Saturday, March 27, 2010

Plumbing on the mend

Just a quick note to say I'm back. In fact I've been out of hospital since Wednesday morning, taking it easy at home.

Message to anyone contemplating the Bladder Neck Incision (BNI) - it will be uncomfortable for a few weeks but never actually terribly painful. Takes a hell of long time to heal, but it will. Definitely worth it - the difference is really quite startling. Worst part is the way being in hospital and the anaesthetic and the catheter play havoc with your digestion system. Funny how there's never any flatulence in hospital dramas when there's so much in real hospitals.

My recovery is actually faster than I expected - less than a week after being discharged I'm daring to venture out to see Bolton vs Man United at the Reebok. I suspect it'll be worth it, if only to watch Rooney have some fun with our slightly dodgy defence.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Low Water Pressure

There are bloggers who delight in shouting every tiny detail of their lives at the internet. I'm not one of those bloggers.

Tomorrow I'm going into hospital for a bladder operation - if you're so-minded and not at all squeamish you can google on "Bladder Neck Incision" to get way too much information about the procedure. YouTube even have a video of the operation, which I warn you does look like a cross between the end of "2001 - A Space Odyssey" and a slasher movie.

I didn't tell you about all the delightful preliminaries and probes and investigation over the last few months, but I didn't particularly want to say and I'm pretty certain you didn't really want to know.

I'm likely to be in hospital for a couple of nights and then at home straying no far from the toilet for a couple of weeks.

The upshot of this for you is that I'll either be strangely quiet or blogging every hour on the hour for the next few weeks.

Further bulletins as events warrant.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Chief Whip

The best way to annoy someone who claims to support the BNP is to ask them for five BNP policies that aren't about immigration. If they can't come up with five they're just a straightforward racist. If they do come up with five then they are a well-informed racist.

If you do the research (and I did, as a service to my readers) you quickly see that the non-immigration policies seem to have been hastily cut-and-pasted from the "Have Your Say" section of the Daily Mail online. I skipped past a lot of the blah blah - but it was one of their policies on my beloved Law 'n' Order that woke me up with a bump :-

We support the re-introduction of corporal punishment for petty criminals and vandals,

Can you imagine a Magistrates' Court under a BNP government?

"Mister Lifter, you have admitted the offence of theft. We have therefore sentenced you to twelve medium-level strokes of the Number 3 cane across your bare bottom in the town square. Because of your not guilty plea, we'll go easy with the last three."

Magistrates have sworn to implement the letter of the law of the day, no matter how deranged and deluded the government of the day might be. Makes me wonder whether I would actually continue under those circumstances.

Oh, and has anyone noticed that the BNP hates Sharia Law for being brutal and then wants to introduce beatings for shoplifters ?

I guess fascists don't do irony.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Satyagraha@ English National Opera

Da da da da dad dad dad
Da Da
Dadadadadadadadadadad ... dadadadadadaaa

Doodle-a-coodle-a-toodle-a-loodle-a-doodle-a-poodle ...


Philip Glass' opera "Satyagraha" is wonderful music to have on when you're studying. I can testify that three hours of repeated arpeggi over what might as well be random pieces of Sanskrit is the perfect way to soothe your subconscious while your forebrain is trying to make sense of such wonders as the Jordan curve theorem.

Quarter of a century later, I've forgotten everything I know about abstract algebra, but at the performance of Satyagraha by the ENO in London I saw this week, I was shocked at how I had near note-perfect recall of the music.

I should have brought an algebra book though, because unfortunately there's not enough happening on the stage to keep your forebrain occupied.

It's meant to be about how Tolstoy, Tagore, Gandhi and Martin Luther King are stages on the road to "Satyagraha" ("Truth Power"). What that actually involves on stage is men on stilts doing huge origami, giant puppets, and (about 90% of the time) people walking in exaggerated slo-mo across the stage ...

.. left
... to ... right

and then

right ...
to ... left

and then ...

(repeat until brain death - and then a couple more times for luck)

I nearly had a giggle-fit during one of the big metaphorical half-hour paper-folding sessions. It was solemn and serious and probably as allegorical as all get-out, but without warning, my mind conjured up the image of Rolf Harris sitting next to me and whispering in my ear :-
"Can you guess what it is yet ?"
That said, there were many positive points to the evening. The vocalists were incredible, the score is inventive and well worth hearing and the concert orchestra were patient and disciplined.

