- First and foremost, my father passed away at the age of 81. He died stripped of his dignity and of his mental faculties, ravaged by dementia and Parkinson's disease. He was a great man - one of the old fashioned good guys who did the right thing simply because it was the right thing. I miss him a great deal.
- I moved out of my mid forties and into my late forties, courtesy of my forty seventh birthday. Thanks number forty seven! Actually the event provided a degree of certainty: I am now well and truly in the 'middle aged' bracket as far as the rest of the world is concerned. Um...great. I think.
- I decided to step away from a well paid job which entailed me travelling away from home most weeks, and working for a man who was patently a foolish, dishonest oaf. I resigned from my position and chasing a life-long dream, began to write. I'm still writing, all I need to do now is start selling it!
- My wife and her son were formally granted permanent residence in Canada. This event means that there is now no prospect of my wife being required to leave the country without me - something which was a real concern for much of the year. We can now enjoy some permanence for the first time since we were reunited (after twenty two years) four years ago.
- One of our two litter-mate dogs, Buckley, was lost to us. He suffered from liver failure (cause unknown) and over the space of five months our chirpy, occasionally maddeningly goofy big dog slipped away from us (written about in more detail at www.dogtastic.net). Our faithful, and irrepressibly good-natured friend is much missed and cannot be replaced.
- I grew my own apples for the very first time - yes I know it's not very spectacular, but I was excited! Next year we should double or treble our apple crop, and quadruple our overall fruit yield. Our tiny little private subsistence urban farm is beginning to become a reality.
- I launched this site. Opened on the back of my former business - related site, I decided to bring some of my wordpress musings into the daylight. My hope is to entertain, to engage and to converse with you as time moves on. I dearly hope that this site becomes something through which I can share and learn about myself and my readers. If you like what you read, please encourage others to take a peek.
2012 is done, all over bar the shouting, fireworks, drunken dancing, fighting and people kissing people they would otherwise never touch with a ten foot barge pole (speaking of which, why don't I ever get invited to those sorts of parties any more?). Oh yes; 2012, the cheeky little imp that it is (or was, if you're already into January 1st), appears to be going out with a feeble whimper rather than the cataclysmic, apocalyptic...erm...something...which a handful of fools hysterically predicted would happen. I suppose I have about ten hours to get through before I'm safe on that point, but as goodly portion of the globe has already welcomed January 1st 2013 as I write. With a bit of luck the American senate will disappear up its own collective rectums, skid over a cliff and just like in all the movies; create a fireball worthy of the end of the year.
It's no surprise that the 'end of the world' prediction turned out to be what we UK folks call ' utter bollocks'. As a brief aside, I heartily recommend all non-UK English speakers start using the word 'bollocks' (without by the way pretending that it's an American invention) - if nothing else, it's so much more versatile and expressive than the rough equivalent: "bullshit".
This silly doomsday prediction was of course fueled by the internet's immediacy (how else would anyone ever have heard of 'Gangnam Style'?) and the amazing gullibility of SO many people (significant proportions of whom are teenagers, who of course know everything the moment they hit thirteen) and was afforded credibility by the notion that it came from an ancient civilization (which it didn't), and the supposition that ancient civilizations clearly had special mystical insight into the workings of the universe, spirituality, and everything. This kind of flies in the face of the self evident fact that such civilizations have gone, are defunct and effectively extinct. So much for special insight - yet a noisy minority of people really did seem to think that 2012 was the real crunch deal. Like I so eruditely said: bollocks.
So, even though 2012 didn't bring us the end of the world, it was significant on a personal level for a number of reasons, some of which are included here;
While I have shared some quite personal stuff here, there are of course some areas of my life which remain private. Details of my relationship with my lovely wife will not, for example, become public at any time. Similarly, my children will not become the subjects of this site - what I hope to continue doing is to share my perspective upon the world, and with luck resonate with your own. I sincerely hope that 2013 brings with it more comments and conversation from my readers (the site stats tell me that you're out there) because I know that more thoughts we have from a variety of people, the more fun this will become.
I wish you all a wonderful 2013. If it helps, I'm pretty sure that the world won't end - unless of course some ancient civilization has already predicted.......
I can't believe it. Yesterday evening, while taking a break from my middle aged routine of cursing at the TV volume (which seems to rise and fall of its own free will), dripping small but noticeable food items onto my shirt (if this carries on I'm going to have to start eating at the table) and fending off an over-affectionate dog (actually it's a very selfish dog who wants to be cuddled every ten minutes), I looked up the local weather forecast on the internet.
The weather forecast here on the west coast of Canada seems to be a tricky beast. Coming from the UK originally, I had become used to placing some faith in weather forecasts - even in what is apparently one of the most notoriously difficult placesin the world to forecast the weather (I picked that up at a weather forecaster's party which I accidentally gatecrashed many years ago - I had to leave because I hadn't brought my own white board and magnetic weather symbols). Living here in British Columbia for the last ten years, I have, it's sad to say, relinquished any lingering confidence in what the TV meteorologists have to tell me.
It's not that I'm a weather geek or nerd, by the way; true, I have written down every weather CBC forecast for the last ten years on the inside of each of my collection of (inflated) weather balloons - but that's just normal, I know. Yes?
I do, however, expect that if a TV station or web service is going to go to the trouble of employing weather forecasters, using frighteningly powerful computers and reminding us every seven minutes of every news broadcast that weather is 'coming right up', then they should be able to (or at least want to) get their forecasts remotely correct.
My experience here has been that the forecasters are woeful. My (admittedly walnut-sized) brain is full of instances where - in particular - a chirpy, skinny English forecaster has cheerfully forecast one set of weather conditions, only to even more cheerfully tell us the following night "Well that front didn't behave quite the way we expected it to, and that explains why your basement is flooded, hahaha!", as if it's just one of those things. Over the years I've ripped in half all my telephone directories in frustration...
I feel somewhat - and I believe, justifiably - aggrieved at this "Oh well, there ya go!" attitude to getting their job hopelessly wrong. Because the point is: IT'S THEIR JOB - IT'S WHAT THEY ARE PAID TO BE GOOD AT. There have been times when the piece of seaweed hanging outside the front door has been more accurate than the TV or web forecasters. You know the kind of thing: if it's wet it's raining...
The latest example of this inaccuracy has forced - FORCED I say! - me to talk about this today. Yesterday the forecast was for high pressure and sunny skies for three days. Today was sunny with light cloud. Tonight, having of course foolishly planned some activities based on the forecast (I mean high pressure is hard to get wrong after all), I find that tomorrow now has a mystically surprising forecast of snow and rain! In the space of twenty four hours we have almost had a complete reversal of the forecast...now I can understand (with a latent interest in meteorology) that things change - I really do get it that the weather is a fickle thing. I can forgive people making mistakes - but what really ticks me off is that the forecast is posted when clearly the appropriate amount of information has not been gathered, or has been misinterpreted to a major degree.
If it didn't happen all the time, I wouldn't be complaining, but it's getting ridiculous. In this case it means - brace yourself for the import of this - that I will probably not be able, as I planned, to pick up and distribute in my garden, two pickup-loads of composted horse poo. Shit.
I wonder what the next war will be in 2013? I'm not talking about the kind of war hinted at above (which makes me wonder why I chose that image - but to be honest everything else seemed to involve bodies all over the place or mushroom clouds), the likes of which we will no doubt find (if we look hard enough around tales of woe in America) all over the globe betwixt developing countries where people die in their millions without ever hitting the media headlines.
