Archive for the ‘Bi-polar diary’ Category

Summer lost in winter

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Although the country is in the middle of the big freeze and here in Dorset my neighbours say we have more snow than they remember seeing before, my eldest daughter’s family were here just after 2 PM. Little Dulcie led the march up the drive, holding a wire cage containing a small black and white cat, who is named Summer.

Holly had decreed that Summer should not be banished to a cat sitter, but should enjoy Christmas with all the family. With Kath, my youngest daughter, who is coming by train today, after doing her nursing shift today. Roger whose coach from Oxfordshire was half an hour late, arriving at 6 PM. But the connecting bus to Charmouth. which should have left at 5.15 PM was even later. It pulled in just after the coach arrived in Dorchester, so he was here quicker than usual. And the New Zealand cousins, who were  delayed two days in Hong Kong while. Hearthrow airport were battling with the snow and ice. They should be here from London today, snow and ice permitting.

Summer was shut in the kitchen, where Janet was making mince pies and I was doing something or other. Summer ran around in fright, but finally found a resting place on top of the microwave.


When all the luggage, and the food and booze and Christmas presents were in the house, we discovered she had vanished. I was sure she must be somewhere in the house, and spent a wasted hour looking on the top of all the cupboards and underneath all the beds.

The others thought she must have run out of the front door when we were looking the other way.

Neil and Linda, over the read helped to join in the search of the neighbourhood, which went on for hours. Mark next door came round to lend us a gigantic lantern  to help the search when night fell.

Just before I went to bed I listened to Holly’s plaintive cry, ‘Summer’, as she had yet another look around the garden and underneath the terrace decking. It’s only a cat. But it was heart-rending.

I woke at 5.30. Optimistic, because one dream fragment I remembered had Holly coming in to report that Summer had walked back in through the door, which we had left ajar, when we went to bed with a food dish just inside. Desite the below freezing tempartures.

My heart lifted when I got to the hall. The door was closed.

But when I got to kitchen, so was the cat litter tray. And the food was untouched.

So if  you live in these parts and have seen a small black and white cat wandering around, please email me, ASAP.

Evening in the land of dreams

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

We do have about an inch of snow here in London so I allowed nearly an hour to get from my London flat to Euston, where I was due to attend a dream group at the Academy of Dreams. That journey would have taken me ten minutes on my motor scooter.

I was five minutes late.

But it was not because of the snow.

I got to the 168 bus stop outside Marks and Spencer in less than five minutes. And the bus was there on the bus stand, lights up and raring to go and deliver me to my destination.

Or so I thought.

I waited, and waited. Then another 168 turned up and parked behind it.

More waiting and I was beginning to feel cold although the temperature on my outdoor thermometer was 2 degrees above zero when I left home.

Then yet another 168 turned up. No room to park, so the driver went straight on to do get out the way.

What seemed an age later (probably three minutes) bus number one came around to the stop, but with a sign on the front which said Camden Town. (The terminus is in Waterloo.)

So I waited.

By that time bus number three had come back and parked behind bus number two.

More waiting.

Then  bus number three  overtook bus number two and came to my stop, announcing that it was going to the Old Kent Road. (Inside the bus, the sign said, Old Kent Road, Tesco store. Do Tesco pay for this advert?)

I jumped on. And at last we were away.

However, at Camden Town the driver stopped, and yapped away on his mobile phone. Then he announced a change of destination. The bus was now going to Euston! A calamity for the woman sitting beside me who actually wanted to get to the Old Kent Road.

But good enough for me.

That’s reality, folks. Which has taken me away from the subject of this blog, which is dreams.

In the dominant conventional wisdom, dreams are the polar opposite to reality.

But in my own life, I have found that listening to dreams can be a useful guide to dealing with reality.

I found the Academy of Dreams on the web. I was attracted by the title. It implies a respect for dreams, which our society does not have. Not our society, nor our leaders, in the coalition and in Labour, who were mostly educated at Oxbridge.

Most of them are too young to have learnt Greek. Their philosophy comes from blokes like Wittgenstein and Freddy Ayres. Rationalist thinkers.

But the Greek elite took dreams seriously. They ran workshops on them, 3,000 years before the New Age discovered them.

And so  should we.

And so should I.

Which is why I went to Euston tonight instead of writing another blog about the folly of British judges.

Julian Assange has finally got bail. So he won’t have to spend Christmas in prison. But  that is only a temporary reprieve. In the full hearing in January the judge expects him to be extradited to Sweden.

Worse than that. The case against Assange is that he is a ‘nomad’, who is likely to flee justice. This despite the evidence that he is, thanks to the mainstream media, just about the most visible person on the planet.

