Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Just saying . . .

While walking down the street one day a Member of Parliament suffers a heart attack and dies.
His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.
'Welcome to heaven,' says St. Peter. 'Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we're not sure what to do with you.'
'No problem, just let me in,' says the man.
'Well, I'd like to, but I have orders from higher up. What we'll do is have you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity.'
'Really, I've made up my mind. I want to be in heaven,' says the MP.
'I'm sorry, but we have our rules.'
And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him.
Everyone is very happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of the people.
They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and champagne.
Also present is the devil, who really is a very friendly & nice guy who has a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a good time that before he realizes it, it is time to go.
Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises....
The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens on heaven where St. Peter is waiting for him.
'Now it's time to visit heaven.'
So, 24 hours pass with the MP joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns.
'Well, then, you've spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now choose your eternity.'
The MP reflects for a minute, then he answers: 'Well, I would never have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in hell.'
So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell.
Now the doors of the elevator open and he's in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage.
He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags as more trash falls from above.
The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulder. ' I don't understand,' stammers the MP. 'Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now there's just a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable. What happened? '
The devil looks at him, smiles and says, ' Yesterday we were campaigning.. ....
Today you voted.'
Here we go again.

Monday, 24 April 2017

By George

Or even bye bye, George.

Yesterday, in case it slipped your notice, was St George's Day. I had intended doing a piece about the four patron saints of the British isles - George for England, Patrick for Ireland, David for Wales and Andrew for Scotland - with the emphasis, as is only right, on St George. After all, it was his special day, and he is the patron saint of my country. That post didn't come to fruition for two reasons:

  1. Mike, he of a Bit about Britain, covered it so much better than I would have done, right HERE.
  2. A little DIY job, one I had expected to take me about half an hour, actually took most of the day. Maybe I'll tell you about it when I have recovered.
It just happened that the job I was so unsuccessfully trying to complete required more digital dexterity that cerebral so I was able to ruminate gently about George and patron saints generally. What, I wondered, is a patron saint actually for? What is one supposed to do? I have never seen a job description, nor have I ever seen the position advertised so it all seems a little nebulous.

And who chooses the patron saint of a country anyway? 

Well, I've actually found the answer to that question. An answer, anyway. here is what can be found on the historic-uk.com website:
The original patron saint of England was St Edmund, but his influence began to wane when Richard the Lionheart adopted St George as the protector of his army whilst on crusade. Edmund was finally replaced when King Edward III formed the Order of the Garter in St. George's name in 1350 and made him the Patron Saint of England. The cult of the Saint was further advanced by King Henry V at the battle of Agincourt in northern France.
So now you know.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Cranky dog

I have been a dog owner for more than 50 years and I suppose I would describe myself as a dog person. That said, I'm not entirely sure just what goes to make a dog person, but I like dogs and that's enough for me. What I am not is one of those horse-whisperer types who can get a dog to do just about anything simply by raising an eyebrow. People have sometimes remarked that our present dog - Fern, a springer spaniel - is well-trained. Naturally, I soak up such praise, even though I know full well how little justified it is.


Fern did prove remarkably easy to train in the basics. By that I mean simply "sit" and "come". For some long-forgotten reason we never did progress to "stay" and "heel" is very much a matter of luck, although I have discovered a hand signal that she obeys almost as "heel". i am very much of the opinion that dogs are pack animals and the lone dog in a household has to learn at a very early stage that it is the least important member of the family pack.

One thing that causes problems for many dog owners is the first few nights that the puppy is away from the litter and its mother. But that was no problem with Fern. On her first night in our house she was sent to her bed in the kitchen, the light was switched off and the door shut. She made no noise at all that night - and there was no mess to clear up next morning either! She has always settled down at night with no problem, even in a strange kitchen or scullery.

Until the last two or three months.

For some reason that I have not yet managed to identify, fern now barks after she is put to bed. And this is not barking at foxes (she has always done that if a vixen howls) or asking to be let into the garden. just a few minutes after being put to bed, while I am cleaning my teeth or just getting into bed, she starts barking. Not loudly, but annoyingly. At first I tried ignoring her and she would stop after a minute or two, only to bark again about ten minutes later. And then again sometime in the middle of the night. And again as I was under the shower in the morning.

I have tried ignoring her, cajoling, remonstrating fairly gently, standing over her and really telling her off - all to no avail. The last three nights I have tried leaving the kitchen door open. Now she simply barks for a minute as I clean my teeth, after which I go back downstairs and point out to her that she has not been left entirely alone. That seems to settle her and I hear nothing more.

Could it be that she has just gone cranky in her old age? She is 13, after all.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Ash before oak?

Walking in the woods today it was easy to spot the sycamore, hazel and hawthorn trees, if only because they are all in leaf. The chestnut (both sweet and horse) are well on, and the silver birch leaves are starting - as are the loaves on the ash trees. But I saw no sign of oak leaves.

Ash trees in High Park Wood.
We must just hope that there is little truth in the old country saying:
Ash before oak - we're in for a soak. Oak before ash - 'twill be but a splash.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

What happens if . . .?

This afternoon, acquaintances of mine (I can hardly call them friends - I don't know them well enough for that) have been at the funeral of their granddaughter. Aged 11, she was knocked down when crossing the road to catch the bus to school. She was air-lifted to hospital, but to no avail. I cannot imagine what her parents and grandparents are going through.

