Friday, April 29, 2005

"You Taking The Hiss?"

I heard a snatch of something on the car radio which would've amused me if I'd taken the time to consider the nature of what was a rather bizarre encounter. It was a news item - the sort that's trotted out when most people have just about had enough of the dominant theme of the day - be it war, politics, significant national events, that kind of thing. The sort that really belongs in the - straining for the newsworthy - local rag or in the 'Aint Life Odd' section of the Readers Digest. However (he says as he gets into ALO mode) there was a news report that a baby snake had been found curled up in a bunch of celery at a branch of Sainsbury's somewhere (I didn't catch exactly where) in Lincolnshire.

There was a mild panic in the queue as a local busy-body standing behind the lady trying to pay for her celery pointed out with staggering inaccuracy that she had a spider in her celery (as opposed to her soup.) Curious, the shopper started to poke around with the 'spider' only to learn that it was short of legs to the tune of ... Well eight, rather longer than the average arachnid and displayed a very unspiderly fork-like tongue.

The snake accurately identified by our helpful shoulder-shopper whilst in the store and assuming sufficient control of the situation, invited to Radio 5 Live for interview, wasn't a grass snake " Cos it didn't 'ave those two yellow marks at the either side of 'is 'ead". Therefore it '"ad to be an adder," because the only snake in this country that isn't a grasssnake (they of the famous yellow' ead spots) is necessarily an adder, and to be feared.

It turned out to be a sea-viper from Spain and harmless. There followed an interview of breathtaking mundanity from an inspector from the RSPCA who struggled to make much sense of the whole thing - aside from the fact that celery is grown in Spain on well irrigated land, and, well, that's about it really. He didn't go for broke and make a grab for fame and come over all jokey-blokey. He sounded rather like the nerd-voiced spitting image puppet of John Major and left great chasms in the interview that were begging for slithery jokes, gaping with great gouts of tumbleweed blowing across them, despite Peter Allen's efforts to make this frippery, funny.

Minutes later some grump - and it wasn't me, who could barely contain himself, called 5 Live (this was announced with admirable self deprecation by Peter Allen) and said the interviews carried out in support of this story were the most mind crunchingly, suicide-inviting bore-fest interview(s) ever heard broadcast. Both Allen and I tittered at that.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Death Row

I was rowing. Pulling my wire to a different tune, pulling a load against maximum air/magnetic resistance. Pulling with vigour. Back straight - posture checked against a blurred duplicate, my less photogenic twin. Always a risky business - reflection checking in the vanity fair of gym-world. "Health concerns," I would simper if challenged. I never am though. I accidently applied the back- bent option years ago and could barely walk for a week - not a good option, the BBO.) A silent accusation of preening is a small price worth paying.

And I was rowing. Seat doing the coaster slide, feet clamped for better purchase, legs pumping, hands callousing, arse aching, arse cramping, feeling arsy. The Concept 2 Model D rower. Rowing to health, rowing to fitness, twenty eight to thirty two revolutions a minute. Drag, drag - what a drag. Good sweat, heavy breathing, heart pounding, calorie burning.

I could just about see the TV screens helpfully positioned for the exclusive use of the two rows of exercise cyclists, regiments of super-models and the odd natty-fatty, all immaculately turned out in a sports designer's wetly-dreamt vision of carefully arranged lycra, and not a composure threatening sweat droplet to dampen their simultaneously flipped through trash mags. No sweat, no pounding. No need of the TV screens. But with a little head craning, a carefully stolen squinny, a frozen moment between rows, I spotted on the nearest screen a feature on the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams. Famous also for . . . making a rowing machine - a Concept 2 Model D rowing machine his last sitting place.

I had read somewhere that he died - mid row. Rowing to keep fit in a Los Angeles gym. Died of a heart attack. At the age of 49. An age very close to mine. And I felt less like rowing as a nightmarish image of me keeling over like a floppy toy flashed up in my mind and squatted there. The top part of my body grounded, my legs stubbornly lashed to their footholders, an obscene tangle of limbs and somethings gone badly wrong on rowing machine number 7. The nearest the corner TV screen machine. The end machine.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Squitters Rights

Over at MBFIAT, or should that be MBIAT boyfriend being a single word. No matter, over at the Best European Blog 2005, Zoe makes reference to Paula Radcliffe's unexpected and very public relieving of anal spasms exercise. Not quite the exercise most of us turned up or tuned in to see, drop out.

