved, albeit limited to the reading of short articles on the web. Although unable to manage one of my brief brisk walks, a few ascents and descents of the staircase were managed without resorting to a crab-like gait. I’m really starting to get the feeling that my most recent acupuncture treatment has proved beneficial.

It remains to be seen how next weeks (more intensive) treatment will affect me. My outlook is becoming more positive but, having spent such a prolonged wilderness period before the physiotherapist’s visits, I am all too aware that there may yet be setbacks.

I have been warned of the risk of overdoing any exercise, which has not normally been too much of a problem, as even thirty to forty minutes exertion (e.g. lawn-mowing) has on several occasions led to being ‘knocked-out’ for at least the next couple of days. A task to be gradually tackled is venturing out for little social outings, which requires a boost of confidence and, longer term (perhaps) to regain the courage to have a little holiday with my beloved. It’s now over three years since we were able to take a holiday, largely to do with my phobias regarding travelling and alien environments.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

A Modest Improvement

Once more, a night of spasmodically interrupted sleep was followed by a rather belated immersion into the world of the awake. I emerged, albeit sluggishly, with a lightness of spirit which was definitely not present before these twelve hours of “rest”.

One of life’s great imponderables is, why should bed rest prove so much more efficacious than days of imposed housebound inactivity? Heterocon has already commented on my enjoyment of today’s bout of exercise and, for that I give thanks.

Today my powers of concentration showed a modest improvement and, I’ve managed to read (and digest) a couple of short chapters of “Consuming Passion”, an easily assimilated collection of essays challenging the theology of penal substitution.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A shaky progress

My ability to concentrate, during the past couple of years, has markedly declined. In recent days, it has veered dangerously close to zero point.

How much of this further decline is due to the absence of the cigarette smoking ritual, which served as an essential distraction, to break up prolonged periods of minimal activity. A passive nicotine patch is no substitute for the active inhalation of hot toxins. I’m not really sure that I enjoyed cigarettes; I know that I occasionally enjoyed the smoking process.

The struggle continues!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Where's it heading

Got to admit it, I’ve been feeling much more alert today but, even so, I’ve been unable to concentrate on anything. Strangely, I’ve not even browsed my favourite online newspapers; in spite of having a much better day, it’s almost as if I can’t be bothered!

So, this is the point where the guilt kicks in; it’s one thing to lack the energy for any given physical activity but, to have an alert mind and not apply it, that’s a whole different ball-game.

But can guilt alone provide an incentive? Obviously not!

Sorry folks but, this is all you’re going to get! Just trying to get my head ‘round my mind.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Questioning Received Wisdom

An excruciating headache, starting at eyebrow level, coupled with painful sinuses, aching jaw and a dry sore throat, took total possession of me (following several hours of incubation) about three hours ago. A burning eyes component is so much my resident companion, it hardly seems worthy of inclusion in the list. Whilst feeding my cigarette habit, I had assumed that these kinds of dis-ease were, in all probability, smoking related; as I’ve not had a cigarette since 3 November, this hardly seems to be the case.

In many ways, apart from ethical considerations (cash crops vs food crops etc.), I question the wisdom of stopping smoking. At least the habit provided me with intervals of distraction during my prolonged health-imposed periods of inactivity.

Catching Up

Prepared and posted a blog last evening, only to delete it a couple of minutes later. Suddenly overwhelmed by a fatiguing emptiness, within ten minutes, I collapsed onto the sofa for an hours sleep. Having emerged into the day around 11.30AM, I was ‘out of it’ once more between 8.00 and 9.00PM.

Woke up in time to watch “Child of Mine”(ITV1) which certainly kept me awake for the next couple of hours. It was one of these strange productions whose premise had more holes in it than a colander yet, still managed to succeed as a kind of psychological thriller. Earlier in the day, I had transferred Woody Allen’s “Broadway Danny Rose”to DVD and, both my beloved and myself thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Once the adverts (it was originally recorded onto VHS from ‘The Studio’) were edited out, it just nicely filled the remaining time (LP) on the DVD to which I’d recorded “The Music Man”(BBC2), yet to be viewed, in the morning. A varied visual diet for a quiet Sunday.