Whereas  the reality is that Assange’s whereabouts have been known throughout this saga, when he has been living mostly at the Front Line Club in deepest Paddington. This is a journalist’s club for journalists, mostly working for the mainstream media, but who want to do something a bit different to the Press Club, etc.

Where I have been myself several times. So you can take my word for it. They are neither a bunch of loonies, nor a propaganda machine for any political group.

But amazingly the judge thought he would do a runner. This despite the evidence that he is, thanks to the mainstream media, just about the most visible person on the planet.

That same judge went on to refuse one of the people offering bail, John Pilger, whom he branded as another ‘nomad’.

Now, I have never met Assange, but I have known John Pilger for upwards of thirty years. And far from being an elusive ‘nomad’ I have never had any difficulty in getting hold of him through his London flat, to get him to come and talk to my students.

He still speaks with an Aussie accent. But he is also a Londoner.

Reality is sometimes more unbelievable than dreams, so I must say more about this idiot judge.

With Pilger rejected the Assange defence team had to wheel in replacements, and one of those who was acceptable was Philip Knightley, whom I have known as long as Pilger.

The joke is that he too is an Aussie. With a life history which is quite similar to Pilger’s. But his accent  is not so obviously Australian. And, quite as important, he is highly respected by the British intelligence services, who have helped him on his many journalistic coups, including Philby. And, who he has helped, by finding out things which they did not know.

So, although I don’t know the ‘truth’ my gut feeling is that the pursuit of Assange is politically motivated.

But this is supposed to be a blog about dreams.

The dream I talked about tonight is one I had about a month ago. About the time I was working for the Economist, all of 35 years ago.

The content is not important for this blog.

The astonishing thing is that for several minutes after I woke up, I thought  I was still working at the Economist, and I was plotting what I would do when I went in for the story conference today.

Until I realised that I was actually in my bungalow by the seaside. And that the then editor of the Economist is now enjoying the millions he made, as a gentleman farmer in the countryside.

We all dream, and can remember our dreams. And, if nothing else, they are a method of time travel that knocks Doctor Who into a cocked hat.

We can in the still of the  night, re-inhabit a world that has passed.

And find a message useful to us, in 2010.

It is now just after midnight. And I am having a grandiose fantasy.

Perhaps I should write just one book, showing the wonder of dreams and how  they can help dealing with the less wonderful realities of our age.

Qwerty on trial

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Thanks to an email from a scientist friend, I have been alerted to the news that BBC Radio Four is to put the Qwerty keyboard on trial on Wednesday morning at 9 AM. The flier tells me:

All rise for Judge Stephen Fry, in whose court the Qwerty keyboard stands trial.

The Qwerty keyboard was invented in the 1870′s by Christopher Scholes, because of the need to slow typists down. Because the mechanical typewriters of the time caused fast typists to stop, when the adjacent keys got stuck. Qwery continued to dominate, although the problem of the sticking keys was solved and the invention of the electric typewriter in the 1930′s removed it entirely.

Nevertheless the English speaking world continued to use Qwerty, although a much better keyboard layout had been invented by an American management scientist, August Dvorak, in the early 1930′s. You can read this history in five minutes on my other web site:

Tomorrow I am on the road from Toulouse to La Rochelle, so I am not even sure whether I will be able to catch the BBC radio programme. And I don’t know whether I will agree with Fry’s verdict.

But I am sure that the issue is in the public interest, although the series is entitled ‘Fry’s English Delights’, which suggests it is dumbing down unworthy of the taxpayer’s money.

In the computer age there is no problem with sticking keys.

But Qwerty rules.

And so does two finger typing, which is used also on mobile phones.

But on the Ipad, you can touch type.

And it does not take scientific research to prove, that if we use eight fingers, we are likely to do better, than if we use two.

So learning touch typing is sensible. But learning Qwerty takes three times as long as learning Dvorak.

Will Fry’s programme delight us with this knowledge.

We will find out on the night.

On top of the world

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Well, that’s how it seems to me. Ax-les-Therms is roughly the same height as Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales, which is where I spent my first holidays in my boyhood. The house of our friends overlooks the town, standing by the side of the railway line into Andorra. My grandson had the same feeling. It is a spectacular place to play ‘I’m the king of the castle’.

This picture is a week old, because I had no wi-fi in Ax. Now able to catch up from this house in Toulouse, where I have been strolling by the river and enjoying not being in a French hospital. The weather has changed. The sun is no longer beating down. A cool breeze is blowing through the house this afternoon and any minute now we shall have some rain. But it would take more than rain to dampen the spirits of a reprieved man.

