Sunday, March 28, 2010

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Sometimes it's as if memories are more tangible than present reality. The memories I refer to, are those dating back to a time when socializing, travel, sensory overload could all be taken in my stride; the days when I could go to a concert, a gig, the theatre, cinema etc just on a whim, without first having to steel myself for the ordeal. I'm never sure whether clinging to these memories has any positive value as, they simply serve to throw into the spotlight my current more restricted existence. I suspect it's best to simply live in the present, maximise the opportunities afforded by spending time in the garden, dipping into a book as and when the necessary emotional stamina and concentration is available, listening to a CD, watching a DVD and, especially any time spent in the company of my beloved.

Today we went over to the garden centre at Otley, and I thoroughly enjoyed the journey, approx 15 - 20 mins either way, just about my ideal distance these days. A couple of garden vouchers, that we'd received for our wedding anniversary, went towards a pair of good quality shears, and although  tempted by many items, I only yielded to the temptation to buy a couple of alpine / perennial plants to refresh a rather outworn display in one of the stone planters. Inspired by the excursion, I got down to the necessary transplanting operation within a couple of minutes of arriving back home. Meanwhile ma belle set about a little more tidying up of one of the garden borders.

As we worked, a blackbird provided a beautifully mellifluous background melody; what more could one ask for! Yet there was more. My attention was constantly drawn to the pond, where the piscine inhabitants seemed to gleam in the newly clarified water, the underwater filter having been re-installed (by yours truly) a couple of days ago. Come to think of it, there's nothing more real than now! What's more, ignoring troublesome afflictions, I've never known a time of more contentment.

Monday, March 22, 2010

bipartisan politics!

On one side we have the Labour Party, funded to a considerable extent from the voluntary contributions paid by trade unionists. Opposing them we have the Tories, the Conservative Party, primarily funded by the bosses which, indirectly, means the involuntary contribution of those who are in the bosses workforce or paying customers of the boss. I don't believe that the workforce or the customers, who make the profits for the bosses, have ever been balloted to see if they would like the fruit of their efforts to be used to payroll the Tories.

The Labour party when in government, contrary to what the Tories would have us believe, not infrequently sides with the bosses against the unions. Somehow, presumably for historical reasons, the unions remain their loyal paymasters. These paymasters get short shrift.

The Conservatives retain total loyalty to their paymasters, the bosses, and given the chance do everything in their power to emasculate the unions. Sadly, Labour never seems to have any intention to repeal the Tories anti trade union legislation. The Conservatives, as their name suggests, are there to maintain the status quo, whereas Labour do at least attempt to rectify some of the gross inequalities in society.

Labour, under the Blairite banner of 'New Labour', inherited (and pursued further) Tory Thatcherite economic policies, which on a global scale led to the financial collapse.

The Tories now ask us to believe that under the banner of 'change' they can rectify the problems. Conservative = Change, a paradox if ever there was one!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Too tired to relax

After a couple of almost sleepless nights I have now managed, with the aid of pre-emptive painkillers, to get two successive relatively comfortable sleep enriched nights. Perhaps the "enriched" word is putting it a bit strong, even though theoretically it should prove a blessing.

Although that should have compensated for the preceding sleep-deprived nights, exhaustion seems to be the persistent companion to my waking hours. Ten minutes of magazine or web browsing, in fact anything other than idle inattentiveness, induces a state of heavily lidded eyes, and the consequent decision; do I allow myself to drift off into full snooze mode or do I resist the bodies apparent yearning?

I know that if I allow myself to catnap it will outstay its welcome, then there's a fair chance it will interfere with the later attempt to get a decent nights sleep. If I resist, I'll spend the next half-hour or more in a kind of shuddering wakefulness; it's so strange that the very flesh which so frequently overheats in cooler conditions now seems to shiver whilst the ambient temperature is considerably warmer.

Somehow, it seems as if tiredness militates against relaxation!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

an unsought for exercise in sleep-deprivation

Well, I did manage to catch nearly an hours kip between 10.30pm and 2.30am, followed by briefly intermittent snatches of zzzzz before 4.00am. From that time onwards I lay abed, struggling to turn myself over now and again, accompanied by a selection of sounds emanating from the bedside radio. At approximately ten minute intervals, I found myself checking the clock assuming at least one and a half hours had passed. It seemed like a productive training course for anyone wishing to take up the post of full-time insomniac.

