Sunday, 28 April 2019

Chronic renal failure - a textbook case study

I am going into pedagogue mode now, speaking as a medical professional to all who wish to learn about chronic renal failure (CRF) from the standpoint of the sufferer. So sit still and learn, or change channels now.

Anatomy. We all know they're somewhere towards the lower back part of the body, one on each side, and we know they must have little tubes connecting them to the bladder in some way. But when they're working and pain-free, no one knows where they are, and no-one cares. Only when they have a problem do we care - then the pain in the lower back on one or the other side points to their location in no uncertain terms.

Physiology. They do a lot of things we take for granted: they maintain fluid balance to prevent a build up of excess water; they constantly adjust the pH of the blood to be not too acidic nor too alkaline but "just right"; they maintain salt balance - not just the sodium chloride we shovel on our fish-and-chips, but all the other salts we usually ignore - potassium, calcium, phosphorous, and carbonates. They also bear some responsibility for regulating blood pressure, stimulating haemoglobin levels in the blood, and helping the immune system to cope with life's traumas and the nasties constantly trying to invade our bodies. Oh yes - on top of all this, they get rid of much of the toxic waste our bodies generate each day from burning food for energy ('good' waste), and breaking down all the rubbish we throw into our stomachs ('bad' waste) - especially from the evil meat, that palatable temptation of the devil to ingest poison in the guise of tempting steaks and succulant stews. Be not deceived - the stuff is poison as I have learnt to my cost. [Oops - I am straying from the true disinterest of the good medical text here.]

Clinical manifestations of CRF. These are the manifestations of each of the functions of the kidneys. Having many functions, it follows that there may be many manifestations. At the moment, I seem to have them all.
I have had erratic hypertension and been anaemic for some time. This leaves me tired; I would add irritable, but I think this is just my normal state, not the CRF. The toxic wastes and acidity of the urine makes it burn like crazy, and I need to keep running every hour or two (dysuria and frequency), or I won't make it in time (urgency), and there are horrid sharp pains shooting up my insides like knives. Last night I woke with bad nausea and had to sit downstairs sipping water with a bowl beside me.  The toxic products irritate the skin, and I now have red blotches everywhere, especially the back and legs, that itch like crazy and bleed easily everytime I scratch too vigorously (generalised pruritis). Additionally, a strong immune system helps prevent cancers developing, and the depressed immune system allows them to develop. I therefore blame the CRF for giving me two independent cancers (melanoma and bladder cancer), rather than the other way round.  In short - and in lay parlance - I'm a miserable wreck.

Management. I have to drink plenty and watch my diet. Basically, I must leave off all the things I like (bananas, tomatoes, oranges, olives and avacado) which have too much salt and potassium, and eat plenty of all the things I dislike (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and onions!). Also, I repeat, leave off the poison of red meat. If the CRF continues to deteriorate, younger men than me might be offered dialysis to rest the kidneys and remove the toxins, or ultimately renal transplant. Neither option is available for old men over the hill, so I shall have to continue on the downward slope.

The only other management options are to hope for a miracle (trip to Lourdes?), and be thankful for someone like Ann to put up with the grouchiness, and administer creams and drinks and manage my diet like an angel!

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Rehabilitation and magic

On castle walls Budapest
After the tortured night I suffered following a carnivorous lapse into meat eating (see Confessions), I have resolved to give the poor old kidneys a chance for recuperation. I did not dare stray too far from the hotel with its salvation of a toilet at a time of urgent need, so I remained behind while Ann and Edwin explored the great metropolis of Budapest.

In perfect weather, I strolled the gardens below the hotel, looking back on the castle walls for which it is famous, then ended up in a little street cafe where I had a modest meal of cheese and salad, washed down with home-made lemonade. Delicious, and hopefully it will prove to be restorative. Passing water is still extremely painful and too frequent, but hopefully there will soon be improvement in the poor old pissaroo.