Aroused myself from slumber-dom shortly before noon this morning and, following lunch, went to see the Practice Nurse who needed to check my progress on the quitting smoking regime. She has now issued reduced strength patches for me to try and, realizes my struggle with the weed is more mental than physical. She also recommends that I avoid looking at the more traditional quitting smoking literature, which is for me more a hindrance than an aid (see In Everything Give Thanks)!

Just have to see how we progress from here.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The X Factor

The positive note continued into today so, no complaints there! It really is good to feel a little more energized but, it’s very much a case of one day at a time. After my day's mini projects, recorded by Heterocon, decided to slump down in front of the TV.

The ‘X-Factor’ (ITV1) proved a difficult one to call tonight but, no matter what the talent of a particular performer … if it’s the wrong song … I’m really sorry to see Maria go and, didn’t envy Louis having the casting vote. It really was great to see Shayne back on form, with an appropriate song and, Journey South consistently make the most out of whatever material they tackle. Andy and Brenda, they’re both superb performers but, I was intrigued by Simon’s remarks as to whether Brenda has a recording voice! Last week, I commented (to ma belle amoureuse) how much I’d like a recording by Brenda then, qualified it by saying, “think it would have to be a DVD”. Andy’s rendition of a Boyz2Men song, a somewhat unusual choice, was for me the evening’s most soulful performance.

A glass of ‘Vina Tarapaca’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2003, a Chilean delight, provided a soothing accompaniment to our evening’s viewing.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Hello Again

Today, a slow start was absolutely necessary after last evening’s entry into ‘the void’. By the void, I refer to that all too frequent lack of physical & emotional stamina, in this instance accompanied by a total absence of any ability to concentrate. According to my beloved, it also led to the loss of my smile … I couldn’t even proffer a cynical token.

Having undergone a session of acupuncture in the late afternoon, I didn’t initially have any of the “zonked out” experience of last week’s session but, as the evening progressed it became more of a collapse. I suppose this is really a long-winded apology/excuse for yesterday’s lack of a posting.

Today has been much more positive as Heterocon (my alter-ego) explains in his posting ‘Born Again’.

My dear friend The Fox has planned a couple of days in the Lake District; unless the weather further West differs, to a most remarkable extent, from that which we’re experiencing, methinks the Lakes could well come to him!

Freedom and Diversity

Two items in todays Washington Post caught my attention: the first by Eugene Robinson ['Accepting Diversity is Hard but Necessary' ], takes the riots in France as a starting point to argue the case for "multiculturalism"; the other article, by Michael Kinsley [ 'Who Loves Freedom More?'], contrasts a country with a Constitution and a Bill of Rights (USA) against one with a much more nebulous constitution (UK).

Despite my present rather feeble powers of concentration, I found much stimulation in these articles.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Wrapped In The Coils

I don’t think it’s simply the absence of smoke pollution, in my lungs and bloodstream, that’s making me so tetchy but, how I long for a cigarette. It doesn’t really seem like craving, more like good and pure lust and, I realize that cigarettes alone are not a recipe for salvation. The words that proceed from my mouth are not always that pleasant as I struggle against an extremely potent stress factor. It is hard to determine whether physical frailty or emotional instability is the root of this stress.

I have literally, albeit intermittently, been going weak at the knees these past few days; it’s almost as if a fractionally harder sneeze, these involuntary expirations have been quite prominent of late, would knock me totally off balance. My sleep pattern has become increasingly erratic (since I interrupted my tobacco input); perhaps the nicotine patches are really bad for me and, it’s the other ingested toxins that cigarettes supply that my body needs!

Another thought, that occurred today, is that on this attempt to ‘quit’ I was encouraged to plan ahead. Anyone who knows me well can vouch for the fact that, planning and Malcolm do not make for the best of bedfellows! For me, spontaneity is of the essence; problem is, and has been for the past couple of years, my lack of the necessary stamina to be spontaneous! Waiting to see how one feels at a given time paradoxically (or is it) precludes spontaneity … one can only be spontaneous when energy reserves permit it; the waiting game, to see whether emotional and physical resources are up to the task, is far too organized.

