Sunday, January 31, 2010

Much Ado About Nothing

A day of hollowness; an aching void replaces any kind of fulfillment. A sense of frustration started yesterday when I set up a recording using PDC (possible only with analogue transmissions - no such luxury afforded when digital is the only option), only to discover that the BBC, in it's wisdom, had interposed an additional programme advert into the schedule resulting in the 34 second advert being all that was recorded; a confusion of signals!  Today I set off a recording of a classic movie, direct to DVD, only to let the recording overrun by twenty minutes which proved quite irritating. At least I have the recording of the film, albeit rapidly followed by far too many minutes of some Aussie soap.

Any regular reader of my blogs will be well aware of my antipathy to sport but, this morning, I made an exception to that rule to watch Murray vs Federer. I was swiftly hooked on the match even though my mind, or perhaps my soul, was telling me that I was just wasting time. This sense of squandering precious hours was not subject to any probable outcome of the match, it's quite simply that observing grown-up people chasing a ball around is a time-waster, nearly as much so as participating in the sport. Had I been listening to music, watching a film, reading, or even just browsing a reference book, no such thoughts of wasting time would occur. That privilege is apparently reserved for sport alone. This sense of vacancy almost distracts me from the sundry aches, pains and general discomfort my flesh is all too frequently heir to.

Earlier this afternoon, Radio 2 provided background accompaniment to our lunchtime dining experience; on several occasions EP, the programmes presenter, told us that a song was performed by "the late ..." but, I very much doubt it! Adam Faith, Jean Simmons etc. may well have recorded the songs whilst they were alive, prior to attaining the status of "the late", but, I couldn't help being haunted by the vision of a medium channeling the voice of some ectoplasmic projection onto the acetate. The deceased, in my experience, very rarely if ever, perform songs in or out of the studio. 

In an attempt to overcome this negativity of absence, encouraged by my beloved, we go out for a walk. As we pass the local pharmacy, my attention is caught by a notice proclaiming "Chlamydia Often Has No Symptoms"; if I was feeling in the best of health that could prove worrying, I have no symptoms therefore I may have got that disease. Truth be told, I have symptoms of all sorts of possible conditions so, I'm hardly likely to have that one. Honestly, I don't know who the message is aimed at but, in small letters the notice says "ask the pharmacist for a confidential test"; I just imagine thousands of people, not knowing what chlamydia is, popping in to the chemist for a confidential test because they have no symptoms. The least they could do is incorporate a few words saying that it could be contracted through unprotected sex!

Friday, January 29, 2010

And The Point Is ...

Well, for a start the point is on the pictured needle attached to a syringe. The text reads,"smoking is addictive don't start". The message is on the back of the cigarette pack. Before you see the message you must have first purchased the cigarettes. I suspect that purchasing cigarettes is the act of one who already smokes. When you get the packet, the lid is flicked open from the front so, there's no need to look at, let alone read, the said packets backside. If the intention is to stop people smoking why not just ban the sale of cigarettes and, forsake the enormous revenue raised thereby for both manufacturer and exchequer?

Governments and health authorities must be seen to be spreading the right message but, placing the adverts on the coffin nail packs themselves, does seem like an exercise in futility. The smoker is already paying a financial penalty, to maintain their habit, which theoretically should prove a sufficient deterrent.

As a smoker, whose first indulgence in the pernicious weed occurred at a pre-teen age even though Iwas brought up in a non-smoking strictly tee-total household. I also accept that it can lead to health problems, especially as an irritant to a latent condition but the constant reminders of this fact have little effect. On several occassions I had thrown off the habit, only tobe lured back by the constant refernces to it on national no smoking days. I am also aware of the addictive properties of caffeine, my most recent return to the nicotine habit having been a direct result of an attempted ban on caffeine consumption by my physician.

In earlier times, I indulged (at times quite heavily so) in the partaking of purportedly addictive substances which were not legally available.I failed to become addicted; these illicit substances turned out, in my case, to be a passing fad.

The question is, would their free availability over the counter have encouraged me to further pursue the habit, bearing in mind that they were already relatively easy to obtain? If their illegal status was a deterrent to my continued use, then it's time that the government outlawed cigarettes on the same principle!