Yesterday, we all explored local attractions, including the Houdini Museum. This contained a potted history of his birth in Hungary and his fame in America in the early 19th Century. The highlight of the visit was a performance by a stage magician, who asked if we all believed in free will. Most of us shouted back "Yes", but Edwin insisted on shouting "No".

The conjurer asked him his name: "Edwin".
"Do you like shopping Edwin?" - "Yes".
"What shop did you go to last?" - "Tesco's."
"What did you buy?" - "Jackfruit."
"Did you have free will to buy it?" - "No. I was influenced by advertisers."
The magician shrugged and nodded as though agreeing. Then, just as the rest of the show was finishing, he said "It's strange, I had a strong urge to write a note to myself just before the show started," and he fished from his pocket his wallet, opened it and took out a tightly folded piece of paper. This he handed to Edwin and asked him to read it.

Edwin took the paper, unfolded it and read, "A man called Edwin will go into a shop called Tesco and purchase some Jackfruit." Naturally, we all applauded wildly and – having seen Edwin's face – I couldn't stop laughing all the way back.

Thursday, 25 April 2019


Grandad-John in the Flamingo Chair
I must admit a confession to my reading public, one borne with shame and one from whose admittance I must expect ridicule and condemnation in equal measure. We are in Budapest, a most beautiful city where we are taking a short break from the rigours of a peaceful village. Yesterday we indulged in quaint history at the museum of electrical inventions from the turn of the 19th century (old motors, switches, bells, telephones etcetera), followed by a visit to the Museum of Sweets and Selfies - a bizarre collection of colour and toys designed more for young adolescents than grown respectable ladies and grizzled bearded men, but heaps of fun battling through a forest of pink bananas or relaxing in a pink flamingo chair. We followed this by a sudden dive into a gluten-free bakery Edwin had spotted where we indulged in gluten-free beers and a choice of delicious cakes and pastries. But I am glossing over the confession.

Ann in Museum of Sweets and Selfies, Budapest
That evening, being late, we dined in the hotel restaurant where – although nominally vegetarian – I succumbed to a starter of Hungarian goulash. This was filled with large cubes of succulent beef, suspended in a carefully spiced stew of vegetables, and I will not pretend it was not delicious.  But then to crown my sin I selected a dish of wiener schnitzel: a large dish which covered the plate in bread-crumbed Bambi. Retribution was swift. I had forgotten how poisonous red meat is to the kidneys. Mine are already shot to pieces, filled as they are with large cysts and in the throes of advanced renal failure, and they were completely unable to cope with the added load of lethal nitrogenous waste to which I challenged them.  The unaccustomed load of heterocyclic amines and breakdown products of urea and uric acid so irritated my kidneys and bladder that I was awake every hour throughout the night having to run to for a painful wee. 

Today I am confined to my room, unable to stray far from the toilet. Believe me, if anyone suffers from kidney disease, the revenge of the animals can be swift and sure. Today, I am dining on salad leaves and drinking weak tea.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

A Philosophy for Life

23 April 2019

I am told by people who generally know these things that my blog posts are mostly vacuous, the kicking of  the empty can down the road of life. My reply is, they are written not to plunge the reader into fits of anguish or self-loathing, but are splashed upon the page simply for my own pleasure; to remind myself that the great world rolls on, delighting in trivia, silly jokes, and minor anecdotes about each other. Occasionally, it gives me platform to rail pitifully against the stupidity or ignorance of our political masters. I know my ineffectual voice is but the clucking of an idle hen, but it helps release the impotent frustration bottled within.

My critics tell me that the world awaits depth and insight into the anguish of dying; that I should grip the reader round the throat and throttle the joy and life out of them; that their greatest desire is to see as it were a mirror held to reflect the inner agony and suffering of inevitable extinction. I shall not oblige them. I attended the dying and dead over many years of general practice, and tried to bring ease to pain, or comfort to the bereaved; I have ministered to suffering in a hospice, some of which could not be relieved and brings me to tears even now; as police surgeon I attended fatalities and unexpected deaths by the score, many at their own hand or that of another. Every news item is filled with grief and suffering in the world. This I used to express in poetry, often writing at three a.m. on my way back from some dire night call, and there it lies for any who care to read such things. These emotions do not need repeating; they remain raw and I have no wish to relive them.

