Sunday, 24 August 2008

Hind legs

Well I am on my hind legs again. Yesterday (Sunday) I was up for most of the day and survived. The day before (Saturday) I had a practice run - not literally you understand - but I found sitting or standing much too wearing that I limped forlornly back to bed and into the most comfortable position I could find.

Today I will book a session with my doctor who should have been seeing me four weeks ago for my annual check up. By tomorrow I will be able to walk down. We thought about ladling me into a taxi last week but the thought of trying to get in to a car at this end and then trying to get out at the other end and then sitting - ouch - in the waiting room, then struggling to rise when called and then - presumably - being lectured about undertaking such a foolish journey when damaged put me off completely.

Thursday, 21 August 2008


Surprisingly I'm no better. Was standing for a wee while but the pain was unbearable. Don't know about this stiff upper lip thing - I tend to scream and don't care who hears it.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh ...

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Back again

I was up early and looking forward to a trip down town - I walk down from the Pinehill Road most every day as does Polly. I had done my foot exercises like a good boy. These consist of sitting on the edge of the bed before taking a single step and stretching the plantar ten times with each stretch being held for ten seconds. When I finished I went to the sock drawer and then went back and sat once again on the dge of the bed. As I leaned forward to encase the first foot in its woolly container the most excruciating pain shot through my lower back. I screamed.

Twenty minutes later I was apologising to Polly for my unseemly screaming and swearing and feeling mildly relieved after a dose of paracetamol. After the slow painful finding of a position that is sort of bearable I am back in bed.

I know from past experience that there is no universal advice that one can follow for lower back pain. Some people can work through the pain and continue on their (less than merry I would hazard) way. Others can't move in any direction - my hand is raised here - and rest until better.

The last time I hurt my back, see earlier post, not all that long ago, it was the first time in ages and I rested briefly, then got up and moved around the house at a snail's pace. The next day I even walked down the town and back again feeling like superman.

Gosh, isn't the self healing power of the body a wonderful thing? My bum! In the morning I would have killed for morphine. I stayed in bed and took it easy for the next three days or so. It passed eventually until today - drat, drat and triple drat.

I'm in bed. It is sunny outside - cold but sunny. The cats have deserted me. I sincerely hope that today they do not appear with muddy paws. Now that we share a house with another human paw tracks on polished wood floors and kitchen work places are not encouraged. Trust this year to be damp and yucky.

Polly has gone to Uni and I am posting from my warm pit.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008


I don't usually go out without my spectacles if I can help it. I got reading glasses 8 years ago because Polly got fed up with me complaining that solving the Times crossword had lost its sparkle as the print size had changed.

What a difference an artificial lens makes. I have been assured in my latest eye test that the prescription has barely changed since I started wearing them. However my own experience tends to suggest that I am more dependent on my specs than I care to admit. All print is a blur now and so are people's faces. Earlier this year I bought what I thought was a three DVD pack of Season 5 Part 2 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in a clearance bin at The Warehouse, The Warehouse where everyone gets a bargain.

When I got home and with trembling hands (very fond of Buffy, I am) ripped Buffy from her pink, Warehouse bag, booted myself into spectacle mode I discovered I had bought a three video cassette pack. Tchah!

We don't possess a VCR. We have been watching DVDs on our PC since 2000 anno domini or common era if you're that way inclined. I held on to the cassettes thinking they would make a useful stocking filler for a Buffy fan who didn't watch DVDs.

Recently we moved house and discovered our housemate owns a VCR. Last night I found the cassettes after much swearing and ripping open of still sealed cardboard boxes with helpful things written on them like 'Linen and Other Stuff'.

Happy ending? Nah. One of the cassettes was the same as the first one. We are missing the set of episodes that begins with 'The Body" where Joyce Summers dies.

The final cassette is complete but we can't bring ourselves to watch it without seeing the missing episodes.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Freezing darkness

Winter in Dunedin - and please, I love you Dunedin - is a big pile of freezing blackness. I love it. It keeps the kids off the streets. Yes, there are still places where children play on the streets. I must admit I was startled to see them when we first moved here. The novelty soon wore off when my eardrums reacted badly to the high pitched timbre of the child screech. Jeez it is a grater.