Life at the moment is very much a matter of pacing myself, in the hope that I can ‘save’ sufficient energy to become productive once more. The Protestant Work Ethic, once again, wraps it’s reptilian ‘coils’ around me and, I gasp for air.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

working drafts

Two of my, not dissimilar, working drafts of a poem (The Candle) dating back to January 1991 (the time of the Gulf War), were recently unearthed by our friend Graham. As I don't feel sufficiently energised to do any further work on them at present, they have been posted on Mals Factory. Perhaps one of them is the finished work, but I'm not sure which!

Two Steps Back ... but where is the forward one?

Heterocon has already commented (See Selling One’s Soul) on last evening’s diminishing of my emotional stamina, indirectly linking it to my quitting smoking; a negative “progress report” you could call it. Although watching ‘Have I Got News For You’ (BBC2) and, to my surprise, ‘They Think It’s All Over’ (BBC1), served to bring a little light through the gloom, ensuing sleep proved a rather episodic affair. The worst feature of the night’s “rest” was the painful stiffness in my neck, closely allied with chronic earache, which required me to elevate my torso (on feeble upper limbs) in order to seek a more comfortable position in which to lay my head. It's quite surprising, the effort required for a quarter turn of the head!

You may have gathered that sleep, of this spasmodic kind, provided very little refreshment but, I still managed to disentangle myself from the duvet’s lair at a reasonable time (10.10AM). The neck discomfort, and a vice like headache, prevailed through the rest of the morning and, a rather fatigued Malcolm (eyelids propped on matchsticks) struggled to knock up a little pasta dish for his beloved and himself.

My chauffeuse (the self-same beloved I had catered for) then drove me into town, to visit the Job Opportunities Fair. I would have been ready to leave immediately had my beloved not dealt with the registration desk, allowing me to shuffle my feet to the far end of the room where the ‘Yes2Work’ stall was situated. Fortunately we seemed to be the only visitors there and, I immediately seated myself at the stall whilst my beloved supplied them with a few of her details. I had very little to contribute, apart from having made the effort to visit at all!

The grey wetness of the day seemed to complement the way I felt. At least it provided a ‘social’ outing to alleviate the pressures of my usual home-based regime. The experience was not quite as exhausting as I anticipated; the positive element, for me, was a fresh environment to do nothing in!


Helen contacted In-Home Legal Services, following the advice from Halifax Bank, to try and arrange a refund for the aberrant multiple payments the Halifax had made to them from our account. The first suggestion by IHLS was that we should contact the bank! The saga continues.

Monday, November 07, 2005

A Better Day - Interruptions Notwithstanding

Pleased to report a better day, with little joint discomfort, since emerging from duvet-dom at 10.30AM. Even a shower failed to exhaust me and, wonder of wonders, I was able to wear my dentures after a few days absence. My beloved, having attended her German conversation class this morning, drove me into town at lunchtime to carry out a minor transaction at the bank. Unfortunately, she had to return to the banking emporium, this afternoon, to sort out the Standing Order problem [see When Will They Ever Learn on Heterocon’s blog].

Further to the unsolicited ‘phone call referred to by Heterocon, a further ‘phone call interrupted the already waning attention I was giving to an OTT play on Radio 4. This call was from my key-worker at Yes2Work (quite strangely, since first contacting them, last year, my health deteriorated further) telling me about a New Opportunities Jobs Fair in our locality. It may prove of interest to my beloved if I’m up to it and, she drives me down there. This call was swiftly followed by a further buzzing of the ‘phone; this time a ‘courtesy’ call from Serif to update me on the latest software. I already do use, and have used Page Plus and Photo Plus, in various versions and, would recommend them as good value programmes; unfortunately, having to watch my pennies at the moment, it maybe wasn’t the most appropriate time for the call.

As I write, my beloved has returned from her bank visit and, now has to contact In-Home Legal Services for a refund of the overpayments on the standing order. According to the woman my wife spoke to at the bank today, the lady at the Halifax who "sorted out" the problem (in January) had not done it right ! Isn't that a remarkable insight, a sign of an incisive mind ... if the job had been done correctly at that time, we wouldn't have to waste our efforts! Furthermore, I wouldn't be tempted to quit quitting (that's a reference to smoking, my contribution to the fat cats running the pernicious tobacco industry and the exchequer) without this unnecessary stress ... it seems that the capitalists are out to get us whichever way we turn!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

In Everything Give Thanks

Third Non-Smoking Day : I swear that it ain’t easy, especially when some yob last night smashed off half of the number plate on my beloved’s car, parked on the forecourt. Later we read in the local paper that, in this area, number plates have been getting stolen.