I may even do another blog today.

All clear from the French

Friday, August 6th, 2010

The French doctors now have the result of the last of their batttery of tests. The biopsy was clear and they have found nothing else serious so I do not have to return to the hospital at Foix. Instead I have spent my last day on the farm at Paillac taking snaps of the donkeys and the flies.

Last blog and testament?

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Dawn in the French Pyranees. I am trapped in a high-tech French hospital in Foix, the last major town on the road to Andorra, which is one of the smallest countries on the planet. So small that it’s economy is dependant on its neigbours, and it is ruled by joint Presidents, whoever is President of France and an archbishop. Since this is the height of the French summer holiday the road is filled by a constant stream of traffic starting the long climb to the highest mountains, spurred on by the prospect of buying tax-free goods. But at 6.30 AM the silence is deafening. Outside. And in the hospital. The night staff are winding down ready to pass over to the day staff. I have pressed the red button hanging above my head. But no-one has yet come.

I am trapped. On my right side my arm is attached to a glucose drip. On the left another drip is connected to my cock, washing out my bladder and depositing the contents via a catheter exiting to a bag hanging on the bed rail. I am not in any pain. But now I am awake I want to see the sky. The button which raises the shutters is tantalisingly just beyond my reach, so I need some other human being to enable me to greet another day. And prepare myself for whatever I have to face. Which might be totally trivial or something quite serious.

For more than twenty years I have been resisting my wife’s totally sensible request that I make my will, because I have had a totally irrational feeling, that if I make my will, him up there will decide that it means I am ready to go, so he will press the termination button. A silly superstition for anyone, and particularly for me, who believes that it is probable that him up there is a myth.

A few days ago I finally grew up and acted like a mature human being. Rang my lawyer and asked him to draw up a will before my holiday in France starting on 26 July. He pulled out all the stops, and I was able to print out my last will and testament two days before I was due to catch the St Malo ferry. But I still prevaricated over getting it signed and witnessed. Instead stuffed it in my computer case. It stayed there on Monday 26 July by which time I was sitting on the side of estuary at St Suliac, a village a few miles from St Malo, enjoying the sunset (see my daughter’s picture). The following evening I was watching an even more impressive sunset at our first holiday destination, a house at Ax-les-Therms, which overlooks the railway to Andorra, less than 50 miles from the border.

I did not think about the will again, until dawn last Wednesday, which now seems an age away. After my first pee of tthe day I found blood in the toilet bowl. I did not tell anyone. But the next time I felt the call out came a steady bright red stream which looked to me at least 90 per cent blood. I lagged behind while most of the house went out for a walk, thinking over the implications. Shortly before lunch-time, following another red stream, I marched to the sitting room determined to get my will witnessed by whoever was there.

Robert, who is Chinese/American and Magali, who is French, were abviously a bit puzzled, when I put the will on the table, and gave my explanation as to why I wanted it done now, after putting it off for years. But they signed on the dotted line. And then I decided to tell them I was worried and why. Robert was very practical, running through the possibilities, starting with kidney damage (which we both knew might mean I had less than 24 hours to live). But he insisted that I should see a doctor, like, now.  Happily, we found one in Ax who saw us an hour later, and sent us on to the hospital in Foix with a covering letter.

Though it was the early evening when I arrived I was examined within an hour by a doctor. He got so frustrated with my attempts to explain my medical history in French that he fetched a colleague, who just happened to be English (first degree, Oxford, higher degree Sheffield, where he practised for several years before moving to France). He explained that under the French medical system they insisted on a whole battery of tests, many of a kind that were done in England in out-patients. He decided I should stay overnight and that they would do the tests next day.

Byyesterday afternoon, blood tests, x-rays and scans had established the cause of the bleeding was probably in the bladder. This was confirmed by the final test, a camera probe via the penis. However, the urologist could not see anything clearly on his screen, because there was so much blood around. They are going to do it again today after they have washed out my bladder.

This blog was written in my head a week ago, but situation remains essentially the same today. They discovered that my bladder was ulcerated, but they still do not know whether this was caused by something trivial or by a malignant growth. I have to wait til Friday at the earliest to know the result of the biopsy. I was released from hospital last Wednesday evening, after my urine flow had changed from the colour of a decent claret, to rose, and finally to slightly yellow water.

So I have been enjoying my holiday. Well, sort of. Off the booze, because of the anti-biotics. Cutting down on the fags in case I have to go back to hospital conditions and because it will help to delay the progress of my chronic pulmonary disease. Waiting to hear whether I have something even nastier that will keep me away from blogging.  At low moments fearing that I will die in a French hospital, will never see the view of Lyme Bay ever again.

