Monday, November 30, 2009

This Sporting Life

Whilst listening to the tragic story of a schoolboy who took his own life after years of bullying, in both physical and cyberspace manifestations, I couln't help notice a reference to the boy's dislike of / disinterest in sports. My thoughts initially turned to the bullies, loosely disguised as P.E. teachers, at one of the schools I attended. More generally, my mind wandered off in the direction of all the bullshit we hear in terms of sport being character building and teaching the value of co-operation and team building.

To me, the most noticeable characteristics of sportsmen are competitiveness, aggression and the bullying and taunting of those less able. For some of the smaller boys, at school, it seemed essential to develop a dual level of protection from bullying. Apart from cultivating a few tougher protective friends, it became necessary to learn the tricks of dirty fighting. A well aimed knee (or even foot) to the groin and an adept use of the head butt became an essential part of their armoury. Although dirty fighting was nothing to be proud of, it was in no way as disgusting as the behaviour of the bullish sporting dinosaurs.

Sporting activity may well build up confidence in those participants of appropriate physical stature but, simultaneously, it only serves to diminish this same attribute in those not physically equipped to handle the sports more rigorous aspects. The Loughborough school of bully-boy P.E. teachers, who forced one to do press-ups beyond their natural ability / strength, in the process deliberately showing them up in front of their peers, fully earned the contempt which I reserved for them. Unfortunately, many of the hearty sports lads seemed to inherit their pernicious perverted tendencies. Co-incidentally, I could never quite understand why these he-men felt an obligation to keep an eye on the boys in the showers!

Dis-ease and Pleasantries

Within an hour of my previous posting I was, once more, caught unawares in the health and wellness stakes. This time I was truly frightened. I was sat watching an entertaining DVD episode of Ally McBeal, with ma belle, when suddenly, my body seemed to be grasped in a vice, limbs and torso felt achingly crushed whilst my head felt like a bruise floating in a zero gravity chamber.

Eventually, having lifted myself from the chair, all I could manage was to stumble up the stairs and roll myself into bed. A triangular supporting pillow, on top of the other two pillows, was called for to find anything resembling a semi-comfortable posture. Even my familiar low energy reserve seemed to have drained away - an achingly nauseous void swapped places with my body. Had it not been for the frightening sense of dis-ease, I would have described the condition as numbness. Twelve hours later, I remove myself from the duvet lair and, to my surprise, I feel reasonably alert.

After a caffeine fix, chores to be done, I head off to the local post office and then to the bakery. As I walk along the road I meet up with a couple of acquaintances; to the first one, in response to the "how are you" question, I respond with the customary "fine", the expected pleasantry. The other enquirer receives a more honest response and, I then find myself wondering whether I'd correctly understood the nature and purpose of the enquiry!

Sunday, November 29, 2009


My ability to concentrate is currently somewhat erratic; this has been an intermittently recurring problem during the past six or seven years. Exhaustion affects one mentally as well as physically but, it also appears to be unrelated to any exertion, or lack of same, on my part. Having had considerable periods of remission, from the more disabling aspects of my illness, has resulted in an increased level of frustration when stamina levels take a dive; this sense of frustration, in it's turn, seems to militate further against my reserves of concentration.

Quite remarkably, alongside this frustration I'm feeling reasonably content with my situation, when I'm able to hold back on tetchiness! I feel blessed in having such a loving and caring family, a comfortable home, good food and drink; what more could I wish for? Although the question's rhetorical, it would be wonderful if I could reduce my bed-rest requirement without feeling shattered mid-way through the remaining hours of (what I would like to be) active life.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Normal Out Of Kilter Wellness

I'm woken with a start; on this occasion the doorbell seems to have gained some decibels. My head spins giddily. I try again to lift myself but my torso's having none of it. A heavy thump; it's obvious whatever was to be delivered has now been duly deposited. Amazing how wide the letter box jaws can extend; my head falls back those elevated few inches onto the pillow. Look at the clock, the digital display reads 10.30. It certainly doesn't seem like twelve hours since I retired to the bedchamber. I have scarcely a memory of my beloved departing for work, even though she never goes out without a kiss and a cuddle but, that will have been three hours ago.

