Friday, December 31, 2010

That was then - Here's to a New One

Truth be told, I've had better years but, thanks to the love of ma belle I can still end the year loving life. On the health front things have been a bit hairy to say the least and, politically, the un-mandated Tory Democrat government can be seen as deleterious for almost everyone except the wealthy (and they can rest assured that all their tax avoidance schemes will remain unchallenged). The bankers brought about the periodic crisis of capitalism so, with pre-formulated ideological dogma to the fore, an attack must be made upon the poor and the "nanny" state which bailed out the titanic banks. 

Before the election I'd come to regard LibDem leader Clegg as a Tory so, I shouldn't have been at all surprised when he accepted the thirty pieces of silver to betray all those who were truly socially liberal. At least this recognition led me to re-join the Labour Party, after my wilderness years despairing of it's neo-Thatcherite agenda, even before the election.

If only wage slaves could demonstrate the kind of solidarity the merchant banking public school fraternity so clearly display, how much better off our society would be. The ConDems call for cutbacks - I yearn for fightbacks!

The paramedics have rushed me to A&E on more than one occasion this past year (each time in association with crushing chest pains) and, I also received excellent prompt attention from the NHS when they diagnosed and excised a basal cell carcinoma. Already the waiting time for appointments in the department that made the diagnosis has trebled since the new governments policies have started to be enforced.

I've not had a cigarette since June 23rd, when I was hospitalized overnight; in the first place I just felt so grotty that the prospect of inhaling any substance was totally unappealing. Subsequently, I've just not bothered to smoke - it's not that I've quit. It proves reassuring to have several packs available in the house, rather than falling into the 'panic' trap when one rushes out to buy a pack, in response to a stressful event, which one then feels duty bound to finish. To be brutally honest though, it feels as if my health has suffered as a result of this period of nicotine abstinence.

As I suggested at the beginning, of this post, my life would be so much the poorer if it wasn't for the love of ma belle Helen. My only wish is that everyone could experience such a joyous, loving, sharing, fulfilling relationship; as it stands, I just can't help feeling how privileged I really am.

As always, my wish for the New Year is that we may move towards a world dominated by values of justice and compassion, where the needs of all are met and the greed of many is seen as an asocial vice!

Wishing my readers A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Hectoring and Dining

In principle I have little objection to Christianity's co-opting of pagan festivals into the Chritian calendar; unlike the Puritans I am not at all against the celebration of Christmas but, I have to admit that like so many others, of faith or otherwise, I do feel rather sickened by the crass commercialisation of the whole season.

At the most basic level I love the way that the Christmas story turns the world's values upside down. The Messiah King is born in a most humble abode, not in a fine palace and, what is more, born to an unmarried mum. The whole community is being crushed under the heel of imperialist occupying forces at a time of great civil unrest. Of course we read in some accounts of how the Christ child's family are forced to flee the country to become refugees and, finding their refuge in the very country from which God had liberated the Israelites many centuries earlier.

Sadly the unrest in the MIddle East remains unresolved even at the present time; sundry imperialist forces and factions have ensured that throughout the centuries.

Anyway, that's enough of my all too familiar hectoring; I only intended to give a brief account of our quiet family Christmas.


In the run up to the great occasion I lacked the necessary stamina (physical and emotional) to assist my beloved in much of the preparation but, helped where I could and, of course, I took control of the kitchen for much of the final food preparation time. I like to get much of the effort out of the way before Christmas Day arrives and, to that end, prepared the gammon a few days earlier.

I boiled the Gammon in water laden with cloves, garlic and halved onions (skins still attached) for half of the appropriate cooking time, drizzling the joint with honey before placing it in a pre-heated oven, applying a further drizzle for the final twenty minutes or so roasting time.

The capon, a 9lb bird, I prepared on Christmas Eve evening, inserting generous amounts of butter beneath the skin before rubbing in a blend of freshly ground black pepper and sea salt. Stuffings are prepared separately, partly owing to dietary requirements of one of our guests. Ma belle prepared her traditional sausagemeat, onion and black pepper stuffing and, we also char grilled a few gluten free sausages. The butcher supplied a cranberry, orange and chestnut stuffing mixture (unfortunately not suitable for the coeliac in our midst but, much appreciated by ma belle et moi).