Whenever I moved the position of my arms, attempted to clear the mucus from my throat, or even tried some breathing exercises to aid relaxation, I was acutely reminded of the pain in my ribs. Between 7.30 and 10.15am, I almost caught myself napping, on one or two occasions, before becoming finally able to cast off the delusion that sleep was imminent.

By mid-afternoon, following a relaxing visit to Cafe Culture, sleep deprivation caught up with me. Stiff neck, bloated tum, wearily aching limbs (both upper and lower variety) and a general inability to cope with any sensory information whatsoever, eventually yielded to a relaxing snooze. I somehow suspect that it was my bodies unsubtle way of informing me that, in spite of my advancing years, I really do require more than three hours sleep in any 48 hour period. But, if that is the case, why is it currently so reluctant to grant me that luxury?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Pain In The ...

Last night, as I sat relaxing with my beloved, I was suddenly struck by a sharply acute pain in the lower part of my chest on the right hand side. The pain was still there an hour later, although by this stage somewhat intermittently and feeling rather like a sharp bruise. it was certainly a quite unfamiliar sensation and I couldn't put it down to indigestion but, I'd have been far more worried had it been on the left side of the chest.

Checked my pulse and, that was fine and, unusually for me when I'm in any marked degree of discomfort, or even without that prompt, there was no hint of pallor. So far, so good but my beloved was quite concerned (I had to admit to her that I was too) so, I contacted the out of hours doctor who recommended I should take some of my usual pain-killers (tramadol) and, if I felt any worse at all he would come out to visit me. That provided a welcome degree of re-assurance but, he did also suggest I made an appointment with my own G.P.

There followed a night of intermittently discomforted sleep; although I've learned to cope with my regular aches and pain, any change, to the old familiar dis-ease, plays havoc with my already erratic sleep pattern. I made an appointment with my G.P., although it was a locum I actually saw, for this afternoon. As the day went on, I found at times that the action of swallowing, and even moving in certain ways, renewed the pains intensity.

The first thing the doctor asked was whether I had any pain in my legs, I had to laugh as I explained that I'd not noticed any change to their regular discomfort. She felt around the calf muscle, checking for any hint of DVT and whether a clot had travelled to my lungs. She thoroughly examined me, checking blood pressure, listening to my heart and lungs and, quite expertly (albeit inadvertently) applying light pressure to the most tender area of the rib cage. When I tried to breathe deeply, as she listened to my lungs, the pain recurred with an excruciating sharpness. The diagnosis turned out to be something to do with the intercostal muscles and, I'd already begun to wonder whether my pondly exertions (at the weekend) had maybe put a strain on the muscle. I readily admit that lifting out the planters, from the pond's murky depths, wasn't one of the easiest gardening chores.

On the positive side, somewhat like the herniated disc last year, it makes a change to have a specific pain whose cause is definable, alongside those sundry aches and discomforts the flesh is so regularly heir to!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Spring Cleaning

I've spent a fair bit of time in the garden this week and have finally got around to vacuuming out some of the sludgy sediment from the pond. Initial efforts were somewhat thwarted by obstacles on the pond floor. Unfortunately, until the time is right to re-install the pump and underwater filter, the water lacks sufficient clarity to be able to see where such obstacles are situated.

As the pond vac restarted, following discharge of the previous cylinder load, I became puzzled as to why the suction wasn't working, as the motor was uttering its reassuring purr of strength. Having switched off the power, I duly removed the suction nozzle and sundry extension tubes but, all were clear. Next task was to disconnect the coiled suction hose from the cylinder where I observed a dark gelatinous mass at the top, almost as if a giant slug had taken up residence there. A vigorous shake of the hose revealed all, as a full grown frog, encased in mud, slowly unfolded itself. A few minutes later it took its first tentative hop back towards the pond.

I hadn't realized quite how strong the machines suction power was!

Today I donned arm length waterproof gloves and fished around to unearth some of these obstructive items, micromesh planters full of slimy aquatic compost but little sign of plant growth, planters full of oxygenating elodea and, old drainage pipes which serve as useful hidey holes for the ponds piscine inhabitants should predatory herons venture past the marginal reeds.

Obstacles removed I was able to use a freely sweeping action with the pond vacs nozzle, before restoring drainage pipe and elodea to their rightful place. 

Friday, March 05, 2010

A Primary Focus

Work, recreation, stimulation and inspiration; I am truly blessed in having my primary focus for all these activities right on my doorstep.

