Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Leaping Into Action

A bright sunshiny morning greeted me on my emergence into the world of the day people. My beloved was already out in the garden, doing her best to disentangle ground elder roots from those of desirable plants. I loyally sat and observed her exertions from the pond-side garden bench, with only the slightest modicum of guilt!

That disturbing guilt potential proved sufficient for me to access the lawnmower in the top shed and, lop the tops off the ground elder that had begun encroaching on the lawn. Ten minutes effort was sufficient at this early hour as my body issued a muted scream at the prospect of further exertion. At least that ensured that I was sufficiently energised to prepare, and consume, lunch before venturing down to the Chronic Fatigue Unit for my appointment with Julie.

The hospital was ten minutes walk from where we parked the car providing me with a little more exercise. As we arrived at the hospital we met Helen, my physio / acupuncturist and Patrick, a physio who had worked on the ‘Food For Thought’ course that ma belle attended a couple of years back. The meeting with Julie was productive, as always, allowing some scope for modifying my pacing activity.

On our return home, I made a start on splitting and re-potting some Aloe Vera plants, before accidentally coercing my beloved into re-organizing the greenhouse (from its sad state of chaotic desuetude). In the course of this ‘spring cleaning’, a startled Helen recoiled from an unexpected resident, a rather large yellow frog who startled by her presence leapt towards the corner. Another similar, in size and colouring, creature joined the first to cower in the corner before hiding amongst sundry plant pots and seed trays. The speed, with which they manoeuvred around the cluttered space, was quite astonishing; much too fast to catch in one’s hands. They chose to leap any direction other than towards the door. Eventually, a large pond-net provided a solution; unfortunately it was difficult to explain to the amphibians that I was trying to help!

No sooner had the yellow two been despatched to the undergrowth near the pond, when a smaller olive green amphibian made its presence felt in the greenhouse. This little critter seemed quite determined not to be rescued but, the (by now) experienced netter was able to release him into the big wild garden, after a brief battle of wills.

It really is quite wonderful to have this wildlife right on our doorstep.  

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Weariness of the Short Distance Walker

Energy levels have not yet restored themselves to what I assumed was becoming my new norm; a sense of weary frustration hung over my day although, I delighted in watching young birds (primarily blackbirds, starlings and sparrows) being fed in different parts of the garden. My suspicion is that my pathetic power of concentration is at the root of the frustration, alongside my restricted activity.

On the work front, I managed to rinse out the filters from the pond filtration unit, and topped up the water level after previous overenthusiastic baling out activity. Later in the day, I managed to take a twenty plus minute walk.

At present, limiting myself to ten hours bed rest per night / morning is proving rather difficult and, I’m really nervous about allowing myself “forty winks” during the day, even when I need it, because of my propensity for going into overtime!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

A Little Stumble

Is it quite simply that I’m not sufficiently attentive to my body’s requirements or, are the signals transmitted by the aforementioned ‘heap of sensations’ deliberately muffled? This question is posited from the shattered state in which yours truly finds its being. In recent days I have started to take progress for granted, yesterday being no exception.

So, what went wrong? If I knew the answer there would be no need to ask the question. Saturday morning I felt unusually alert and, ventured out into the garden, shortly after 10.00am, to do a little necessary tidying up. One hour later, I quite sensibly called a halt to these exertions and returned to the house for a little rest. In the early afternoon, my beloved and I strolled down to the local Brewers Fayre for a relaxed lunch and, by the time we returned home, knew that I’d had sufficient exercise for the day.

Preparation of Sunday lunch occupied best part of an hour, late afternoon / early evening but, by then the aching weariness was beginning to set in. An early night was definitely called for; it was almost as if shutters kept falling in front of my eyes, a blanket kept muffling my ears, and the world became a floating blur. I think it must have been the quickest I’ve ever managed to transform myself from fully clothed to bed-resting Malcolm. Such was the need for sleep that I fought my weariness, as I undressed, the sooner to immerse myself in the duvet lair.