But bring a book. Or some ironing. Or Rolf Harris.

Friday, March 12, 2010

No Trouble, No Trouble

Thanks to "Soul Music" on Radio 4, I am not going to moan about the BBC for a whole year. They can continue to spend my licence fee money on utter garbage like Graham Norton, Total Wipeout and four-hour amateur dance phone-in shows for every one of those twelve months and they won't hear a peep out of me.

"Soul Music" has a simple premise - that there are pieces of music that have had a huge impact on the lives of a sufficiently interesting range of people. It is currently into its 9th series, and it's amazing to me that they've taken this long to get round to "Dido's Lament" by Purcell.

It's a song of very few notes that has an effect similar to pepper spray on anyone with a soul. Or maybe just me. Anyway, there have been amazing recordings over the years, from Janet Baker to Hayley Westenra and I would have loved just to listen to all of the performances back-to-back. Instead, the programme looked a little deeper.

Firstly it tried to explain note by note just how Purcell managed to ratchet up the emotion. Pretty elementary stuff for any musician I'm sure, but quite a revelation for a civilian like me.

Then, as well as covering the more famous recordings, it spent some time looking at some of the more unorthodox attempts. Alison Moyet didn't quite do it justice in a smoky jazz style, but mostly they looked at Jeff Buckley's performance at the 1995 Meltdown Festival.

I love Jeff Buckley's work and this is one of the best songs of all time. You might expect the combination of the two could not possibly live up to my expectations.

Ohboyohboyohboyohboyohboyohboy !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The cellist at the recording was interviewed and he described how Jeff Buckley arrived with the lyrics written out on paper, with the high notes written high up and the low notes low down. He obviously thought to himself "typical blooming rock star" ... right up to the moment when he started to sing.

Jeff Buckley's voice is a freakish four octave-wide gift from the gods. It's crammed full of raw emotion and undiluted musicality. He took that song from fifteen generations ago that has been performed by thousands of the best singers of all time and made you think about it in a new light. It certainly blew away the cellist who said that the performance made him realise he knew nothing about music. He knew the theory, he could play the notes, but he just wasn't anywhere near to Jeff Buckley in terms of feeling it.

I've said enough - Jeff Buckley's recording is on YouTube and the episode of "Soul Music" is still available on the BBC website for a few days only.


Tuesday, March 09, 2010


I have never seen anyone more in of help than Steve. You couldn't watch him for too long without his constant shaking giving you motion sickness, and he just about managed to stay standing when the charges were put to him.

He was picked up in the toilets of a local supermarket with a bottle of vodka that he had tried to take through the security barrier. The alarm went off, he ran to the toilets and had managed to chug 1/3 of the bottle before the security guards yanked the cubicle door open. He had been in custody overnight, so that was the last drink he had had and he was well into withdrawal when we saw him the next morning.

If it seems a bit harsh to lock someone up overnight for stealing a few gulps of cheap vodka, Steve's problem was that last month he had already been up before the Magistrates for stealing vodka from supermarkets. This previous bench had asked Probation for reports and had sent him for a detox at the hospital. All he had to do was speak to probation, save his own life by attending the detox appointment, come back to court to be sentenced and meanwhile stay out of trouble

Steve, however, was so far into the bottle that he managed 0/4 of these tasks. His defence lawyer said that he didn't attend detox out of fear. I can't begin to imagine just how daunting that must be. Probation's attitude seemed to be that they are already fully occupied with people who want help to be wasting time on those who don't attend appointments. Under these circumstances, Steve was definitely going to prison.

Prison is the wrong place for Steve. He'll dry out sure, but all the problems in his life that led him to drink will be there and then some when he gets out. He also won't be in prison for anything like long enough for the prison service to do any work on him.

So Steve's going to be away for a few weeks. I truly hope he hits bottom there and comes out fighting, but I'm experienced enough now to realise that that 's unlikely. I'm pretty sure I'll see him in court again.

But at least I've helped make the world safe for the big supermarkets to continue to make a profit from selling gut-rot vodka to addicts.

Whoopee ...