No, I'm thinking about the kind we hear about so often from politicians and policy-makers;
War on Drugs
War on Poverty
War on Christmas
War on Terror
War on Want
I'm hard pressed to conclude that any of these 'wars' have come anywhere close to being won. But, of course, that is probably not the point of their existence. These so-called conflicts are (in my opinion) invented for a much more prosaic reason; namely in order to strengthen or renew a political party's grip on power. They are nothing more than expressions of intent - whether backed up by financial resources or not - designed to make the (let's be blunt here) rather uninformed and shallow-thinking voters believe that something - anything is being done about the major issues of the day.
Using my favourite whipping boy (because its such a never ending source of ammunition), the USA as an example; frequent declarations of 'war' on intangibles have seemingly succeeded for many years in diverting the voting public from the issues which actually affect the well-being of the nation community. Perhaps the two biggest ones in recent years gave been the war on drugs and the war on terror. For the record I find it hard to type those phrases without a capitalized "OH PLEASE!" after each. Although the USA has probably declared war (of various scales) on more countries than any other nation in the past fifty or sixty years, it never seems to tire of politicians using the "w" word to describe 'strong' policy directions. What a strange word to use - a word which by its very nature precludes cooperation or understanding or even mercy.
The 'war on drugs' is simply ridiculous - despite the terminology, there can never be a victory.
The 'war on terror' - similarly stupid in conception and impossible to execute properly. Perhaps they might try a different tactic and withdraw their military machine from foreign territories across the globe - that might cool things down a little, but for a paranoid society, I would assume that this is not an option.
Both 'wars', waged by the the 'richest' country on earth (i.e. the country that has borrowed more money from itself than almost all the others combined and now finds itself up to its ears in debt to China) are abject failures, and unless abandoned, will never be brought to a successful conclusion. Billions, if not trillions of dollars are pumped into these campaigns, yet there is no sight of a 'victory ' - how long did it take to find Bin Laden? And once found, he still presented so much of a political threat that he was summarily executed despite the evidence being that he was unarmed. This action, as much as anything else, illustrates that these 'wars' are phoney - political in concept and execution.
In the meantime, at a (small 'c';) conservative estimate, while all these resources are used in largely pointless and wasteful activities there are between forty five and sixty million people in the USA on or beneath the poverty line, and without adequate medical coverage. Oh yes - there is supposed to be a war on poverty too...that one also not going too well then? Probably because it is the lowest profile and worst funded.
No doubt we will still hear the word 'war' issuing forth from politician's lips in order to make themselves seem strong leaders and therefore electable and re-electable; but there is one 'war' I would dearly like to see fought for real, and comprehensively won.
The 'war on bullshit'.
'Tis the season of goodwill. However, being the kind of person who likes to think around, under and from oblique angles, I've been considering the subject of grudges.
I have for my entire adult life, done my very best to not have regrets - and by that I don't mean avoid looking into the past - but despite knowing that it's probably a waste of my energy, I have to admit that I have one or two grudges.
Silly isn't it? I mean, rationally, there is little to gain from having a bit of a hate on for someone else, but therein lies another issue. Despite having what I consider to be much justification for harbouring ill feeling towards a very small number of people, I have (so far) managed to avoid the mistake of actually 'hating' anyone. Which I think, on balance, is probably a positive thing.
At present I have a short list of people whom I consider to be either annoying, unthinking, insensitive, arrogant, deliberately unpleasant or a mixture of any number of the above. The list could be longer of course, but as a modern human (allegedly) I think it behoves (one 'o') me to remain aware of my own failings, and remember that I'm probably wrong about some people, or have at least jumped to a much too early judgement or conclusion.
Still, some - not many, but some - people have blatantly gone out of their way to make my life less enjoyable. I don't like that very much - and to be honest, I don't understand it. When I worked as a police officer I regularly had dealings with people whose behaviour would shock the average person, and whose morals and values were enormously divergent from my own. Many of these people were reprehensible, sad excuses for human beings and while I disliked a great many of them, I never felt moved to hate any of them, or even to harangue or harass them. I fear that hating someone would probably lead me down a path to self - destruction; looking into that kind of future I see myself becoming vindictive and obsessed with revenge or at least what I consider to be justice. It's not a future I wish to explore in any meaningful way. It's not who I believe myself to be.
So, turning my back on hate, I am content to get to the 'grudge' stage and pretty much leave it there. I find that Grudging takes up enough energy and more than enough time for me to want to venture forth into the hatey kind of stuff. Is it just me, I wonder? I doubt it, but I genuinely do experience a tiredness, a drain on my resources when negative emotions cloud my day for even a brief interval. There have been such times - and I know that I'm not alone - for various reasons over the last few years. There have been moments when my emotions have almost boiled over, but I am glad that I have never reached the stage of really hating someone. I've just got to the 'grudgy' level and no further.
How has this helped me? Well, I can only surmise because I've never been on the other side of that line. Like all of us, I've experienced extremes of happiness, frustration, and anger. I've even - when defending myself in the course of my duty and upon the rugby pitch - used violence towards others. But 'hate' seems so much further down the slippery emotional slope.
I do have a little story which may illustrate how not hating has been of benefit to me.
I think I might have good reason to hate one man in particular (if I so wished). I joined the police force in England at the tender age of nineteen. Within months of starting my duties on the street, I fell victim to a bully - a supervisor, who, for reasons best known to himself, decided to devote inordinate amounts of his time toward trying to push me out of the police service. Without going into details, I endured eighteen months of intense pressure at this man's hands, supported as he was by another like-minded bully of much higher rank. He nearly beat me; towards the end of this part of my career, I would drive to work in tears, pulling myself together in time to show a brave face in the police station. I began to apply for different jobs, hoping for a lifeline. I was desperately unhappy - partly because my father, too, was a police officer and I could not share my shame with him.
In the end, tenacity (and the lack of genuine alternatives) won out, and the bully was transferred to other duties. I didn't hate him. I disliked him intensely of course, and probably came closer to hating him than any other person in my life. He had after all deeply affected my life for eighteen months, affected my mental health (I have little doubt that I would have been diagnosed as clinically depressed had I sought medical help), and if truth be told, he probably affected my entire adult life by stripping away my youthful confidence at a vulnerable point of my career. However; I didn't hate him - I remember feeling that to give in to hate, to make him a target for my own wrath would be to allow him a final victory - to make me somehow similar to him. So I didn't hate him. Instead I pitied him.
Within months of his departure, providence, fate or the justice fairies gifted me an opportunity to have my revenge. Completely by chance I caught him in an act of professional misconduct - or at least the circumstantial evidence fell into my hands while I was performing my duties. It was enough for him to lose rank and a much coveted role. Justice was served when he held a clandestine meeting with me, admitted his bullying and threatened me if I pursued the matter and tried to damage him. In truth I had no intention of so doing; his disgrace would also require that of another officer, and I had no wish to negatively affect the innocent lives of their respective families (this was not, incidentally, an issue connected with the course of justice). Face to face with my nemesis, I shakily told him (and I am proud of this moment to this day) that it was not my style to try to ruin someone else's career, that I would not stoop to that level because I felt it was as low as anyone could get. Those words were my personal revenge. I know that he understood.
Had I allowed myself to hate that man, I know that I'd have pursued him with all my energy until he ran out of breath and spirit to fight; I'd have never stopped until I had my quarry at my mercy - and then I would have shown no mercy. I know what lies within hate - my hate. My life, my career would have been very different had I allowed it.
Instead, however, I did my best to forget him and his deeds, and for the most part I have been successful. My happy life is my reward for not hating - my ultimate revenge against a man who would have seen me destroyed. I still bear a grudge; it's a little like a forgotten tattoo out of sight even in the mirror; once in a while I'm reminded of it; in this case a sad, small man who chose me as his victim.