From the exhaustion came forth … not sleep … but rather a tortuous aching void, a kind of spontaneous depression, a turbulent restlessness. Far too tired to sleep, everything seemed rather pointless as I was unable to pinpoint the source of my complete psychosomatic dis-ease!  S-H-A-T-T-E-R-E-D, I couldn’t bear to be touched, even though one of life’s greatest pleasures is being cosily snuggled with ma belle; it was almost as if my body was an alien being, totally unrelated to my stupefied brain.

After a while, I arose from my bed, hazily stumbled down the stairs, my beloved following in concerned protectiveness, wandered through the kitchen to the stable-door for a nicotine fix. When in turmoil, grab a cigarette! The nicotine was followed by a mug of chamomile tea and, a laboured re-ascent of the wooden hill. On return to bed, the invasion of the night-sweats began, even before I’d gotten off to sleep. It seemed inevitable that they would return to disrupt my snoozes and, as is its wont, the inevitable occurred!

Hopefully, things can only get better; I look through bleary eyes at the sun’s reflected shine on the clouds and thankfully, I rejoice in this day the Lord has made.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Marking Time

After a seemingly interminable grey damp day, come early evening the sun finally broke through and, I ventured out with my ma belle Helene for a little amble around the local roads. I’m sure the weather affects our energy levels, or at least I prefer to reason that way, rather than worry that I may have overdone it on Tuesday. Of course I know that I’m much too wary, and idle, to overdo it on many occasions; as Heterocon reported on the following day, “I actually listened to and, all too willingly, acted in accordance with my body’s directive”!

Yesterday morning I once more walked down to ‘Open Church’, to enjoy a cup of coffee and a chat. I’m happy to report that my dispenser of healing acupuncture, who called to administer a further treatment yesterday afternoon, seems quite pleased with the progress that I’ve made since she started seeing me last year. I’ve even been contemplating spending a couple of days away with my beloved, in the near future; it just seems so long since I was last able to consider such a venture. When this becomes a reality, it will most certainly mark a major turning point; even the use of “when” rather than “if” is something of a marker!  

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Setting The Pace

This morning the sun shone and, I was almost up with the proverbial larks. Arising from my slumber lair never seems an easy option but, apart from the sunshine, there was another reason; I eagerly anticipated a Special Delivery from the postal service, an additional DAB Radio and delivery was promised before 1.00PM. As my beloved would have already set off for work, shortly after 8.00AM, I thought it safer to ensure that I would be alert to any ring of the doorbell (or even a feeble tapping on the door). Having just donned my dressing gown, the doorbell rang and, my beloved (not yet ready to depart) received and signed for the aforementioned package. Surprisingly I did not revert to the duvet lair!

I suppose that the early arising wasn’t a complete waste of time as, it ensured that  I didn’t overstay my allocated span au lit and, last evening I retired somewhat earlier than the norm to my bedchamber. Ideally I should go to bed (and arise from same) at a regular time and, last night was a substantially earlier venture up the little wooden hill. Some days it seems a real struggle to remove myself from the duvet’s grasp after a mere ten hours but, it hasn’t required quite so great an effort as I had imagined when the prescription was set. A little morning sunshine makes it easier still!

For a few better days energy-wise, I give thanks. Now for the halo-polishing; before lunchtime and, indeed, before I’d partaken of any breakfast I found myself baling out a few buckets of water from the garden pond, the level having risen to not far short of the surrounding paving. Next, I removed and utilized three more bucketfuls of the liquid to rinse out the sponges from the filtration unit.

A bowl of cereal later found me back in the garden, wheely-bin in tow, for the thankless* task of removing some patches of ground elder and yellow loosestrife; the objective, to rescue a few choking plants, granting them space to breathe and access to light. The recent excessive rain showers proved a great enabler to the removal task but, I’m all too well aware, *one never manages to clear the whole root network. I’m afraid that the ground elder has not only taken over the garden borders but, it also manages to encroach on the lawn, an amazing guerrilla force successfully reclaiming the land it feels is it’s birthright.

