Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Your life in their hands

Just now there is an unusual number of my friends all going through medical procedures, some minor, some major. And that will include me soon.

Just a couple of months ago a friend of mine was admitted for a fairly straight forward operation to correct something odd about his water works. Unfortunately complications occurred due to the discovery of other things and he ended up staying in hospital not for 3 days but for a whole month! He's fine now and praises the medical team no end for the care and attention they gave him.

Then a month ago another friend was admitted for corrective surgery for a problem on his knee. All went well but as he's a very busy guy the restricted activity that he had to adhere too did not sit well. So much so just a few days after his operation he took off on holiday to the Canary Islands!  I saw him today and you would never know just 4 weeks ago he was under the surgeons knife.

As I write this blog a friend of mine is in the operating theatre for major surgery due to crohns disease. He has been an inspiration in his approach to this day and has even taken the bold step of sharing it all with an online blog. It's fascinating reading, a real insight to the disease and his own situation, both medically and emotionally. As procedures go this is a big one. He praises his medical team and offers great advice for communicating with consultants and surgeons, to gather as much information as possible, which he says is key to understanding your condition and quashing any fear.

My aunt will, in the next 2 months, be admitted to hospital for a replacement hip. She has been surprised just how run-of-the-mill the operation seems to be now due to the advances in the procedure.

Tomorrow I see my own consultant to go on to a waiting list for an operation on one of  my big toes. For a few years now it has been gradually degenerating due to a past injury, and it as the stage now where it's starting to limit my activity both practically and psychologically. As operation go it's not that major but it was the influence of my friend with crohns that made up my mind to go for it. I've been putting up with the pain for too long and I've had enough.

We are very lucky in this country to be able to make decisions like this based on our level of tolerance for the pain and judging if we want to go through with it or not, and not having to consider any cost, covered as it is by our National Health Service. We whinge about the NHS all the time, but in my experience and those of my friends above, I cannot fault it. Yes there are waiting lists but overall the fact that we have access to highly skilled surgeons and care staff, some of the best in the world, makes us very lucky indeed.

So, quite a number of connected people putting their lives in the hands of surgeons, all with total confidence in their teams and the amazing advances in the possibilities of modern medicine, that we tend to take for granted. I doubt anyone I've mentioned here would say that.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

A busy creative day

They say that writers have the best decorated houses. The reason being is that they'd sooner do anything else than write.

What we're talking about here of course is avoidance tactics. We all do it, but creative people are the masters of such, and I am no exception. In my defence however, I would say that being creative is not something that I can just switch on and off at will. Very few can. I've read many a "how to" book over the years that you should start work at 9am and write. Anything. But just write. And finish at a normal 5pm.

I don't know a single writer or artist who does this. So, inspired by one such article in a newspaper recently, I thought I'd share a typical day of mine with you, which usually will involve some sort of writing or film editing.

I set my alarm the night before for 7.30am, knowing full well that I'll switch it on to snooze the moment it buzzes. My theory is that the longer I lie there in bed the more guilty I'll feel. It works, to a degree. 

9am: Having dragged myself from my cocoon of warmth, I shuffle through to the kitchen and make a cup of tea and some porridge. The mail drops through the letterbox and provides the first distraction of the day.

9.30am: I look at my list of things to do for the day. I love lists. I then add "open mail" and cross it off just to feel that I've actually achieved something.

10am: Check email. Answer emails. Check Facebook.

11am: Look at list again. Find the easiest thing that will take the shortest amount of time to do, carefully avoiding the item to be edited. Shift one or two items back to tomorrow.

12noon: Open project on edit suite. Check list again.

12.30pm: Time for lunch.

1.30pm: Check list again. Look at edit suite. Phone a friend and meet for coffee and cake.

3pm: Tidy kitchen and do dishes from night before. Look at TV schedules and highlight evenings viewing.

3.30pm: Sit in front of computer and stare at screen.

3.35pm: Make afternoon cup of tea.

3.45pm: Start editing.

And that can be me until midnight or even later. Once I'm going there's no stopping me, missing dinner and any of those programmes I highlighted for viewing.

So why not just do away with all this procrastination and cut to the chase at 9am? Or stop kidding myself with my avoidance tactics and resign myself to the fact that I'm not going to do any work until late afternoon?

