Thursday, 27 November 2008

Using titles, or not

I've read one or two reports which mention that guidelines are to be put in place next year about how nurses address the elderly. Apparently terms such as "love" and "dear" will be out, and the preferred mode of address will be Mrs --- or Mr ---.

Well, fair enough - to an extent. But my own experience suggests to me that it's less about the words or the terms of address, and more about the attitude of the person using them. For instance during a mercifully brief stay in hospital I was always referred to as Mr --- (obviously they used my surname rather than just dashes), but it was often said in a tone of voice which seemed to communicate something like I may be calling you Mr --- but I'm talking to you like you're a small child. And it grated.

On the other hand, I remember my paternal grandmother (ie not the one who's just turned 93) being in hospital just under 20 years ago - frail, tiny, disorientated, needing much care - and I remember one of the nurses taking her by the arm to lead her down the corridor. As they walked the nurse referred to her as "sweetheart." My grandmother at the time was maybe 88 or 89.

Now if you weren't there, this might sound exactly like the patronising, infantilising (is that spelt correctly? Is it a word?), insulting kind of thing that the guidelines are trying to do away with. But I clearly remember it being said with such clear tenderness and respect, that it stayed in my mind and seemed to help keep a sense of life and spirit about my grandma.

Well I can only speak from my own experience: but like I say, the attitude of the nurses in question, over and above the terms of address they might have used, seems to have been the crucial factor.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Mixed Emotions

I've just had a great day at work, an absolutely nourishing day working on art with people I've never met before - and producing wonderful and inspiring results. I wish for more days like this, and that my future work can head ever more in this direction.

My grandmother is 93 today, I never thought that she'd get this far, and this time last year I thought that her 92nd birthday would more than likely be her last. My sincerest birthday wishes to her, bless her soul.

My mother is in hospital and I'm really saddened, upset and concerned.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Tags (8)

I was tagged recently(ish) by one Rob Clack, and it suits me to confront that particular tag today. Unwelcome and worrying things are afoot, so - in a manner not dissimilar to the last time I was tagged - it should provide a welcome distraction. As per usual I shall not be passing this on to anyone, but feel free etc. As with Rob himself, I doubt I'll manage seven answers to each question.

Here we go then:

7 Things I want to do before I die:

To produce the work that I feel I have the potential for, whether in terms of music, visual art or any other creative medium (I would be tempted to say writing also, but that feels like vanity more than anything else). Above all, to be able to engineer the kind of situation where such things are possible.

To take a long journey on one of those hand-propelled railcar things where you propel it by pushing the lever down in the middle.

To eat clam chowder in some roadside food joint in the midwest after such a journey. Just because I like the sound of it.

To finally learn another language beyond a few useful phrases here and there.

See more of the world, and also revisit some favourite places.

Numerous other things which are too personal for the likes of blogging.

7 things I do now:

Worry. Work. Cycle. Drink. Sneeze. Laugh. Cry. Not always in that order.

7 things I can't do:

Switch off. Have a lie-in. Drive. Be without earplugs. Afford a house. Tolerate the city centre on a Saturday afternoon especially at this time of year.

7 things that attract me to the opposite sex:

Any number of potential combinations of personality, looks, figure. Trustworthiness. A foreign accent is never a bad thing either. Also, a lack of certain things is important, such as being manipulative.

7 things I say most often:

Bollocks (and plenty of other such curses and oaths).
I don't know.
Speak up a bit, would you?

7 Celebrities I admire:

You must be bloody joking.

7 Favourite foods:

Too many to mention really, from Indian, Chinese, French, Italian, Greek and so on and so forth, down to stuff like cheese on toast.
I hope one day to be able to add clam chowder to my list of favourite food though.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

A few more

As threatened, I've added a few more pictures from the weekend (I'd worry about the person who didn't realise this).

This week has gone quicker than I expected, I thought it would really drag given that I had such a good and memorable weekend, but without taking any days off work to recover: I had travelled straight over to see my friends on Friday evening, and the following morning we flew to Paris. We were back home late Sunday night (I haven't blogged the Sunday, not because there were any secrets or because it was any less enjoyable than the Saturday. It just feels like what I've written already is enough to capture it) and I was at work on Monday.

I think what helped on my return to work (though it really wasn't easy) was being there to run the art session on Monday: whatever else happens, getting home and finding I've still got flecks of paint on my hands and under my fingernails, reminds me that there are things which are worth holding on to no matter what.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Deja vu

There's always a sense of revisiting certain things in oneself when seeing a place for the first time. True enough I've been to Charles de Gaulle airport before, but up until Saturday morning that was about as near as I'd got to Paris itself. In the twelve years that have elapsed since I'd previously passed through the airport on a changeover for Geneva - the day after my father was cremated - that same building might well have changed beyond recognition.