Come mid-afternoon, I even managed to take a little walk (all my ownsome). I’m going through a kind of phase when one begins to feel guilty at being able to participate in such normal activities. Pacing is all and, I am learning when to cry “enough!”      

Monday, May 22, 2006

Grey Visitor

He perches, in sparkling eyed contemplation of the goal. Like some celebrated stylite, he squats on his post, oblivious to the hostile elements. My stare intrudes upon his gaze; defiance resonates across the intervening space. And then the sudden leap, a precarious landing on the ridge; teeth bared he taps against the meshwork tower, seeking nutrition.

Losing his grip, he hastily takes flight, back to the stepping stone beam (the garden fence’s parapet) and, suddenly a sure footed spring onto the post. I stare at him, he glowers back at me, brush-tail twitching. I sense a mood of defiance; he leaps once more onto the bird tables ridged roof but, struggles to manoeuvre himself into position on the covered plateau.

Aware of his current instability, retreat to the fence seems inevitable. His eyes gleam as he eyes the target once more. He steels himself for what turns out to be a futile exercise. In the glistening wet plastic roof he has met his match; he flounders and falls into the sodden undergrowth.

Bedraggled, he climbs the austere fence, tail curled in discomforted posture, shakes vigorously and, it’s like taking a shower in reverse. Beads of water propel themselves from body into air.  Straightening his tail, disconsolate, he beats a retreat along the wooden parapet.  

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Polishing My Halo

Having spent some time, this morning, soaking up the joyous scene of sparrowlets anticipating a little treat for their stomachs, the garden was later visited by the young offspring of both starlings and blackbirds. The observation of their antics is a joy in itself. Whoops, there I go again exposing the cracks in my hard-bitten veneer!

As the day progressed, I actually motivated myself to perform some of my husbandly chores. Having recently wax polished the top of our antique writing desk, I thought it about time to apply the same graft to the archaic dining table. So far I’ve managed to (almost) complete two-thirds of the surface. The application of the pure beeswax / carnauba wax polish isn’t too much of an effort but, having left it for the required 30 minutes before buffing is when the hard work begins. So far I’ve been buffing it up for about 35 minutes but, a great deal more elbow grease will be required before the task is completed to my satisfaction.

By way of a break from this routine, I decided to prepare Sunday lunch, a spiced honey minced lamb casserole. The act of food preparation sans recipe I find to be therapeutic and, my beloved finds the act of consuming my lovingly prepared dishes equally therapeutic. I’m so pleased that she recognizes real quality on the cuisine front!

Between times I even managed to dub an odd VHS recording to DVD; thankfully the electronics take care of that act, freeing me up to get on with my labours, all I need do (once the process is set in motion) is remember to stop the recording at the appropriate time. Mind you, my concentration being as shot as it so frequently is, the act of remembering could prove a chore!

I’m currently relaxing, listening to the Zubin Mehta / Israel Philharmonic Orchestra ‘live’ recording of Mahler’s Second Symphony … I rejoice in this day the Lord has made.

Friday, May 19, 2006

An Evening with the Boss

Once again, I’m full of gratitude for Auntie Beeb. Having watched ‘Have I Got News For You’ (BBC1) at 9.00 – 9.30pm, a bigger treat was in store on BBC4 at 10.00pm … two hours of the Boss … the first hour was of last weeks concert, with the Seeger Sessions Band, which I have now recorded to DVD and, I’m currently enjoying the European TV premiere of Springsteen's concert with the E Street Band, filmed at Hammersmith Odeon in 1975. What have I done to deserve such treats? He really is the Boss, a great performer with his heart in the right place.

This morning, I only allowed the lure of duvetdom to detain me for ten minutes over my freshly stipulated bed-rest limit (10 hours). For much of the morning I only felt approximately the same fatigue as I experience after my more marathon sleep sessions. I’ve certainly not felt sufficiently energized to take a shower.

Playing about with a new, to me at least, PC programme for building Flash-based Websites, enabled me to stay reasonably alert, and temporarily ward off the lure of the Sandman, during the afternoon. I even summoned up the energy to take a twenty-five minute walk with my beloved when she returned from the Acorn Centre. The most exhausting part, of this exercise, was the five to ten minutes when we stopped to have a chat with a mutual friend; standing takes so much more out of one than walking! Back in the house, I temporarily reverted to a crab-like gait as I ascended and descended the staircase.