Because it's only a grudge, however, it allows me the space to appreciate the lonely, ashamed young man who nearly fell, but who subsequently lifted his chin and built a good life despite a difficult beginning. He did a great job in spite of very difficult circumstances. If he had started to hate, things would have been very, very different - that much I know for certain. I regularly remember to thank him for that - I would not be where I am without his quite remarkable effort, which to this day allows me to turn away from hate.
Some people think I'm grumpy, but as you can clearly tell from the picture to the left, I am nothing of the kind. I am in fact, a model of fun and cheerfulness.
You will of course be pleased to hear that I now sport a goatee which covers portions of my face - even at times such as the one illustrated. before you say it, however, this pixture (taken in 2010) was NOT the last time I appeared to be happy. There was the time in late 2011, for example when...oh never mind.
So what's got me thinking today? Well surprisingly enough, not Christmas. In fact, a couple of days prior to Christmas I read a news item which really caught my eye and had me nodding appreciatively.
The item in question was a report of a speech made by the Australian Prime Minister concerning the thorny issue of immigration, integration and the notion of sharia law for Muslim members of the community.
I found myself nodding because of what Julia Gillard had the courage to say; the words, I am sure, many people would like to hear from their leaders. I know this will not be a view shared by all, but you know what? It's a valid viewpoint, and one which has been too frequently shouted down or suppressed in many countries for fear of raising the howling voices of protest. It's not, in my opinion, extremism: it is instead an appropriate expression of the meaning of 'no'.
Here's what she said:
Prime Minister Julia Gillard - Australia
Muslims who want to live under Islamic Sharia law were told on Wednesday to get out of Australia, as the government targeted radicals in a bid to head off potential terror attacks.
Separately, Gillard angered some Australian Muslims on Wednesday by saying she supported spy agencies monitoring the nation's mosques. Quote: 'IMMIGRANTS, NOT AUSTRALIANS, MUST ADAPT... Take It Or Leave It. I am tired of this nation worrying about whether we are offending some individual or their culture. Since the terrorist attacks on Bali , we have experienced a surge in patriotism by the majority of Australians.'
'This culture has been developed over two centuries of struggles, trials and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom.'
'We speak mainly ENGLISH, not Spanish, Lebanese, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or any other language. Therefore, if you wish to become part of our society, learn the language!'
'Most Australians believe in God. This is not some Christian, right wing, political push, but a fact, because Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation, and this is clearly documented. It is certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools. If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your new home, because God is part of our culture.'
'We will accept your beliefs, and will not question why. All we ask is that you accept ours, and live in harmony and peaceful enjoyment with us.'
'This is OUR COUNTRY, OUR LAND, and OUR LIFESTYLE, and we will allow you every opportunity to enjoy all this. But once you are done complaining, whining, and griping about Our Flag, Our Pledge, Our Christian beliefs, or Our Way of Life, I highly encourage you take advantage of one other great Australian freedom, 'THE RIGHT TO LEAVE'.'
'If you aren't happy here then LEAVE. We didn't force you to come here. You asked to be here. So accept the country YOU accepted.'
I speak now as an immigrant. I chose this country (Canada) as somewhere I wished to live, and where I wanted to have my children grow up and find fulfilling, happy lives. The difference between this country and my birthplace (England) is not particularly great. Even so, there ARE differences some of which are positive, and some of which are less so. Some of the differences are in fact infuriating, - some laws make little sense in their conception and enforcement. But (and Mr.Owen, my old English teacher, I make no apologies for starting this sentence with 'but') I CHOSE to come here, and in doing so I acknowledged that there would be differences to which I should expect to adjust. I asked permission to live in this country, I did not assume that I could come here and impose my culture upon those of my neighbours.
Ms Gillard has spoken loud and clear; she has spoken that which seemed to be unspeakable; she has stood up for her culture and against the unwelcome influence of a foreign culture. I applaud her on this issue if not on others. After all, why should a religious group (or any other group) have any right to try to impose their rules onto another culture? Is that kind of behaviour not actually tantamount to an invader's strategy? Why do western countries quiver even as they think about saying 'no' to religious groups or foreign cultures who shout or even scream for special treatment? This is a huge subject and I expect some will disagree with me on this - I welcome discussion.
To my way of thinking, sometimes the answer needs to be a firm 'NO' - and that answer does not amount to racism, no matter what the camera-hungry may wish to tell us.
What do you think?
This is one of the first words to enter my mind when Christmas is mentioned - but I must leap to my own defence before you start throwing effigies of Ebenezer Scrooge at me. 'A Christmas Carol' just happens to be my favourite Christmas story, followed closely by the classic "It's a Wonderful Life". Christmas has always been a special time for me, ever since my seriously cash - strapped parents used to manage to make the day quite a magnificent success for five children. We grew up in a Catholic household and our childhood Christmases were a blend of religious observance and materialistic indulgence. It's all relative of course - in those days we used to get very excited about having a half grapefruit each followed by bacon and eggs for breakfast (it only happened once a year) and - unbelievably these days - an orange as part of our Christmas stocking!
I can recall watching Christmas movies - black and white versions of 'A Christmas Carol' followed mostly by some rather creative and historically questionable depictions of how the USA won WWII single handed (never any mention of allies or the fact that they didn't see fit to join in until almost haf time) and occasionally 'The Battle of Britain', which was still a recent film in those days. I remember my parents being at their best and in their best mood of the entire year for a few days, a time when they cast aside their worldly worries and allowed themselves to enjoy what they loved the most; their family.
As kids we had amazing Christmas times. Our family was never fortunate enough to have money to spare, but at Christmas time we felt like princes and princesses - the sheer quantity of presents was amazing, and our humble surroundings seemed - with hindsight - to have enhanced our appreciation of everything we received. And such presents! We would find a pillowcase fiull of goodies at the foot of our beds on Christmas morning; these we opened feverishly to discover that Santa had known just what we wanted - and more! Perhaps our needs and wants were different in thise days, but I cannot remember ever feeling that Santa had missed anything. I can only remember a sense of wonder and intense excitement. For that alone, I can never thank my parents enough.
Once the chore of going to church was out of the way (I mean fancy Jesus getting in the way of a good celebration of his birthday - I could never see that he would have wanted that), it was back home for a late-ish breakfast around the big table (itself an amazing treat) and the opening of MORE presents from under the Christmas tree.
The rest of the day - and holiday period in general - was spent gorging ourselves on fantastic food, wonderful gifts and love. They were magical times; halcyon days. My childhood Christmases were simply perfect.
As a young adult I confess that I lost my Christmas way - it ceased to have the same magic, it lost its meaning and became something to become stressed about rather than enjoy. At one point I wondered whether I would ever enjoy Christmas again but then...
...As soon as children arrived in my life, Christmas - now devoid of the religious aspect - became something once again to enjoy; once more had purpose and regained its joy. It became about other people.
Now, for me the joy of Christmas is no longer connected with receiving gifts - now it's about giving, it is about making others happy, it is about being surrounded by my loved ones.
Christmas time is a time for me to reflect upon the things in life which matter more than anything else. I buy presents for the people I love because I enjoy the anticipation and then the enjoyment upon their faces. I love making people happy, and Christmas is a time when everyone I know is up for being happy - it's a perfect fit. Christmas time is a wonderful time of year when I can pause, look around me and appreciate what an amazingly fortunate man I am. For that reason alone I shall continue to keep Christmas - I just wish I had the resources to provide the same gifts as the reformed Ebenezer Scrooge felt moved and able to do.
