Category Archives: Getting old

Getting on with it

“I never see what has been done; I only see what remains to be done”.

That’s what Buddha said.  He said a lot of wise things but I’m not putting that one at the top of my list.   I’m quite happy to see what has been done.  Let’s rephrase that.  I’m sometimes astonished at what has been done (an not necessarily in a good way).

The daily prompt asks what is our favourite daily ritual.  I reckon anybody who says anything other than “going to bed” is having a laugh.   Can there possibly be anything more delightful than climbing into bed after a long day of doing stuff (and seeing what has been done)?

I love my bed.   I climb in and lay back and review the day.   If I followed the example of Buddha and thought about what was to be done tomorrow then I’d still be awake when it is time to get up (although regular visitors  may remember this) and that would never do.   The problem is that during my slumbery (I know, it’s not a word yet.   It will be one day) recollections I remember the bad bits rather than the good bits.   I never close my eyes and think “I did a bloody good job there”, it’s more a case of “Oh lordy, why on earth did I say that?”.   It is ridiculous.   It is the mental equivalent of recording a really good film on TV and then fast forwarding through everything except the adverts.

I sometimes read.   Reading relaxes the troubled soul (I bet Mark Twain or someone similar has a great quote along those lines if only I could expend enough energy to go and look in my Oxford book of famous quotations).    I like a book.  I did try reading on my remarkable tablet thingy but it just doesn’t work for me.    With a book I can gradually nod off and let the literature tumble to the floor.    The tablet is certainly robust enough to cope with cascading off the bed but it tends to fall instead onto my chest.  It has this thing whereby it watches your eyes to see if you are looking at it and it senses movement as well.   A very clever idea but what actually happens is I wake up, roll over and the tablet thinks we are ready to go another few chapters so it wakes up as well.   As it has frequently managed to work its way under some part of the bedding (or on one unfortunate occasion the cat) there suddenly appears a ghostly glow and I have to seek it out and turn it off.   It was quite funny when it lit up the cat though.   You haven’t lived until you have seen an illuminated cat anus.

If a book isn’t to hand then a magazine will do.   The Sunday papers come with enough stock to keep me in late evening reading for most of the week.   There’s a problem with this as well though.   I will read part way through an interesting article on something like how Kim Kardashian is liberating children caught up in war torn Syria and doze off.   When I decide to return to the piece later on the magazine has gone.   Honestly, you would imagine that anything lying on my side of the bed was my property until returned to the proper place but it seems that this isn’t the case and half-read papers are fair game to be removed somewhere else.

Never mind though.   I love going to bed.   It is absolutely the best part of day.   Curiously, the second best part of the day is getting up in the morning.   If I could only learn to love the bits in between then I would be a very happy man.

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Changes

Have I got you singing?    Inside your head is there a little voice going “ch ch ch ch changes”?.

As a schoolboy I had a friend who believed that every single line of song that David Bowie wrote had a second and deeper meaning.   We played along with him for sometime but eventually he just became too pretentious for his own good so we asked him to provide a detailed assessment of the hidden thoughts behind The Laughing Gnome.  It probably ruined his life.

I am not overly fond of changes.   The daily prompt has changed its format and while I can see it has many benefits and looks a lot sexier it took me a while to find what I was looking for.   To be fair, this is probably a reflection on me rather than the new look as the phrase “Have you never been mellow” was staring out at me in 40 point font size (Arial I think, or something very close to it).

The prompt is wondering how we wind down after a hard day at work or at school (or perhaps both if you are a teacher, it doesn’t mention that).    I think if it was rephrased to ask “how do your friends think you wind down…” then there would be a unanimous shout from around the UK.   In fact, let’s try it.

Hey everyone.   How does Robby wind down?  What does he do to chill out when he’s not at work?

 

Did you hear it?  They all shouted “GIN”.

 

Nothing could be further from the truth of course.    Whilst it is fair to say that I enjoy a very small beaker of Mr Hendrick’s finest occasionally I don’t constantly totter around with a bottle of Tanqueray No. Ten at my lips. No, no, no.   I sometimes have a glass of sherry instead.

Relaxing is one of those things that I occasionally excel at.   If I thought I could get away with it I’d put it on my CV.  “In my spare time I sit around and do nothing” but it’s probably not a wise thing to do, I haven’t updated my CV in years mind, I think on the part where I suggest my salary requirements they are listed in pounds, shillings and pence.