At teatime, having recovered (to some degree) from the preceding exertion, I took on my chef’s persona as I prepared some char-grilled salmon, lightly crusted in spice and herbs, served with jacket potatoes topped with mixed grilled peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms. Although I say it myself, it was quite exquisite; I can’t help but be honest about my unique creations.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Saving Secular Society -- In These Times

Interesting article on the growing power of the evangelical right stateside.
Saving Secular Society -- In These Times

The Cold Light of Day

The words are expressed so gently, sensibly, and realistically, that one scarcely recognizes the harsh reality that underpins them! But, in the cold light of a new dawn, the bitter truth strikes home; I have lain and tossed and turned in the duvet realm for nine hours and fifty-nine minutes and, now is the moment of truth.

Under the strict new regime, initiated by the sainted Julie of Chronic Fatigue Services, one must strive to avoid periods in excess of 10 hours in bed. Stiff-necked and aching hipped, I roll myself off the mattress; slowly I insert my arms into the velour sleeves of my dressing gown and, stumble down the stairs for a quick nicotine fix (a medicinal dose to overcome the trauma of this early morning endeavour). I venture back up the wooden hill, adopt a semi-recumbent posture on the bed as I apply emollient to the lower limbs. So far so bad but, I even manage to fit myself up in daytime garments and resist the urge to lie down for a further period of rest.

On paper, the routine stinks of reasonableness and, I approve of its goal! A slowly returning normality is not a prize to be scoffed at and, I am still encouraged to take necessary rests; just like the Inquisition, although the rack may be more subtle, the aim is the salving of my soul.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Fighting the Elements

As the day has remained miserable and gloomy, solely weatherwise I hasten to add, just felt like adding a little more sunshine blossom!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Stray Thoughts

After my recent sparkling days, as the weekend approached I veered back into my usual regimen of idle days. My return to inactivity, thus far, isn’t accompanied by the intense frustration of the pre really good days and, I have managed to take a couple of leisurely walks to grab some photos of the blossom on The Stray. No doubt the rain of the past couple of days will have devastated that glorious scene, so it’s just as well I managed the straywards meander when I did!

It does seem that my ‘pacing’ is starting to come together but, I also recognize the necessity of taking the occasional opportunity to stretch those self-imposed limitations. At times, as in the past few mornings, the body finds its own way (various discomforting symptoms) of telling one to exercise a little caution.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Apple Blossom Time

Just thought I'd go out into the garden and couldn't resist taking a couple of 'snaps'.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Just an ordinary day

Just another ordinary day and, I’m on the road again. The roads seem unfamiliar but, the routine seems unchanging. Grasped by anticipation of future events, it feels like I’m being pulled along this particular route. A crowd gathers at the foot of a hill and I find myself wondering what the big attraction is; all eyes turn towards me, as yet I’m unable to determine whether hostility or admiration motivates their gaze.

Next thing I remember is the multi-stranded steel cable tied around my waist. Slowly I stumble up the hill; a passenger train rumbles behind me and, my exertion seems to supply its only motive power. So, that must be the reason for the cable; my task is to pull this train to the top of the hill.

When I reach the summit, my employer awaits me angered by my late arrival and, an argument begins. I threaten to flatten him, assuring him that it wouldn’t be a problem if only I was fit …

The bosses’ gargantuan hulk leaps from behind the bar (or is it his desk?), a strange confusion of guilt and anger accompanies my sense of panic.

