Saturday, November 30, 2013

Swallow, weapon and focus

Swallow from the summer archive.

Watches are beautiful and fascinating things. But the cost of building the best is often astonishing. My Swatch wrist watch which retails at around £50 has served me well for several years and rarely if ever seems to need adjusting. Today I read of an atomic watch designed by Richard Hoptroff at a cost of £50,000. Cheap for a  luxury watch apparently. But the things that catches me eye is that the atomic component, not manufactured by the designer, is also a miniaturised  component of a  military drone. Only 12 of the atomic watches are to be made. But I read that buyers are expected to sign an undertaking not to use  the watches as weapons. Puts me off a bit.

Focus is the thing.  H is recovering from the jaundice which is the immediate problem to be tackled. She remains in hospital for a few more days after which she should be home. We are looking forward to a taste of the normal. She remains cheerful in spite of boredom. Every now in then she remembers as I do how fortunate she is to be in a NHS hospital with private rooms, modern equipment and doctors and nurses who are kind an caring.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Balance, pace and youth


A hoist among the fishing boats on Hastings beach. From the archive.

I'm still hobbling but improving. To my surprise I have to stop myself from asking daughter Pippa why she is walking so slowly when she is of course slowing down to accommodate my laggardly place.

A young doctor breezes in  to Heidi's room to talking to us about her progress (good so far). He is a good communicator and we agree on the quality of his bedside manner. But Pippa  to say nothing of Heidi and me, are struck by his youth. They say that policeman are getting younger, but this doctor seems just out school.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Contrast, doubled barrelled and recognition

On a bleak damp day something else from the  summer archive.

The screens in the reception area at the hospital flash the names of patients as their appointments become due. "I must say, " says an elderly man in front of me to his neighbour, " I'm not too keen on doubled barrelled names."

A local taxi firm called Walkers Taxis has completely won me over. Not only do they know my name when I call from  my land line, but they know where I live when I call from my mobile. No more instances of having the taxi you have booked nicked from under your nose by a chancer.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Summer archive, waiting and soundbites

From the summer archive by way of contrast with yesterdays dry leaves.

Our new National Health Service hospital lies like a whale at the edge of the town. The  demand for its services exceed availability. So it  can be a waiting game. At home this weekend H is holding on for an endoscopy, which will we hope will relieve the pain of gallstones or or something else. Today at last she is admitted and the procedure takes place (procedure is a word which one must get accustomed to). The wait may have been long, but the kindness and gentleness of the nurses makes up for a lot. It will I think be a few days before we have specific results from the investigation . Meanwhile it is a relief to have made some progress.

Soundbites can sometimes lead to superficiality.  I know this from personal experience. My weakness for aphorisms and the like is  a  sort of laziness which can lead to the avoidance of sound argument and exposition. But the snappy phrase hangs in the memory and colours ones thoughts. And can contain the essence of something unconsidered. Startling images in a grey world. "Know thyself! If I knew myself," says Goethe, "I would run away".

Monday, November 25, 2013

Close up, gum and choice

Looking closely. Just now I am looking closely at most things, a study which often proves rewarding especially when the available field of focus is narrower than usual.

Until recently the streets of Tunbridge Wells and other towns I dare say all over the world were spotted with gobs of chewing gum. Squads of council workmen equipped with power hoses and scrapers  have cleared most of it from the pavements in this town. Funny stuff chewing gum. Though as a child I occasionally  used it until the peppermint flavour disappeared, I never became addicted. It did and still does amaze me  though that a substance can persist for so long regardless of being pounded by continuous chewing. These thoughts are prompted by a reference to chiceros,  people employed in the rain forests of South America to tap sapadilla trees. The chicle which they extract becomes the tasteless and harmless chewing gum. Sad to say substitute latex from other trees and artificial gums now sometimes replace the chicle. But I hope the connection remains.

In the supermarket, a mother calls "Strawberry, raspberry or gooseberry?" A small boy jumps up and down in the trolley, which serves him as a chariot, as well as a conveyance for spoils. "Strawberry," he repeats with every jump. "That's it then," says his mum

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Pool cat, presents and shopping

Memories of summer. Cat by the pool.

Contemplating briefly sections of newspaper and magazines dedicated to Christmast present suggestion makes think. Advertisers are of course expected to flock to support such features, but there are so many of them that their value must cancel each other out. Why I wonder would readers be drawn to such arbitrary recommendations? What can a journalist assigned to such a task know of the real  needs and desires of the wives, husbands sweethearts, children and parents of readers? The articles are of course no more than random, recycled catalogues or the fruit of cursory window shopping. Presents meanwhile should not be neglected. Signs and tributes of love and admiration, their inspiration should spring from a knowledge and understanding of the recipient by the giver. Any less and they become the worthless parings of commerce and ritual. Forget them.

After a month more or less confined to the house shopping in the supermarket this morning might be  thought mundane  by some but for me  it is a reminder of freedom and independence. To choose a chicken. To pick the pineapple that appeals.  Even if all the products are bred and packed to look the same. How fortunate we are!


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Gulls, sweetness and looking to be spry.

Gulls and vapour trail - a memory of summer.

Sweet flavours no longer attract me. Sometimes before settling down to a book aftera meal I would crave a sweety . For reasons which I cannot fathom the desire has dissappeared.  And I am glad of it. Sweetness is an ornament of  taste, but the harsher edges of reality, the complexity of saltiness, sour and bitter not to forget the compex glutamate inspired umami ( a Japanese word to describe a particular savoury quality found in spicey food) seem preferable.