For tears, read the news, satisfy yourself with the slaughter in the world, the mindlessness of impersonal violence wielded without purpose. Better to rejoice that most of us prefer to release our exasperation and despair through the grin, not the gun; through bombast rather than the bomb; in trivia rather than travail. I have no wish to emulate Dostoevsky or Tolstoy; had I such talent I would chose to be a Waugh or Wodehouse every time.

And yet... and yet... to be a purveyor of the soul, it should ring true, it should go deep; but this is not a secret diary, filled with secret longings or shame, it is a public document and must respect the sensitivities of others. And so I will continue to intersperse the trivial and mundane with occasional glimpses of the darkness lurking behind existence. I may tell of inner pain and conflicts; but above all, I seek the momentary release that humour may provide, the incongruities that underpin relationships, and the absurdities of our very existence.

Friday, 19 April 2019

Carrying one's cross alone

Today is Good Friday, and for some reason I spotted a lone figure walking down Clare High Street this morning bearing a huge wooden cross over his shoulders, large enough to mount on Calvary. He was not in a procession, and no-one was attempting to help him carry it. Ann suggested it might be the return of Christ, suffering His Passion again, but this time wondering where the crowds were, or where was Simon of Cyrene when he was needed. It seemed to by a metaphor for the present spiritual indifference in much of the modern world.

Granny Annie and Grandad John entertain Lucy and Theo at Linton Zoo
Following from the funeral, Wednesday also saw the visit of Lucy and her partner Andy, with new arrival Theo in tow. At least, he always seems new – though it is nearly two years since they stood in our kitchen to announce he was on his way. Already he is eighteen months and charging round the world with an energy and determination that seems unquenchable. It is many years since we had to entertain a toddler, but a trip to the local Linton Zoo helped divert him. Linton is the ideal size for this, being compact for slow crawlers like me, well able to be viewed in an afternoon rather than a full day, but full of variety and interest for children. Charging round from enclosures of tortoises or tapirs to cages of lions and tigers certainly managed to bring the magic of entertainment and fatigue in equal measures and, after a rest in the cafe before closing time for ices and drinks, they were well placed to toddle off to Lucy's brother, Matthew, to stay a further day with him and Rosie.

Andy is an honorary member of the Society for Acrimonious Divorce (SAD), having suffered a prolonged and difficult transition from the matrimonial state. However, a recent judicial hearing happily seems to be moving things forward at last, and we wish him all speed on this difficult journey.

Stories and a funeral

Zebra at Linton Zoo
I mentioned to Alan (Ann's cousin who lives in Portugal) that I had now finished my short story, called Liberty Jack, following a second dream that gave me the conclusion, and we started talking about some of the stories I have written. Only one has been published, titled The Fairway, which won a literature prize, and was set on a golf course in South Africa. Alan, who has an unlimited fund of anecdotes, immediately launched into his own tale of a golfing incident in South Africa.

He was playing on one of the Durban links and told to beware of the four zebras. During the round, he knocked his ball into a bunker on the third, but when they went up to it, one of the zebras was lying down in the bunker, covering most of his ball. "Can I declare a lost ball?" asked Alan.

"No - you must address the ball where it lies!" his partner insisted.

Talking afterwards of our wine-and-cheese evening on Monday for Alan and a number of friends and neighbours, Ann and I realised that as we have aged, everyone at that evening, save Edwin, had serious problems in their lives of one sort or another. One neighbour who did not come was David, the husband of Janet Newton who died a few weeks ago, and whom we had not seen for some time since the severe progression of her Alzheimer's. Alan left on Wednesday, taken to the station by Edwin as her funeral was at mid-day.

