● Lady Percy moves me - might she move you? CLICK TO FIND OUT
● Plus my novels, stories, verse, vulgar interests, apologies, and singing.
● Most posts are 300 words. I respond to all comments/re-comments.
● See Tone Deaf in New blogger.

Friday 31 December 2021

Nothing to it. Oh yeah

It still looks a bit deadly, nevertheless

I realise this will be old hat to some diabetes sufferers but it was new to me. And initially horrifying.

As a parting gift from the hospital I was handed half a dozen boxes containing 56 bubble-packed syringes (ie, two a day). An important course of an anti-clotting agent.

To be self-administered!

What? By me? Just a minute…

A nurse did the first jab as a demo. Just recently I’ve been jabbed and re-jabbed many times and this one was nothing new. Hardly felt it. Ho-hum. But the nurse returned 12 hours later to supervise my first self-jab. Distant visions of that Japanese movie devoted to seppuku (self-swording) floated through my mind. Especially since the jab target would be a flap of flesh otherwise known my belly.

Tentatively I pinched up the fold, pushed (at right-angles as ordered), saw the flesh dent, got ready to plunge. “All the way in with the needle,” said an authoritative voice. Oh, no!

Truth to tell, everything possible is done to make things easy for the amateur. One pulls a protective shield from a needle that seems finer than a hair from my head. Plunger and finger-stop fit neatly and naturally. Done correctly there is hardly any sensation, let alone pain. Afterwards, another hard push on the plunger brings up another sheath to protect the needle. And the whole course comes with several special garbage cans so that the syringes may be disposed of safely.

And the procedure does get easier. This morning I did it in the half-light.

Even so, there’s still that twinge of apprehension as the needle point approaches the unwilling flesh. And the dent is mildly shocking to watch. But I’ve done about ten jabs now and will finish the course.

Hey-ho cowardy-custard. 

Wednesday 29 December 2021

A medical diversion

We are what we eat. And we eat what we choose. Sounds simple.

But suppose our favourite dish is Beef Wellington (Fillet of beef wrapped in puff pastry round a heart of paté, served with a “double” sauce) and suppose in one microsecond we find Beef Wellington detestable. Serves us right say the veggies. But there’s more.

Suppose a whole load of savoury delights – bacon, lamb chops, ham, cod, pheasant, sausages, you name it – also become detestable in that same microsecond (0.000 001 sec). And suppose many comparatively bland staples like stone-ground bread go the same route. 

For this is no ordinary “mental” non-preference. As the previously loved food is brought close to our lips our throats contract, we are overcome with nausea, and there is no way we can admit it to our mouths, never mind swallow it.

This is a side-effect of bowel surgery. And if that were all, we might accommodate it. But it isn’t.

Our bowel has been badly treated and needs re-training for its job, the processing of food. But how can we give it food when all the above and many more (including vegetables, cake, all processed chewables, and the blandest of the bland – buttered crackers) are no longer fit for purpose?

Our relations and friends are solicitous. We dream up stuff that might be acceptable, they bring us a sample, it is sorrowfully rejected. We become desperate. An over-ripe pear, cored and quartered, goes down well, as, later, do six green grapes. But fruit isn’t entirely recommended by medical dietary experts. A cherry yoghurt is consumed but doesn’t offer the bowel much to work on.


Watch this space.

Tuesday 28 December 2021

George Clooney need not apply

This post is not for the faint-hearted. Nor for those who appreciate Austen-like prose. It seems any writing talent I’ve developed is directly linked to bowel function and the latter is presently below par.

Over Christmas I was operated for bowel cancer and throughout my four/five-day stay at Hereford County Hospital I was greatly impressed by the treatment I received. But I’m singling out one phase in particular because I suspect its praises are rarely sung.

Two nurses whose names I am withholding attended to me after I was hooked up to a phosphate drip to challenge the sluggishness of my downstream plumbing. This is not glamorous work, I assure you. All the more reason I shed some light.

My drip-feed worked – almost too well – and I found myself smeared with the noxious liquid byproducts of turning food into waste. I first wanted to lurch away from my own state but that would have betrayed my saviours.

Order replaced evil-smelling chaos, soiled linen was transferred to the Offensive Products bin, hideously crusted tiles shone again. I did my bit, marvelling at the efficiency of such pro-hygiene measures as rubber sheets, disposable chamber pots and impenetrable knickers with their inserts.

You’d have wanted to avert your eyes but someone has to do it – efficiently, swiftly and (I swear) with élan. “Cleaning up” doesn’t have the high drama of heart bypass surgery or the sombre patience of psychiatry but done expertly it evokes a special kind of heroism. They splashed, they laughed, they joshed, my two angels from India and Nigeria, and I was rendered pure again.

And grateful. And humbled.