Still, as we blearily made our way through the bustle and turned a corner to where we would take the escalator to the exit, my breath momentarily left me, so taken aback was I by how the escalators crisscrossed in sequence, each sealed in its own glass tube, to and fro - and up and down - across a central, circular atrium: because this sparked a vivid memory very much generated internally, from a dream maybe two or three years ago. Amazing how one can sculpt a space in the recesses of one's mind, and subsequently find such a close counterpart in the outside world.

Given the fact that I didn't exactly feel fully awake anyway, after a week of wading through treacle and catching up on lost sleep - and then beginning the day at 5am - then the surreal, dreamlike atmosphere evoked by the collision of the external and the internal was particularly strong. The more down-to-earth sensations of fresh mid-morning air and the incessant revving of car engines, as we headed through the exit to grab a taxi into central Paris, served to prod me back into the realms of the here and now.

We had two days and one night, and we damn well made the most of them. Here on the other side of that wonderful, enriching, nourishing experience, I still have no overall sense of bearings as far as the central districts of the city are concerned. We weren't there long enough for me to establish a clear sense of its geography, but I'm glad of it - it adds to the sense of having been in an absolute whirl throughout the whole time we were there.

What sense of perspective I did gain, was more about what impacted on me internally - a reorientation, a reminder of what makes me tick, of the things that should still be possible. A revisiting of familiar and most welcome territory, thrown into sharp and vivid relief thanks to being in a new place in the outside world: on this occasion Paris. With all it could possibly offer in such a relatively short space of time.

So we did the complete and utter tourist things: starting out taking in the Louvre, and thinking: well, we might as well see the Mona Lisa while we're here. It would have felt a little too churlish not to - but what really did it for me was the huge work by Cimabue which I've known for years thanks to the various art books I've perused and owned. Such a familiar image still had capacity to surprise, almost to shock, such was its commanding presence. And again, that sensation of experiencing something familiar whilst being there for the first time.

The crowd snapping away like paparazzi at the more famous painting - most famous painting - mentioned above, were thankfully not too much to prevent us from negotiating a path through to get a reasonable view. At such times though, faced with something like the Mona Lisa, I experience a certain blankness - what am I supposed to feel, to gain from seeing something which is already indelibly imprinted on my brain through numerous reprints of it in books, on slides, tv - not to mention Duchamp's own bastardisation of it?

Been there, done that and perhaps, for the time being, not much more. And not enough time to linger anyway.

The weather was perfect for our purposes, since we intended to spend a lot of time exploring on foot. Though the sky was grey there was barely more than a hint of drizzle, and it was very pleasantly mild. Ideal for walking.

Having exited the Louvre and not even managing to find the coffee shop in there (if there is one) we took a stroll along the banks of the Seine towards Notre Dame, stopping at a cafe on the way. Coffee certainly helped to bring me round a little more, and the croque monsieur was the best I've ever had. Mind you, it was also the first time I'd ever had croque monsieur, so it would have been rather worrying if it hadn't been the best.

In fact, it would have been time to start asking some very grave questions indeed. For how could it have been second best in any way?

Erm, anyway. Enough about the croque monsieur.

I'm not even going to try and describe Notre Dame, I'll just descend into cliche - but it did pretty much knock me for six. I still was having to remind myself at this point that I was in Paris - after all, we'd flown here earlier in the morning, gotten straight out of the airport and into town, and had already spent two or three hours being bombarded by pretty powerful visual information and experience - and we wouldn't even be checking into the hotel for a while yet. But Notre Dame moved me - its sheer size and scale, and spectacle. We lingered, and at this point felt unhurried. Time for the dust to settle just a little.

Sometime on Saturday evening we were wandering down the Champs-Elysees. By this time, after seeing more sights and wandering here and there we had checked in - had a little time to get rested and refreshed, and to give the stamina a boost for more walking and exploring. The morning seemed a long time ago already, since we had managed to fill so much of the time with what might otherwise reasonably take a couple of days.

I was feeling by this point like I was coming to terms with these new surroundings. Just previous to this, in the Tuileries Gardens, I did what I often do: I found the space in which to break away from my companions for a little while. Not far away, not even out of sight, but just enough to be out of earshot. In the late afternoon light, the Gardens were tremendously atmospheric, and I wandered around at a leisurely pace, absorbing the scene as much as I could.