Thinking about it, I don’t actually do nothing.   I’m always doing something even when it looks like I’m ready for embalming.    I may be reading a book or I may be sketching a picture (usually in my head, the pictures that I draw in my head are invariably  better than the ones that come out on paper, although whilst sketching a tree in the park recently a very kind -and possibly blind- old dear asked me if I would mind submitting a drawing to a charity auction).

The one thing that I will always be doing is listening to music.   It fascinates me.   I don’t mean classical music, pop for want of a better word.   Almost any pop at all.    It takes me away, it soothes my soul and mends my broken bits.   Regular readers will know that after an unfortunate encounter with an asparagus fern my music centre ceased to function and for a brief while I was singing with no accompaniment.    This is the one area where change has been good, change has been spectacular in fact.   The purchase of a tablet thingy and a healthy investment in some blue tooth speakers has brought Spotify to my kitchen.  I now have all of the music in the world and it is all on a little device smaller than an A4 piece of paper.

The only slight downfall of having all of the music in the world in the palm of your hand is choosing.   With the CD’s you just look at what you have and think “Yup, I’ll listen to S Club Seven’s greatest hits” or “Today won’t be complete until I hear Barry Manilow singing Mandy”.   Where do you start?

I’ve started with Motown.   I think I shall work geographically around the world but what better place to start than Detroit.   This means that whilst you have been singing ch ch ch changes through my little blog I have been Gladys Knight.  Or more accurately I have been The Pips.  There is surely no better thing in all the world than to sing the backing vocals to “Midnight Train to Georgia”, find a copy of the song, get a copy of the lyrics and just sing the words in brackets.   You’ll sing  “Guess who’s gonna be right by his side” and know that you have the glorious “Whoo whoo” coming up soon and a little bit of you will thank me for giving you such joy.

 

 

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Don’t do it

My leg is falling off.

Slowly, it’s a very drawn out process.   If I was a betting man then I’d wager that as I stroll down the High Street tonight I won’t get home and think “Where’s that leg gone?” and have to follow a bloody trail back past Lidl and the myriad betting shops searching for a missing limb.   There’s a possibility that it will never fall off of it’s own accord and somebody will have to take a hacksaw to it and leave me with a stump.   I shall forever after go to fancy dress parties as a pirate.   I may fashion different prostheses to suit my needs.  I shall have a disco leg with LED lights up the side and I shall have a swimming leg with extraordinarily wide feet.   The possibilities are endless.

Of course it isn’t a foregone conclusion that my leg will fall off.    There is a good chance that it won’t.    If one imagines one’s body as road map then there is a serious accident blocking the route down to my southern extremities.   The arterial highways agency have had one go at clearing the route but it was a bit of a failure.   They may have another go one day or they may decide that it would be better to build an alternative route using synthetic materials.   A trunk road in my trunk perhaps.

The question is, who can I blame for this?   I need a scapegoat.   It can’t all be my fault…

The daily prompt asks us what would we do if we could turn back the hands of time.   I’ve been thinking about this whilst annoying colleagues by singing R Kelly songs (I know it was originally Tyrone Davis, I’m not that old though) and decided that I would chose to never meet Ellen Cole.   That would do me just fine.

Ellen introduced me to nicotine.   Roll-ups to be precise.    She could roll a cigarette one handed with her eyes closed.   Probably on one leg whilst balancing a pile of books on her head.   It was the most elegant sight to behold.   How could I not participate in such a beautifully crafted  thing.   I came quite late to the world of smoking but took to it with gusto.   Soon I too could make a smoke that didn’t look carrot shaped and I could strike a match on my fingernail.   How cool is that.

I eventually stopped when the boy was born.   It was easy, both adults in the house at the time smoked and a quick discussion led to an instant cessation.   I chose grapes as my nicotine substitute and consumed half of the Sauvignon Blanc supply in the first month or so but it worked and I was free of the demon.     I remember after one overly fractious row just prior to me leaving I went to the local shop and purchased 10 Benson and Hedges.    The hit after 11 years without was instant and I was straight back in there.

The first time I fell over was on the golf course.   Bag on my back and walking up a hill.   I knew that my leg had been behaving in a curious manner but wasn’t expecting to keel over and find myself doing a passable impression of a dying fly.   The doc found it hard to believe I was suffering from intermittent claudication.   That only happens in old men!   Old men and me and probably another million smokers around the world.   A blocked artery means that the oxygen delivery to the muscles in my leg is not up to scratch and so when the muscles get more active and need more fuel they can’t get it snd go on strike.  From then on I limp (and sometimes topple).  Rest for a while and everything goes back to normal.  How weird.

