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● Plus my novels, stories, verse, vulgar interests, apologies, and singing.
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Saturday 27 November 2021

One of the big whys

I used to climb rocks. Badly, but never mind; for a few years it was my sport.

Why climb? It’s risky. I could have fallen - did so, twice. Or been wiped out by a detached boulder - one weighing a hundredweight just missed my head. Did I have a death wish? Not at all.

Wasn’t it scary? Sure. Wouldn’t I have been safer watching telly or – ugh! – gardening? Sleeping would have been safer still. Problem with sleeping there’s no confirmation you haven’t rolled over in bed and snuffed it. From time to time it’s nice to tell yourself: Hey, I’m alive. Climbing can help with that,

Reflect. You’re on a straight road, no other vehicles in sight, your family saloon can do 100-plus mph. You press just a little harder on the pedal. Why? The hedges whizz past. If a front tyre blew you could be upside down in a ditch, watching a tongue of flame caressing the fuel tank. Harder still. Wheee-ee!

Nah, I’ve never ever done that. Never? Chances are you’re fibbing.

Rock-climbing usually happens in marvellous rural surroundings. That’s an excuse. Sort of. But that vista could be better inspected leaning against a dry-stone wall with binoculars. Don’t kid yourself; you’re halfway up Devil’s Groove because of the height, not because sheep are grazing on the hillside..

There’s a consensus that human beings are rational. Mostly it’s true. But then a happily married man, alone in a pub, catches the eye of a woman also alone. Speculation stirs, then is suppressed. Hurray, rationality works! But sometimes speculation evolves. Irrationally? Isn’t it entirely rational that attraction between the sexes should exist?

I used to like swaggering about with 100 m of nylon rope over my shoulder. Did anyone else give a damn? Was I harming anyone?

Thursday 25 November 2021

There are upsides too

The Staff Nurse supervising the op-prep was everything a nurse should be: skilled and articulate (Neatly summarising every procedure for a Student Nurse present in the room), attentive (Agreeing she had experienced my specialised form of anaemic breathlessness when she was pregnant), a Hereford local (Who called me My Lovely without a trace of self-consciousness) and unembarrassed (When I asked her to swab my crotch rather than have me do it myself).

Also politically leftwing. I mentioned her department’s patient-registering device was bust. She shrugged: “It regularly doesn’t work. I call it Boris.”

Also willing to share professional secrets. I lay waiting for an ECG test and asked, “Are the sensors placed randomly round my torso?” She shook her head. Identified a bony protuberance in my shoulder, then fingered a string of minor protuberances counting to four. “Here’s where the first sensor goes.” 

What could have been a dull exchange of data became a lively and entertaining conversation. VR was in the waiting room; I told her, “I’ve just been handled by a terrific Staff Nurse.”

A by-now familiar voice sounded from behind. “I loved ‘handled’. It made me laugh.”

Saturday 20 November 2021

More on my anatomy

Another ailment. Another surgeon (Mr McIlroy). Another fascinating conversation. Fascinating because I’m the centre of the universe. By the end of day this schedule had been arranged:

Monday Nov 22: 11 am. Iron perfusion to rectify anaemia.

Wednesday Nov 24: 10 am, Discussion. 11 am, Pre-op prep.

Monday Nov 29: 11 am. Iron perfusion.

Tuesday Dec 14: 7.30 am. Op. Likely time in hospital, two nights.

The conversation goes:

RR: It’s remarkable. I’m 86, ready for the scrap-heap, to be left out on the street at night. Yet there’s all this. And it’s free.

McIlroy: Surgery’s a risk, you could snuff it on the table. But given your state of health the probability’s low (Cites low percentage). What’s your own estimate of your life expectation?

RR: My estimate! I’m hardly the expert.

McIlroy: It’s likely you’ll make it into your nineties.

