Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Little Thermostatic Maladjustment

The night sweats seem to have returned with a vengeance; the suddenness with which the perspiration seeps from pores on head and torso always takes me by surprise. It makes little or no difference whether the bedroom is heated or unheated, the experience seems totally unrelated to the ambient temperature. I automatically throw off the bedclothes and, quite frequently, feel compelled to remove my pyjama jacket as it only serves to intensify the spasmodic gnawing discomfort emanating from the armpits.

Strangely, this thermostatic symptom bears little relation to my general state of well-(or otherwise)-being at the time of it's occurrence.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Ringing The Changes and Staying The Same

Although my beloved has had the whole week off work, the primary benefit has been quite simply enjoying each other's company for rather longer periods than her usual work routine permits. Watching the occasional light-hearted DVD, whilst still abed in the morning, has helped make ma belle's time-off seem more like a holiday. For all we'd love to change the world, in terms of social justice and the far too prevalent inequalities, and have both been activists in the political arena, our own needs are quite simple and we thoroughly enjoy the privilege of being able to spend time together in our home and garden.

My stamina level isn't particularly brilliant at the moment and, an increased tenderness of glands beneath the chin and in the armpits, alongside aching spasmodically painful limbs, has done little to alleviate this far too familiar situation. Our only two expeditions of the week have been a visit to the garden centre at Otley and, yesterday, a visit to the local tax office to sort out my anomalous tax situation, paying tax on a small pension even though my total income is more than two grand below my personal allowance (the allowance having increased when I attained full senior citizen status last June).

The taxation problem seems to have arisen as the companies paying two minute pensions are allocated to different regional tax offices. Evidently the code duly allocated to one of the pension providers had never been issued! Hopefully, after the valiant efforts of the tax office staff in Harrogate, this problem has now been resolved! Late morning, we made a preliminary visit to the office and were able to arrange an appointment for the same afternoon. This allowed time for us to go back home, where I quickly concocted a spicy chicken risotto for our lunch before the appointed hour. It feels like quite an achievement to have made and kept this appointment as, ever since succumbing to M.E. back in 2003, pre-arranged appointments in town have contributed to panic attacks on top of other excruciating ailments. I even managed to enjoy a grocery shop at Waitrose before returning home!

The day's activities caught up with me later in the evening, as lower limbs painfully refused to be fully co-operative; a vice like griping pain, seemingly emanating from thigh and shin bones rather than the muscle, made traversing the room seem more akin to attempting to skip the light-fantastic at the 72nd hour of a dance marathon. Having emerged from my duvet cocoon at around 11.00am, by 10.00pm my head was exhaustedly floating, leadenly anchored, in a mercury bath. My beloved concernedly assisted my passage to the bedroom where I swiftly collapsed into sleep mode.

A relatively comfortable emergence, into this new day, has been assisted, in no small part, by the efficacious administration of tramadol hydrochloride to alleviate the griping spasms in limbs and torso. By the time I'd managed to remove myself from bed, and attained a degree of verticality, my beloved had already headed off to her volunteer duties at the Acorn Centre.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Anniversary Celebrations

Yesterday morning I was wide awake before 6.00AM, not just a little restless interlude, that had already occurred between 2.30 and 4.00AM. Like a young child on Christmas Day morning, my mind was buzzing with excitement, after all it's the dawn of a big day, our tenth wedding anniversary. Perhaps the fact that I'd spent much of the previous evening setting up my beloved's new laptop, my anniversary gift, and knowing that I still had one or two new programmes to install, had made my mind ultra-active. So frequently an active mind resists the ailing bodies need for sleep.

Anyway, back to 6.00AM; just what does one do when they're bright eyed (albeit none bushy tailed), bursting with an unfamiliar emotional energy whilst all too well aware that the limbs and torso are still screaming out for rest? Decided to pick up Diarmid MacCullough's 'A History of Christianity' for a little light reading but, a 1000+ page hardback tome proved difficult to handle from a semi-recumbent posture. Whilst the text proved exciting, wrists and thumbs were achingly struggling with the handling of the book. A couple of hours later, we decided to catch up with the previous night's episode of 'Material Girl, an episode full of romantic dilemmas, as we snuggled together au lit.