Next I par-boiled spicy herbed potatoes ready for roasting on the day itself, and steamed a few parsnip portions, duly drizzled with honey on taking their place in the roasting tin.

Beth came to stay with us for three nights, and three Christmas dinners, whilst Cathy joined us for a Christmas dinner on the 27th. We didn't over indulge on any of these occasions, quite simply enjoying the company and felllowship of each other. Beth arrived on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, having worked an early shift in the bakery but, still managed to prepare herself to head off to Christchurch, where she sings in the choir, for midnight communion, as well as their Christmas morning service.

My familiar aches, pains and sundry discomforts in chest, abdomen, and lower limbs, unfortunately brought out a sensory overloaded  tetchiness from yours truly, but failed in their attempt to mar the festivities. Ma belle as usual found some very entertaining novelties to stock up my Christmas stocking.

Throughout recent weeks we've enjoyed a rich diet of varied Christmas music and, once again find ourselves wondering why we should reserve so much of it to be aired on so few days of the year. If the Christmas message, or any of the Christian feasts, has/have validity there is no need to cloister it/them in such limited time slots.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Little Overdone

The effort is just too great, the inboxes of each of my e-mail accounts groan with attention seeking missives; the bulk of these missives are ones that I once sought, groups and individuals with whom I wished to retain contact. Several of these on-line groups served as a real lifeline, at a time when I became predominantly housebound, a support network, at a time I had felt that my particular set of ailments were so unique no other human being could possibly understand.

After a while the politicking began to wear me down - each campaigning group so totally convinced that only their understanding was correct! At the same time, it seems so obvious that the combined might of pharmaceutical and insurance companies have a vested interest in retaining a psychological interpretation of a WHO recognized neurological condition. The powers that be preferred a meaningless waste basket definition, covering a multitude of disparate illnesses, rather than getting down to valuable necessary research into particular conditions. Any fatigue, it seemed, could be classed as chronic fatigue and any sufferer of chronic fatigue assigned a chronic fatigue syndrome tag. Strangely, although fatigue is not necessarily a significant symptom of ME, the two names became interchangeable.

Many sufferers seemed to follow a path of being initially diagnosed with some kind of depression, generally incorrect except in a re-active form, before a further diagnosis of PVFS (post viral fatigue syndrome) and later chronic fatigue was made, only occasionally being elevated(!) to the status of ME. There are so many tests applied that produce negative results and, it is frequently only by chance that one realizes that their own particular set of sudden onset (but protractedly lingering) symptoms coincide with one set of clinical guidelines for a specific diagnosis.

Anyway, all that's a bit of a digression, as some of the inbox filling messages are of specific political, tribal, literary, computing and blogosphere information. At certain times I've managed to keep on top of all these sundry communiques, diligently sifting out the wheat from the chaff but, over the past couple of months I've been so lacking of sufficient emotional stamina to even get beyond a skimming of the messages opening lines. The past couple of weeks some 60% of all incoming messages are ticked, marked as read, and deleted without even a passing glance from yours truly!

I once again seem to be suffering from some kind of acutely painful sensory overload, the crinkling of a plastic bag can prove sufficient to put the whole nervous system into shrieking cringe mode. Perhaps I'd overdone things by spending more than a couple of hours out of the house on two successive days.

Last Friday, after an early (a couple of hours before my usual emergence from bed time) dental appointment, I suggested to ma belle that we may as well do the grocery shopping as we were in the proximity of Waitrose. That evening was the Christmas Dinner at the Acorn Centre, where my beloved works as a volunteer tutor; I actually managed over two hours at that event before exhaustion overwhelmed me. The following day, after my familiar lie-in routine, went into town with ma belle and visited one or two shops where the odd purchase was made. We returned home for lunch before making a swift visit to an out-of-town retail park to collect a further item from my long-standing shopping wish list.