By now I could tell that I was feeling that I had banished everyday concerns - I felt very much enveloped in the moment. I could react to what I could see around me with fresh eyes and ears and a fresh mind - not just because it was new territory, but because the preoccupations of everyday life, those things which all too often allow subtlety and nuance to be reduced to little more than a dull thud, had shrunk away back to the deeper recesses of my mind. So now, little events - shadows cast, lights playing against the trees, people walking by - now took on a greater sense of melody, of more finely-wrought texture. I felt liberated again, back to a very welcome place.

In other words, to echo what I've said in a previous post somewhere, I felt like I was home again at last.

Later there would be many more things to do and see, to converse over a few drinks and to reflect. But this for me was the moment I needed more than anything else.

I've written enough for one evening, though if you've scrolled down here before reading it, I'll provide a summary:

I had a bloody good time.

Hope you enjoy the pictures, I may post some more.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

A number of unrelated matters

...well, three unrelated matters anyway. But then, three is a number after all.

*Regular reader(s) might know I've not exactly been unwell of late, but not exactly 100% either: tiredness, lethargy, cold symptoms (including binge-sneezing) amongst other things, compounded a few days ago by sleeplessness and also a cricked neck. Most of the symptoms haven't been so bad in themselves, the problem has been that they've been lingering for 2 or 3 months now, and it's not really much fun.

So I went to the doctors, and it appears that I may have an allergy. I'll be having some blood tests soon, in the meantime I'm taking some anti-allergens: they've stopped the binge-sneezing at the very least and I'm hopeful that some of the other symptoms will be relieved too.

Also my sleeping patterns appear to be settling down (thank goodness - I'm utterly rubbish if I miss out on sleep), though this is a seperate thing from any possible allergies, and more the aftermath of hectic and intense times at work, what with the audit amongst other things. It has at times been difficult to switch off from a constant flow of thoughts and of information.

*This coming weekend I'll be in Paris.

*RIP Mitch Mitchell

Tuesday, 11 November 2008


One of the frustrating things about being wide awake between 3am and 5.45am is knowing just how tired you'll be throughout most of the daytime.

Sunday, 9 November 2008


Not much to report at the moment, unless I'm to continue moaning about feeling tired and all the rest...but that would be tedious.

So just a brief post, and another favourite song of mine to link to (and no, nothing as out there as the last one I posted). While I really love the music, there's a demo version of this on the original release which is just a voice and a quietly-strummed acoustic guitar - it's devastating, and highly poignant.

The lyrics carry a lot of resonance too.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Election day collision food

It's been one of those days in which I've felt constantly tired throughout. I wanted to stay in bed, felt like dozing while I was on the bus, and took a good hour and several cups of tea at work before I felt capable of functioning at any kind of level.

Even though it's been an ok sort of day and I've got plenty done, I just haven't managed to shake that tiredness: my eyes have felt like they're set 3 inches further back in their sockets, and have had that achiness which feels like it can only be quelled by many hours of deep sleep. My limbs have lacked energy, I haven't had the co-ordination, I've been clumsy and distracted.

Whenever I've had a moment's stillness I've just wanted to curl up and sleep.

So I did have a lie down and a bit of a doze immediately upon getting home, and that has served to refresh me just a little.

What got me out of such a state of repose, though, was the thought of food.

I wondered if I should be lazy and go to the chipshop. No, no point in spending the money, and I'm not sure if I can be bothered to step outside the door again, at least just yet.

Perhaps I might cook myself something simple and straightforward with the veg I've got left in the fridge, perhaps with rice or pasta and some herbs and spices. Nah, don't really feel inspired by that. Again, can't be bothered.

Then I remembered some of the things I'd got left in the cupboard: a tin of chipshop-style mushy peas; some tinned mackerel fillets (in mustard sauce); some super-noodles (with sachet of barbecue beef sauce).

Somehow, this latter range of options inspired me. Or at the very least, the idea of heating them up, throwing them in a bowl and eating them all together made me grin. One thing for it then: a bit of cordon-bleu-style opening of tins and heating of food later, and I was faced with a steaming bowl of bbq beef noodles, chipshop-style mushy peas, and mackerel fillets in mustard sauce.

I wonder if there might be something in the rather bizarre collision of flavours that might have appealed since they might - whether seperately or in this odd combination - serve to bolster my flagging system? Who knows. I did half-expect the whole thing to taste disgusting.

Perhaps on a day when I might feel more like my normal self (if there is such a thing) it might indeed have tasted disgusting. But this evening, and probably this evening only, it was fantastic, and I feel much better.

Saturday, 1 November 2008