Come lunchtime we ventured down to 'Brio' Italian restaurant where I was pleased to see that my favourite item, a Linguine Marinara, was on the menu. The light sauce, a combination of of fish stock, tomato and chilli, was just perfect. My beloved settled for a fillet of sea bass with a generous vegetable accompaniment. Unfortunately, the house white was a disappointment, my  nose and palate couldn't quite determine whether it came from a bottle that had been opened a little too long or stored beyond its best by date; it was still drinkable but quite dull, unlike what I'd enjoyed on previous visits. Desserts proved most satisfactory, ma belle settling for a dark chocolate mousse whilst I had the creme brulee.

Come early evening, the early start to my day paid me back with a vengeance as I felt shattered in both mind and body. Ninety minutes rest served to re-vitalize me a little and it wasn't too long before I was ready to open a bottle of fizz, Champagne Etienne Dumont NV. I was pleased that when we acquired the bottle, a few months ago, when it was on an half-price offer; it definitely wasn't worth any more than the price we'd paid, extremely average. Still it was the intent that mattered, imbibing the bubbles whilst watching  a dvd of 'De-Lovely', we're both quite ardent devotees of Cole Porter songs.

This morning, my body clock still appeared to be in a state of confusion; this time I was quite wide awake by 4.00AM. At least I had the good sense to remain au lit for a sufficient period of rest. An unexpected surge of energy found me out in the garden before noon, secateurs in hand, for a mini tidying up exercise. An hour of this endeavour found my body crying out for a break and, after a brief seated respite, we headed out to Cafe Culture where we both enjoyed a light lunch of spiced chicken breast with mango chutney, served in naan bread, with a side salad and Thai yoghurt. The celebration of our anniversary continues as we bask in the pleasure of each other's company.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Not So Bad After All

Those halcyon days, when I was once again able to luxuriate in the habit of novel devouring, have swiftly fled. Faltering attempts to resume the third novel, that I'd begun to read, came to nought, in fact I seem to have tumbled back to square one. The suffiency of emotional stamina has once again bade me farewell; I'd like to think that it was quite simply a case of this latest book not being of sufficient character to proffer the necessary stimulation but, it's more likely related to my current state of discomforted exhaustion. Certainly my sleep patterns have become disruptively erratic and, the sleep that I do manage to grab seems to be of a curiously unrefreshing nature. An unsettling tenderness of areas under the chin and in my armpits ensures a constant need to shuffle my position and, that's not at all conducive to the reading habit.

I still seem to be recovering from the aftermath of events of 6 February. Although it felt great to have coped with a considerably extended (compared to my recent years norm) period of socializing, it definitely seems that there's a re-active price to be paid. A current inability to apply myself to the sustained pursuit of any task, major or minor, is to say the least frustrating. I feel rather like one of those people who persistently parade around the workplace armed only with a clipboard, in the pretence that they're being productive. Going through the motions, without any application, that just about sums it up.

To dispel any suggestion of self-pity, that the preceding paragraphs may have suggested, I have to say that I am blessed with the ability, periods of intense frustration notwithstanding, to wallow in the simple pleasure of "being". To observe the antics of the birds in the garden, to sit and hold hands with my beloved, to enjoy the imbibing of a glass or two of wine, and simply to be a minute part of an awesome universe; those are rewards in and of themselves.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Waitrose to Bastiani

Saturday morning, a fleeting visit to Waitrose, where references to Valentine's day were imposible to avoid, was in order. In one of the aisles we met Jane, the wife of Shaun who is the minister of Helen's church; jane mentioned that Shaun had pointed out that the date was also the feast of St. Methodius (albeit only in the Roman Catholic church). The reference to Methodius intrigued me so, on returning home, I went online to find out a little more about Methodius and, the first image I was greeted with was the celebrated icon of Cyril and Methodius holding the Glagolitic scroll.