Ma belle is blessed with the gift of sound sleep, as opposed to my fitful variety. It requires a definite effort of will power to remove myself from the duvet realm and, in response my lower limbs refuse to obey me, as if some alloy of lead and jelly holds back my attempt at free movement. The leaden jelly feels sharply bruised alongside their hollow emptiness. My ears ache and pop, my eyelids resist the attempt to keep open but the show must go on.

I manage to put on shirt, pants and slacks before the effort exhausts me; I almost feel sorry for myself as I lay back on the bed.Trouble is, with any chronic illness, it's hard to tell whether this is simply part of my normal out of kilter wellness or am I unwell. Generally, I'm enjoying a pretty good remission from some of the most disabling aspects of M.E. although far from regaining my former levels of comfortable healthiness.

I'm now a little puzzled about why I bothered getting dressed as I cross the landing to the bathroom, put on the wall heater and ready myself for a shower; that's when a fresh bout of nauseous giddiness kicks in as my lower limbs go into a kind of spasm. Steady myself against the sink, switch off the heater and cancel my plans to take a shower. Sans shower I feel grimily burdened but, I realize a general sense of disorientation wouldn't be a good shower companion.

Hopefully the painkillers will soon kick in against the spasmodic discomfort in torso and limbs, apart from that, it's just another normal day and there's a life to be lived. Good morning rainfall, I'm coming down to visit you!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

Mal's Madeleine Moment

It really is proving quite refreshing to listen to some dirtily muddy recordings, 1964 vintage, by The Downliners Sect, ex the live EP 'Nite in Gt. Newport Street', now included amongst the bonus tracks on a re-issue of their first album 'The Sect'.

The sound really was quite muddy, when listening to them in the low-ceilinged basement 'Studio 51' (aka Ken Colyer's Jazz Club). Back in those days I used to go and listen to the New Orleans style jazz at the same venue. Nostalgia just ain't what it used to be. In those days I had the stamina and enthusiasm to haunt various venues purveying R&B, modern jazz, trad et al. The handiest venue, five minutes walk from my then residence, was 'Klooks Kleek' at 'The Railway' in West Hampstead where the not infrequent highlight was The Graham Bond Organization - Bond (organ), Dick Heckstall-Smith (sax), Jack Bruce (bass), Ginger Baker (drums). I have special memories of an occasion when Phil Seaman - a modern jazz drummer, one of Ginger Baker's influences I suspect - turned up. At other times, Long John Baldry's Hoochie-Coochie Men were the guests, apart from Baldry a young Rod Stewart also provided vocals. Rod's version of 'Stormy Monday' was quite simply sensational.

At other times I'd venture down to the 'Flamingo' to hear, on different occasions, Georgie Fame's Blue Flames, Zoot Money's Big Roll Band and Chris Farlowe & the Thunderbirds. Whenever I wasn't engaged in my political and social-activism I just had to be out somewhere; I didn't like my own company much in those days and, despite having friends scattered around various parts of North London, I had never in my life experienced such loneliness as I did after my move from the sticks to The Smoke.

Suddenly, all this stuff comes pouring out just from listening to a few CD tracks. I wouldn't want to change anything in my life, highs or lows; life is just too precious to have time for regrets.

When I think back, it's quite amazing how puritanical the various left-wing political sects, with whom I was affiliated, were; in fact it's surprising that my disagreements were generally on points of dogma rather than my somewhat beat lifestyle!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Frustration Rules

A generalized sense of shatteredness has replaced much of the familiarly painful discomfort of the past few years yet, simultaneously, the tetchiness of my achingly disoriented days has returned with a vengeance. I suppose that, on one level, I feel rather guilty about not doing more with my time; after all, I have periods of a few hours on most days now when I feel totally alert but, even many of my e-mails remain either unread or superficially browsed through and my best intentions remain just that, intentions.

At least when pain was being experienced at excruciating levels I felt that was genuine reason for not getting off my backside and committing myself to some positive action or endeavour, manifest in either literary or painterly output. Currently, I find myself exhausted when I go to bed (at a time I once would have considered early), restless through a goodly portion of the night and, spasmodically sleeping through a goodly part of the morning, once I've discovered a suitably comfortable posture. It's rather strange being neither a night-owl nor an early riser; where once a few hours bed rest ensured an adequate energy resource, many hours of rest don't seem to leave me with much of an energy reserve at all.