Next thing I know, I’m awake and, it slowly dawns that it’s just one more of the night’s dream sequence. It’s the supra-ordinariness of these dreams that makes them so disturbing.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Pilgrim's Process

After an intensifying frustration with my inability to lead a more active life, I suddenly realized that I ought to make a greater effort. Yesterday I emptied out, and gave a thorough cleaning to the aquarium, transferring the minnows to a temporary tank with all the algae laden plants. After thoroughly scalding the gravel, and cleaning and sterilizing the ornamental rock, came the task of refilling the tank with AquaSafe treated water. It really is amazing how bright the gravel looks now! Next replaced the mechanical & chemical filter, and applied a fresh dose of live bacteria to encourage the bio-foam filter to keep up its good work, then turned on a bit of additional aeration.

At teatime Beth called around, arriving at the same time as Helen returned from work, to give her Mum her birthday present. We enjoyed a glass of delicious Burgundy Chardonnay (Roux Pere & Fils 2002) together and, later in the evening, Cathy (with partner Ken) came around on a similar mission to Beth. Ken & Cathy enjoyed a glass of the self-same Chardonnay followed up with a glass of Jacques Lurton’s ‘Finca Las Higueras’ Pinot Grigio 2005.

Today I arranged a few fresh aquatic plants and added another dose of good bacteria to the aquarium. The White Cloud Minnows, meantime, are intent on hanging and hiding in the multitude of ailing plants of in their temporary holding tank. It really is quite a while since the currently illuminated (for the new plants sake) main aquarium looked so pristine.

This morning decided to take a walk, whilst my beloved was at work and, within five minutes bumped into Iris who attends St. Marks and stopped for a little chat, eventually I walked down to ‘Open Church’ at St Marks for Coffee and a chat. By the time I returned home I felt much better for having ventured out into the normal world. After a rest and, listening to an excellent Afternoon Play (Radio 4), decided to stretch myself a bit more by getting out the lawn mower. I think this sudden burst of activity was inspired by my current relief from recent back and hip pain, as well as relief from the aforementioned frustration. If only I could now do something about my lack of concentration!

I rejoice and am glad in these two good days the Lord has made. There are certain times when it’s much easier to give thanks, and the past couple of days have been two of them!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Seek and (sometimes) you shall find

Yesterday morning saw the return of Abstainer’s Hangover, clogged sinuses, excruciating headache, earache, sore throat and generally feeling flushed and burning up. The only accompaniment lacking was the sudden shivers; apart from that, it seemed like a return to my days of excess. If temperance can be so devastating on one’s sense of wellbeing, perhaps it’s getting to the time when moderation should be avoided like the plague. At least in days of yore it was quite usual to (eventually) acknowledge my own culpability for the following morning’s symptoms; in that sense an undeserved presentation of the symptoms is much more difficult to cope with.

Shortly after noon, I emerged from the duvet realm in a kind of discomfiting stupor and, energised myself sufficiently to prepare salmon pasta for my beloved and I. After lunch we went down to PC World, where my beloved had to pick up a copy of the new Clait 2006 handbook for a colleague and, I enjoyed a brief session browsing. Later in the afternoon we went out for a walk and, I discovered that, with my troublesome back, it was much easier to walk at a quicker pace, assisted by a trusty walking stick, than that recommended (on other grounds) by my therapist. Quite strangely, a slower pace seemed far more jarring on the spine. Come early evening, I prepared one of my special minced beef curries ready for Sunday lunch.

After watching ‘Dr Who’, we decided to watch the most recent film of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ which, to us, seemed perfectly cast and really captured the wonderful humour of Jane Austen. The experience was admirably complemented by a shared bottle of Taittinger ( a pre-emptive strike for Helen’s birthday on Monday.


This morning, apart from my normal weariness, I felt much better than the day before and, even managed to take a shower before ma belle helper went out to chapel. A hunt for my favourite cardigan, firstly by me and then by Helen, ended in futility so, I had to settle for a crew-necked jumper. Lunchtime and, the curry, prepared last evening, was thoroughly enjoyed by both of us, a slightly sweet forward taste being delightfully underpinned by a gradual release of ginger& chilli heat. Whilst Helen was finishing her dinner, I retreated to my comfortable supportive chair to relax. Some ten minutes later, I became aware that I wasn’t wearing my spectacles so, another hunt was underway.