On return from the retail park we discovered that our DVD recorder had suddenly expired mid-recording of a programme, blaming the fault on the disc. Unsuccesfully attempted to feed the machine with other discs, each being declared "no-read", even the empty tray being declared a faulty disc or "no-read". I suspect the laser unit has gone on the blink. So, further exertion was then required from yours truly, to bring down our old twin tunered "terrestrial" VCR-DVD Recorder and a set-top digi box to enable the recording of "freeview" digi channels. The setting up of a jumble of scarts and aerials induced much panic fuelled perspiration. By this stage, the least audible or visual distraction in the living-room environment became quite overwhelming and a general sense of tetchiness took hold.

Last evening, around 9.00pm an overwhelming sense of exhaustion took over, followed by several emergency visits to the littlest room - amazing how much greater the output can seem than pertinent intake. Gastric upsets are nothing new in my experience but, most importantly an early night was called for. This morning, I emerged from snoozeville at 11.00am and, having donned back and ankle supports, walking-stick assisted, I ambled down to 'Open Church' for a cuppa. As they'd just run out of "real" coffee I settled for the instant variety. Before I'd even managed to finish the drink an excruciating sense of dis-ease overcame me as I shivered and shuddered whilst simultaneously perspiring. I attempted to leave but collapsed back onto the chair; a feeling of fear overcame me as nagging aches seemed to clog dance their way from shoulders to abdomen, to chest and sides. And then the tears flooded out before, David, Anne and Simon helped me into their car to drive me home.

Still in floods of tears, and non-specific bodily discomfort, I phoned ma belle at work to ask her to come home. There's nothing more important to me than the presence of Helen, whether I'm in high spirits or low, and the knowledge of her imminent arrival enabled me to feel a bit less fearful.


This post also appears on Mal's Murmurings

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Paucity of Postings

Not only a total lack of stamina, but also the distracting neuropathic pain, seem to conspire against my frequent intention to prepare a further instalment of my weblog. The more severe bouts of gastric reflux have been kept at bay by my current (twice-a-day) lansoprazole regime; I only wish the naggingly persistent elements and the more intermittent sharply focussed lightning bolts of pain, traversing the spine to ankle pathway, could be equally calmed! Regular dosages of tramadol and an evening dose of amitryptiline do alleviate a little of the dis-ease and, for that I am grateful.

The recent cold spell has proved totally antipathetic to my more generalized neuropathy; the combination of chilling winds and icy conditions underfoot ensured that I daren't venture outside of the house for several days. The lack of exercise, whilst eliminating any risk of post-exertional malaise, does little to improve ones already depleted energy reserves.

The risk of wallowing in self-pity has been countered by my enthusiasm and pride at following the newly found wave of activism amongst students. Although I am unable to attend these demonstrations against the cuts, tuition fees, and tax dodgers, I am certainly with them in spirit! 

Monday, December 06, 2010

we are such sleep as dreams permit us to acknowledge

I know that I've been sleeping, or at least suspect that to be the case, when I suddenly escape from a vivid (albeit naturalistic) dream. No matter the quality of the dream, be it blissfully arcadian or nightmarish chase, there's always something reassuring about waking up. I must admit that there was a time, in childhood, when waking brought little release from the more nightmarish of dream episodes; I required excessive amounts of reassurance to escape it's fevered shadow. These days, my dreams are usually of a somewhat more gentle nature and, in the dream, I generally possess levels of both physical and emotional stamina that I dare hardly dream of these days.

There are many times when, having finally managed to remove myself from the duvet lair, I belatedly enter the new day in full convincement that not even a wink of sleep has come my way; such is the painfully shattered sense of exhaustion that greets my emergence.Once exhaustedly abed, sundry neuropathic aches and pains do their darnedest to ensure that I cannot sustain any comfortable position for sufficient time to catch even a catnap; surprisingly the (apparent) evidence of my dreams suggests otherwise!