I've just spent another couple of hours intermittent labour in the garden, this morning. There was a time when most of the pruning and trimming back  of plants and shrubs was a late autumn pre-occupation but, increasingly, since making the garden a much more wildlife friendly environment, many of these tasks have been transferred to this part of the year. The priority, now that the harshest weather has passed (hopefully), is to trim the hedges and shrubs before the nesting season gets into full swing. As I amble around, I can always spot another task to be performed and, it requires a conscious effort on my part to remember priorities.

Just a couple of years back many of these tasks would have remained unfulfilled, without the endeavours of my beloved, so it's with an immense sense of gratitude that I perform these chores, a sure sign that I am continuing, a few setbacks aside, in my remission from the most disabling aspects of my condition. Even 30% of my previous activity levels is a plateau I could have hardly dreamt of such a short while ago.

As I got down to pruning and lopping an overgrown hedge, a Robin determinedly accompanied me in my endeavours; whichever way I turned my avian friend was bobbing around. Needless to say, when I decided to reach for my camera the bird was nowhere to be seen; perhaps he's a little camera shy! Elsewhere in the garden, alongside an abundant squabble of starlings, blue tits, coal tits, blackbirds, house sparrows and dunnocks were taking advantage of the garden's various feeders.

I've got to be honest, I'd deluded myself into thinking (even in pre-illness days) that a wildlife area would require less maintenance than a more formal garden; it's a marvellous resource, even though my assumption was totally incorrect. When it comes to the more 'tame' borders of the garden, intrusive ground elder aside, the greatest scourge is the neighbourhood's 'domestic' cats; domestic they may be in terms of being someones household pets but they are a menace when it comes to scratching up bulbs and plants (but not in their own backyard). Electronic cat scarers prove ineffectual, pepper washes away far too quickly and, at times, I even begin to question the value of a few strategically placed thorn & briar branches. A spray of water is certainly effective, as is a loud "hiss" but, unfortunately 24 hour vigilance is impractical! Frustrations aside, I wouldn't swap the garden for anything; it proves a source of inspiration for both my painting and writing, as well as being a more general aid to relaxation.

As I sit and scribble down these notes, a red kite is circling low over the garden; I open the back door and, the variegated pattern of birdsong lifts my spirits. I rejoice and am glad in this day the Lord has made.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Who knows why the axe falls (this particular way)? - an impromptu rant

Seems like the Director-General of the BBC is determined to get rid of 6 Music and the Asian Network but, I'm still trying to get my head around the logic of these cuts. For a start, the cost of running 6 Music could all be covered by a couple of years of the kind of salary that the Beeb (over)paid certain self-important presenters. Perhaps some of these could be made to work for rather less obscene salaries.

If the argument is that they've to leave some leeway for the commercial stations then, it's strange that they decide to cut stations that are nowhere duplicated by the standard commercial station fare. Of course, if the BBC were to cut its more populist programmes that would provide fodder for those who've always resented the beeb, "just look, this poptastic commercial station is getting more listeners than R1/R2, why should we license payers be providing this less popular service?" At the same time, I suspect that most of the moguls (and would be moguls) in the commercial broadcasting field are only in favour of the kind of competition that leaves the public service broadcasters hands tied; they're all for competition as long as it's on their own terms! 

One can't help feeling that much of the "mainstream" music output is little more than a promotional audio for the giant corporations of the music industry. Who decides to plug such and such "record of the week" or "album of the week"?

There is a suggestion that some of the "best" of 6  Music's output can be slotted into the Radio 2 schedule; is this a way of saying that there's a fair bit of dross to be cut out of Radio 2? What about Radio 3, after all Classic FM produces a (very) diluted version of much of it's music output, no suggestion of cutting that station though. I listen frequently to Radio 2, Radio 3, Radio 4, occasionally to 6 Music and Radio 7, so I've no particular axe to grind, I also frequently watch BBC2, BBC4, BBC1 and occasionally BBC3 and, I feel that an argument could be made for merging much of the output of BBC4 & BBC2 and even parts of BBC3 & BBC1 but, somehow television seems to be something of a sacred cow.

Come to think of it, much of the non-music output of Radio 3 would be equally at home on Radio 4 but, somehow, their demographic is of a social standing that the beeb's hierarchs are afraid of upsetting. Most of the musical output of Radios 1 & 2 is difficult to distinguish from that emanating from a plethora of commercial stations but, 6 Music rings the changes; there's a message here, "if you don't conform you're for the chop", a definite air of conservatism.