● Lady Percy moves me - might she move you? CLICK TO FIND OUT
● Plus my novels, stories, verse, vulgar interests, apologies, and singing.
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Saturday 28 May 2022

Bye-bye chemo. Part 2

Double-click to find what
I've been up to since March 11
Old age begets forgetfulness and chemo treatment is based on a multi-stage timetable. The chemo nurses were impressed by the way I filled in the holes in my memory (see above).

Friday 27 May 2022

Bye-bye tap. Part 1

The PICC, sticking out of this guy's arm, provides access
to a tube which extends 42 cm into his chest cavity
and down which the chemo flows. It seems from his
expression he later faced a firing squad; not me though

When bowel cancer was diagnosed I never asked for a prognosis. There didn’t seem any point, it would be no more than some medic’s guess. And not knowing this vague date might help me ignore it. I know it sounds unlikely but this actually worked. I’d have something else on my mind and I’d notice – from facial expressions – that this form of escape wasn’t necessarily available to other members of my family.

One of the chemo nurses said they never volunteered such information but might if asked. The surgeon went some way towards a prediction but only mathematically, rating percentages against the passage of time. In fact, probability. It’s a technique politicians often use, ensuring obfuscation by missing out any exact totals. As a journalist I’ve enjoyed decades of listening to – and distrusting – politicians and fashioning my own form of the truth. But the surgeon was cleverer than the pols and I let him have his way with me.

Besides, there’ve recently been some real facts to gnaw on and they’re encouraging. It was said that the first chemo session would – probably – last six months. No guarantees, of course. Chemo has different effects on different patients. In fact that first estimate was pessimistic. Five fortnightly sessions and, for the moment, I’m done with absorbing prototoxins.. A scan is due in late July and we’ll take it from there.

Better still, on Wednesday my PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) – a sort of tap arrangement attached to my upper arm – will be removed. Since installing this device requires demanding positional skills I had thought this would remain in situ until all was done and dusted. Not so, it seems.

Whoopee! The villa rented on the Med has a pool; I’ll be able to swim. The hols are on!

Tuesday 24 May 2022

The hub of all things

It's there, modestly hidden
as befits its pariah status.
Ultimately destined for
greater glories in BB heaven 

Enough of being clever-clever, of showing off, of pretending to be elite.

Time for a post about everyday matters, common to us all but as yet unexplored. Time for belly-buttons.

There it lies at the centre of the small universe we all command. Present but mainly ignored. Except during those moments of contemplation while bathing, when the mind is drawn ineluctably (Stop it! Aren’t we supposed to be sanctioning five-dollar words?) to the possibility of fluff and its removal.

But why remove it? Who is it harming? Leave it be, just this once.

The thing about belly-buttons is they look unfinished. No one I know has a pretty one. As if the obstetrician (Gynae-man? Midwife?  Motorbiker just passing  by at the time?) had decided that separation – of mum and child – was the only requirement. That tidying up afterwards could be regarded as unskilled labour and left to someone who was unfortunately on strike. Leaving the poor unwanted umbilicus to its own devices.

Vaguely I seem to recall that those who expect every square centimetre of their skin to be photographed for display in fashion magazine have the thing removed. On the basis that a healed wound is hardly photogenic. Not a principle that should be further developed, I hope. There are certain politicians – no names, no pack-drill – who’d look better headless. 

But might the belly-button be adapted to some useful function? A storage place for… just what? Diamonds? One (very tiny) ear bud? An emergency supply of salt? A carefully folded ten-pound note?

Could the belly-button be artistically rehabilitated? Forming the centre-piece of an elaborate tattoo and entered for competition. Integrated with a hanging basket of alpines. Portrait-painted by someone presently big in conceptual art.

Must it always blush unseen? Does it deserve its own charity? Projects, projects.

Wednesday 18 May 2022

On being insulted

Said to be one of 19 most imaginative insults

It’s been some time since I was called “a pillock”. Not that I’ve minded. If the word means anything it suggests incompetence in manual skills – a failing I willingly own up to.

During national service in the RAF I was regularly called “a smart bastard” and this I took as a compliment. The result of uttering a moderately obscure word like “sentient”. Occasionally this led to fights but these tailed off when my opponents realised I was tall enough to apply the Commando Head Lock which rendered them helpless and – if they struggled – vulnerable.

Being called “a bore” could be one of two insults – one that mattered and one that didn’t. I am fairly articulate but prone to run off at the mouth; detected in this unforgivable sin I became contrite, otherwise “sulky”. If I’d been merely misunderstood by someone who was even worse educated than I was (there were a few) I merely smirked. I should add I was easily the least congenial airman – bar one – during square-bashing. The other – a skimp – came from Lancashire; case proved.

Once, during an early interview for a journalistic job, a very superior editor read my cuttings book and said I lacked the craft of writing. I cringed. At that time there was a justifiable reason for this judgment but I have no desire to resurrect it now. The smart-ass editor was right then and it was an agonising truth. I didn’t get the job but started crawling towards a better form of prose.

I have had – may still have – a particular weakness. Any woman who has chosen to insult me has seen me crawl away, tail between my legs. However extreme the wound I’ve tended to accept it as true. In my novels all women are heroines. Go figure.

Wednesday 11 May 2022

You (I) cleverer than you (I) thought?