There was a report in the paper this week about another couple who are facing the death of their child, a baby aged just eight months. The baby has an extremely rare genetic condition as a result of which he is both blind and deaf and he is being kept alive by a ventilator. The hospital applied to the court for permission to discontinue treatment, against the parents' wishes. They, the parents, have raised a vast sum of money - £1.2 million - to pay for treatment in the USA.

I have my view on the court's judgement but that is wholly beside the point of this post. My concern here is that £1.2 million.

There appears to be an increasing number of cases where people - parents, other family, friends - appeal to the public at large for funds to pay for drugs or treatment not available on the National Health Service. This is, of course, in addition to the on-going charity appeals for cancer research, the lifeboat service, over-worked Spanish donkeys, dancing bears in India and many others of variable worthiness. Most of these one-off appeals to attract generous donations. But my cynicism, scepticism or downright stinginess immediately jump into action. Even without questioning the genuineness or otherwise of the appeal, there are things I want to know. Things like:

  • Can I trust the person collecting the money to deal with it properly without dipping into the fund?
  • What will happen to the money collected if the target is not reached?
  • What will happen to the money if the patient dies before the money is spent?
  • What will be done with the surplus if more is donated than is needed?
Those questions are left unanswered too often for me to donate to any such appeal.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Bluebells


For a number of reasons, it was several months since I last walked in the Great Wood at Stanmer. I had been in other parts of the woods, but this afternoon the dog and I returned to the Great Wood. As I hoped, the bluebells were well on the way. There are acres of these delightful flowers and i am pleased to say they are the English variety rather than the dreaded Spanish bluebell which is forcing out the more delicate English with its fragrant scent. This time next week they will be magnificent.

I have always been slightly surprised that there are no primroses in Stanmer, but there are aconites a-plenty, and tiny little violets. And it won't be long before the beech trees are dressed in their spring leaves like this:

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Little green men

I caught sight of a headline one day during the week, but I never did get round to reading the article. Something or other must have distracted me; one of those "Ooh, shiny!" moments, I suppose. Anyway, I gathered from what I saw that radio signals must have been detected in space and that somebody had suggested this might be evidence of alien life.

Astronomy has never been one of my passions. For one thing, there is usually too much cloud in this country for me to see the stars to any extent - and even if there were no clouds, the level of light pollution would seriously diminish one's enjoyment of the night sky. This lack of astronomical passion extends to pretty much everything connected to extraterrestrial activity.

It's not just the cloud cover and light pollution that detracts; the figures involved are, quite literally, beyond my comprehension. I find it almost impossible to understand - or believe - that the light I see from that star actually left that star not just years ago, but centuries or even millenia ago. (I know that in America there are two 'n's in that word.) That, to me, is mind-blowing.

But to get back to the LGM.

Why is it that scientists say that if there is evidence of water on another planet (or whatever), there is the possibility of alien life? Why should water be a prerequisite of alien life? Are those people possessed of insufficient imagination to accept the possibility that other forms of life - the little green men - might have no need of water? Is it not possible even that life might exist in a form that we can't even see?

No - I can't cope with this. Let's change the subject!

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Do I care?

My wife being disabled, I am the not-very-proud possessor of the description 'carer' - a word I don't much care for (if you'll excuse the pun). It's not a job for which I would have applied; indeed, it's not a job for which I am much suited. All the same, it's a job I signed up for more than fifty years ago. Of course, back then the words "for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health" were just that - words. How many of us, when in our twenties, have ever given thought to what life will be like half a century hence?

Please don't think that as I type this I am wallowing in self-pity. That most certainly is not the case. I know full well that there are many, many people who are in situations far worse than mine, and who have been in those situations far longer than I. That, naturally, applies also to the persons for whom the carers care.

But I wonder how many of us, when we see a disabled person with a carer, give a thought to what life is like for the carer? The disability affects the carer as well as the person being cared for. Not to anything like the same extent, obviously, but often in ways that other people just don't realise. Let me simply state a couple of facts and this will be just that - a statement of fact, not a plea for sympathy.

I can't recall the last time I enjoyed an uninterrupted night's sleep. Most nights I am out of bed, helping the Old Bat to the bathroom, twice. Occasionally it's just once, but there are nights when it is three times. Granted, the loss of 20 or 30 minutes sleep is nothing that can't be made up - but it is the disturbance, the waking every two or three hours, that is exhausting. Then there is the amount of time spent during the day simply waiting; waiting for her to finish eating long after me, waiting while she does part of a job so that I can get on with the next part (which she is unable to do). Or, if not actually waiting, walking with her very slowly so that a walk that should take just two or three minutes actually takes nearly ten.

As I said earlier, I know there are people far, far worse off than I am. I have recently read a book (My Life in his Paws by Wendy Hilling) written by a lady who has EB, a rare skin condition which also means her throat is very narrow and she can stop breathing at any time. She and her husband had to take it in turns to sleep for two hours at a time.

In making a plea for people to consider the carers as well as the disabled, I don't mean to suggest that the disabled are not in a much worse situation that the carers. Far from it. I just think that the person behind the wheelchair is very often invisible.