Merry Christmas everybody, whether or not for you the season is about religious observance; I wish you all a happy, safe and joyful Christmas time and the opportunity to appreciate all - even the tiny stuff - in life that is good.
My left hand. Certainly not as remarkable as a certain "My Left Foot', but definitely quite important to me. I took this photo mere moments ago for the sole purpose of this post - you see how well I treat you?
I discovered two things; our little digital 'snapper' camera is not at all easy to use with just one hand, and secondly and a little more alarmingly, my hand looks rather weird!
I merely intended the picture to be an illustration while I talked about my painful hands, so I'll get that part out of the way before I deal with being bemused by the hideous appearance of the things at the end of my arms.
Over the years of playing rugby, I have sustained a few minor hand injuries; fingers deliberately pulled back, hands stamped on accidentally or otherwise, the occasional crushed knuckle - that sort of thing. Sometimes dashed painful old boy, but nothing really traumatizing.
Unfortunately, over the last few years I think that my hand injuries have started to catch up with me. In the cold weather they begin to ache when I use them - I sort of expected that as I got older, but the most debilitating thing I experience is real pain whenever I put them under strain - such as when lifting heavy objects. They're getting old and tired...
I'm self aware enough to understand that a significant part of my psyche is attached to the idea of being a physically strong person, and even to being a fairly big man (even though I never perceive myself as such until I see a photo). This loss of some faculty is a nuisance, uncomfortable physically and to be honest, downright embarrassing. As a result I over-compensate by doing things I shouldn't really try to. Last year, for example, I was chopping wood (as in chopping up some two foot diameter sections of tree trunk). I was doing this using an awl (a big, blunt-ish axe with a flat part on the back) and a ten pound sledge hammer. I was stubbornly doing it on my own, holding the axe steady while I hit the back of it with the sledge. Being a big macho man. Mistake: I have a forearm injury from that very day which still lives with me. Just stupid, I guess.
*Note to spell check: 'Axe' is spelled this way, with an 'e' on the end. I mean; 'Ax'? Really?
The pains seem to be here for good (or evil), and so I am now (shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, been recaptured, bought for a child's plaything, sold three more times and finally sent to the glue factory) going to have to look after the old digits. Gloves in winter, then. Gloves for gardening...gloves for...well most things I suppose. With one exception: I refuse - categorically refuse to use to wear rubber gloves for dish-washing (or any other purpose really). I am from the old school (and just for the record I dislike the phrase 'old school' being used to describe anything older than five years) of washing dishes - I believe that plates, bowls, pans etc. are all more effectively cleaned by hand rather than machine. I see the proof almost every day. But I digress.
Rubber gloves? Not for me, by Jove! They seem to me to be a relic of the 1960s, a time when housewives did the dishes (and almost everything else around the home) and frankly, a bit unnecessary - one of those little innovations which is rather redundant (except for people who wash dishes for a living, I suppose) and...well - and I know I sound like an old curmudgeon for saying this - a bit sissy really. It seems to me that we spend so much time, effort and resources on avoiding even the tiniest discomfort...water a bit hot? Deal with it! Find a way of working with it/around it - there's no need to spend money and resources on protective gloves for washing up!
Good grief I seem to have got a little carried away...
...But you know what? I'm going to have to mention this appearance thing because it's bugging me much more than the achy/injury thing.
I mean look at it...I knew that my fingers were all bent (part hereditary, part injury), but I never thought my hands looked ...well...creepy...that is, until now. Bloody hell. There's clearly not much I can do about this, is there? I mean, implants wouldn't look good (what would I do with boobs on the back of my hands anyway?) and nail polish is out of the question. So now I'm reflecting on all these years of having creepy hands! Missed opportunities to be a hand model, methinks - maybe I should make casts of my hands and sell them for Halloween? How many people have I quielty freaked out
I'm rather stunned that I've got to this age, and I think that this is the first time I've seen my hand objectively, and it's horrible. To all the people who have had to put up with my unsightly hands, I apologize unreservedly!
In my defence, all I can say is that from the point of view of looking down my arms at my hands, they always seemed normal to me...but now...never again! Which has started me thinking...
Maybe I should try this objective photography for other parts of...on second thought; maybe not.
" Do you mean March hares?" I hear you ask. Nope not so lucky...
I mean the bane of a middle aged man's life: body hair. It's ganging up on me. I've observed the consequences with other, older men, and frankly I'm scared. I do NOT want to be the purple, bulbous - nosed balding old man with tufts of hair leaping out of ears and nostrils like an explosion caught in a freeze-frame.
Because of this, I have been carefully monitoring my various orifices for hair growth. The five yearly report would read something like this:
Arse: hard to say, nothing untoward seems to be evident. Further investigation problematic (I'm less flexible than I used to be). Awaiting feedback from female life partner.
Navel: Slight increase in numbers around the monitored site, some encroachment upon the perimeter. No immediate hazard or danger.
Mouth: No inappropriate hair growth, however it is worth noting that the mouth area does benefit aesthetically from being masked by beard and moustache growth. Ongoing coverage recommended.
Nostrils: Appear to be surreptitiously competing for who can grow the longest, thickest and blackest hair before being noticed by the host and ruthlessly pulled out. A profusion of fine, smaller hairs is at the same time attempting to create a net-like 'tea strainer' effect at the entrance to each nostril. Nostrils are occasionally briefly threatened by female life partner, although host's defensive action (screaming like a small girl and running away) appears to be effective at present. recommend ongoing monitoring and continued removal of wire-like hairs.
Ears: This territory benefits from being unobservable to the host unless a complex series of mirrors, ropes and pulleys is deployed for the purpose. Consequently hair growth in the ears continues largely unabated until female life partner can stand 'Tufty the Squirrel' look no longer, and attacks with tweezers. Interesting mix of downy, fluffy blonde hairs and thick, black buggers. Requires ongoing maintenance and reserves to be placed on hold in the event of a sudden escalation.
I think that is all my orifices...at least it's everything I count as an orifice. Although I guess that technically a urethra's exit to the outside world is an orifice, I don't want to think about it like that. I once had a friend who...well, never mind. It gives me shivers.
Other hair issues currently include: some greying on the head, significant thinning of head hair (around the crown in particular) in general, noticeable whitening in the beard, and a minor revolution in the eyebrow area. I've always had quite prominent eyebrows ( I like to think they give me that adorable 'shaved caveman' look) and now, rather than going grey or anything sensible, they have decided to start growing enormously long hair-like structures which give me something of a Mr Spock look - crossed with someone wearing horn-rimmed spectacles. Damned inconvenient, especially as it spurs my otherwise remarkably lovely wife to attack without warning (somewhat like the legendary Dervish) with the tweezers. In denial of my instincts I usually allow two or three limb-sized hairs to be removed, yet she is ALWAYS deeply disappointed when I retreat, bleeding, from the scene of the onslaught.
I have yet to experience any whitening of hair below the waist (there are one or two chest hairs which have given up the ghost, so to speak). I know it's going to happen, and I'm not sure how I'll cope when it does. I'm currently trawling the internet for 'Greying Pubic Hair Support groups', but without luck. Maybe I need to start up one for myself before that particular hammer falls...
Perhaps the most harmless (i.e. pain-free) hair issue is connected to the sudden, random and faintly surprising appearance of thick, long hairs at totally unexpected locations. A shoulder, the back of my hand, my left knee, a toe - all these locations - and more - have spontaneously produced beanstalk-esque hairs without any warning. The only solution is to leave them be. Whereas in my teenage years I enthusiastically shaved any hairs on my face in the hope that seven more would indeed subsequently appear in the same spot (instant beard = instant manliness!), the same principle stops me from disturbing these harbingers of hairiness - just in case there is a grain of truth in it...