Well, the simple answer is that almost everything leading up to starting the edit is warming up my creative juices. In the background I'm thinking about the scene. Reading the mail, online news or chatting to a friend over coffee can all add to my inspiration. All in all I probably have one of the longest working days of most people, albeit at my own pace, doing something I love. My past work and achievements are testament to my hard work ethic.

At the end of the day as long as I get guilt in there  I know I've had a busy, creative day.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Seer of seers

Saturday was Groundhog Day, and in Pennsylvania, on Gobblers Knob in Punxsutawney, the worlds most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, the prognosticator of prognosticators, seer of seers, sage of sages, definitely did not see his shadow, predicting an end to winter and an early spring.
With his prediction in mind, and spotting the first signs of buds on the Rowan tree in my garden, it was time to pull on the gardening gloves, prepare the rubbish bags and wield the secateurs and hack back the over-growth in my small garden.

In terms of exercise this was a hell of a work out. I was filling builders rubble bags, which are roughly one metre cubed in size, which is pretty big. My garden is only accessible down a flight of steps and has high walls all round, so it was over the shoulder with the bulging bag, up the flight of steps, through the kitchen out the front door and down a set of stairs to the outside, then 50 yards up my street to a communal refuse bin. 7 times!  I was astonished at the amount.  I also had to climb into the communal dumpster to trample it all down just so I could get it all in.

But I wasn't alone in the garden. The birds at first took flight as I huffed and puffed away, chopping everything in sight, sawing through branches here and there and generally making a right old mess. However, hunger overpowered them eventually and one by one they returned, pausing between feeds to watch my frenzied activity. One bird in particular, a Robin, stuck around all day singing his song and keeping me company, which was nice.

So, 7 hours hard graft later and the garden is looking rather naked. I've gone from no ground visible to virtually all the borders now visible and completely bare. I discovered the stumps of plants that I'd forgotten were there, having been smothered by more aggressive species. It will be interesting to see if they recover. A few repairs were also needed, mostly to the fencing around the garden.  I try, mostly in vain, to keep the neighbouring gangs of cats out, so the final task of the day was to cover the exposed soil with tarpaulin and mesh in the hope that it will prevent them fouling the ground, whilst I plan what to do with all this new space.

For that I'll need to enlist the help of my green-fingered friend and fellow adventurer, Pauline, who originally planted the garden over 10 years ago.

I hope Phil was right as now I'm thoroughly exhausted.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Alice in Wonderland

I'm not big on "parties" per se, but this weekend sees a good friend of mine turning 40. However, this is not going to be just a regular party and a few drinks. Oh no, this party is fancy dress!

By now you'll have guessed that the theme is Alice in Wonderland. It's a good choice, if there is such a thing as good in terms of fancy dress, as there are a lot of characters to choose from. I've surprised myself just how seriously I'm taking it, most probably because the majority of my friends are very creative, so there's a bit of a challenge. After much deliberation I've decided to go as The White Rabbit.

I searched high and low for a costume but most were fairly poor but expensive. So, there was no other choice. I had to make it myself. However, my track record in this department is not great. A number of years ago I was invited to a fancy dress party for another friends birthday, but you could choose whatever you wanted. I decided to go with a low budget, homemade and original. More of that in a minute.

I arrived at the front door in a fairly well to do area of the city, rang the door bell and waited, quite excited at what I had made. The door opened and to my horror everyone was dressed in the most elaborate and beautiful costumes, most having gone with a Louis the 14th theme, complete from head to foot.
I, on the other hand, was stood on the front door step wearing a black plastic bin bag with a hole cut in it for my head and the word MARS across the front. Yep, I had come as a Mars bar. I don't think I've ever been so embarrassed, but I stuck it out the whole evening. Funnily enough no one commented on my costume.

I've learnt my lesson this time. I've spent the past two days making this costume and I must admit it's looking pretty good. Large fluffy white ears, complete with inner pink parts, a large fluffy white tail, red waistcoat, homemade, with hearts cut of the back, a comedy sized large pocket watch and on the day a friend of mine will create a wow factor face painting of the character. I may get a few odd looks going on the bus to the party though.
So, with just a couple of tweeks left to do, and only £10 spent, the White Rabbit is ready to go. Hopefully I wont be late.