The medical equivalent of a dynorod team have been in and shoved the medical equivalent of a pipe cleaner through the artery but it seems to have met with limited success and so the build up continues.    One benefit of course is that I am really very good at walking in circles (as long as I only go anticlockwise).  This takes no effort whatsoever.

So there you go.   I am a walking example of why people should not smoke.   Without some serious intervention at some stage I can look forward to weeping and festering ulcers on my leg, stinking gangrene, my toes turning black and dropping off and the rest of my life in a wheel chair.

Please feel free to use this to remind your children why smoking isn’t clever.

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Welcome to the jungle

The daily prompt for today is “Never Surrender”.  I think that this just about qualifies.

I mentioned here about the vegetable patch at the bottom of my garden.   The plot isn’t actually part of the garden but a piece of land to which nobody seems to have claim.  As the land is only accessible by the neighbours and myself and as some of the less renovated dwellings have a garage opening on to this land, we all sort of assume that it is a communal place to do with as we will.

It is quite a sizeable area to be unclaimed.  Adjacent to it is the car park of a church and the church people (with rather unchristian desire) covet our patch of land.    The last invasion attempt involved a couple of cars accidentally reversing into the bordering fence and continuing onwards and backwards towards the rather fine apple trees that somebody planted decades ago.   The apple trees completely outwitted the cars by not falling over and then we residents (in a show of unity not since since the blitz) assembled one Sunday morning and built a sturdier fence that will resist the attacks of the Baptists.   Much like some of the smaller European countries will shall resist our land being annexed.

Back to the vegetable patch.    It is quite large.   I suspect that it is one of the few vegetable patches in West London that can be seen unaided from space.     After 12 months of neglect whilst I was deep in the bowels of Little Project it had become rather overgrown.   Waking at the weekend to the curious sight of no rain I decided to tackle the brambles and the weeds.    If I could only find a medicinal use for blackberry vine and bind weed then I could easily give up on the intoning board and spend my life in luxury.   By Sunday afternoon though I was in a situation where I could sow some seed.

There’s an advert on UK television at the moment for Diet Coke.   It may well be showing world wide.    It features a handsome and muscular gardening chappy pushing a lawn mower.    Several young ladies are watching our hunky hero grafting and one of the beauties rolls a can of Diet Coke down the hill to him.    On opening the can the poor chap is drenched by fizzy soda and so has to remove his shirt and reveal the sort of stomach that can only be gained by hours in the gym (or pushing a lawn mower).   The girls swoon and everybody rushes out to purchase more root beer.

I spent a pleasant hour or so carefully planting seeds into little containers and transporting them to the flimsy lean-to that I laughingly call a greenhouse (it is at least green, mostly from mildew).   There is a water butt that is balanced precariously near to it.  Useful for dipping a watering can in.   The water butt is understandably full to overflowing at the moment.

I approached the water butt, watering implements in hand with the thought of filling.   At this moment the two little cherubs who live next door (aged 6 and 4) approached with some excitement.   “Have you seen the dead fox?”.

Because I was distracted by the little angels, I didn’t pay attention to where I placed my feet.   A quick stumble and I was embracing the water butt in a manner not dissimilar to a fellow cast adrift in a rough sea with only a barrel to keep him afloat.  As I keeled backwards the water butt came with me.    The (full) water butt contains 210 litres (that’s 46 gallons to my colonial cousins) or, to put it another way, roughly four times the amount of fluid it takes me to drive 500 miles in my car.

It was no contest really.   Once it had decided it was going to get me it got me.   The gentle lapping over the side became a torrent as we slowly tumbled backwards.    The girls squealed with delight, this was far more interesting than a dead fox.   Butt and I ended up in a position that would probably be described by my churchy neighbours as “reverse missionary”.    Having disgorged  208 litres of water, Butt then decided that whilst down it would also ejaculate the 2 litres of sludge that had gradually settled at the base of the butt over the last few years.

Wet through and smelling of the stuff that makes roses grow I stood.  Two little girls were rolling on the floor with mirth.

Nobody offered me a Diet Coke.

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It’s about time

“You haven’t written a blog for ages”  they said.