This was held in Hundon village church and we hoped for an inconspicuous seat near the back. Ann even remembered to leave her phone at home, as her ring tone is Annie's Song, which she did not want blaring out in church. Although a good fifteen minutes early, it was already full and we were forced onto a row near the front. Mary-Ann used to baby sit for one of their grandchildren, now a grown woman, and she and her sister sang a remarkable duet called To Where You Are, in perfect, clear soprano voices. The event was extremely moving. The children also read moving testimonials to their mother, who had been given the devastating news that their father, her first husband, had suddenly died in a car crash when they were young. She married David soon afterwards, and the children evidently loved him. He gave a moving address about how he had had to care for her in the later years of total dependency, and how it reminded him of his mother's death when he had had to dress and clean her too. Then the son, Dean, gave what sounded like a confessional: "Mum, you were always there for me when I needed you. I am so sorry that I was not there for you when you needed me." It left Ann and I wondering how our children might remember us when we die. Finally, as the mourners prepared to leave the aisles, we heard John Denver blaring out Annie's Song. The family had chosen it as the final piece of music for the funeral.

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Helpfulness, hysterics and hindrances

Hudgies in Clare
Hudgies is a general store in Clare that bills itself as "Ironmonger, Oil & Colourman." It is set out like a period piece in some historic street museum, but is very much alive and thriving.  I have yet to ask for something Mr Hudgie does not have somewhere in the dark recesses of his inner sanctum (I always think of him thus, though it is not his name). He was once a high-flying fund manager with HBSC, based I think in Tokyo. Many people I know who made their money and retired early used to dream of running a small country pub, but this shop was his dream, and he plays the part to perfection. He wears a faded brown cotton warehouse coat that would be a shoe-in for Open All Hours, and he has a small black dog curled up in a basket beside him, perched on a stool.

This week, I asked if he had any glue capable of fixing the hard plastic of our fridge door handle which had broken off. He produced a tube called "Hard Plastic Glue" - and it seems to work a treat. I also asked about the best way to stop my leaky kitchen tap. "Vaseline on the washer", he advised, and didn't even try to sell me a tub. That too seems to have worked, and thus far the tap stays dry.

Ann's cousin Alan is staying with us again for a few days. He is the founder member of SAD, the Society for Acrimonious Divorce, and was back in the UK for a court appearance to try and finalise his divorce to Iris, the Trinidad women to whom he has remained shackled for two painful years since their separation. In court last week, she broke down in hysterical screams and shouts, lying on the floor, her midriff exposed, kicking her legs wildly. The judge tried in vain for fifteen minutes to calm her, then called the usher who was equally unsuccessful, and the proceedings came to a halt until she had burnt through her fury. At last, Alan got a relatively favourable judgement, and is hopeful that the whole miserable business will soon be concluded. He has vowed never to remarry, and we are sworn to remind him should he look to be straying from this vow.

We also had a few friends over for an informal wine and cheese evening. Most of them we invited verbally, with a telephone call. I invited our neighbours across the road personally when I met the husband in the street. After some debate about whether it would be appropriate, we also invited our next door neighbour, Linda, whose husband is still confined to a nursing home following his stroke. I had not seen her face-to-face for a while, so dropped a card in with the invite. When she came, she told us the other neighbours would not be coming, because they had not had a formal invite. I said no one had a formal invite; it was all quite last minute; she got one because I didn't see her. Ann asked how they knew. "I went over to ask if they were coming," Linda said. "My card was so pretty, I showed it them and asked if they had had one." She paused. "Oh, I hope I didn't stir things." 

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Buying a motor-home (2) and (3)

On the domestic front, the kitchen tap had developed an annoying drip, so I replaced the valve with a spare I had. Now the drip has stopped, but it has started to leak from the handle and is drenching the draining board. I have sent for another valve, and hope that will finally cure it.

Overheard in Sainsbury's this morning, a father told his son he had "big ideas". The boy answered without hesitation, "When I was little, I had little ideas. Now I'm big, I have big ideas!" He was only about five, but is clearly going places.

