● 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.

Thursday 31 March 2022

My ingenious chemo pump

Simple and, as a result, lovable

Technology isn’t to everyone’s taste. One ignored example is the automotive gearbox. Many think it simply makes the vehicle go faster and leave it at that. Tell them it takes advantage of varying levels of an engine’s efficiency and their eyes will glaze over. Explain it does this by linking cogs with different numbers of teeth and they’ll sigh. Attempt a mathematical reduction of these ratios and they’ll open a bottle of vodka. One-litre capacity. And you’ll be banned from further discourse. (Note to Avus: this post isn’t about your mnemonic digressions)

On the other hand, show them a plastic jar-top loosener that cost 50 p and works with a satisfying pop; they’re entranced. The difference is complexity vs. simplicity. The 27 km long CERN tunnel in Switzerland is so complex most of us are ignorant of its ultimate aims. But that loosener is so neat, so gadgety, so understandable.

My portable baby’s bottle (See Avert your eyes from risqué joke) delivers chemo continuously to my system while I’m away from the hospital. It’s described, somewhat ponderously, as an “Elastomeric pump for ambulatory infusion”. But don’t pumps require some form of energy to work? No sign of an electric motor or a steam engine in my crotch invader. Just a small balloon of fluid afloat in some other kind of fluid.

Yet there’s energy stored there, even if it’s invisible. The external fluid (I think; it could be the other) is under pressure. Open the tap to the thin tube leading deep into my chest cavity and the chemo in the balloon is squeezed out. After 48 hr it’s all in me and the balloon’s empty. Ingenious? Certainly. Cheap too. Since the bottle is probably disposable.

Honest, it’s nice to know how things work.

Tuesday 29 March 2022

Words makyth flights of fancy

What's written below is not to be taken seriously; angels with
harps of gold populate this establishment and I have profited
from their hearts of gold. Also the car-park payment system is ace

Hereford County Hospital – my alternative home since Christmas – demands I decode its language. I am, after all, a retired wordsmith.

At the rear a signpost: The Morgue (Non public). For weeks I imagined a public morgue: tickets, guides, pots of tea at the end. A reluctance to utter the word “corpse”. Visitors who aren’t keen to chat afterwards.

At the front another sign: Strongbow Unit. How might archery impinge on, say, chemo or CT scans? Hereford was once home to the cider giant, Bulmers. Mundanely Strongbow is a cider brand. Money disbursed in exchange for commercial exposure. It makes the world go around.

On my long walk through the building to Macmillan Renton Outpatients (Renton was a Hereford surgeon) I infer the Class War on the Minor Injuries door. It appeals to my snobbism, knowing my injuries aren’t minor. Patients are aristocrats or peasants according to their levels of suffering. Something biblical there.

No doubt many aristocrat patients are to be found in Intensive Care. A hushed calm prevails; a keypad keeps out the unauthorised. A bit like the entrance to Fort Knox. More privilege, perhaps, at Upper Gastro-Intestinal, all of whom drive Volvos and turn up their noses at those in Lower G-I.

I fantasise that surgeons in Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening all have knighthoods for technical reasons and obscurity of language.

But what am I to make of Maternity Triage? That those who don’t cut the mustard are given off-peak bus passes and adjustable aluminium walking sticks?

Finally The Chapel, conveniently and apocalyptically near Main Entrance/Exit, where those at odds with life may sit and ponder. Slightly lurid stained glass windows and imitation Scandi furniture. The door is always open and I’ve never seen a single occupant. But then souls are invisible, aren’t they?

Saturday 26 March 2022

Yesterday I lost my reason

V can check my mouth shape;
I can check where I am in the song.

At what point does a hobby become a madness? Perhaps when all normal spending standards are quietly forgotten. 

Tell the truth singing is more than a hobby for me; it meets some deep-seated need which has always existed but only became manifest when I started private lessons six years ago. The need became a seedling, then a sapling, then a virtual oak. I can no more envisage a life without singing than without my liver. I’m still not all that good but I believe I can – in all modesty – claim to be a singer.

At first glance singing seems inexpensive. There are V’s fees, of course, but I’ve willingly upped them twice over the six years. How could I do other? V opened the gate for me. I need a computer so that I can Skype V’s lessons but I needed it beforehand to write novels and run a blog. Musical scores cost about a fiver.

The trouble is that as I progress I am less able to tolerate what were previously minor irritations. And here’s a fr’instance. Most songs cover at least two A4 sheets, sometimes more. As I sing I’m reading words ahead of the noise I’m making. That means turning the page often at some awkward point.

Grandson Ian helped me. We trawled available computer tablets and chose the Microsoft Surface. My 66 paper scores were all alphabetically higgledy-piggledy; I scanned them and the Surface put them in ABC order. Even better, now, as I reach the bottom of a page I touch the screen and the page turns. An almost sensual pleasure. 

Grandson Ian helped me spec the Surface but superstitiously refused to click “Buy Now”. He was unnerved. The Surface cost £850 ($1121).

Reason flying out of the window.

Tuesday 22 March 2022

Avert your eyes from risqué joke

The swanky side of the UK's NHS

The aftermath of bowel surgery is chemotherapy. Surely nothing more than finding a space in the hospital car park and in for a jab and a drip. And by no means a crummy experience. I swap the metallic chairs in the waiting room for the upholstered relaxers in the pastel-coloured drip lab (with its stained glass window) and rest my legs on the extension cushion.