There could, of course, be an ethical principle at stake; if land is used to grow a cash crop (tobacco) where food crops would be more appropriate and, if the producer is not being paid a fair price for his commodity, this for me would be a more compelling consideration should I, once again, attempt to discard the habit.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Matter of Routine

I've just been reading the most recent posting, from The Oxcliffe Fox, referring to the reticence of the English when it comes to making complaints (Something un-English). It occurred to me that the customary courteous enquiry, of restaurant staff, "Is everything alright for you sir/madam",
suggests a lack of confidence in the quality of the commodity they supply.

Perhaps it would be better if a placard was posted on the wall stating, " If you tell us what was wrong with the meal we served, we will attempt to rectify our mistake the next time you visit!"
, thus avoiding the probable embarrassment of an ill-prepared waiter / waitress having to cope with any answer other than a formal assent to their question.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


My days are enriched, my mind stimulated and, new worlds are opened up. After several years deprived of this luxury, it's impossible to overstate my gratitude for the return of this ability. No matter how frequently I'd tried, the effort was always a step too far, emotional and physical stamina were both quite markedly lacking; the necessary concentration span was far beyond my grasp.

For the present, I've been released from an irksome captivity; once again the pure delight of settling down to read, and be captivated by, a novel is a realized possibility!

Chilcot Domesticated

A man lives in a block of flats. The block of flats is in a neighborhood where many of the people don't share your particular values.

The man harms some of his neighbours. He refuses to comply with your set of values.

You blow up the neighbourhood!

Is your action lawful?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Question Of Judgement

As I listen to reports of the proceedings of the Chilcot inquiry, I'm overwhelmed by a sense of frustration combined with infuriation. Today we heard from Jack Straw, who evidently always argued that we must observe necessary procedures to ensure the war's legality, in the full realization that to aim for regime change would not meet this criterion.

He acknowledged the paucity of good intelligence information but, eventually made a (mis)judgement, rather than finding proof, in favour of the bogus WMD claims and agreed to go to war in partnership with the USA, whose intention was always that of regime change. In my way of thinking, there's nothing honourable in colluding with international criminals. Whilst his expression of regret for lives lost seemed sincere, I doubt if he ever believed that wars could be fought without the loss of life!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Yesterday, a (temporary?) reprieve from a snow-laden garden brought out my latent - albeit limited - energy reserve as I manfully retrieved a spade from its hibernation; the wheelbarrow was also rescued from its angled reclination as I set to work. The task I set myself was to transfer some of the contents of the compost bin onto the garden's flowerbeds. Fortunately, I had the good sense to limit this exertion to two barrow loads; my state of being, this morning, confirmed that any further exercise could have proved disastrous. Shattered-ness has been retained at a degree only marginally greater than is my norm. Pacing is all!

Meanwhile, a slightly more passive pursuit has been the commencement of a project to transfer some of my vinyl and audio cassette collection to mp3 format. For far too long these musical and dramatic artefacts have been squirrelled away in sundry, non too easily accessed, hidey holes. I must own up to my preference for the sound spectrum derived from vinyl rather than CD but, unfortunately the turntable that obtains the best performance is also the most temperamental! For the vinyl transfer I'm using this hand-built turntable via a USB powered and connected phono pre-amp; for the cassette transfer a USB connected tape2pc deck suffices.

The transfer operation has more to do with potential ease of access, to the performances, than the overall sound quality; it has certainly taken me long enough to embark on this mission and, I'm hoping not to be too disappointed with the result! First transfers have come out better than I'd anticipated but, there's still a long way to go!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

New on Mal's Factory

A new poem, SNOW TREK, can be found on 'Mal's Factory'
- MAL's FACTORY - Poetry & Prose Poems: Snow Trek

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Faith of Meteorologists

If only I had the faith of a meteorologist, I could move mountains; that's what I call blind faith.

Forecast heavy snowfall fails to materialize, predicted intensification of sub zero temperatures result in our first recent experience of temperatures at or above zero centigrade.

It comes as something of a surprise that they continue to present us with their forecasts, undaunted by their apparent inaccuracies.