RR (Thinks): Just a handful of years. But what the hell. I’ve gone through elderly to old. From old to very old. Now there’s a faint chance of a telegram from the Queen (Actually a standard letter; too many of her citizens are reaching three figures). And four badly spelled paragraphs in the Hereford Times.

And I’m out to the hospital car-park where VR is sitting in the Skoda, doing Free Cell on a phone. Apparently she could have come in with me; the medical staff encourages it. Must remember that.

Monday 15 November 2021

No need to shout


My email address rodrob@globalnet.co.uk is presently duff and has been for three days.

I can be reached on robinson.roderick@gmail.com

Saturday 13 November 2021

Like father, not like daughter

Clearly a case of horse love

My father didn’t approve of my cycle touring, believed it cramped the innards. Urged me to take up rowing. No chance! A cold day in Hell, etc, etc.

I didn’t expect daughter PB (professional bleeder) to share my interests: ski-ing, rock climbing, arguing with Frenchmen in their mother tongue, writing sonnets and – latterly – singing. But I was astonished at how much one of her leisure pursuits diverges from my world. Horses, for goodness sake.

Once, a horsewoman of my acquaintance offered to let me ride her mount. Refusing her was one of the most important decisions I’ve ever made. Horses are just too heavy and too slyly wayward. Saddling up would have been as suicidal as joining Boris Johnson in a two-man bob-sleigh team.

As a girl PB took riding lessons. More recently she started making monthly contributions towards a share in a race horse. And not just any old nag. This one – called Tikka, short for Matika – is stabled near Newmarket, the cradle of horsiness in England.

It’s not just viewing four legs from afar. From time to time there are champagne receptions. Chats with the jockey. And a sense of living beyond one’s means. These things I could manage. 

But not the dark side. Race horses need exercise and often there’s a free saddle going. As a retired journalist, knowing a little about lots and lots, I’m aware of the jargon. There’s trot, then canter, then… PB fills me in. “Race horses want to gallop. And, yes, it’s exhilarating.”

I’ve ridden large capacity motorbikes at speed. But they’re man-made and man-controlled. As far as I know few horses come with brakes. And there’s the snorting and the thudding of steel-tipped feet. Two minds instead of one, plus the capacity to disagree. Far better as glue.

Friday 5 November 2021

Things I can't do...

 … although with some I didn’t try all that hard.

Dancing. Despite singing lessons I’ve never mastered the physical expressions of rhythm. My excuse: in dancing the fella leads his (presumably) female partner; this seems anti-feminist.

I’d like to dance. Forty years ago, in a Roman Catholic church hall, I drank enough very cheap Scotch to shuffle round the floor with various extremely tolerant partners. And that was that.

Steering a motorbike with sidecar. To guide a two-wheel bike one simply leans into the bend. With a trike you tug on the handlebars, losing all grace. Not a form of locomotion which attracts me. Looks elderly.

Kiss women socially. So far always a disaster. All guidance welcome.

Complete a Tolkien novel. Or even open one.

Garden creatively. I’ve over-posted on this many times. Misleading quote: “A garden is a lovesome thing.” Response: “Wherein I might flex my muscles if I had any.”

Open a champagne bottle without “popping” the cork.  Though I’m not sure this is a worthwhile skill.

Tolerate lace-up shoes. Give me Velcro every time. And a narrower belly

Forgive someone. If you can remember the reason for the offence forgiveness surely becomes impossible. Unpleasantness is born out of emotion whereas forgiveness is an intellectual decision. The two don’t tie up.

Bellyache about rain. Ours is a temperate climate, for goodness sake. I have sampled extreme summers and winters in distant lands; gentle rain is a much more acceptable option.

Sentimentalise cats. Their savage ancestry is only partially hidden; they kill for fun; their poo smells something rotten.

Trim my rh little toe nail. During my youth cheapness was the only criterion for buying shoes. Hence some toes are now banana-shaped.

Drink wine costing less than £6 a bottle. Do I need to explain?