Loving one’s enemies is bloody difficult; especially the sort of thoughts that whiz through my mind.

Progress Report: No queasiness or nausea today and, the nicotine patch remains in place. I still find that the craving for a cigarette or, at the very least, the lighting up and first drag ritual, is much stronger than it ever was during my abortive cold-turkey attempt to quit the habit. I’m even having a suck on the dreaded Crafe Away’!

In general the advice in various quit-smoking booklets and leaflets is totally irrelevant to my situation. The “just think what you can spend the money you save on” argument means nothing. I’ve only ever spent what I know I can afford and, retail therapy has never held any appeal. Craving possessions is part of the human malaise … the Buddha had quite a bit to say about that! I don’t see any point in replacing one craving with another. And surely, if economics are part of the reason for quitting, an alternative outlet for a scarce (money) resource is purely negative thinking.

All the literature encourages one to take more exercise, for me that’s simply not a viable option; if I could do more exercise on a whim I wouldn’t have any ailment to overcome … the fatiguing result of exercise is part of the very reason I have time to think about smoking. [I could even say something about the PE Gestapo that for many years made exercise seem like a trip solely designed for masochists and, administered by sadists].“Eat more fruit and vegetables” … if I did I’d never escape the loo! Same goes for “drink more water” … simply a change of outlet valve!

In this day the Lord has made, I will try to rejoice and be glad. I’m not sure how long it will be before I’m thanking him for the tobacco harvest.

Recently Unearthed

Our young friend Graham, who for five and a half years lived in the flat previously occupied by yours truly, has been back to sort out the residue this weekend. During this final clearance, he unearthed some old working drafts of my poems. These were the only extant copies and, this afternoon I have commenced the finalizing process on a couple of these drafts. One of them, most unusual in my oeuvre, entitled MISSION BETRAYED, can be viewed on Mals Factory.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Who Are They Trying To Kid?

Day Two of the Quit Smoking Regime: Things are not too good. An overwhelming queasiness struck me early afternoon, accompanied by a fluctuation between feeling hot and cold. My beloved noted a certain greyness of pallor.

Went for lunch to the local Brewer’s Fayre, as we have a guest with us today; began to feel even queasier whilst waiting for the food to be served. Sudden thought; see what happens if I remove the nicotine patch. Within a few minutes started to feel more settled. Don’t think NRT patches are designed for me; it has to be cold-turkey or nothing! Do I really want to quit smoking?

Since I applied the first patch, yesterday, I have craved a cigarette much more than I ever did when quitting non-assisted!

Tried a ‘Crafe Away’ dummy cigarette last night, “The Safe Cigarette with the Tobacco Taste similar to a Real Cigarette” is their claim. A Mr R from Scotland states on the back of the packaging, “I find the Crafe Away cigarette has a tobacco taste very similar to my regular brand”. If I’d smoked a brand that tasted like this, as if one is inhaling the fuggy smoke generated by burning waxed paper, I’d never have got into the habit in the first place! Even Mrs B must have smoked the same crap brand as Mr R; “Sometimes when I am using my CrafeAway cigarette I forget to light a real one, the tobacco taste is so enjoyable”

Perhaps if I decide to stick to ‘Crafe Away’, I will eventually become delusional enough to think that this is really what cigarettes taste like and hence, see quitting as a pleasurable option!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Beginning Quitting

Day one of my (stalled) attempt to quit smoking. My beloved collected my NRT patches whilst I was still in the process of gradual emergence from the land of dreams. Although it’s the 16 hour patches I’ll be using, it will only be on very rare occasions that I will sustain it for the full time, unless someone can suggest a way that they can self-apply whilst I’m still sleeping in the morning and, self remove whilst I slumber at night!

At least, with my current sleep requirement, there are less hours available for temptation. Already, I have noticed that the biggest requirement is for something to do with hands and mouth in moments of intermittent boredom. When concentration is at low ebb, which is not infrequently the case, one’s thoughts turn to the stable-door (my habitual point of indulgence in the cigarette habit).

Last time I quit it was cold-turkey but, when various stresses got too much – several months later – I returned to the habit like the proverbial “duck to water”! There is something about the whole ritual of lighting-up that is almost as addictive as is the nicotine fix.