Who knows why it took the drama and the publicity to help poor Paula towards what should have been a very private affair. Then again maybe she'd been constipated recently and it was the excitement of the day playing with her nerves, and all that back-log, back-log, had to go - and, like the old saw about babies: " they come out when they're ready". However it did remind me of something I read somewhere about an unfortunate female, we'll call her. . . Pauline, who during sex, at the point of orgasm - after so much writhing and heavy breathing and all that other good stuff, she would simultaneously defecate. This was a cause of some concern to her, and I would imagine (though I could be wrong) that her partner was less than enamoured by this unfortunate synchronicity and the additional even more off-white patch left on the mattress as a witness to all that loving. ("Whose turn is it to lie in the damp patch tonight - jeez not mine, not now, not ever!")

Perhaps running so well, Paula in her own way, the way of the sports-trooper, was feeling similarly orgasmic at doing so breathlessly writhingly well. Doing as well as our other heroine, Pauline. But chosing her movement moment just as badly.
The Kid's Health website under the Are Your Bowels Moving section suggests: " Exercise is one of the best ways to keep your digestive system moving." Both Pauline and Paula are testament to that.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Mental Menthol

I've been a strange slave to smoking since I was thirteen years old. I was so desperate to smoke, so keen to do it, and be good at it, and look old and hard and smart and wise and trendy and cool whilst doing it. Trouble is, I didn't like the taste, or the effect. Every attempted session at turning myself into one of those guys who just oozed smokers-cool such as Richard Bradford playing Man in a Suitcase or James Dean in, well, anything really, had the lining of my virginal and pristine lungs whimpering in protest. And not just my lungs, staunch support was right at hand from other reluctant body parts - every hesitant draw would result in my eyes going into into frog-bulge-mode smarting, my brain straight to spin-cycle. True we're only talking tobacco here, but to my body, then, it felt like hard drugs. It was enough to make me feel like a failure.

I had, of course, tried all the usual suspects of the time, the cheap and spiteful teeny-weenie Players No 10s, teenier-weenier, nasty little sovereigns, and Golds, the runts of the Embassy world, harsh tiddlers only really smoked by old women. No cred really. Only old woman cred which is pretty worthless to a young pup-prat.

I was given a life line (death line?) by a rascally chum who had thieved from his travelling dad's cache of exotic ciggies bought with Marks or Guilders or Krona, expensive king-sized delights in baggy packets. Loads of brands with lights (Lites) in the name. And luxurious St Moritz. Mmmm . . . St Moritz. The ultimate menthol. The key to the sluice gates. A Consulate was an ugly dwarf in comparison, described as 'Cool as a mountain stream'by the makers. Pah! Cool as glissading snow-ice St Moritz might have countered, and might have, though sadly I can't remember its promo line.

One night, under the encouraging tutelage of this scamp, I broke myself in on these super mild St Moritz gold banded six inch long, icy cool minty bright whites. . St Moritz . . . Mmmm. The nearest you could get to priming your lungs for the hard, gritty, hacky-racky-baccy battles ahead, with the gentlest of thin, steamy thin, wispily thin, hazy blue, misty blue, smoke. Ghost smoke. Like sucking a ground down extra-strong mint through a hot straw. Candy for the lungs. Lung candy. But with enough of a kick to gently caress the lungs, prime that pink untarnished throat, deaden all those troublesome nerve ends, those sensitive filters, for all those greater, harsher, killer challenges ahead.

Monday, April 18, 2005

An Unwelcome Knee Trembler

I don't know what the deal is with giving presentations. The nervous, shrunken caricature that looks like me (just) and sounds like me (almost) doing the public speaking bit. Standing there and doing something I could easily be doing if I wasn't. If I wasn't presenting. And if I wasn't presenting, doing it so much better.