“I’ve nothing to write about” said I.  “It’s not a block, there’s just nothing happened that has inspired me”.

“Make it up” they said.   “We like your blogs”.

(I think they may have been exaggerating)

“You tell me what you want” I retorted with some mirth “and I’ll write it, go on.  Anything you like”.

A debate ensued.   Maybe about the time spent at war in a foreign country?  Far too full of risk and open to misinterpretation.   A trip somewhere ridiculous?    A love story?   “Write us a story of love and lust in the modern age Robby.  That should test your mettle”.

Bugger.

I think I should begin with the disclaimer that the above “Bugger” is an exclamation of dismay rather than part of the love story.  Here goes…

How does it all start?   The young have it easy.  They are beautiful and free of spirit.   They mingle and conjoin with abandon and the broken heart is healed as soon as the next pretty face is in sight.   My love story can’t be about them.   The young know everything about love.  It is the one true aspect of life where they have more experience than the generation before them.  So it always will be.    The youth have the internet, the youth have Tinder and the youth have bravado.  The older one gets the less one understands.    How can an oldie fall in love?

Where shall we go?    The pubs are loud and full of Sky sports.   “grab your coat, you’ve pulled” is less appealing when the sound of your voice is drowned by an inane commentary and the beery cheers of fellow patrons.    The nightclub a dark and heaving mass of thumping beats and pulsating hormones. The sweet and sticky aroma of Vodka Red bull bodes ill for romance.    The gym drips with energy of the wrong kind.  Who could fall in love in a gym?  A brief lust perhaps but love?  It’s not going to happen.

Let us follow the example of our Mediterranean cousins.  Let us visit the coffee shop.   That must be the place to go.   We can converse across a cappuccino  and slowly simmer with a skinny latte.

Now where do we start?  “Nice hat”, “Nice shoes”, “Your dog has just peed on me”.  I guess they will all do.  “Excuse me madam. You have the most bewitching eyes in Christendom and you lips were formed purely to be kissed by me” probably isn’t going to swing it whilst you are waiting for the cry of “Americano for Robby”.   We should save that for later.

So we have met.  Our gaze has locked and there’s a flutter of hand contact in and around the spillage and empty sugar sachets.  You’ve pretended it was an accident.  The mouth apologises, the eyes do not.   We’re stepping in the right direction but there is still the unspoken words.

“Would you…”.

This is the sliding doors moment.   “Would you…”.    “Would you pass me a napkin please? I seem to have dribbled”.   “Would you care to take a walk with me? I adore you”.    “Would you…”.

Those ten words are going to change the shape of your life forever.

Take the napkin and life goes on.  Nothing changes and nothing is bad.   Time goes by and you perhaps occasionally look back fondly at the brief encounter.

Take the walk and life goes on.  Everything changes and nothing is bad.   Your stomach flips and never settles.   Your head will be in disarray for eternity and you will smile.  Forever.

Will that do?   Not exactly a love story but perhaps a story of love.

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Error 404: Sleep not found

Even thus last night, and two nights more I lay,
And could not win thee, Sleep! by any stealth:
So do not let me wear tonight away:

William Wordsworth

I can’t sleep.   More accurately I can’t stay asleep, the nodding off bit comes easily.   I can nod off almost anywhere.  I’ve snoozed through parts of Aida at the Royal Albert Hall.   I’ve dribbled merrily through almost 30% of the Lion King stage show and I have many times woke with dismay just as the train leaves my station (with me still on it).  I wake at some time between 2:30 and 2:45 and then for a handful of hours I am the loneliest man on the planet.   I have normally managed to read every line of every supplement of the Sunday paper by around Tuesday so Wednesday to Saturday are the times when I lay there considering getting out of bed and doing something useful.

I did at one stage collect time.   I try to avoid looking at the (digital) clock by the bedside because it just encourages me to grumble to myself about how long I have been awake.   Sometimes it just can’t be avoided though so I started collecting interesting times being displayed when I glanced at the clock.   3:33 started it off but I’ve collected most of them now.   1:23, 2:46.   It took quite a while to complete my Fibbonacci sequence (up to 55, you can’t do 89 on a digital clock) and I did have to invent some rules to make it easier in the end.

A while ago I got this.

IMG_1637

It just seemed that I had found the perfect number to be awake to in the internet age (the more observant of you may comment “why don’t you do some dusting whilst you are awake you lazy tyke”).

