Tuesday, 29 December 2009

A suitable case for treatment

They said that before they give me an ARR next month I must go and see the anaesthetist to find out whether he would be likely to do me any harm, so on Christmas Eve I trotted along to consult him.

After checking that I was me and not some impostor, he asked me to give him an account of my medical history. This was clearly not something which could be covered in a few words, as most of the items I had to list were double- or even triple-barrelled, and I was determined to give him the whole story. So I began with complete details of my OA and my Type 2 DM and then dealt with some of the less exciting elements such as my HH and my BKR, before finally touching lightly on my SD and my BPH.

Taken together, these seemed to me to be fairly significant, but the anaesthetist was unimpressed: it seems that in terms of increasing the surgical risk they are all irrelevant or trivial.

"Didn't really need to see you", he said, "patients sent to me for pre-assessment usually have some condition which makes an operation dangerous and I have to warn them that they might die under the anaesthetic, so that they can become reconciled to the idea, put their affairs in order, make a will, all that. For your age, you're one of the fittest people I've ever had in here".

Then I remembered to tell him that I am allergic to oysters, though I knew that Whitstable natives are rarely used in modern anaesthesia. Anyway, he said that, like me, he acquired the same allergy after eating a bad one, but his reaction had been far worse than mine: he had vomited all night and bled from the eyes.

So all in all, the consultation gave me quite a good feeling, even though it may not have been really necessary.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

A close thing

It gave me quite a frisson when I realised that the alleged perpetrator of yesterday's attempted terrorist attack on Northwest Airlines flight 253 as it descended towards Detroit Metropolitan Airport might very well have been a close friend of mine, if the incident had taken place much earlier.

The man currently under arrest had been a student reading Mechanical Engineering at University College London, as I had been fifty-nine years previously, and my Nigerian friend at that time, Charles Ogunsina, could have been involved; he was just the sort of chap who would burn his leg trying to mix two liquids together in the hope that they would explode. I always had a certain affection for him because he was the only student of our year whose technical drawings were more contemptible than mine and, in addition, always had dirty fingermarks all over them. Sadly, we lost touch after we both failed Part 1 of the BSc course and went our separate ways, he back to Lagos and I to National Service.

So it was with some excitement that I followed BBC Television News reporting on the developments at lunchtime today. Well, actually, 'developments' is not quite the right word because the reporter on the spot, broadcasting live, made several desperate and totally unsuccessful attempts to rack up the tension when in fact he had no idea what, if anything, was happening inside the premises in London where the student may have stayed earlier. He constantly announced new 'flurries' of activity consisting of policemen going into the building carrying packages and coming out, sometimes empty-handed and sometimes carrying the same packages, or possibly different ones. On one occasion the sharp-eyed observer spotted that some new arrivals were dressed quite differently from earlier ones and were wearing boots, but made no attempt to explain the significance of this. It was at that point that I guessed that nothing much would happen that afternoon, and switched off.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Ho-ho-holy Night

"Here I come, children! Look, no beard this year!"

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Music for magnetic resonance

They had told me that while you are having an MRI scan they can play you music to relieve the tedium; you can choose from their library or bring your own CD. Not fancying Mantovani or Cliff Richard or Songs from the Shows, when I went to be magnetised (or resonated) the other day I took along a nice Fischer-Dieskau/Alfred Brendel recording, but it turned out that I needn't have bothered because the machine makes so much noise that you can hear very little of the music.

But the CD was one that I hadn't listened to for a while so I played it when I got home. It includes that terrifying song called Der Doppelganger: Schubert's inexorable block chords and Heine's dark poem would give anyone the cauld grue.

There's this chap, you see, who is walking late at night in deserted streets. As he passes the door of the house where his beloved used to live, there is a man standing there, wringing his hands, overwhelmed with anguish. Then he sees the man's face in the moonlight and—horror!—it is his own.

"Der Mond zeigt mir meine eig'ne Gestalt.
Du Doppelgänger! Du bleicher Geselle!
Why do you ape the pain of my love
Which tormented me upon this spot
So many a night, so long ago?"

There are no more details given in the poem, but one might guess that his earlier self was tormented because she always kept him waiting at the door.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Brief but memorable

My initiative in making a telephone call sparked off an unusual encounter I had one night last week. A young Japanese woman answered and asked me to tell her all about myself, which of course I was pleased to do. She was very interested, and it was not long before she had taken over the conversation completely. It was as much as I could do to keep up with her questions and, later, her commands; she knew exactly what should be done and needed only a little co-operation from me.

For all her professional expertise she is clearly a shy person so I will not reveal her name; suffice it to say that its sound—and indeed her voice—made me think of a summer breeze ruffling the yuki yanagi (snow willow) which grows in the tsukiyama gardens of Kyoto.

As the evening wore on, her questions became more intimate and I found some of them difficult to answer. She was very patient with me and only once did she have to warn me about my behaviour: "No, don't do that, you're interfering with my movements".

She meant, of course, that I should keep my hands to myself while she was moving about on my desktop.

The matter turned out to be quite complicated, and it was over an hour before the task was completed. Finally, my emails started coming in and going out once more and she asked me if I was satisfied; I had to say yes, then I reluctantly let her go and we parted with expressions of mutual esteem.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Pankhurst arrested!

No 26 in an occasional series of extracts from The Postcard CenturyAugust 1909: The writer of this card quotes See the conquering hero come before going on to domestic greetings. The arrest and imprisonment of Mrs Pankhurst in February 1908 was perhaps the turning point in the annals of Women's Suffrage. This particular postcard has made a long journey from its London publisher to the Orange River Colony whence, from Bloemfontein, FM sends it to Mr Miller in Scotland. By the time it reaches him in Glasgow the strategy of hunger strikes and the horrors of forcible feeding had darkened the agenda.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

A woman of many parts

As we all know, you have to be careful not to be misled by what you find on the internet.

I have just become involved professionally with a consultant whom I had not met until yesterday. She is charming, youngish but hugely experienced and in every way a person on whose skills one might confidently rely. I did ask Google to tell me what they had on her (no, poor choice of words, I mean what information on her is available online) and what came back was, much as I had expected, most encouraging, and confirmed my impression.

This is fine, but there is more: it seems that she has a substantial presence on Facebook, with many friends among lively teenagers, and is fond of West Coast Cooler ("perfect for girly nights out") and Absolut Vodka. And finally, she was a big name in the Australian music scene in the 1920s, when she wrote a number of patriotic ballads about Ireland.

When I gave more thought to this, however, it occurred to me that all these attributes and achievements might not relate to a single individual, and that the websites to which Google had referred me may have been describing three people with the same name but nothing else in common.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Clouds for Christmas

There's still time to get some copies of this for your friends; for anyone who ever goes outdoors and looks upwards it is a nice present; even idiots who don't know their cumulus congestus pileus from their altocumulus stratiformis perlucidus undulatus, and don't care, will enjoy looking at the pictures.

The crepuscular rays of the latter are shown in the picture below. It will remind those whose thoughts at this time of year turn only to self-indulgence and excess that contemplating the glories of nature can bring inspiration and spiritual uplift to us all. It is, moreover, very cheap and doesn't give you a hangover.

Actually, some will find this one a bit commonplace and not in the best of taste; there are lovelier cloud formations illustrated in the book, and real cheapskates will find that much of its content can be seen online for nothing, here. But peering at a monitor is no substitute for lifting your eyes and gazing, gin and tonic in hand, at these wonders in the sky.

Happy Christmas from Cloud Appreciation Society Member No 8158 (out of almost 20,000)