I might be chattering in a crowded room, speaking louder than the loudest - all the better to be heard. Joking, the jolly-japer, speaking louder than the loudest - all the better to be heard (and in all probability, heard being boring) in a pub. And doing it well. Churning out (you needed to have been there-type), unfunny-but-for-the-tipsy, conventional need for laughter, hilarious anecdotes around dinner tables. And doing OK. And there's always a need, always a requirement to make public utterances. Utterances in public. Rather like the formal talk. Rather like the presentation. Speaking so that others might hear.

With social interaction, "chitty-chatty, here's the skinny, guess what happend to me, him/ her/ them/ on the way to here/there/everywhere . . . Did you hear the one about, blah,blah blah", you have to convey meaning, you have to impart knowledge to groups and gaggles and crowds. As in the formal talk, as in the . . . presentation, there is expectation. A people's expectation that you will deliver. That you won't disappoint and tail off into a blind ally, forget the punchline, loose your way, bungle your lines, become incomprehensible. It's not so different. The passive actors are set up just the same. As you begin, their index of comprehension devices are similarly primed for action: ears tuned for listening, eyes zeroed for seeing, thoughts assembled for processing. The audience, any audience, are generally information hungry. They don't want to be let down.

In formal settings it's true, the scenery's a bit more stagey, the listeners a bit more remote, and their expectation for polish a little more upwardly tweaked . But for the speaker it's really not that different. So what on earth can it be that drives these demons and terrors that pervade my thoughts and haunt me as the day grows ever closer, disturbing me with feelings of doubt, anxiety and dread? Why is it so much harder?
God, I wish I knew.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Poetic Justice

I'm glad to be bringing this theme to an end. I had my routine - and that is what they are calling it, ECG today. My Normal Adult 12-leader hook-up sticky-pad day out ECG. My electrocardiogram, the final phase of a series of tests I've had to endure since my visit to the Wellman Clinic seemed to suggest I was in fact, an unwellman. Trouncing my happy ignorance of the fact that my body was experiencing RAM 'Rapidly Advanced Meltdown' and slashing my sashaying to a probable early death, but without the inconvenience of actually having that knowledge.

Quick BP check to start - already checked the nurse, kind, empathetic, slightly deferential, none of the school marmish, matronly boss-bootery of the last tyrant. None of the stylised bullying some of these starchy bags exhibit. Relief. Doubly so with the BP readings. So much lower. Perhaps it's all about comfortable contact. Then the big player is wheeled in. Bringing in the machines - the beat measure. Do you have rhythm man. Do you scansion like a well constructed poem or have the staccato thump of of next door's DIY enthusiast.

Off with the shirt - expected that. Off with the shoes and socks, hmm a little less predictable. Off with the watch - only one ticker per customer if you please. A tangle of wires and sticky suckers and a precision of placement including the feet, ahhhh the old shoes and socks thing, it wasn't to protect the pristiness of the bed - the feet are involved, they play a part. And lie there, feeling odd. Like a spy about to be receive electric shock torture to help alleviate trained amnesia but without the crocodile clips and spiteful testicle manipulations.

And all was well. At the Wellman. All scares are called off. I'll be Blogging a little longer.

Monday, April 11, 2005

A Nasal Twang

There is always a danger of lowering the tone. That said, for the tone to be actually lowered, a certain altitude would need to have already been reached. These are early days in the life of this Blog, so I should be pretty safe here. Safe in the knowledge that any fall will resemble a minor blip on the graduated success radar rather than a freefall off the scale into early oblivion. So I shall continue.

One of my favourite post subjects during my first ventures into blogging over here was in creating indexes and comparative definitions of examples of life's little social inconveniences. One could go very far indeed with this theme. And in time I probably will. But at that time I only went as far as grading yawn types for example. These (I reasoned) range from the polite stifle, sometimes required when there's a need to exhibit a feigned interest when a yawn would blow cover: mouth clamped but ears and eyes opened to allow relief which resulted in ear splitting, eye popping, head-blood starbursting consequences; to safe from view yaw-gapers, stretched limbs and spittle-rattle, throatlining flavoured exhalations.

Or the sneeze. From the decorous, 'I don't need to draw attention to myself' (useful for weddings, funerals etc), strangled at birth, caught and nipped with the specially summoned but unused efforts to cope with it, carefully and silently vented through the mouth and placed on some biological back-burner for later; to the grand-stander, a loud cathartic explosion of noise followed by much nasal musicality and busy wipings and dabbings. Probably best displayed whilst sat up in bed. Alone.