One other thing hasn't changed. The kids play around every other property save their own. Surely this is a universal.

I am freezing, I am going to the library via the bread shop (Brumby's) and the New World. In the library I am going to continue my research on post-modernism and drive people mad with the smell of new baked bread.

I used to be a library assistant and despite my natural libertarian impulses mainly involving freedom of information I have to restrain myself - now an ordinary user - from rapping noisy students over the knuckles with a metre stick, removing their skateboards, sticky drink cans and whatever else I deem inappropriate in a study environment.

How did we ever get to the moon and beyond?

Return voyages

I was writing about a trip I took to Dublin when I was about fifteen and fancied myself as a beat thanks to Kerouac. I remembered who I went with and where we slept on the way there and where we stayed in Dublin - St Stephen's Green - but nothing of the return journey. Also my travelling companion seemed to morph into someone else after two night's worth of memories. After that he becomes someone else who I definitely remember being in Dublin with but not how I got there. The second companion was knowledgeable about painting which companion number one was not. Thankfuly there is fiction for those tense moments when memory fails.

If you are reading this Buzz or Streak, I remembered your nicknames. Buzz is probably one hundred years old now. Streak was a biker with a nasty habit of falling off and breaking his limbs.

Maybe one of them'll remember how I got back to Portrush.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Free Software Foundation

Richard Stallman was talking to Kim Hill on Saturday. I missed her public lecture in Otago Uni last week. I enjoy mostly - please note that 'mostly', I will return to that qualification later - listening to the discourse between her and her subjects. She or someone - a dedicated team of researchers perhaps? That seems unlikely for Radio New Zealand National sounds like us - does their homework and she is seldom ill prepared. For example this weekend when Richard first referred to the operating system known as GNU/Linux she knew that when he expanded the GNU acronym - Gnus Not Unix - it was known as a recursive acronym. Impressive eh?

I wonder if this is a standard interview technique either rattle the interviewee or instil respect in the same - you don't scare me pal, I know some of your arcane jargon.

I must ask around in my formidable brigade of Radio Interviewer Colleagues (are you there Vanda?)

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Mona Minim

Holy Jeekers, the things you hear on National Radio in the early hours of the morning. Last week and also today we were snug and warm in our bed and listening to Mona Minim and the Smell of the Sun. What a treat, treat, treat. Janet Frame no less. 'Spect the rest of youse knew already that she wrote the blessed thing. Smart bums!

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Snow showers

How wonderful. The New Zealand Metservice short work of fiction has hit the hail on the head this morning. Dunedin is cold and it does have snow showers.

Yesterday - Thursday - was a superday. Sun shining, folks out in their shorts and jandals - they still had purple legs and drips hanging from their noses - but man they were happy and that's what counts isn't it?

I was in the 'all new' Countdown yesterday. I think the 'all new' description refers to the enlarging of the space for displaying liquor.

Gone is the single line queue for the 12 items or less tills. This is a mistake of the highest water. Yesterday I picked the wrong line and stood for ages with my one purchase - a box of signature brand paracetemol (this is in no wise an endorsement of this product - it just happened to be the cheapest).

At least Countdown doesn't call them express lines. If they did that would surely cause a riot. I am sure most people naturally pride themselves on their knowledge of shopper psychology and weigh up the clues presented to them before joining a particular line. Probably the biggie is "Golly gee there's only one customer in this line!"

What we havent noticed is that the till is stuck; the customer hasn't got their card, purse or wallet out yet. All of these things take time.

Once a young fellow in front of us had to have parts of his already meagre purchases removed bit by bit until whatever money was left in his account matched the cost of his food. I was trying not to stare but I couldn't help but notice that he was flushing with embarrassment. Whoops, there go the bananas! Blush! Darn, that was the cabbage. I think he left with a tin of beans and a Moro bar.

I regularly hold up my line now as I fumble for my glasses to read the new micro eftpos swipes sneakily introduced - I first encountered them in The Warehouse and the New World. First they want you the customer to perform the swipe (Why does the card always go the other way round?) and then press the miniscule buttons which if memory serves are now in different positions (oh right the nine is down there is it? sorry, sorry. not sorry at all)

Next stop library get book - Teach Yournself Braille.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Snappy camera

My first camera - a snappy camera - cost 2/6d* (two shillings and sixpence; half a crown; half a dollar - take your pick). I got it from Woolworths on a day excursion to Belfast. I could hardly wait to take it to school the next day. My pride and excitement vanished on observing the class clown displaying his brand new snappy camera! Worse to come - he had a case for it and a strap so he could hang it round his neck. Since I had no camera case my little camera stayed in my schoolbag.