I'll keep you posted (whether you want me to or not) on my progress or decline in this regard - and for the winner of the prize draw competition, I'll send you - tastefully entombed forever in a clear resin paperweight - a selection of hairs from various body locations!
I'll leave you with a very, very sad image...
Looking closely at one's knee is not easy.
...pants. Yes, a knee in the pants - that's where I have to keep mine these days. If I don't, the cold weather (see my forthcoming post at www.dogtastic.net) will make its presence known.
At this point I should mention that I do in fact have two knees (well, as a diabetic such things can no longer be taken for granted), both of which are my own, and both working.
The right knee, however, is in need of some attention, although by my reckoning the lifetime of this component should be nowhere close to finishing. It's been a good knee up to the last couple of years - it has bent for me (and this is quite an amazing thought) many times. You know what; I'll try an estimate:
Age of knee: 47.6 years
Number of bends per day: (guessing) 3000
So, 365 x 47.6 x 3000 = 52,122000 bends!
Holy moly! And I think I'm being conservative on the average number of bends per day...one of my jobs included walking several miles each day for a few years and I've done lots of sports as a younger (yes, yes, and much fitter) man. Think about it though - if we are lucky, each joint works tirelessly and without our conscious thought - until, that is, it starts to complain.
Doing this calculation (yes I know it's very rough, but just the ball park figure is amazing) makes me feel a bit stupid mentioning that my knee has begun to hurt. Fifty two million...wow...and I'm only half done! No wonder the flippin' thing aches from time to time! For the last twenty eight years the knee has carried, on average, a weight of about eighteen stone (two hundred and fifty pounds or thereabouts), and frequently on the rugby pitch and in the squash court....jeez...I mean, even if I'm out by one thousand daily bends, it's still tens of millions...and I remember reading a long time ago that when we get out of a chair or sofa, the forces exerted on the knees of an average weight person (not me then) are fleetingly equivalent to the weight of a small car. In my case probably a mini bus ...
Mr. Knee, I'm sorry! It's the right one you see - it's started to hurt to varying degrees and on random days, particularly going up and down stairs. Like the hero I am (irony folks), I'm putting up with it because most of the time it still works. I can still run if I need to - which is not very often now that I'm no longer chasing after oddly-shaped balls - and so long as I wear a support bandage I can just about get away with a game of unskilled squash.
It is, however, another little sign of wear and tear; a reminder that leaping from tall buildings is no longer on the agenda, and that warming up before undertaking strenuous exercise is becoming more and more a requirement rather than a luxury. These days, alongside my gorgeous lady, I am eating very well (we hardly eat anything processed and grow more and more of our own produce each year) and although the scales are not being very encouraging, my shape is changing - slowly but definitely - for the better.
It's time to hit the exercise routine - abandoned for a few years now - once more. I'll do it for the right reasons; I want to be around to share life with my loved ones for as long as is possible, but I'll also allow some motivational vanity to creep in and push me towards seeing if I can regain my sporting physique from quite a few years ago...that would be fun, and a real accomplishment given my rather portly silhouette at the moment.
Let's hope the knee holds up; I'd like to put another fifty million bends or so onto it before I go to the scrap yard.
A left ear - remarkably like my own, earlier today.
There's been much talk of the tragedy in the USA over the last few days - and rightly so. I have been dabbling in the subject myself. As a former police officer - the emphasis being on the word 'former'; I'm not under the illusion of being a copper any more - I hold strong views on these kinds of issues. The incident is horrible beyond words.
Because there are so many people commenting on the subject in ways that surpass my own ability, I thought that I'd revert to the humdrum for today's post. A little slice of ordinary life once more.
Here in our tiny corner of beautiful British Columbia, we have had our second snowfall within a week. It won't last; the weather is not yet cold enough, and rain will soon sweep the lovely, bright white stuff off our rooves and our gardens.
However, this is not what is bothering me - although at the age of forty seven I still get excited when the snow falls (right up to the moment when I start shovelling it from our driveway). The kids are too cool (i.e. teenage) to make snowmen any more, and frankly having their dad hanging around if they go sledging tends to cramp their style so I let them do their own thing these days. This, rather pathetically, often involves merely texting about the snow to their friends, without actually going OUT in it.
Tut - see what happened? I digressed for an entire paragraph. Back to what's bothering me - and the clue is in the picture folks...
I'm now transitioning smoothly (can you tell I have worked as a manager?) into my sixth week of having an ear which has decided to wreak a terrible revenge upon me. I'm not sure what I ever did to it but boy, I must've been a total bastard.
It began with a sharp pain while I was scratching an itch in my lug 'ole one day (and no, I wasn't using my car keys!). The weird thing was, the pain was WAY deeper into my aural receiving orifice (that makes it sound a little bit rude doesn't it?) than I could reach with my finger. As my kids would delight in telling you, I have fingers shaped like a cartoon character's - while I have the requisite number, they are a little short, stubby, and have corners at the ends. There's no way on earth I could get them into the ear that far (not that I'd want to). The pain felt like - and this may not make sense - like it was around the corner, if you know what I mean. Deep.
Like a typical male of the species (and I hate being typical but it happens sometimes) I decided that the pain was insignificant, and ignored it. I continued to ignore it when the dull ache began a few hours later. The next morning I acknowledged its presence when I awoke with a bloody painful ear. Flying in the face of my abhorrence of reaching for the painkillers, I did just that the next day when the pain became too much to ignore. Over the following three days I told myself that my (historically true) awesome immune system would do its job and kick the nasty little microbes up the arse and out of my life. I had a quiet confidence.
On the sixth day of pain (really nasty pain) and the third day of total deafness on the left side, I sat in the doctor's office and explained. I like this doctor, chiefly because he has never once suggested sticking his hand up my bum to grab my prostate. He nodded sympathetically, stuck his scope in my orifice (!) and peered around, making a few more sympathetic noises. Ear drops were the answer! All I had to do was use them four times each day and all would be well. Yeah, right.
Well...a week later, my ear was full of drops, and it still hurt like hell. Really - hurting like the abscesses (yes, three of 'em) I had on my jaw once...Painkillers were no longer doing the job; I was losing sleep and I needed help. Admitting it was against my nature but...
The same doctor this time prescribed oral antibiotics..."keep going with the ear drops" and some strong pain medication.
The next week...same doctor again, no improvement...more antibiotics...
Seven days later...still deaf, still hurting, different doctor, who, by way of a very strange 'conversation' wherein he both asks the questions and then answers them himself, tells me that it's caused by eczema of the skin inside the ear...and prescribes some monster antibiotics the size of suppositories and...ear drops.
Ten days later (the receptionist by now just asking: "Same ear?" and not even asking my name) and a third doctor at the same practice. I hear the familiar "Oh that looks quite nasty!" as he lunges into my ear canal. We discuss the history of the complaint and finally he suggests a visit to a specialist...or to the uninitiated; the type of doctor who is so far up his/her own bum-hole, they cannot be called 'doctor' any longer...
Now, five days after that meeting and waiting for an appointment with the great man or woman, I am on yet another type of antibiotic - the last ones were orange and black (and I swear that each one had a conning tower), these ones are much less entertaining and merely yellow. I still have the pain medication - in fact I have a neat little row of medication phials lines up on the kitchen window ledge. I am now in the unenviable position of rivalling my dear old mum (who rattles when she moves) for medication needs - and that bothers me greatly.