This certainly is faith in the purest sense, bearing little relation to their falsified beliefs.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Customer Dis-service from a bailed-out bank

Today, my beloved decided to check a current account online to ensure that a payment (due to go out on the 4th January) had been made. This check seems necessary since late last year one such payment failed to go out on time, to our cost. Quite strangely, this bank always finds it impossible to make an online payment with the same immediacy that another bank, used by yours truly, can always manage. On checking the account it was only possible to display transactions since yesterday, along with a message stating that the account had been RENEWED. No word of warning was issued, by the bank, that any kind of limitation was imminent but, evidently after 2500 transactions all transaction details are archived, and it is then impossible to access them online. It seems, according to a telephone conversation with one of the bank's staff, that it would be impossible for them to simply archive the bulk of the older transactions (e.g. more than three months old) but they have to clear them all. It also seems beyond their ability to notify the customer that the banks arbitrarily imposed limit is nigh. Methinks that their IT team should be sacked and replaced.

As a result, the only way we can check transactions before the renewal date is by telephone, where one is asked for a security number which we do not possess as we do not normally make telephone transactions. Admittedly we still do receive a 'paper' statement, a necessity for us to keep a check on our multifarious transactions.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Mal's Winter Wonderland

Just posted four randomly (un)selected snapshots of our garden under a mantle of snow on 'MAL's PICTUREBOX'

Monday, January 04, 2010

bonus normality

Today could best be described as bonus normality. My beloved seems to be steadily on the mend and, she even managed a few hours free from the duvet's confines, the bonus being that we could just sit together, hold hands, listen to some radio comedy and plays (courtesy BBC Radio7 & Radio2) and then, earlier this evening catch up with the episode of "Wallander" which I'd recorded last evening.

Helen's "holiday" seemed more like a reality when we could share our daytime living space on a Monday (not since the distant Bank Holiday Monday of 28 December 2009 had this been possible) when normally she would have been at work.

All that remains on display of the Christmas decorations are three nativity cribs, scattered around the house, plus our permanent reminder of the situation in the Holy Land today, a nativity scene from which the would be visitors are barred from access by a tall dividing wall.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Update - In(ter)dependence

The snow squalls seem perfectly fitting for the season and, the outlook from the back room proves quite enchanting. Fortunately, as there's no need for us to venture out, we are able to greet and appreciate the snowscape with a degree of enthusiasm. The process of dismantling the festive decorations is now under way and, I'm pleased to report that the holidays passed by most enjoyably without any hint of over indulgence on our part. As usual, fluctuating manifestations of M.E. helped to assure that moderation in terms of food & alcohol consumed was essential and, any attempt to extend one's usual waking hours was carefully avoided. Exhaustion would have taken a far greater toll had I not paid such close attention to body listening!

Having diligently prepared sermon, lessons and hymns, for a service at Starbeck Chapel this Sunday evening, my health-wise below par belle is now unfortunately confined to bed, having spent last night feverishly alternating between burning-up and shivering. It seems like the sore throat and subsequent sniffles that began last Monday has now managed to come to fruition. As is her nature, she feels guilt at not being able to take the service this evening, a guilt (almost) for being ill. Although she managed to get into work all last week, now as she begins a "holiday" week, the stamina to utilize the time to the full is totally lacking. She even expresses guilt at my having to run around after her and, as I tell her how inappropriate that response is, it drives home the message of how guilt-ridden I've been about my health since succumbing to M.E. in 2003. The guilt is not so much at being ill but rather for the (imagined?) intolerable burden it places on those closest to one.

Having spent a part, albeit brief, of last evening slaving over a hot wok to produce a couple of casserole dishes of beef meatball, yellow & red peppers and mushroom Madras variant curry, the intended dinner for today & Monday, a couple of poached eggs on toast was all my beloved could manage come Sunday lunchtime. I made do with a goodly potion of Madras served with a few chapatis, the effort of preparing my special saffron rice seeming a task too much for one helping! Apart from keeping Helen plied with a regular assortment of hot beverages, in the hope of flushing the bugs out, I'm feeling quite lost and helpless. It's amazing how lost one feels, left entirely to their own devices when, life's greatest pleasure is quite simply being in the company of one's beloved partner.

No matter how self-sufficient one may like to be, in my case contentedly resigned to frequently unattached bachelordom until my mid-fifties, my mind, body and spirit cries out for that completeness found only in close proximity to the one who truly is my other half.