Monday, 21 January 2019

Hundon Eclipse

Total eclipse over Hundon
I did it - I actually managed to get up and step outside at 5a.m., still in my pyjamas and into a bitterly cold hard frost. But the sky was clear and the stars bright as I glimpsed the super-blood moon low in the western sky.

Rhetorical question: are bosses the same the world over?
I had a piece of work due for Friday, but come the afternoon my boss said she would be away on Monday, so gave me an extra day to work on it. Come this afternoon I logged on to send it in, only to find an email from her with a whole new paper to review and include, plus another section. She wants it in for tomorrow, but that was a day I had planned to take off!

Finishing late, and it growing dark, I chose to walk the dogs closer to home, along the reservoir road at the top of the hill rather than in Clare. Hundon reservoir is well hidden, despite being the highest point in East Anglia. The air was still and the puddles still frozen over. It was deserted as I looked down on the far hills in the gloomy dusk; quite alone and peaceful after a full and busy day. Then home for a cup of tea. Perfect.

Please add a comment if you would like to share something about your boss
Mail comments to:

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Family visits

We had a brief but welcome visit from son Ben and his family, Kaz and Luke, yesterday. They would not stay the night, being concerned that I might be too ill, but we took them for a good lunch in the Swan in Clare, a warm and friendly medieval coaching inn with an old fashioned coaching fire to keep the cold at bay. Luke is 16 now and selecting the subjects he wants ready for the 6th form college. He hopes to specialise in computer science/programming, which is a very sound choice these days when so much of our existence is dependent on a hidden programme somewhere.
Super moon over our garden

Coincidentally, we had some messages from Luke's great-grandfather this week. We have never met the man, but he's 93 and also enjoys programming and tinkering with computers for amusement. He also enjoys researching family history, and was working on Luke's tree when he discovered us, and contacted us through Ancestry. He is one of the last survivors of the war, having been a PoW in the Burma campaign, but Luke says he won't talk of it. He is often invited to present a wreath at the Cenotaph on Armistice Day, but always refuses because of the terrible memories it invokes.

Tonight is a full moon, and it's exceptionally large and bright. A total eclipse is scheduled for the early hours.  I'll try and be up to witness it if clouds will permit. In the meantime, Ann photoed it over our garden, and Matthew sent a picture he took with his new camera. Very impressive pics.

Friday, 18 January 2019

Getting good service

The pain and discharge from below are so bad that today I phoned the Oncology nurse at Addenbrooke's on the special help line they provided. I explained the problem, but couldn't help directly; but she did agree to ask the oncologist. Later she phoned back to say that it wasn't the radiotherapy, and the oncologist had no direct experience of this problem. He advised that I phone my GP. This I did, and sure enough within a short time there was a prescription for a cream and antibiotic waiting at the pharmacy for me to collect, and the message to get straight back to them if it didn't improve over the weekend. Definitely one nil to the GP!

Ann is looking for a new reading lamp for her room. The present one is very old, and gets too hot to sit under. We went first to Glasswells in Bury to search, but they were all very pricey and we rarely find anything we like there anyway. Today was no exception - the range of lamps was very limited. Then we went to the furniture showroom, a large warehouse type of place in the middle of nowhere, that has all sorts of end-of-line items, but they too were fruitless. Finally, she has ordered one on line - a cool LED lamp with five dimming positions, and half the price of anything in Glasswells. It will be delivered tomorrow. No wonder stores are closing all round the country - on line shopping is so much more convenient, with a vast selection, and competitive pricing. I can see a time when there will be no department stores left, except for the tourists on Oxford Street.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

The Duke stops Brexit

The news has just broken that Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh was in a road smash. Everything is being said about the Duke, including reading prayers for him. He is 97, and clearly in no fit state to be driving; but they are called the Queen's highways, so I expect he feels entitled to charge about on them with impunity, long after the age at which we mere mortals would be banned from taking the wheel. But not one word has been said about the condition of the other poor driver whom the Duke ran into. Yet another example of gross overprivilage of the few. But at least it's pushed Brexit off the lead story.

Ann is unwell today; she struggles on, but had to cancel her hair appointment. She is carrying a heavy load just in looking after me now, but somehow she always gets everyone else's problems too. I walked the dogs today, but it is very painful below, and I think it would be more accurate to say I hobbled round with the dogs. It was a beautiful clear day, with a bright, light blue sky after a dusting of snow this morning, but I could not walk far and was glad to get back under my blanket.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

A Health Bulletin

People keep asking how I am getting on, which is kind and thoughtful, but I find I'm saying the same thing to everyone. I therefore am publishing a bulletin like a pregnant royal to announce the state of play of my body. As a measure of my improvement, I got out twice today! I have picked up the thread of work (happily I can work from home), and this afternoon I managed to sit through a presentation in Cambridge, between dashes to the loo. I am definitely gaining in strength, doing more and feeling less tired after being blasted by the radiotherapy, but I'm still very sore below, as though it has burnt everything in the area. My taste has altered too, and coffee tastes foul. I guess it will just need some time to heal now.