I'm slowly getting to the point of properly worrying about my ear. I've never had anything take so long to heal, and I have lost some faith in my slightly over-sized body's ability to look after me (after all I only occupy a small proportion of it up here at the top). What the hell is going on? Have I got some kind of resistant bug in there? Is it something worse? I'm not panicking - I don't feel ill, and thankfully, after a weekend of intermittent pain (somewhat like having large needles pushed into my head at random intervals), I finally had a good night`s sleep and so far today am pain-free. I'm still rather deaf on that side though - and that makes me grumpy.
All in all, this little episode has prompted a reminder that I'm no longer invincible or indestructible (like Captain Scarlet was/is) in the way I felt I was in my twenties. I'm undeniably showing signs of wear and tear. Twenty five years of rugby has also begun to manifest itself...but that's another story.
I have my fingers crossed for a positive outcome (go, little antibiotics, go!) from the medication...I haven't had great experiences with specialists before, and I'm not enjoying the prospect of meeting another one...
All I can do is sit back and wait, turn up the TV, my computer speakers and enjoy the world in mono. It reminds me of listening to my first record player...sigh.
Today's sickening news from Connecticut is hard to accept emotionally. At least eighteen children murdered. It seems that America has an appalling tragedy to deal with once more, but my fear is that the right wing groups in the country will seek to sweep it under the rug.
Gun ownership in 'the states' is such a divisive issue, but seems to be one of a great many in which then loudest voices seem to be the least reasonable. The National Rifle Association seems to be willing- and capable - of turning any argument on its head in order to sanction, promote and protect the right to own, carry and use firearms against other human beings. This position flies so obviously in the face of the American crime statistics. Courtesy of www.guardian.co.uk, the story is as follows:
"In 2010 - the latest year for which detailed statistics are available - there were 12,996 murders in the US. Of those, 8,775 were caused by firearms."
American supporters of the right to bear arms use statistical evidence to demonstrate that fewer guns does not mean fewer deaths - to do so they compare countries such as Norway (which apparently has the highest murder RATE in Europe) in the following article: http://theacru.org/acru/harvard_study_gun_control_is_counterproductive/
This reasoning is absurd since nowhere is there any mention of population levels, living standards, living conditions, etc. It's deliberately not comparing apples to apples. The point here is NOT just how many guns are out there (although i do believe it is highly relevant as well) but the EASE OF ACCESS to high powered and automatic/assault firearms which is so mindlessly unbalanced.
Example: In a year when the USA had in excess of 9500 firearm murders, guess how many the UK (one of those countries where according to the above article, stringent gun controls do not make for a lowered firearm murder rate) experienced?* Fourteen. A one and a four. 14. Game over.
* Source: http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_mur_wit_fir-crime-murders-with-firearms
Image courtesy of ehow.com
For some people, the image above will resonate, to others it will be repulsive, and for most it may seem irrelevant.
Despite the undeniable alarming statistical evidence of a global epidemic of diabetes, the subject of this potentially lethal disease has never reached the hearts of our rock stars or entertainers in anything like the same way as AIDS, and I can't help wondering why.
An idea of the situation can be obtained here: http://www.idf.org/node/1354
I have type 1 diabetes. I developed it in late 1995 for reasons which the medical profession were unable to fathom. I wish I'd never bothered developing it! At the time (and in subsequent years) the answer to my "What caused this?" question has invariably been "We don't know; it could be viral, traumatic or hereditary - or all three, or of course something else entirely.". My doctors over the years have been so uniform in their response I have at times entertained the notion that there exists a stock answer to this question which they all learn from a website somewhere.
I didn't fit the stereotype for diabetes which is currently being propagated today. Shortly before beginning to write this article, I checked the web for images connected with diabetes. Along with with pictures of healthy foods and needles and insulin, the predominant images of people were - are - of morbidly overweight individuals. I'm not very happy about that - and here's why. When I developed the disease (perhaps in order to make myself 'interesting'?) I was an active, sporty thirty year - old. I didn't smoke, I didn't drink to excess, and I wasn't damaging my body in any other way.
Regardless of this, I began to find that after playing rugby matches I was feeling shaky, after a tough game of squash I would be weak and trembling. I started to drink a lot of fluids - at first this coincided with me deliberately drinking more water on a health basis, but soon I began to develop an almost insatiable thirst. The thirst crept up on me, a little at a time, so that other people were far more aware of it than I was. I was still eating normally - not a brilliant diet, it has to be said, but lots of fruit and veggies (because I like 'em) mixed in with the usual western European stuff.
In short, when I developed this flippin' disease, I wasn't fat and I was quite fit. Yet diabetes still arrived in my life. It is NOT simply a disease of the obese. I don't fit the stereotype simply because the idea of diabetes being a disease 'of the overweight' IS a prejudice - and prejudice creates stereotypes. Obesity is a major risk factor of course, but I know a great many morbidly obese people who are not diabetic. One does not follow the other, but I sense that the media are pushing that very idea. I wonder what would the reaction be if each time an AIDS story arrived on our screens, it was accompanied by images of drug users, flamboyantly gay men or African children? Each of these associated images would of course be stereotypical, disrespectful and harmful to a great many people - I'm sure that there would be a justifiable outcry. In the meantime, however, diabetics will have to cope with the visual bias of ill-informed video editors. According to them, we're all grotesquely fat.
What is diabetes like?
I can only speak for myself because each of us has different experiences as well as common ones. It's frustrating because I can never get away from it, I can never eat a meal without thinking of it, and in my own particular situation, sticking a needle into myself beforehand. Think about it; that's a lot of injections I have to give myself. Without going into the details of everyday life, diabetes is a bloody nuisance. There are lots of features of the disease which affect me in a great many ways, too many to go into now. The common experiences include sore fingertips from testing our blood sugar levels, bruises around our injection sites, occasional periods of poor health and hypoglycaemic episodes (my 'U.S English' spell checker hates me using 'ae' where it can only think of 'e'). The latter is by far the most dangerous feature - and judging by the words of some of my friends in the past, the most fundamentally misunderstood.
If I'm having a 'hypo'
Most people seem to think that 'hypo' means that I or one of my peers has not had enough insulin. That is the opposite of the truth. Any attempt to give me insulin under those circumstances will probably kill me quite quickly. If I'm having a 'hypo' (or of course, any other diabetic person) and I'm able to tell you that's the case, I need quick-release sugar, in the form of pop, any other sugary drink, honey or in the absence of liquid; sugary solids. basically I need sugar - and fast. A hypo puts immense stress on the heart and the system in general as adrenalin tries to take the place of the missing sugar in my bloodstream. If I don't get sugar quickly, I can fall into unconsciousness and if alone, may ultimately slip away completely. DON'T give me insulin!!!!
So diabetes is a very serious issue for individuals and for the world - left untreated (documented from medical records of a time before synthesized insulin was available) people used to die within a couple of years - a slow, wasting and uncomfortable way to go. In developing countries where the appalling western crappy diet is now being pushed at poor populations, it is still the case that many sufferers go undiagnosed and untreated. The deaths from diabetes are at a level which are keeping pace with (and, I suspect, overhauling) the deaths from HIV/AIDS. This is major nastiness.
Even living as I do in a developed country with plenty of medical resources, there is a reasonable chance that diabetes will negatively affect my life expectancy.
It's about time society took it seriously.
I just added a new item to 'Things I write' from my forthcoming book of life experiences; 'Signs of a Life'.
I hope you enjoy.
In the last few weeks I've had a couple of rather strange internet experiences. That's to say a couple of unusual experiences which just happen to have taken place over the internet. They are the kind of experiences I have not had before in a face-to-face context, and it set me to thinking about the nature of the term 'friend' in this day and age.