But I never got as far as nasal hair. Something all men will, sooner or later, have to address. Leaving it, (them) - 'don't interfere they'll only get worse'- is just not advice to be taken without laughing uproariously. Left, they see the field is clear. Left, they flourish and luxuriate in the knowledge that they have no natural predators. Thrive, grow fat. Lengthen. They marry each other, for ever entwined, have family and encourage their offspringers, the little wiry sproutlings, never, ever to leave the nest. The nest.

Trimming is almost as futile. Battery operated mini-cutters, sized, shaped, designed for all those (well most) orifices where unwanted hair grows. Flick the switch - up the nose, rattle-splinter- churn, a stench of burning and a few whiskery hair-ends laughing back at you from the sink bottom. A trim. Nothing more. A little nasal topiary. Individual fronds now consolidated, bush like. Not the sort of bush a man wants. Perhaps the only one he'll have if he doesn't tackle the problem properly. Man-like.

Tweezers. Geezers with tweezers. The only true solution. The only guarantee of the holy-grail like achievement of a man with a glabrous nostril. Tweezers up. Feel that metal, grab that wire-like interloper. Yank. Observe your catch. Anything up to a full inch. The stiffest hair not found on a pigs back. Fuse-wire. And a root. The root cause. The first one out hurts. Hurts like Hell. But by some amnesty of the nerves some biological pact, the pain of the first extraction anesthetizes all subsequent removals. Then it's clear out time. Boot filling time. Time to de-hirsute the nasal airways.

And there goes the tone.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Gone and Forgotten

The days come and go like muffled and veiled figures sent from a distant friendly party, but they say nothing, and if we do not use the gifts they bring, they carry them as silently away.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

One of my Blogs was carried silently away during the Great April the Eighth Blogger downday regroup. Blogger mustered just enough power to trick me into crafting a *cough* three thousand word dissertation on Life, the Universe and all the little bits in between, before a black cloud descended, from where emerged little shadowy, malevolent sprites who dragged it (Ghost-like) skittering-ly, but quietly, oh so quietly, away.

From then on only sickly parodies of the Blogger publishing pages could be summoned. A blur of enlarged fonts, inflated gaps and bloated crevices. Design concepts tottering around in half formed, still born, runtified versions of the real deal. And my entry. Strangled at birth. Mercy killed.

It was crap anyway.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Writer's Blockhead

"No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money," wrote Dr Johnson. He might just have easily wrote: "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for publication."

It's not a big deal. I could continue to write things nobody ever reads. Writing to a cherished and loyal audience of none. But doing things, anything, without remark, without someone else's consideration or assessment; liking what you're doing, hating what you're doing, made curious, more cautious or crapulous by what you're doing, makes doing it a little less enjoyable, and if I'm honest, a little less worth the effort.

That said - and to make the point I'll have to dip my toe into the perilous waters of the seasoned Bloggers bete noir "why do I/we Blog?" - I have to wonder why I am back doing it. Back Blogging. Agonising what to write about, fretting over gaps in creativity, bellyaching about what are testable facts and what truths get in the way of a good story.

It's a difficult one, a tricksy problem, a knotty stumper. But perhaps it's more simple. Perhaps all geeks return in the end.

Having returned via the route of keeping an unpublic Blog for a couple of weeks to shake the rust, I find I'm already trying harder. The unpublished Blog didn't have to be regular. It didn't really matter if the entry was, to borrow from the Bloggers catchphrase lexicon: "The outpourings of my head-brain fart dumping ground for random thoughts and gushing musings." It didn't matter if it was crap. If it is to be worth anything, I need the kind of gentle pressure generated from the thought that someone - and it might only be some one, is going to be affected through the tiny convulsion that encourages their attention, for a fraction of a moment, to read this Blog.

And I'll then strive for a better effect, and increase my own satisfaction. And in doing so, provide at least part of the answer as to why I've returned. Why I Blog.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Don't Buck The Trend

I'm unsettled by the unthinking efforts of others. I mean what is it with the guys who allow their young female off-spring to enter the male changing rooms of my gym and innocently jolly about amongst so much naked male flesh.