I was thinking about my snappy camera when browsing the various groups on flickr who try and reproduce through digital manipulation the kind of photographic effect got from mass produced cameras - lomo and holga.

My mother didn't think I could actually take photos with it but I whined and begged until I got a film and then had to whine and beg until she got them processed for me. The only photo I can clearly remember from that first and only batch was an electricity van parked outside our library. Now hang on, it wasn't a library then it was a catering college.

The van was out of focus and tilted from the horizontal but it must have been the best of the bunch if that is the only one I remember. There weren't any more photos from the snappy camera as there was a growing awareness that my mother wasn't trying to spoil my fun but she could not afford to indulge a small boy's hobbies.


My back is still sore. I was out for a walk yesterday and felt fine. Today I am shuffling again. A short Tai Chi exercise eased it a while ago but I feel it stiffening again.

*Memory decay - the camera might have cost 7/6d

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Lower back

Amazing apparatus the lower back. I survived our last move with nothing more than a slight stiffness after moving boxes of books and sundries from the house to the car; up and down dodgy steps; repeat process at other end or destination if you prefer.

I've had neck and back problems for years and years and years. My very first sign of the weakness of the human body - weakness despite, or perhaps because of, the evolutionary process - was the tearing of the fencer's muscle after a vigorous bout of digging and raking when I was a beardless youth of nineteen. For those of you who haven't experienced this little joke of Nature it goes something like this. You walk along the street, any street, any town, no matter, then Whap! The upper body is suddenly and painfully folded at the waist and your chin rushes down to greet the knees, a pair of fellows it has not been acquainted with for a while.

Being a young man and not long married I was much afraid. I had left school at fifteen without completing my medical degree so had no idea what was happening. Cause and effect had not entered my reasoning at this tender age so I went and saw a man who had stayed on at school and then spent long years at medical college, to wit, a doctor.

As I was making my appointment with the secretary I was seized round the middle and once again my upper body was folded rapidly towards the same kneecaps my chin had chatted with not two hours ago.

"Oh," she said as I disappeared from view below the counter. "You are in a bad way." She waved me into the waiting room without consulting her Book of Appointments for a date two weeks away when most illnesses have safely passed their self-limiting period and there is no need to bother Doctor.

When I got into to see Doctor I explained the symptoms. He looked at me like I had killed someone and got me to stand and bend, touch my toes or something. I could do that without any problem. He then launched into a diatribe about work shy youths and something else I missed or have forgotten while being escorted out the surgery door.

On the way home I managed a grim impotent smile as my body jackknifed again: "Told you I was hurt."

My sweet and trusting nature has always made excuses for that Doctor and his behaviour. The same Doctor told my wife she was pregnant when she wasn't. In nineteen seventy whatever it was there were only four doctors practicing and they would not take patients from one another.

As I read that last sentence I am struck by how much power these people had over the rest of us. I think it was about ten years or so before new younger Doctors appeared in our towns with strange ideas like listening to patients.

When I appeared in one of these doctor's surgeries with the same symptoms I had earlier reported the injury was immediately recognised, described for me and treated correctly. And so was I. Treated correctly, I mean. What a difference that made to me and doubtless many others breathed a sigh of relief when the cartel retired and the new helpful medics appeared in our midst.

Where was I? Oh yes. Lower back. I moved a whole pile of stuff on Saturday, rolls of carpets among them. Got away with it, I thought. I was sitting on the edge of the bed after my shower the next morning, singing along with my earworm (Deep within my heart/lies a melody/a song of old San Antone ...). I leaned forward to pull on a sock and Aaaaaaaaaaaaagh! Instant pain and a shocking inability to do anything but shuffle after the first agony slowed down to a bearable ache punctuated with sharp intakes of breath and out-loud-ouches as something somewhere in there not far away from the surface pinches and nips.