Saturday 18 December 2021

Looking into the abyss

Typical barracks block at RAF
Changhi. For all I know it may
have contained my ceramic nemesis

When we’re ill we shrink. Make do with fewer words, fewer shows of interest and lose our ability to be surprised. We complain and thus become dull. If we’re able, we combat our malaise via original thought.

In April 1956 I flew halfway round the world. From London Heathrow to Rome, to Malta, Bahrein, Karachi, Delhi, Bombay, Bangkok and Singapore. For eight months I’d studied theoretical and practical electronics in Wiltshire; now I’d be applying this learning repairing radio equipment at RAF Seletar. In the meantime I must needs languish at a transit barracks at RAF Changhi. National service involves much languishing.

As I toyed with an execrable lunch I noticed small bowls of pills dotting the tables in the dining hall. Salt pills, I was told. To what end? Because whities (newly arrived from the UK) sweated a lot. I swallowed two, exactly twice the recommended dose I later learned.

Soon tectonic plates shifted within my gut and I was attacked by thunderous diarrhoea. After two visits to the loo I had nothing more to give but the urge still remained. At twenty-minute intervals throughout the night I visited and revisited that hateful orifice, becoming weaker and weaker. At one point I knelt before the loo hardly able to keep my torso erect. Returning to bed seemed pointless. What happened then I have no idea. Somehow I survived.

These days I don’t sleep well. Tonight, original thought beckoned. I would write a piece about trying to write verse when my verse-writing skills (never readily available) were in abeyance. Too boring, I suppose. Then I recalled my communion with the Changhi loo.  I doubt whether it’s done anything for you but I’m readier for sleep than I was an hour ago. Think of it as a purge.

Monday 13 December 2021

Lightly to the table

Everest was first climbed by two members of a huge team supported by tons of luggage and dozens of Nepalese porters. But in the thirties two experienced climbers – Shipton and Tilman – believed travelling light was the answer: just the pair of them and three porters. They didn’t try Everest but they successfully reconnoitred Nanda Devi, India’s second highest peak.

And they truly travelled light. One of them asked: would a second shirt be necessary for a multi-month expedition? Alas, the answer is lost in time.

I had S and T in mind as I prepared my bag for tomorrow’s op. I hate carrying a single superfluous item, even for a fortnight in France. One pair of trousers is enough, I say. VR disagrees. Three pairs of pants? Hmm.

The hospital suggests a dressing gown. I have a flowing unused neck-to-ankle nightshirt which I could both sleep in and wear as I sashay out to the bog. No unnecessary pyjamas! V, my singing teacher, recommended against it.

VR generously offered a new tube of toothpaste but I have opted for one half-empty. Rolled up and secured by a crocodile clip. A hand towel rather than a bath towel; it’ll quickly dry out in a notoriously hot hospital ward. Two well-worn handkerchees.

I’m including a 500 gram pack of pitted prunes for reasons other than nutrition. A Kindle (plus charger) with 160-plus book titles.

This morning’s singing lesson was a retrospective. V said she’d enjoyed teaching me and urged me to dwell on music if the pain became intolerable. Or listen to it on YouTube. I never regard my mobile as a source of music but a quick trial led me to add an unplanned item to my load – my Sony earphones. Daughter OS picks me up at 07.00.

Tuesday 7 December 2021

Me and my GIL

Am I entitled to a grandmother-in-law? For shame if not. My GIL (actually VR’s Gran) was heroic and deserves a mention in Tone Deaf.

Talk about a hard life. Her husband was a miner in the Midlands when life expectancy was short and trades unions were treated like cockroaches. Banned from the Midlands he found work in Dover where the mines ran out under the Channel. Of course he died comparatively young and Gran brought up the six kids as best she might. Then came WW2 and Dover, a vital port, was bombed and shelled relentlessly, the population taking shelter in the cliff caves. Night after night.

Gran knew how to make a little food go a long way. And to eat food many would have discarded. At her behest I ate my first (and last) pig’s tail. Mostly bone I tell ee.

Like the rest of her brood she believed I had a job that wasn’t a job. I mean, what do journalists do? She wanted to say I was la-di-dah but couldn’t quite make it stick. Like her I had a regional accent though not the same. Perhaps I wasn’t all that bad.

As the photo suggests she loved gossip and mischief. At teatime she asked me what I wanted. I deliberately chose something simple: “Melted cheese on toast.” She shrugged her shoulders. “I niver did that. You’ll ha’ to do it yersel.” She expected me to give in but I moved to the kitchen.

As I rattled the pans I heard her whispering to the others. Clearly not stuff to my advantage. I shouted out, “You told me you never used naughty words.”

“Ooh I niver.”

“Whispered, they’re still naughty.”

They weren’t naughty, of course. But she giggled as I’d wanted.

Not surprisingly, I miss her.