As I get better I take a little walk in front to the house helped by a stick. "Morning constitutional?" says a brisk grey haired woman whom I don't think I have seen before. It makes me wonder whether I appear an infirm old man. I hope not. In fact I am beginning to regain a certain spryness. I am glad that I shaved off the beard that appeared a couple of weeks ago after the flu. And that today my hairdresser friend Chris popped in to clip the hair which had begun to form  ungainly mound on wither side of my head. A short back and sides makes me feel better.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Layers, noises, coastal waters


Layers of experience cover the surface of this door in Sitges, which has seen better times and will doubtless see them again.

Electronic noises  in an odd way copy  the grunts and hums of homo sapiens. I hear  with interest the noise which my mobile phone makes when I switch off the power. It resembles the note of contentment which tired  people tired often emit as they settle down in comfort on the point of sleeping.

Waking early I often listen to the shipping bulletin on the BBC. It deals with the sea areas surrounding the British Isles - Faeroe's, Fair Isle, Viking, North Utsire, South Utsire etc. The familiar labels  with the evocation of wind, fog and salt spray,  are comforting like a chant or incantation.
Equally I am addicted to the Met Office's report on coastal waters up to 12 miles off shore. Many are familiar from visits to the coast. They too have a ritual charm, a reminder of what it is to inhabit an island. The  names are followed by descriptions of weather, wind, visibility and the state of the sea. But the headings  with which sailors are familiar  are not given. So that you hear: "Cape Wrath to Rattray Head. Mainly north or northwest. Smooth or slight.  Showers. Good."  Language at its briefest, honed to its sharpest edge. But linked to  the places - North Foreland,  Great Ormes, Mull of Galloway- with their echoes of cliffs and seabirds and breaking waves,  lovely English words.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

wall, pessimism and nobility

From the archives still, a piece of wall in Sitges.  Watch this space for new inspiration as soon as I take my camera for a walk here in Tunbridge Wells.

Suspect optimism, respect pessimism. Interviewed  on the BBC 4 Programme Desert Island Disks the pianist Alfred Brendel observes last Sunday that he is a pessimist, but one who likes to be surprised.

Mis-hearing becomes quite common as I grow older. So far only the occasional oddity occurs. Switching on the radio a few minutes ago, I wonder at the potential of a "nobility scooter". A coat of arms, a fine brass hooter with a rubber bulb. Perhaps even a uniformed groom.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Giacometti, artifice and reason

No new photographs for a few days. A time for looking back. Giacometti on the beach.
When I see people being photographed I watch with special interest the how they arrange their faces for the camera. A good photographer sets out to anticipate and prevent such artifice.
Many of us believe that we make decisions and hold views based on reason. Whereas it is far more likely that its is feelings which dictate our actions. Blaise Pascal's much quoted "The heart has its reasons which reason does not know" puts it another way.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Persistence, bulletin 1 and bulletin 2

The tall fuchsia in the garden is still flowering mid-November. It is  my excuse for fishing this photo from the archives for today's post, the first after a long period of enforced absence. It is after all an image of persistence and survival.

When I began this blog back in 2005  my aim was to note  everyday three things of beauty and interest. Over the years the target broadened to allow for the curious, the ironic and the absurd. But it was always important as far as I was concerned to avoid  beefing and moaning. And for the most part I believe I have succeeded. Even when bad things happen there is usually a shine somewhere to be found like the gleam on the leather surface of a cricket ball which a bowler has produced by rubbing the ball on his trousers to make it swing through the air with ease when he releases it in the direction of the batsman.
How then to handle polimyalgia rheumatica, (PMR) which struck me down after a nasty bout of flu? To say not hing of the flu itself, if flu it was 10 days after a flu shot? The best I can do is to say that I have learnt how to spell the damn thing and to pronounce it. What is it? An inflammatory disease which afflicts the joints from the neck to the hips  making all movement extremely painful. Fortunately once diagnosed it is easily treatable with steroids. The proof of which is this post and a more mobile and flexible poster than has been manageable for the last few weeks.
 Everybody, thank you so much for your comments and concern which have proved the best of all tonics. I'm specially grateful to the Canadians who took time off to write, despite problems with the lamentable mayor of Toronto. It seems that we are not alone in having one or two ghastly politicians

But the tale of woe doesn't end there. Heidi who doesn't like being mentioned here, after putting up with my illnesses, has gone down herself with jaundice and some nasty pains. She  is at present being investigated in hospital, so the shine is becoming harder to find. We are  waiting for news, consoled only by the fact that she is in our new Tunbridge Wells  National Health hospital (one patient per room) and looked after by a doctors whom she knows and respects. We are taking each step as it comes and she and I remain cheerful, helped by supportive family and neighbours.


Friday, November 01, 2013

Reflection, unhacked and Seamus Heaney

A pleasing subject from the archive to reflect on during recuperation.

No one to the best of my knowledge has hacked my voice mail or listened in to my telephone calls. Where have I gone wrong?

The  poems of Seamus Heaney which I have been reading with admiration and pleasure are resonant with the sounds of metal crashing into earth, the splash of cold water, the ring of stone struck and carved.  Wet and cold places, weathered human features, sinew, timber and steel.  Images which hold firm in familiar landscapes. They are enduring images of people and places which endure.