Essentially, both events have culminated in me losing internet 'friends'. I've had that experience on Facebook before, but what made these moments especially significant is that both individuals in these cases had been people I had been friendly with in the UK before I emigrated more than ten years ago.
In one case, an entirely open, unambiguous and genuinely innocent question was completely misinterpreted by someone, who then, using the Facebook 'chat' facility, launched into a really rather vicious attack on me and absolutely refused to listen to reason or any explanations. Basically I had asked this lady a question about an event we had attended as part of a team, and the response - some three weeks later - was explosive in its vitriolic nastiness, even to the point of previous conversations on 'chat' being pasted in with deeply unpleasant comments attached. The interaction became irrational to the point of me being rather alarmed and ultimately the lady flung some more insults my way. When I finally gave in to my indignation and objected to her conduct, she blocked me. It didn't end there; matters culminated in this person contacting my wife on email and attempting to sow the seeds of destruction for my marriage with blatant lies, none of which have or had any evidence to justify them. That someone would feel so enraged as to do this - to reach out and try to effectively ruin my life - was shocking.
The second 'incident' arose from a post I made on Facebook, the content of which was subsequently questioned by an online friend. This person took exception to one of my comments, and asked me a question about it - basically asking for a Yes/No response. I responded with a Yes/No and out of necessity as well as a desire to be clear that we were not at odds with each other in the way he had assumed, explained where we may actually have been speaking about different things. That friend then blocked me without a reply, question or explanation.
So...here's my first issue with this 'blocking' thing. Firstly, it's a tool people seem to use when they don't want to hear someone else's point of view - to which my subsequent question is; why have a conversation in the first place? Is the point of conversation to have a monologue (in which case; blog, don't use 'chat') or is it to only hear agreement (in which case, only speak to people you know will agree with you) or is it to convince someone else that you are right and they are wrong? If it's the latter, refusing to listen to someone will never allow you to win an argument, discussion or debate. Learn to agree to disagree if you must, but refusing to hear someone else's viewpoint or explanation is censorship of ideas, and can lead only to bigotry. Nobody is right all of the time.
Secondly, has the word 'friend' lost its meaning? Since when did 'friend' rely on each party agreeing with one another on every subject? Never, in my experience - heck; if my friends agreed with me about everything I'd probably have trouble finding things to talk about that were worth talking about. I enjoy an exchange of perspectives and opinion, in fact it's the main reason why I use Facebook these days. Does this, I wonder, make me an oddball? Just because we disagree, does that mean we can't enjoy other facets of a friendship?
On the evidence of these two events it would seem so, and that bothers me - for goodness' sake, what is the word 'friend' evolving to mean? I worry that its meaning is being eroded to describe someone who can be spoken with - and liked - right up to the point at which they disagree with the other person, at which point any 'friendship' seems to be over. I hope I'm mistaken, because I don't want to live in a world where friendship seems to be so tenuous.
Maybe Facebook could introduce 'Acquaintance' to run alongside 'Friend'...it may allow a lot of people to be a lot more honest, or at least more carefully consider with whom they ally themselves.
Does that sound a little draconian? I hope not, because in my world that would more accurately reflect the REAL world; somewhere I inhabit and where I can count on less than all my digits the people I count as a true friend (people I trust implicitly and can rely upon), a lot more with whom I am 'friendly' (whose company I enjoy but with whom my relationship has not yet matured to 'true friend' level), and even more whom I consider to be mere acquaintances (people I know but have little or no social interaction with).
I think that in the real world we're more careful about who we call 'friend' in the true sense of the word, because the real world has those things called consequences which are immediate as well as subsequent. In the electronic world, we seem to have zero consequences in most cases, or consequences which can kick us in the butt when we're not looking (or of which we are not remotely deserving). I hope that a generation is not growing up thinking that friends are disposable.
Perhaps it's time we all started to be a little more circumspect about who we invite to be our online 'friends'...I know that I certainly am. There may be a few things to learn for those of us with several hundred internet 'buddies'...because common sense tells me this; there's no way that they all feel benevolently about you...I have found that out to my cost.
Be careful my friends...acquaintances...strangers.
Winter has arrived here in western Canada. It somehow makes the news (in fact every single bloody day they talk about how cold it is, how wet it is (of course in the summer the opposite is true) and imply that we are having a horrible time living in the mpst temperate part of the country. I have researched thematter, consulted professors of English and I have come to the conclusion that the appropriate collective noun for this type of TV so - called journalism is: Bollocks.
The timely onset of winter, however, has this year heralded something new in my life. 'Is it a baby?' I hear you ask with the breathy enthusiasm of a 1980s soap opera bimbo. Well, no. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Nope, and it serves you right for being such a smart-ass. It IS, in fact, a genuine surprise.
Today, I had reason to give a ride to my almost entirely dormant artistic fifteen year old. I don't usually give him a ride to school; frankly the kids need as much exercise as they can get in a world geared towards the automobile and very distinctly - even aggressively against the bicycle, and even the pedestrian. This morning, the weather was appalling, however - we could barely see the opposite side of the street for the rain and hail doing its best to push the ground a little lower.
Out of the door he dashed towards the truck, and grimly I followed into the hail. What happened next signalled a landmark in my life. Teeth gritted against the cold and the onslaught from above, I became aware, during those few seconds which seemed to pass like hours, of a light but definite drumming on the top of my head...not painful but also not entertainingly rhythmic enough for me to enjoy it. What was happening? I'll tell you - my teeth are still clenched by the way - I was for the very first time experiencing the pitter-patter of hail on my bald spot.
Yes, it has come to this. My hair has now reached the "may as well not be here" stage of thinning. Bollocks.
Prompted entirely by a post on a great site I have discovered (www.mymidlifemayhem.wordpress.com) I have been thinking about something which gets in the way of quite large parts of my life and the lives of a great many other people; shyness.
On that blog I mentioned that I feel that shyness may be the most prevalent and overlooked disabling mental issue of our society. I'm not suggesting that it's a mental illness; apart from the unwelcome stigma that goes with the term 'mental illness', I think that to use that label would detract from the seriously debilitating nature of other more fundamental afflictions. But an affliction it surely is; what else should we call a widespread mental process which is characterized by an aversion to social interaction or gregarious behaviour?
I'll use myself as the example - basically because I only know for sure what is true for myself. Here is what 'shy' means for me;
These are just a few of the features of my shyness. Frankly, there are times when it absolutely sucks, because I would prefer to be more gregarious than I naturally am - I think I would get more out of life that way. Here's an example of how it affects me; a friend of mine - whom I have known for almost ten years now - has offered me an open invitation to share a sporting activity which she enjoys. I also enjoy the same activity and I think I might have a flair for it. The problem I have is my shyness. I am very reluctant to take up her offer, not because I don't enjoy her company or because I won't enjoy the activity, but because it will involve being introduced to as number of people I have never met before. It will involve me trying something as a beginner in front of other people, and the fear of failure and rejection is a major obstacle.
It is, you see, at the heart of my particular shyness; this fear of failing, of being negatively judged and of not being 'good enough'. I don't know if this is what other 'shy' people experience; any or all of them, but it's deep seated in my psyche. I'd like to pry it out and kick it down the road. I think all shy folks would prefer not to be in their particular cage.
Yes, shyness is a problem for so many millions - if not billions of people, and often an unseen one. I am partly to blame for this, because most of the people who know me on a friendly basis would laugh out loud at the suggestion that I am shy. People I have worked alongside for years would be most surprised to hear of this aspect of my character. This is because they don't know. I don't show them that side of me.
I think that most of us, to differing extents, live lives which involve role-playing. Often these are described as 'hats'; "Oh I see you've got your work hat on!" and such like. Some people's hats are small, some are large and some, like one or two of mine, are full-body condoms.