Shopping has never been my favourite sport, but today I find the going heavy and am glad of the trolley to lean on. I seem to get tired too easily. and was glad to lie on the bed for a short while when we got back. We looked at Mobile Homes and caravans on Wednesday and again yesterday, but we still can't decide which we want. Some friends steer us one way towards the vans, but then another group say I'll never manage a caravan. Most of them are very tat or very expensive.

Ann's hairdresser in Clare is one of the clumsiest people we know. She invariably slips with the spray and drenches Ann's top, to the point where Ann deliberately puts on older clothes to visit her. Ann asked if she had ever nicked anyone's ear. "Oh yes, a few times," she said. "Once I cut part of the lobe off. It didn't half bleed." This time, she told Ann her father had fallen off a ladder and fractured his collar bone. It must run in the family. She also mentioned a Camper Van her husband's friend had converted himself. He bought an ordinary van for about £500 and put a mattress and primus stove in the back. He successfully toured France in it, and brought it safely back.

Monday, 8 April 2019

Filling a role

Ann has gone to Cambridge with Mary-Ann and the girls, on a shopping spree. Thus left, I continue with writing my new short story, and get my own lunch. This invariably comprises gorgeous Italian plum tomatoes on toast – a simple, tasty and nourishing meal that I take with unhealthy salt and lashings of butter melting into the toast. If Cameron and George Osborne had threated a shortage of Italian tomatoes as part of their scare tactics to frighten us into Brexit, it might have had some effect. As it is, though tempted to stockpile by buying a dozen tins at a time, I will ride out the storm. Let them do their worst: I am sure Italian tomato farmers will be only too pleased to reopen their trade links to a country where their produce is truly appreciated.

On a scale of one to ten, my acting ability is close to zero. I cannot remember lines or act in character of dialect, and to see me tread the boards would be the dread of any audience. Yet somehow, placed in any situation, I have a wretched tendency to assume the role of the moment. In Yorkshire, Scotland or Ireland, I lapse into a pseudo patois as though a native striving to sound false. In business, I wore an ancient suit that might have served some local councillor on a bad day. As a sailor, I loved to strut the decks in my nautical cap, issuing orders with the nautical language I was keen to master. As a manager, I issued instructions without consultation or any real expectation that they would be followed, and as a country doctor, I wore tweed jackets and pretended to a knowledge and certainty I could never possess.

Now I am officially a cancer victim and doing little paid work, I see myself lapsing into the role of retiree: shuffling about, lying under a blanket in my chair, drinking hot milk and going to bed early as though willing myself to be a caricature of an old man. At least I am aware of this failing; now I must resolve to do something about it, to pull myself back from this brink and take on some new challenge. I will keep my eager readers abreast of how this turns out, but in the end only they, as external observers, can really comment on my progress or decline. I have made a start to be both more energetic and more creative. I have cut the lawn (a small lawn but requiring vast reserves of energy on my part), and I have started a new short story. All my stories, and many of my poems, came in dreams, and for this one too I woke in the night at about 2 a.m. with the story complete in my head, and immediately went to the computer to capture it. I know from experience that, left till morning, it would fade and be forgotten.

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Put this diseased rabbit out of its misery

Lying in the dark, I hear the soft whooshing in my ear of each pulse beat. It is reassuringly in a regular sinus rhythm, not too fast, though probably a harbinger of blood pressure, stenosis or aneurysm, thus does the mind work at this early hour. The incessant tinnitus has eased and it is the only night sound above the gentle snores of Ann, for the birds are not yet singing, nor is Sunday traffic out. I leave my snug bed for the inevitable call of nature, breaking my sleep each night. It is like an alarm clock and the most reliable part of my body. Thus the strident sounds of age do greet the day.