 Mind you, this is something of a diversion from the main topic of this posting but, it was the starting point for a little process of rediscovery. As I viewed the icon, I wondered if I could possibly find a reproduction of a painting which has gently haunted me for several years. The painting I had always thought to be attributed to Giovanni Bellini but, on referencing the artist and the collection in which this picture could be found I was delighted to discover an illustration ( of this wonderful painting attributed to Lazzaro Bastiani (who had evidently worked, at times, with both Giovanni and Gentile Bellini).

I first became fully aware of this painting, of the Madonna and Child, in the days when I occasionally attended exhibition previews and Open House at the beginning of the season for Harewood House. Those who attended these openings with me invariably knew that, regardless of the purported preview I was attending, they would be likely to find me enraptured by this painting. The image is very simple and direct, a flush-cheeked teenage mother cloaked and hooded in a dark blue garment holding a child, apparently somewhere between two and four years of age. The mother has a rather dolorous expression, her eyes conveying a deep sense of foreboding, a touching vulnerabilty. Her hands have a somewhat tentative gentle hold on the robustly healthy child, almost as if they yield to the knowledge that all too quickly she'll have to let him go his own way. The infant in this painting is definitely a child, rather than the miniature adult so frequently portrayed in paintings of this period.

I've saved a copy of the image to my computer, cropping it from the elaborate frame, and printed a small copy from which I find it difficult to avert my gaze. As someone whose primary area of art historical interest is American and British painting of the mid-twentieth century, it seems rather strange that this simple image could hold me in such thrall.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

A Rather Special Day

Yesterday was my busiest day in, literally, years but there was a very special occasion to celebrate. Helen's sister Janet, whose husband died five years ago, was getting married to Graham. We were well aware of a marked change in Janet's demeanour for a considerable time before we were informed that she was "seeing someone"; whoever the someone was had to be special, rarely does one notice such a marked transformation in a person that one knows reasonably well!

A blessing for their marriage was held at St Wilfreds Church, in Harrogate, which we were pleased (although in my case somewhat apprehensively) to attend. Unfortunately, the temperature in the centre of the church was somewhat akin to a butchers cold store and, I was quite prepared to leave the venue before the service had even started. Fortunately a lady, who I assume was one of the church wardens, pointed out a radiator far from where the main congregational gathering was seated; it took some time before my uncontrollable shivering sttled down. It's the first time that I've worn a wooly hat inside a place of Christian worship and, I wondered whether it might be mistaken for a skullcap as worn by members of another Abrahamic faith, or perhaps I could have been an over-zealous Quaker (of a bygone age) who quite simply refused to doff his hat!

At least we did have a good sing in the final hymn, Love Divine; no matter what state my faith is in, I just can't help but to be stirred by Charles Wesley's hymnody. It was a terrific sense of relief to find that the venue for the reception, The Yorkshire Hotel, was more than adequately heated. Having spent the best part of an hour at the church, I still managed a further three and a half hours at the reception before succumbing to an overwhelming exhaustion, leaving just before the Ceilidh was about to begin. The speeches were among the most entertaining it has been my pleasure to endure. Fatiguing discomfort aside, it was wonderful to have been able to share in the celebration of this special event.

A poem, SOMETIMES (for Janet & Graham), can be found on 'Mal's Factory' 


Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Get The Drift

A dull grey day greets my belated emergence from the duvet lair, a quick look out confirms it's damp as well. As the day goes by, the drizzly rain changes to sleet and a few properly formed snow flakes emerge from the squally gloom; obviously a day to sit by the fireside!

Early afternoon and my physio arrives; a little chat over a cup of hot beverage precedes the acupuncture therapy, melodic strains emanating from Radio 3 create a suitably relaxed environment. I lie back, breathe slowly and deeply as she ascertains the appropriate points for the needles insertion. As I relax, I feel a warmly gentle golden glow radiating through my limbs, allow myself to drift with the background music. Mere idleness transformed into a bissful relaxation.