As I knew I’d taken my glasses off to put the jumper on, the room in which that action was performed made an obvious stage for our investigative work. No joy. Next we checked the bedroom, twice, and still no result from our quest. Twenty minutes down the line, my beloved discovered that which was lost down the side of of the dining room’s comfortable supportive chair! There was much relief and rejoicing in the land.

As we decided to take a walk in the rain, anoraks were called for as the day’s uniform. Guess what, I was unable to fasten the zip within my first five attempts; bet you thought I couldn’t find the anorak! Some days, I surpass myself and actually find that which has never been lost and, I even manage to fasten my clothes without too much difficulty. If only these events weren’t carried out in such deadly earnestness then, this grouch might even find it vaguely amusing.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Moany Moany

No sooner had my beloved got through the door, on return from her volunteer work at Oxfam, than the ‘phone rings and, I finally get to greet her some ten or fifteen minutes later. Mal’s Murmurings has already recorded this afternoon’s telephone confrontation but, some people just won’t give up! Actually, it was a different person from the same company that I had cut short less than two and a half hours earlier but, at least they had come straight to the point on what ‘service’ this woman, from Yorkshire Water Home Services, was trying to sell. Sadly, my beloved is genetically incapable of putting the ‘phone down on unsolicited callers, even though she had explained that she’d just that instant got through the door on return from work.

Unless the quotation, which we are now expecting, dramatically undercuts the extremely competitive rates we are paying for the same services elsewhere, the only response will be to tell them to get stuffed if they insist on making unsolicited calls to our number! Oh what a sweet temperament I have; ma belle and I seem predestined to play out the “good cop bad cop” routine when it comes to unwelcome telephonic intrusions.

As I seem set in the “Grumpy Old Men” mould, I may as well go on to another technological moan. This time the topic is my website Guest Book. I seem to be receiving an increasing amount of spam entries in the guest book; well they don’t actually get into the guest book pages themselves but, I’m getting sick of notifications that I have received an “entry” whose submission I have to “Approve” or “Delete”; online casinos, web pages about supposed celebrities, landscaping services, all of which originate from that home of decadent late-capitalism, the US of A. I’m rapidly coming to the opinion that it’s not worth having a guest book on the site at all. I don’t mind whether submissions are favourable or legitimately critical but, why do these ignorant spamming gits have to waste their time and mine, I’ll never understand!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

J.K. Galbraith's Towering Spirit

He challenged the national conscience with a series of thoughtful books, provocative interviews, merry rejoinders and lethal wisecracks. The Bush presidency led Ken to muse aloud that it had caused him to think thoughts that he never thought himself capable of thinking. I asked, "For example?" Ken replied, "I begin to long for Ronald Reagan."
- Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

J.K. Galbraith's Towering Spirit

Nature Unreserved

An (at times) excruciatingly painful back has forced me to reduce my already limited activity and, led me to the role of overseer as my beloved attempts to get to grips with the lawnmower and its height adjustment mechanism. Were I not such a nice guy, I could so easily get used to the role of bully! Whilst Helen carefully manoeuvred the grass cutting implement, I spasmodically used the end of my walking stick to move the trailing lead out of the way of encroaching blades. Although we’ve not been able to fend off the total invasion of the garden by the dark forces of ground elder, we are at least successfully decapitating some of it’s number who dared to encroach on our would be lawn!

At other times, I simply enjoyed the pleasure of relaxing on the bench beside the garden pond with its abundant tadpole population. Regardless of the water’s murkiness, I really find it relaxing watching the Brown Windsor Soup [aka Pond Water] swirl around and away from the water spout. My halo still gleams a little from all my efforts to re-instate the pond-pump. A simple need to ‘do’ something tempted me into applying a further treatment of the pond with ‘SludgeBuster’ but I’m not anticipating any overnight transformation. The water boatmen, skimming the surface, seemed hyperactive today.

It was wonderful, just sitting and relaxing amidst the activity of honey and bumble bees and the occasional sighting of flutter-bys. Today, for the first time this season, we were visited by a Small Copper butterfly by way of a change from the regular welcome trespass of Tortoisehell and Peacock varieties.