Well, not exactly. The drip lasts two hours. For the first time I discover that there are limits to Solitaire on my mobile. I need an old-fashioned book with a highly rated readability coefficient. The Godfather once sustained me for a flight from London Heathrow to Pittsburgh International (3720 miles). Something in that bracket.

Because there’s more. After the drip I’m attached to a baby’s bottle which I wear for the next three days, unconsciously absorbing its liquid contents via a tube attached to a tap inserted into my left bicep. The logical place to hang the bottle is from my braces in the region of my crotch. A wonderful opportunity to lighten the work load of the hard-working nurses in the drip lab.

I point to the indecently obvious bulge down… er… there. “Reminds me of that alleged line in a Mae West movie: ‘Is that a pistol in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?’.”

For a split-second there’s silence. Have I gone too far? Then a roar of soprano and bass-baritone laughter and I reckon I’ve returned the favour. Gather ye rosebuds.

Monday 14 March 2022

Dissolving the separating miles

All it lacks is me.

Skyping doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Some say – unfairly – it’s nowhere near as good as hugging in person. True. But I for one realised that from the start.

Some say – slightly more fairly – it became popular during the height of the pandemic and who wants to be reminded of those dark days? But that’s rather like shooting the messenger. In our case it’s a remotely contrived family reunion at weekly intervals. Not perfect but a lot better than moaning about the lack of real family gatherings which often occurred far less frequently.

In any case Skyping has its own advantages. Knowing that we’re limited to an hour a week, we talk more intensely, making sure everything gets said. Often to the point of overlapping the ends of others’ sentences. There are none of those real-life gaps where someone leaves to make the tea and silence descends like a lead curtain.

In particular I’m able to keep everyone up to date with my endless series of consultations at the hospital. Next time round I’ll have breathtaking news about being fitted with my PICC (Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter) which will facilitate the transfer of chemotherapy fluid. Perhaps this makes me sound self-centred, the weekly bore, but I think my daughters regard such info as worthwhile.

During the early days VR and I used to crouch uncomfortably together in front of the PC monitor in my study. Now the images appear on the much larger TV screen in our living room. As you can see from VR’s part of the montage, some of us loll. The empty couch is where I would have lain, but someone had to take the photo.

Besides which Skype is a techno-marvel and – astonishingly – it’s free. Have you rejected Skype? For goodness sake: why? 

Sunday 6 March 2022

Hated school? See this

Look, I’ve tackled some lengthy entertainments. Wagner’s Ring cycle consists of four operas, each about 5 hours long. Kevin Brownlow’s rehabilitated version of Abel Gance’s silent movie, Napoleon, lasts 6 hours. And Bach’s St Matthew Passion is about 3 hours.

But none was a marathon. Both my Ring and my Napoleon are on DVDs; I was able to loll on the sofa, take comfort breaks, allow time-outs for snacks, etc. St Matthew was in the concert hall but has a lengthy interval. I survived.

The German movie, Mr Bachmann And His Class, launched in 2021, lasts 3 hr 37 min. I saw it yesterday, without a break. True, at the final credits it felt as though my spine had developed a sharp point that might – any moment – pierce the meagre upholstery of the cinema seat, never mind the skimpy flesh to the rear of my anus. But not a second too long. Honest. I promise.

Anyone who suffered a lousy school education, as I did, should see MBAHC. When it was over I wrote a comment post-it: “If Mr Bachmann had taught me I could have conquered the world – but gently.”

Mr B’s school class, in a German industrial town, consisted of 14-year-old male and female students from Russia, Bulgaria, Poland and five other countries. Some were clever, some struggled with their German. All received Mr B’s acutely sympathetic, individual yet rigorous attention. Maths, yes. English, yes. But also singing, guitar playing, stone carving and infinitely productive conversation.

The kids arrived one cold winter’s morning. Had they hated getting up? Jawohl! Take a ten-minute snooze, head down on the desk. Time after time, my throat constricted at the poignancy and the fun. Serious (ie, good) education, fun? Definitely. Please, please see it.

Thursday 3 March 2022

Dead dove less disturbing than dead people

Vladimir Putin, Trump’s Kremlin pal, says he’s invading Ukraine for “peacekeeping” reasons. It so happens the Nobel Prize organisation awards a hefty sum for those who have helped maintain world peace. Sometimes the recipient has been chosen out of a sense of irony – Remember old Hank Kissinger? And Cambodia? But giving $1m to Vlad The Inventer might just beat them.

It is said: in war the first victim is truth but that needs updating. When an aggressive government runs the only TV channel breath-taking fibs outrank reality. A strangely middle-class woman, resident in Moscow, with a good command of English, gets all her info from local TV. Interviewed by a BBC reporter about deaths in Kharkiv, she said, rather sweetly I thought, “Mr Putin has said he is avoiding civilian targets. So Ukrainian civilians must be safe.”

Surely she actually lives in Woking and will vote again for BJ, forgiving him his “little mischiefs”.

One depressing aspect of war is its vocabulary. Kept on ice during piping peace, it emerges when the first missile hits the first hospital.  For instance, artillery is used to “soften up” the opposition before the infantry go in. Softening up as in reducing to a jelly. Choose your flavour.

The 14-mile-long (later inflated to 40 miles) queue of Russian lorries bearing down on Kjiv was said to be carrying “logistics”. For me, retired editor of a logistics magazine, logistics is a principle or a practice. So what were those lorries carrying? Old copies of my old mag? Alas, it died after I left it.

“Opening a corridor” is the aim of Russian “forces” in the south. The first euphemism suggests a series of doors, not wastes of wrecked buildings. The second converts soldiers into abstract natural phenomena; wouldn’t hurt a fly, would they?