I list some of my former jobs as police officer (!), teacher (!) and regional manager. All of these involve excesses of confidence and outgoing behaviour. So what do I do? I play the role - effectively stepping out of my shyness patterns to 'become' a different person in order to succeed. I have to admit that it works, but there is an emotional cost; it's tiring and it can be very stressful when the pressure rises. One result is that I am very much a confidence-based performer; if I am succeeding the world is a great place; if things aren't going to plan, I struggle to be at my best.
Blogging is a relatively safe way to have a voice (although not completely so); I can have my say without being interrupted, hit 'publish' and metaphorically run away...
Ripped manfully from a BBC webpage article today:
"It turns out that happiness is indeed high in youth, but declines steadily hitting rock bottom in our mid-40s - midlife crisis, anyone? Then, miraculously, our sense of happiness takes a turn for the better, increasing as we grow older."
OK, I'll come clean; I tend to use the word "grumpy' to describe myself these days. However, just because I use the word doesn't mean that I subscribe to it. In other words, I'm being a little disingenuous. There are at least two reasons (that I am consciously aware of) for this device which I casually employ;
Firstly, I live in the vain hope that family and friends will leap to their feet indignantly and shout for all the world to hear "NO! You are not at all grumpy! You're lovely and cheerful and happy!" etc., etc.... As I intimated, I'm still waiting for this to actually happen in the real world - perhaps this makes me an optimist? It no doubt makes me something with "ist" at the end of the word.
Secondly, it fits in with my life-long strategy of gently making fun of myself before anyone else gets a chance to do so. It's self-protection you see...
Thirdly (I thought I said there were two reasons? OK; we're into new territory here), I am sad to say that my countenance is somewhat ...miserable - looking. My mouth naturally turns downward at each side and I have quite a heavy brow line, so the overall effect of my face in repose is of someone frowning. Saying that I'm grumpy is a way of letting the world know that I'm aware of how I look.
Fourth (wow, really pushing the envelope now...); I find the notion of grumpy or curmudgeonly older men to be quite amusing ('Grumpy Old Men' or 'One Foot in The Grave'); I hope that I am at least a little amusing to those around me.
Leaving the reasons behind for a moment (i.e. for ever), I want to make this very strong point (please imagine me standing on a plinth in London - no nudity please - at rush hour with a loud-hailer and a huge placard):
I AM NOT UNHAPPY OR MISERABLE!!!!! I AM HAPPY!!!!
I am a little disappointed, however, that the BBC quote at the top of the page seems to be trying to perpetuate the labelling of this point in my life. Frankly, I find it just as offensive as labelling women of my age 'menopausal'.
I find that the label 'mid-life crisis' is rather glib and it stereotypes us - particularly men of this age. To me, it implies (courtesy of countless media and entertainment references) vague unhappiness and a sense of desperation - even a kind of lingering depression based on a stock-taking of one's life at some point around my age (I'm forty seven by the way).
For me, it's just not true. Have I reached middle age? Well, despite all the various parameters which exist - one American demographic measure has middle age beginning as early as thirty six (insert bloodcurdling scream here) - I suppose that I must admit that, yes, at forty seven, here I sit, a middle aged man. The term 'middle age' carries its own baggage of course, but I prefer to look on it as more of a chronological descriptor (shooting for at least ninety five before I take the big sleep) than the stereotypical term it can become.
I have no qualms about telling people my age; after all, physically I must appear to be roughly as old as I am. Thinning hair, greying beard, carrying too much weight - I suppose I fit the appearance stereotypes of some people, but that doesn't matter. What matters to me is that people understand that reaching 'middle age' is not a prerequisite for misery or unhappiness or feeling at odds with the world. People of all ages feel those things, after all.
Some things which separate me from the perceived stereotypes:
I guess the message is that stereotypes suck. We've all had stereotypical ideas attached to us, whether we know it or not - the vast majority of the time it doesn't matter because we never find out about most people's opinions or assumptions about us. For me it's the widely - held assumptions and prejudices which are the most destructive, obstructive and annoying.
I really hope that one day, 'middle age' simply means what it probably originally did: the approximate middle period of a person's life. Maybe I'll be an old gummer/codger by the time it does...oops...
The elephant in the ...erm...on the road.
I've been driving a long time. Thirty years in fact (gulp)! In all honesty, while I admit that I certainly am not perfect, I am rather a good driver - I've had lots and lots of professional training to a very high level. I still make occasional mistakes - everyone does, but some people...oh boy, SOME PEOPLE!!!
It's time for some entirely justified grumbling - this time I am condensing my whinges about Canadian drivers (some of which will be transferable on a global scale)...
I am using the word 'drivers' loosely because frankly there is a significant proportion of road users for whom I would consider such a term to be flattering. Some of the barely - controlled vehicles I observe are a credit to the clown schools the humans inside obviously attended...
My top ten Canadian driver foibles (not in order of potential danger);
Public toilets or washrooms are strange places and in the course of my varied life I have visited many examples, including, on one or two uncomfortable occasions, the female version by mistake. Apart from the startling and injurious revelation that men's toilet facilities fall far short of those provided for the ladies, I have over the years come to regard some issues around male public ablution as law;
So at last it's happened - now we're into December a couple of news articles have started to appear about the supposed Mayan calendar issue. Remember that?
What a load of complete tosh this whole thing is!
Brace yourself for a series of re-hashings of the old apocalyptic 'news' story - the media frenzy is going to happen and we will all have to endure the crazy weirdos assuring us that THIS TIME it's real (for some reason best known to themselves and their analysis of animal entrails), despite every other apocalyptic prophecy story being self - evidently completely wrong. In spite of the fact that the Mayan calendar so-called prophecy (it never actually existed except in the minds of a few enterprising individuals) has been blown out of the water - as if it needed to be - the 'reality-challenged' and the cynical entrepreneurs will be clinging to the story as if it were a life raft.
Vulnerable people will still fall victim; there will, no doubt be some tragic suicides and some emptying of bank accounts in irrational acts of last minute splurging, and the press, hungry for these kinds of stories, will do little to reassure anyone who is genuinely worried. 'Special' TV programs comprised mostly of CGI animation and very few facts will appear to explain how it 'might' happen, or illustrate 'what if' scenarios for us all to gape at, and wonder about. The movie '2012' will be reappearing very soon on most cable channels and several of those cable channels will no doubt have 'apocalypse movie marathon' days. In other words; spectacle (or if you prefer: testicles) and entertainment with which to sell advertising space in newspapers or on other media. It's no doubt all been planned for many months, if not a few years.
December 21st 2012 will come and go; the shortest day and the longest day in the northern and southern hemispheres respectively. Other than that it will be an unremarkable day, save for the odd behaviour of a large number of the upright ape species.
For my part, I will do my best to avoid all the hype, and will therefore take myself off to my fully provisioned and heavily armoured bunker situated several hundred metres underneath the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It used to be a nuclear missile silo but I have filled it with rescued battery farm chickens. Don't try to join me - I have machine gun turrets a-plenty, and food enough (mostly chicken) just for my family and my vicious attack dogs which are trained to kill and eat anyone who appears remotely zombie-like (so that means anyone with a limp or acne will not enjoy their visit).
Once the fuss has died down, I shall emerge from my lair (much like our victorious mammalian ancestors did following the asteroid strike 65 million years ago) to reign over the survivors of the media frenzy as a gun-totin' warlord, using the early passages of the bible as my justification for mass murder and bigotry in general.
That sounds like a fun weekend.
Grumpy middle aged git moaning about stuff and occasionally trying to be funny.