There is, hopefully, a degree of wisdom to my recognition of the difficulties involved in escaping the habit … I know my halo will shine that bit brighter if I actually succeed!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

An Overdose of Sleep Dust

Spent nearly thirteen hours in bed last night/ this morning and, although occasional bouts of restlessness broke in, most of that time was spent sleeping. It was my first weekday lie-in for a while, permissible now that the work on the bathroom has been completed (last evening).

A major difference, from the past few nights, was that none of the discomfort experienced, the cause of the spasmodic bouts of restlessness, was in the neck region. Perhaps yesterday’s Needle Match (recorded by Heterocon) was having a swiftly beneficial result!

As I came down the stairs this morning, felt quite at ease with my knees, no need to employ a sideways gait. Co-incidence or a result of the acupuncture, that’s the big question. For a couple of hours I even felt wide-awake and, what a rare sensation that has been.

Mid-afternoon, I was suddenly overwhelmed by exhaustion and, drifted into a further one and a half hours of sleep. Was this ‘afternoon fatigue’ the aftermath of yesterday’s acupuncture session or, a return to perverse normality?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Perverse Pleasures

Which is the most pleasurable sound; the splash of a flushing WC or a burst of spontaneous (also at the push of a button) applause? Methinks the former auditory experience provides the greater pleasure, especially as it is the sound of progress emanating from our bathroom!

Yes, the work on the bathroom will soon be complete! And what of the applause; that emanates from my beloved’s laptop computer, as she works on an ECDL exercise in PowerPoint presentation. The juxtaposition of applause and the sound of flushing loos make me think about Prime Minister’s Question Time. The appropriate response is dependent upon where one sits in the House!

I am just struggling to keep myself awake prior to my impending acupuncture session ... the Protestant Work Ethic rears it’s ugly head once more; one strives to avoid two bouts of total relaxation in the course of a single afternoon, that could be construed as positively dissolute behaviour.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Tripping the light (not so) fantastic

Late afternoon our lighting circuit ‘tripped’, no apparent cause, no bulbs blown etc. Ten minutes ago, the same circuit tripped again; once more we were unable to find a reason. Just at a time when our bathroomless travail is coming to an end, seems like we may have a different problem to contend with.

When the plumber lifted some of the bathroom floorboards, he was surprised to find a deep layer of old mortar and plaster packing much of the space. This residence seems to have had more than it’s fair share of ‘cowboys’ working on it’s structure over the years so, we have to be even more grateful that our current tradesmen are so conscientious!

Tomorrow afternoon the physio will be calling to administer a little acupuncture, to me not the house and, I’m quite looking forward to the experience. Any miraculous recovery would prove a bonus!

As I write, the lighting circuit has tripped yet again … twice in fifteen minutes … what did I say about problems?


'BRAVE NEW WORLD OF ZERO RISK: Covert strategy in British Science Policy' by Martin J Walker

available as a free download from The Zero Risk? Group

"This book examines the contemporary corporate politics of science in two areas, that of MMR (mumps, measles and rubella) vaccination and the illness ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis). It shows how those who have fought for independent science have been bullied, attacked and discredited, using political strategies that have nothing to do with science and everything to do with power and profit."

Monday, October 31, 2005

Progress in the bathroom and crap via e-mail

Tomorrow morning I’ll be able to have a shower in the transitional bathroom. Present state of play is, showerbath and much of the tiling complete, old WC sans cistern still in situ and, no washbasin. Having a separate loo downstairs has veered between being useful and a necessity. A washbasin in the spare bedroom has also proved a blessing. All being well, the transformation process will be complete by Wednesday afternoon.

My date for quitting smoking has been postponed until the whole job is finished.


Received an e-mail today (senders address: , informing me that I’d won 500,000 Euros from the BANKGIRO LOTERIJ.NL,/INTERNATIONAL PROMOTION PROGRAMES NL. Statements such as the following make it rather suspicious :
“Due to mixed up of some names and addresses, we ask that you keep this
personal, till your claims has been processed and your funds remitted
you. This is part of our security measures to avoid double claiming or
unwarranted taking advantage of the situation by other participants or
“NOTE: All winnings must be notarized to complete the claim process;
will be referred to a Foreign Transfer Manager,to have their winnings
notarized. Winners are to cover the legal charges not STAATSLOTERIJ,”
as well as:
“N.B. Any breach of confidentiality on the part of the winners will

So, it's a 'promotion' but, they're afraid of publicity!