Apparently all children should be out of the changing rooms by just a little after six o'clock in the evening. Female children are not allowed in the male changing rooms from the age of six. This rule surprised and unsettled me. Six seems a little old for young girlies to be free to cavort innocently around too much naked male flesh. Once a sense of curiosity exists, it's a little late for this little dispensation. And I was indeed unsettled to find some of these little bunch-haired, beaded and ribboned imps frolicking with girlish glee in and around the changing rooms and showers on my arrival the other day.

Fortunately, I had only to remove a pair of jogging bottoms before I was clad for action amongst the modern torture chamber appliances which stood upstairs waiting for me. But despite that, the scene was still a little too revealing and I soon spotted a few scary examples of brazen tackle-out, mixed with coy displays of the last few turkeys in the shop and the odd gleaming, not to mention some even odder, hirsute backsides. Not the kind of scene anyone would use to describe an ideal kiddies play area and surely potentially damaging or at least uncomfortable to all the unwilling participants involved, (everyone there except of course the selfish parent).

We're no good at this altogether thing. This isn't Sweden. Nor was it meant to be.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Death, Oh why don't you call me. Quick!

As I alluded to recently, I feel and look as though I'm in reasonably good health. And as I concluded recently, I'm not as fit and well as I thought. Since this revelation, my health check centre has placed me on something called a protocol programme. This means my blood pressure and cholesterol will be closely monitored over the next 3 months to see if I'm likely to drop down dead any time soon.

I could for instance - if I ignore the warnings - drop out of service in a rather public way experiencing something of a Dr Robert Atkins moment, collapsing and expiring in front of astonished onlookers. Or perhaps I could end my days on my death-bed fighting the urges of the Grim Reaper and refusing to go gently into the good night whilst raging against the dying of the light like Dylan Thomas' dying dad. Maybe, maybe, I'd do a Ratso and curl up for a nap on a bus or train and check out quietly with serenely turned up toes and foetidly damp trousers.

If the news is as bad as they seem to be suggesting, those carrying out the checks and tut- tutting each time I register a reading of stratospheric proportions seem serenely calm about my life hanging by a thread. Serenely calm about these possible gloom-laden scenarios. A goodnight and God Bless to all type monstrous heart attack and stroke combo hanging over me Damocles-like, and due to drop if things don't change. After each visit I have to make another appointment, the date of which is seldom less than weeks if not months away. And all the while things inside me ain't working right. My body is destroying itself and this patient it seems has to be bloody patient indeed.

Today's appointment involved a second cholesterol test. After the trauma of 12 hours fasting, I turned up - not really being au-fait with these things, these . . . protocols, expecting a little pinprick, (note to self, always, always apply the prefix pin to prick, it cuts down on the cheap laughs through the unconscious priming of the witless), into the finger, and stealing myself for the sting. I don't do pinpricks well, I can be such a cowardly pinprick at times. But I wasn't really ready for the industrial sized hammer drill syringe and full metal jack-up gear that was quickly assembled for action.

Some nurses can be gentle compassionate creatures. Angels in fact. Mary Seacole type nurses who could be described as she was by one grateful soldier after the Crimean War : (as) 'A wonderful woman . . . all the men swore by her, and in case of any malady . . . That she did effect some cure is beyond doubt, and her never failing presence amongst the wounded after a battle and assisting them made her beloved by the rank and file of the whole army.' 'And she was gentle with a wonderful bedside manner he might have added. But he didn't. So I did.

This nurse, this tyrant, the Trunchbull in blue starch, was no gentle angel. Forearms like hams and all huffy no-nonsense-all-men-are-cowards-and-I'll-give-you-something-to-yowl-at face. Consider this real life sketch: Arm out, blood pressure check, extra little pump to make your finger nails feel like they're going to explode, malevolent grin. 'Still high.' Quick as a flash, jumper sleeve up, jack-hammer jacked, 'Ah look a vein, little prick' (no mention of the pin, she meant it!) Stab, pop, draw- sucker-pain, cotton wool press, ouch! 'Don't be a wimp. Get out!'

Well I made that last bit up, but she might as well have said it, or any of its sexually connotated variations. I'm in no hurry to make the sequel. Maybe I won't!

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