A friend of Edwin's has decided they don't wish to be addressed by either gender, he or she being too restrictive. I am not sure if they wishes to be addressed in the plural as "they", or in the truly gender-neutral of "it". Ann thinks they have a good point, though. She believes gender constructs are purely of human origin, and we'd all be better off if everyone were neutral: just "people", with no differentiation by gender, race or religion. I can see her point, but carried to its logical conclusion, names and modes of dress would equally become neutral. We should meet people as equals, and address them in purely neutral terms. We could make friends without knowing anything of anatomical gender, and if we chose partners, we might not discover their gender until they shared our bed. Books like Men are from Mars, Women from Venus might be retitled Some are from Mars, Others from Venus. It makes for an interesting concept.

I try not to comment on Brexit, but occasionally the anger bubbles up like an erupting volcano. Our government is running in circles like a tormented rabbit infected with the parasitic virus of myxomatosis, screaming with pain. Our only hope now is that the EU will put a gun to its head and take it out of its misery. Now I am angry enough to have joined the new The Brexit Party, the comeback party of Nigel Farage. It will almost certainly lead nowhere and peter out, but I feel impotence in any other protest at the moment. Even the Labour party meetings I have attended refused to discuss it.

Please send a comment if you have opinions about the new Brexit Party, or wish to join the gender-neutral debate.
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Saturday, 6 April 2019

Buying a motor-home (1)

It should have been easy - the brief was to go online and find a few local places that sell second-hand motor-homes - but it was never more difficult. The old jalopy that I drive sits under a great maple tree and is regularly encrusted with bird excrement (I am being polite for this blog). Therefore first thing this morning, I went to the local carwash to spruce it up ready for the day's jaunt. The carwash started its splash routine, jerked into life, then promptly stopped. I waited a few minutes, but was reluctant to open the door in case it suddenly started again, so drove out to park up. I went back into the shop to report it, but the man said, "you shouldn't have driven out!" I pointed out that in that case, they should have clear directions pinned up about what to do when there's a machine failure.

But back to our search for a motor-home. We specified within a radius of 30-50 miles, but still they come up in Devon or Aberdeen. We specified a certain price band, but invariably they hope one can stretch the budget to meet their prices, usually double our price limit. Finally we narrowed the search to four places in Suffolk. The first specialised in caravans and had only one motor-home, beyond our budget. The next two were either new sales, or very pricey, nearly new vans that were gleaming monstrosities, far bigger and dearer than we want. The last place boasted a family business in continuous operation for 45 years at the same site in Stowmarket. The sat-nav first led us to a caravan park near by, which we trudged round in the cold drizzle, but it had no vans for sale. When we finally tracked down this wonderful Stowmarket site, it had gone into receivership and closed down. Someone had entered a comment that we only found later: "well why didn't you close down your website too!" Amen to that.

Yesterday, Ann and I bought me a new coat. It doesn't sound much to write about, but for me clothes shopping is always a major trauma, and I need Ann to coerce me and to help choose. As usual, I bought the first one I saw, which was more than I usually pay but is very smart. I immediately wore it and carried the old one away to dispose of. It was well quilted and not in bad condition, but it had grown a bit tight on me, and the zip had a habit of popping open sometimes when I bent down. Walking back to the carpark while Ann continued shopping for herself, I used a narrow alley that looked threatening even in the day. Wedged among the detritus between the large commercial dustbins was a nearly-new sleeping bag, doubtless hidden by some homeless person while he went begging, so I hung the coat up on the dustbin beside the bag for him to find. If he wants it, I hope it proves useful.

Friday, 5 April 2019

Good news

Grandad John Celebrates
Yesterday, after a week of fearful anticipation, I went in for my first follow-up cystoscopy. I had barely given my name to the receptionist when I was called in by the two young GU nurses and told to drop my pants and lie on the couch. They inserted the anaesthetic cream then – without giving it time to take effect – pushed up the fibre-optic cystoscope, inviting me to look at the screen and see for myself whatever they found up there. The pain is intense, though, like the largest needle inserted inside and poked about, so most of the time I had my eyes screwed shut and my fists tensed up. The news, however, was good - no sign of recurrence, and minimal residual inflammation after the radiotherapy! So I am a free man for another three months. This illness has divided our friends and relatives into two camps, those who came through and gave support and practical aid, especially to Ann when she needed it most, and those who didn't.