Just out of curiosity I sought further information online; several similar mailings can be found at :
[INFN ( Italian) National Institute of Nuclear Physics]

Don’t think I’m going to be wealthy just yet!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Jesus Lives

Jesus of Nazareth, referred to by the faith community, in the light of that experience called “resurrection, as the Christ, has a hold on me. His subversion, and some would say fulfilment, of the religious culture in which he was raised continues to excite me through all the fluctuating phases of my faith journey.

The fact that he was fully human implies to me that he shared our weaknesses in order to walk fully alongside us. He was no respecter of social status, and was frequently to be found alongside the poor, the oppressed and outcast of society. I’ve always loved that primitive Christian hymn in Philippians 2:6-11 – He “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant ...”

What a contrast to some world leaders who, claiming to be his followers, act as if they have exclusive access to God’s will and, in so many actions (that they order their subjects to perform) bring shame to the name of Jesus the Christ. Unfortunately, right from the birth of Christendom in the 4th century CE, there have been attempts to transform the “good news to the poor” into a message which is used to further subjugate the poor and oppressed.

Excuse the rambling but, I’ve just been enjoying the nation’s top ten hymns on tonight’s “Songs of Praise” some of which rate amongst my favourite’s, Wesley’s ‘Love Divine’ and, in the top 20 (last week’s edition of the programme)another of Wesley’s ‘And Can It Be’. All of Charles Wesley’s hymns have a theological profundity which is hard to match, embracing the life, death and resurrection. [Must admit, although I may be stirred, how much of it I accept is a variable feast!]

Personally, I feel equally at home with Ewan MacColl’s ‘Ballad Of The Carpenter’ as with a Wesley hymn, I love the recognition of the political dynamic in Jesus’ life and ministry but, I am still moved by the symbols of a more traditional Christianity ... I know that Jesus lives! But, were he simply an avatar of YHWH what would be so remarkable about that, a symbol of a definition rather than a beacon in the fight against oppression and injustice. The man Jesus died early in the Common Era, many profess to witnessing his physically resuscitated form but, most importantly, his Word and Spirit inspire action to counter oppression and injustice wherever it occurs.

It is time to reclaim Jesus and to be empowered through the symbols of the faith.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

The service-less bank

The visit to the service-less bank proved an even worse experience than anticipated. At first it seemed as if the statement issuing machines had been removed whereas, in fact, they had been replaced with new touchscreen machines in a different area of the impersonal foyer. Unfortunately, these machines will only print the on-screen section of the statement. Admittedly, it was possible to go further back, printing half empty sheets of each respective on-screen image but, I don't understand what was so wrong with the machines which served up a total list of all transactions since the previous statement.

It seems so obvious that banks, like most commercial ventures, are more concerned about streamlining, avoiding personal contact, and maximising profits for the fat-cat directors, rather than providing any kind of 'personal' service to 'ordinary' customers.

I've lost track of how many cosmetic re-vamps this branch of HSBC has undergone, in the past few years, wasting money (which could have been used to benefit their customers) on hollow fripperies! It must be some kind of tax break thing.

Bright and Lazy

A bright and mild morning faced me on my slow emergence from duvetdom and, I revelled in the delights of struggling into a bath in my own home! A further rest was required after this exertion, almost as if I’d been taking a shower. A traditional egg, bacon and black pudding breakfast was followed by the equally conventional Saturday morning/early afternoon lounge around, today in the company of ‘The NewsQuiz’ (Radio 4) and ‘It’s Been A Bad Week’ (Radio 2); I’d even found time, before that, to listen to Mark Lamarr with Joe Brand … a refreshing change in the usual Jonathon Ross slot (Radio 2).

Feeling quite venturesome, I might even pay a visit to my (service-free) bank to obtain a statement from one of the machines contained therein. I’ve not yet got around to online banking, preferring the more personal touch of an almost ‘real’ bank as opposed to the virtual kind. So, that’s today’s great adventure recorded in advance of the actual event.