Illness certainly shows who one's friends are. Many people have rallied round, with offers of practical help as well as sympathy. Equally, we have discovered how incredibly cruel and nasty some people can be. At the first hint of disease, and with Ann in plaster from her fall last year, her sister slammed the phone down on her and said she didn't want any more contact. Her children have followed suit, so we have lost contact with the two great nephews. On my side, one of my children has refused to have anything to do with me, and sent not one word of concern or care. I still don't know what caused the rift, but as he ignored all my initial attempts to contact him, I will probably never know. Now, I just don't want to speak with him again either - thus does enmity grow.

In contrast, this morning we were invited for coffee to Robin and Yvonne's, a rare and welcome chance to get out and a change of scenery. Unfortunately, they too have some internal family difficulties, and they too won't discuss it. These family fallouts seem remarkably common - but what chance the world, when even kin hold rancour close.

Monday, 14 January 2019

Loneliness and gay roles for gay actors

Who Cares?

Who cares?
None - but the lonely piper
Churning out his dirge across the stair
That leads down, down, down to dark despair.

Who cares?
None - but the dark moon howling
In the silent night; calling at the last
Those dear departed dead loves of my past.

Who cares?
None - but my heart, which beats slower
With each passing stroke, reluctant yet to flee
From hopeless, hapless, love of she.

An article in The Guardian today (gay roles for gay actors) highlights the problems modern actors face in following their trade, i.e. should any actor play a role as someone other than themselves. This is a real problem for the profession: should women play male roles (e.g. Glenda Jackson in Lear - brilliant!); should non transvestites cross-dress to play women (Charlie's Aunt); should actors be padded out to play fat characters (Falstaff); or healthy people play the roles of invalids or people with some form of mental disability (A Day in the Death of Joe Egg)? Eddie Redmayne was in trouble for this recently in his role as Stephen Hawking. The problem is, he portrayed Stephen deteriorating from full vigour to severe disability. No actor inflicted with motor neurone disease could do this, so should they select an actor with some other disability to mimic a different disability?

I am happy with gay roles for gay actors if the actors are the best in their trade; but in fairness, I would then like to see straight roles played by straight actors, which is never going to happen. No - let our actors continue performing their trade: they are a mirror to reality, and must never be confused with reality itself. The problem with PC is that it is only ever applied by the vocal minority. It's a bit like Brexit, where a very vocal minority are making every effort to thwart the wishes of the silent majority. Would I could wave a wand and it would all be over with a clean out!


And so I am alone,
more alone than I have ever been,
no one at the end  phone
or here to walk the path with me.
So this is what was meant
how the story meets it end.
no one by my side,
not brother, cousin, child nor friend.

Ann's poem reflects so closely that which we all feel deep down. Loneliness. That sense of isolation, no matter how we disguise it with the idle chatter of friends or the distractions of a busy life. In the end, our inner being is ours alone, and the journey through life is a journey we must take for ourselves.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Death comes In dreams

Clare lights with The Bell and Annie
Clare always had pretty Christmas lights, which are still up. Ann says this will bring bad luck to Clare as it's well past 12th Night. It was certainly nearly bad luck for me. I went to The Bell for a coffee, but had to dash for the loo before I could order. Though a large hotel, there is only one cubicle in the Gentleman's and that was occupied. I stood in the corridor with rapidly increasing anxiety until I could wait no longer, so dashed into the Ladies' in desperation. I streaked past the washbasins almost in a state of exposure, but just made it. The cubicle there is tiny and almost impossible to turn round in or adjust one's clothing. To avoid further embarrassment, I left rapidly and washed in the Gents'.

Moving On

I do not spend time idly wishing
for things that are now lost:
the love that I've been missing
now belongs locked in the past.

The bird upon the swaying tree
sings a sweet, soft melody,
but it does not keep on tweeting
of things that will never be.

You can never make good cider,
with life's worm-eaten fruit;
wait for the warm glow of summer
and pick from the tree anew.

The stream will keep on flowing,
the waters fast move on;
I will not keep on dreaming
of a life that is clearly gone.

My body is at a low ebb. Only two hours sleep last night before I awoke to wee, and then only dribbles despite the urgency. I do not know if it is the after-effects of irradiation, or some manifestation of the cancer. I smell like a sewer – it is always bad when one can smell oneself coming. I do not think it is the smell of cancer (see "The smell of death"), but I suspect it arises from a permeability of the inflamed bowel wall. It is a strange battle, not an angry fight of open warfare, but more like a fifth column undermining the integrity of the whole, working undercover to bring disruption and sew doubt.

I awoke with memories of uneasy dreams. I was accompanied by a band of my children, attempting to reach the edge of a deep valley. I had been there before many times in previous dreams, but had always approached from the far end, usually having emerged from some tunnel. Now the track took us past a nest of tiny cobras, each erect with flared hood and menacing, and before us was a conveyor belt feeding a furnace that we had to cross. Though silent now, I knew a great lump of coal would soon drop from the chute, and the thing would start up. One of the children started to play with the conveyor belt, and I had to warn him to keep away, least he be caught up in it when it started up.

Ann's new poem too is about moving on. It is as though she read my dreams through that union of mysterious synchronicity that has been with us since we met. She too can smell the smell of decay. The time to move on comes closer now and I must prepare the way.