But in lucid moments realising that not only me, no human being, can ever know whether we will live to the next dawn. Whatever we do, however much we look after ourselves, tomorrow we may be struck down by a careless driver on the motor way or a suicide bomber who crosses our path.

And I can at least be reasonably certain, that I am not going to die because I have made my last will and testament. So it’s goodbye to superstition. Next time I see a ladder I shall make a detour to walk under it.

Mr Bean comes to Gospel Oak

Monday, June 28th, 2010

David Miliband, former Foreign Secretary and the front runner in the five horse race for the Laboun Party leadership,  brought his campaign to Gospel Oak this week. He did not have far to come. His house on Primrose  Hill is less than a mile away. But in socio-economic terms, the Queen’s Crescent community centre, in the heart of the Kentish Town council estates, is at the opposite end of the class divide.

Although the leadership election has still three months to go, and it was a hot and sweaty evening, with the World Cup and Wimbledon, keeping most of the nation at home on their sofas, the room was packed.

The tone was friendly and informal. He did not stand up making a pompous speech. He sat down in a white open necked shirt, answering questions put by a friendly journalist, Steve Richards, the Independent’s political editor. He then listened carefully to the questions from his audience, answered them fully, and stayed on afterwards to chat to those who came forward speak to him.

By most criteria it was a very succesful evening. But I was left with nagging doubts as to whether he can master the art of modern leadership, whether he is up to taking on Cameron and Clegg in next time’s TV debates.

He emphasised that too much emphasis had been put on his boyhood as  the left-wing intellectual and son of the Marxist scholar, Ralph Miliband. His schooling had been in Leeds and at Haverstock School, alongside many children from the Kentish Town council estates. True. But it is also true that he is even more at home at an Oxbridge style seminar.

Would make a first rate university teacher.

And, I took several photos. But the all came out making him look like Mr Bean.

Wimbledon’s epic struggle

Monday, June 28th, 2010

By far the outstanding sporting drama of the week was the marathon struggle on the Court 18 between John Isner, the American seeded at 23, and Nicholas Mahut, a Frenchman, seeded at 48. Neither man was a star, but they kept the crowd entranced over three days, with some outstanding tennis and above all a determination never to give up. It was the longest tennis match ever, lasting 11 hours 5 minutes and totally 183 games. Isner served 112 aces, the fastest at 143 mph. Mahut served 103 aces, the fastest at 128 mph.

In the last set Isner won 70-68. It could have been boring, because 137 games followed the same pattern, with the server winning his own service. But not easily. Each player several times came near to breaking his opponent’s serve. And the stunning aces were interspersed with long rallies, which had the crowd holding its breath, the outcome of many games in doubt until the final point.

In the final set Isner was serving first. He is a tall rangy man, looking mostly relaxed and confident. 6 ft 3 ins and representing one of the world super powers. On the other side of the net, the man from France, who have not ruled the world since Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo in 1815. Mahut is smaller, wiry rather than hefty. Intense with concentration. Frequently, looking worried. As well he might. Because he had to serve second for 69 games, knowing all the time, that if he slipped up he was out.

Several times he covered his anguish with the towell over his head. When the end game he looked stunned.

But the crowd cheered and cheered, bringing him back on to his feet. And, the Queen, paying only her second visit ever to Wimbledon, went down to say a few kind words.

How not to play football

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Little Joe got a lesson on how not to play football from the England team.

When you get the ball make sure you pass it to a Frenchman, the ones in the white shirts.

When you have a clear view of goal from twenty yards, show all your strength and boot the ball as near as possible to the top of the stand. If you are not feeling that strong, look fierce and shoot for the middle of the goal keeper’s chest.

Don’t worry abou defence. It’s the goal keeper’s job to stop the Germans getting the ball in the net.

The final score was German 4, England 1. But Germany might easily have scored seven or eight goals, given the number of times David James was facing three white shirts, with not a red shirt anywhere near the penalty area.

Just cricket on a Sunday afternoon

Monday, June 21st, 2010

To Warborough yesterday for lunch with brother-in-law at the Six Bells, where the new landlord provided a half-way decent English lunch cooked by his young Polish chef. He has only been here four years but he speaks English with a classier accent than most of those born within earshot of the traffic in Camden High Street.

And after lunch a welcome change from the hype of the World Cup and Wimbledon. Cricket as it used to be. Played by the locals on the village green.

Undisturbed by police sirens. There was not a single Midsommer murder all day. 

Not a sign of Inspector Barnaby, CBE. He must have been at home polishing his medal.