The world is based on mathematics. I once got an
O-level GCE in Eng. Lang. with an essay on that

YouTube understands me well. For six years it has helped me learn how to sing. V is a terrific teacher but she is a soprano and I’m a baritone. If I need a baritone version of say, Schubert’s Du bist die Ruh, which I’m studying with V, YouTube has a slew of examples.

But I have other interests. When I open YouTube its all-knowing algorithms offer me “trailers” of many subjects in which I’ve previously shown an interest. For example: Putin’s rhetoric in his public announcements, technicalities of indoor wall climbing, stand-up sections of Jimmy Kimmel’s TV chat show from LA, dialogue between airline pilots and air traffic control, how a light-emitting diode works, “The Ten Things All Flat-Earthers Say”, many aspects of motor-bikes, etc.

Please, please don’t jump to conclusions. Showing an interest in something doesn’t mean I support its aims. Googling serial killers isn’t proof I always carry a machete. Only that I disapprove of ignorance.

But YouTube goes further; it identifies topics which I only dimly perceive. Things I might respond to if only I were a better version of myself. Linear algebra, for instance. Not to be confused with plain algebra.

It’s harder. Fundamental in modern presentations of geometry, it is often used for dealing with first-order approximations. Already I detect – telepathically – your eyes glazing over. Me? I’m flattered YouTube has this view of me. I click on The Big Picture of Linear Algebra by an MIT professor.

Quickly I’m lost. But the professor, Gilbert Strang, is a good teacher as the video’s comments proclaim. He backtracks and summarises. Uses conversational English. Tiny flashes of comprehension occur. I’m no mathematician. If only I’d taken that other road when I was 16… Ah, Wilderness.

Books couldn’t have done this. YouTube, I wouldn’t be without you.

Sunday 8 May 2022

Perfection is no big thing (revised)

In the opera, Aida, (not one of my favourites) the two lovers
are fatally walled up in a vault - a static sort of execution that
suited the great tenor, Pavarotti, whose bulk left him immobilised
in latter years. As I did "the box", the idea passed through my mind

Yesterday was a perfect day for me, nothing to do with the weather. A day of modest physical achievement, some intellectual exploration, quiet contentment, and a musical revelation to end it all.

THE PLAN To rise at 8 am and assemble a garden storage box kit. Fairly straightforward DIY, some tricky bits,

THE PLAN (amended) Languished in bed with VR, discussing our respective parents and noting our radically changed opinions regarding those who brought us into the world.

THE PLAN (resumed) Late start at 11.10 am. Inserted 30 self-tapping screws to secure the click-fitted box structure. The cost: one small hand blister.

THE BREAK May one add Worcester sauce to egg mayo on toast? The jury's out.

THE CLIMAX When complete, the box lid rises automatically, slowly and prettily via two piston-based levers. To install these do-dahs one crawls awkwardly into the box. Everything is cramped and the levers must be held “closed” to fit their slots. But how to hold them closed? Scotch tape. Or rather Scotch tape’s misbehaviour. The tape's tendency to tangle works for you; when tangled it becomes an unbreakable rope, easily holding the compressed levers. And easily cut away afterwards.

THE AFTERMATH Misused Scotch tape was my idea and I was cock-a-hoop. Made myself a Bloody Mary and VR a G&T.

THE DESCENT INTO LEISURE Evening meal was a fry-up; bad news if you’re thinking of living another 30 years but that is not our intention.

SOMETHING CULTURAL We have a magnificent DVD of Mozart's opera, Cosí, recorded in multi-channel format. Which means in group singing (from two to six people at a time in Cosí) you hear each separate layer quite clearly, provided your amp is also multi-channel. Yesterday I noticed this for the first time 

Plus a 2018 Pouilly Fuissé from The Wine Society

Wednesday 4 May 2022

Might I be "an hairy man" *

The world's new melting pot.
Please tip well

Changed my mind. I think Shara's crop adds youthfulness.
Or am I deluding myself?

I am having my hair cut at the Oasis salon along Holmer Road. Shara, my clipesse these last five years, is a good conversationalist but for once my mind’s on other things: why on earth am I here?

What force has encouraged me – at 86 - to think that shorter hair (somewhat limp from chemo) is desirable or even necessary? When I was a working editor, bestriding the world and wringing truth out of captains of industry, I forsook the Caveman Look. Now, who cares?

Is it habit or vanity? I can only think of one practical advantage. On rare occasions – when sulphurous tints outweigh the silver – I reluctantly wash my hair. Long hair takes longer to dry. Makes sense. 

And… ah yes, one other irritation. When my fringe is long enough to tickle my eyeballs.

Might long hair be considered an opportunity? I have lived my life in what is laughingly called The Developed World; suppose I reverted to Neanderthal practices? Hair down to my navel, perhaps plaited into a sporran. Threatening my enemies not with a flint spear but with shockingly bad hygiene. Infecting them to death.

Just not caring, that would be worth a trial. Watching pedestrians coming towards me on the pavement (US: sidewalk) and seeing them hurriedly cross the highway in case I brushed against them. Definitely a sense a power but I suspect such childishness would eventually pall. I’d have incurred another habit.

A sudden flashback to this morning. Shara herself is growing her hair much longer! I should have asked.

What could be more appropriate: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

* Courtesy, Beyond The Fringe.