I thought I would investigate my insomnia and determine what is the cause.   I didn’t have to look very far.   It seems that all of my siblings are awake at the same time as well.   Those on Facebook comment about being awake at unearthly hours and those not on Facebook have partners that comment about being woken up at unearthly hours.

The good news about my research tells me that my family are normal.    It’s the rest of you who sleep for 8 hours every evening who are abnormal (another way of looking at this may be that the rest of the world has evolved and we are the 20th century version of Neanderthal man/woman).   Segmented sleep (not the catchiest of names but at least it has one) was once all the rage.  Everybody did it at one stage.   It seems that the “one sleep a night” fad came in roughly with the introduction of street lighting and a more general availability of domestic lighting, prior to that, people would sleep, wake up, go and have a chat with the neighbour and then go back to sleep again.    It strikes me that it would be a bit like a reverse siesta for the night time.

So I have stopped worrying about being awake.   I thank mother for those old but valuable genes that insist I am active during the night and I may even start to enjoy my waking hours rather than curse them.

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It’s frankly quite absurd

Do you want the good news?

Well, do you?

Thought as much.

All that time that I thought the boy was wasting in his bedroom has actually been put to good use (sort of, I think, tell me if you agree).  He has been playing a game called Minecraft.   I must confess to knowing nothing about this game other than it seems to be exceedingly popular and quite flexible in what you can do with it.   So, he’s been messing around and he’s set up a server of some sort and he’s made some mods (or something like that, I’m not actually clear on the details) and he’s posted a copy of what his thingymajigs do on YouTube.

It seems that he’s built London.   Out of what looks like electronic Lego, and you can ride around it on an electronic Lego horse.

How useful is that!

A horse

The remarkable thing about this is that he’s making money from it.   At my last check (13:45 on 18th October) there had been 133,884 people view the YouTube thingy and close on 5500 people had given it the thumbs up.  There have been 45k downloads from his site and countless other downloads from other sites and YouTube are actually paying him advertising revenue.    That is astounding I think you will agree.  It makes his little video thingy approximately 45000 times more popular than my most popular ever blog post.  I was so pleased that I forgot to eat my lunch.

As the proud father of a fledgling games developer I rushed to show work colleagues.   They, like me, have absolutely no idea what minecraft is but hey!   The boy done good.

The trouble is, it has introduced a niggle in the back of my mind.   There’s stuff out there that I have no idea about.   I’m not thinking nuclear physics or sailing a three masted schooner.   It’s the electronic things that make up the lives of the young.

There’s so many things!    I am just old enough to have missed out on playing computer games and so I have no concept of what happens inside (or outside, come to think of it) of an Xbox or a playstation thingy.    I can sort of understand the concept of all of the wireless things that run around my house but making them click together?

I had a music centre.   I know, it’s not a music centre.  It’s probably an multi-function audio playback device or something.  It was a music centre.  A radiogram with a record player.  It also had a wireless connection in it and a hard disk drive so that you could fill it up with music and “never look at a CD again” –  This isn’t necessarily a good thing as I mentioned here but I spent many a painful hour putting the Abba to Zeppelin onto the hard disk.   For a few months it took me about an hour to find the bits of music that I wanted and then for a few months more I could actually listen to the music that I wanted to when I wanted to and the little screen on the music centre showed the sleeve of the album that was playing.   Brilliant!  Sadly my planning was slightly askew.   I didn’t consider the asparagus fern sitting above the music centre and it seems that whilst the asparagus fern really liked to be watered the little electronic device beneath it was not so appreciative.   There was a fizz and a bang and the kitchen was silent (but a little bit smoky and with a vague smell of electrical burning about it).    I don’t have courage to purchase a new one.   It’s far too bewildering.

My computer at home has a touch screen.   I keep forgetting this and occasionally will flick away a piece of dust that has settled on the screen.   This fires everything on the screen to the left (where it presumably falls off the screen, bounces along the desk and ends up on top of my guitar).   I really don’t know why I have a touch screen when I have a perfectly good keyboard and mouse.

Anyway, I bet that the boy could probably build an entire electronic Lego planet with a touch screen.   He may even be able to expand into a new electronic Lego universe that has jet powered horses and music centres that grow on trees so you have to water them.    I’m not going to let him use it though, it will end up with fingerprints all over it.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/daily-prompt-incredible/

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