Selfie in the Bell as we celebrate
We went on to look at camper vans as a possible way of enjoying Britain on the cheap, then for a celebratory meal in the Bell that evening. At the next table was a family, two boys, their mum and the step dad. Only the man was talking through the whole meal, and I had my back to them, so didn't know the boys or the mother were there until Ann told me, once they'd left. The Bell has been nicely updated, with a reasonable though pricey menu. The food was tasty, but very rich and filling, leaving me bloated, with bouts of diarrhoea through the night. The penalties of rich living when too old to enjoy it; moral: enjoy it while you may.

Today, we went to see the newly released "Keeper", the story of an ex German POW, Bert Trautmann, who went on to be the first foreign player signed for Manchester City. It showed the depth of prejudice against the Germans after the war, which I well remember from my mother who hated the race. She was Lancastrian, where the film was set, but had spent four years as a nurse in Leicester Infirmary during the intense bombing of that city and Coventry, and knew at first hand the horrors brought by that war. The film brought out the usual negative reviews of the critics for an upbeat, romantic film, but we love what they call "cheesy" films, and enjoyed it, and the countryside and accents of post-war Lancashire brought back memories of the visits we made to my grandparents at that time.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Some family history

I delved a little deeper into our genealogy, and have uncovered my 5-greats grandparents: Paul and Ann Moorhouse, married in 1782. Ancestry continue to make more documents available on line, and this came from a photocopy of the baptism record for my 4-greats grandfather Roger Moorhouse, leading to the church marriage registers in Goodshaw Chapel near Rochdale. 

Edwin has a friend who works for a couple forever fighting. The wife is in hiding from the police for assault, and now the husband drove his Bentley into work - literally - crashing it through the wall of the office! His friend was lucky not to be in its path.

We've just heard news that the wife of our neighbour over the road has died. She had severe dementia and declined quickly, before being admitted to a respite home and getting pneumonia. Next door, our other neighbour remains paralysed by his stroke, and is still in care. Ann continues to write her deep, disturbing or moving poetry. She also writes humorously, though more rarely these days. I include "Unisex" because it amused - we need to lighten up a bit to take us away from the parlimentary wreck of the Theresperus.


It won't be very difficult
to know who has gone before
as women wee on the seat
while men pee on the floor!

Monday, 1 April 2019

Mother's Day

At No 4 Restaurant for Mother's Day
We celebrated Mother's Day with a Johnny Cash tribute show at the Apex (a brilliant and realistic performance celebrating 50 years since the San Quentin performance), and a meal on Sunday at the No 4 restaurant in Bury with Edwin. Ann doesn't welcome flowers, chocolate or jewelry, but I gave her red roses (dead things) anyway as part of the traditional day.

Ann has thought of death often these last few days, in dreams and day-time reverie, and in much of her poetry. Coming home, she mused on the myriad bodies laid in Suffolk soil over thousands of years of history, in fields and ditches and graveyards, all now forgotten, not even ghosts in memory, and wondered that nothing more can happen to the spirit, that once the last memory of the person has died, their spirit too has gone for ever.

I too have mused on death, but they tend to be stupid, morbid thoughts that I generally suppress, such as wondering if my aftershave will last longer than me, or if I'll need to buy a new one, or thinking of the grandchildren going to University, and wondering that I might not witness it, or on a more frivolous note, wondering if I'll live long enough to see us exit Europe! More seriously, I cannot help believing against all the lack of evidence that there is a spiritual side to our lives that continues in some form. But that is the nature of faith - the opposite of evidential certainty, but the basis of hope.

We choose someone who
we wish to spend our life with,
share happy memories
with photographs we smile at
and, eventually, we die with.
We little know the dying comes too soon,
then one of us goes on alone
howling at God's moon.