Before anyone jumps in with a solution, I must emphasize that whenever I forego my lying-in period a totally mind-numbing, muscle bruising, fatigue overwhelms me before the day is out. Any self-enforced increase of exercise seems to have an intensely negative rebound effect on subsequent days.

Frustration rules!

Like a circle in a spiral

Once upon a time one picked up a telephone and rang through to the surgery to order a repeat prescription but, sadly those days are gone. Once upon another time, my local pharmacy did the job for me but, on almost every other occasion, something went wrong (at the pharmacies collection and delivery end I suspect – having had no such problem when I changed to the next system for placing repeat requests) and it took an increasing period of time before the prescription was fulfilled.

Next came a great boon; after faffing about on line for initial registration, it became conveniently possible to order a repeat prescription online. No problems with that system until, this morning, when I was greeted with a different signing on screen. The system has evidently been changed to improve efficiency. Unfortunately the new system requires a “user name” which has not yet been allocated. I duly rang the surgery who informed me that a) you will not be able to use the system this week and, b) you will be receiving a letter (via snail mail) in a few days informing you about the new system!

It would have been helpful if we had been informed that the system was going to be inaccessible, thus allowing us to place the repeat prescription request in advance! Do I take two bus journeys, each way, to drop in a repeat prescription request or, do I give the local pharmacy another try? Perhaps I’ll wait until ma belle chauffeuse is available and drop in the repeat prescription form that day; this latter approach could save a lot of additional frustration.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Chef's Hat and Gardening Cap

After last Sunday’s disappointing meal, which featured celery and elastic band fed pork (at least the toughness and lack of flavour suggested that was the diet on which the distantly deceased had been fed) today’s lunch was a total success and, once more I’m fittingly proud of my chefly accomplishments!

As yet, I’ve not given a name to this rather special casserole but, a little experimentation definitely paid off. First off I diced a few chicken breasts and treated them to a marinade of garlic, coriander, cumin and hot pepper sauce – being cautiously generous with the latter ingredient. Onions, green and yellow peppers, mushrooms, tinned tomatoes and pickled beetroot, together with a little chicken gravy made up the final dish and, although I say it myself, great was the rejoicing over it. Not only did it tantalize and tingle the taste buds but, simultaneously cleared the sinuses. My special spiced crispy roast potatoes (crunchy externals with fluffily melting interior), broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots and French beans proved a perfect accompaniment. Compliments to my beloved vegetable chef, for the purchase and preparation of those ingredients.

Thankfully, I’d prepared the casseroles last evening, utilizing my favourite lidded wok for the purpose; had I left it until this morning, things would have had to be rushed as I remained entangled in the duvet lair until long after my beloved had set off to church. I did, however, manage to find the time to pot up four varieties of fragrant hostas before lunch. Eventually they’ll be planted out in the moisture retaining area of the garden.

This afternoon, stamina permitting, I hope to clear an area of well-drained sunshine (subject to availability) fed garden in order to plant a few Echinaceas. Even if I don’t get around to it, at least the intention was there.

I rejoice and am glad in this day the Lord has made.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mind Warps

Sometimes the mind just wanders. A time when one should, by rights, be fast asleep is the oddest of hours to embark on these travels.

Thoughts of how the media exploits the grief of others for political ends, ignoring the fact that helicopters had arived within the "golden hour"; political manipulation by the unfree press which, at our expense, promotes causes to which one may be diametrically opposed. There are more things under the Sun than are dreamt of in their philosophy! When was the last poll of consumers taken, to find out in which direction the advertising budget of the supply chain should be spent.

I've been suffering from a frequently recurring image of a capitalist ship, navigated by neo-Thatcherite helmsmen, crashing upon the rocks. A brain-washed populace screams out for the party that spawned the helmsmen's grasping idol to come to the rescue. It's no longer a case of better the devil you know but rather, bring back The Devil Incarnate!

This couldn't happen in reality; could it?

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Re-privatisation Of High Street Banks

The Lib Dems Treasury spokesman Vince Cable welcomed more competition in the banking sector but said there should be no urgency to the sales.

"We need to be careful that when these split-ups occur, the prime cuts are not offered to private investors and the scraps left to taxpayers," he said.


If Cable's desire is to be met it will be totally different to any other privatisation ever witnessed in the U.K.!