Monthly Archives: January 2016

Finally something I am good at

My target was 4 somethings over up to 3 days and I achieved 8 somethings in one day!

The doctor said I had done really well. I felt like I had actually won the egg and spoon race at Eynsford County Primary instead of coming second to last (only the boy with permanent conjunctivitous was slower) – and I dropped my egg.

It is so to be recorded that I am a positive superman at producing stem cells. The nurse was right, it did hurt but it was worth it. The best bit is I don’t have to go back again and I can dispose of (I said chuck out but was corrected) all my stem cell simulation drugs and syringes Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah. They have an absolute bucket load of potential me’s – enough to repopulate the Isle of White at least.

The whole process was not too bad actually – at first the pumping bone pain is quite intense – it really does feel as though your bone marrow is being pumped out your backbone, but plain old paracetamol works very well and you get used to it. The blood goes in one side and out the other. The outlet is your biggest vein in the crook of your arm and I must admit the needle is on the big side. Note size of outlet wound compared to inlet wound

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The reason you can’t move your arm, as was so vividly explained by the nurse, is that the needle stays stuck in your arm and were you to bend your arm it would pop clean through the vein and out like a friendly meerkat. Luckily in my case the inlet was a titchy little cannula (sp) with a plastic floppy needle thing leaving me free to wave to the crowds or sup tea. Tea is not advisable though for reasons already stated.

The one weird but painless side effect is your lips tingle. This is caused by the machine using up your calcium somehow and is counteracted by some nice fruit flavour calcium tablets – I had 6 in all.

I had a nice lady from Scunthorpe next to me also with Myeloma and also with the same pounding pain. She had thought it was her arthritis in the same way as I thought it was computer shifting. We talked about her dogs, a border terrier cross that stole the Sunday joint and a Jack Russell that bit the vet, and regaled each other with tales of laxatives.

As ever the care was exemplary with one nurse assigned to each patient. They have to tweak the machines, which look and sound like very high tech twin tubs, in order that the ‘layer’, a very thin layer in the blood where the stem cells reside, is skimmed off by the centrifuge. They do this by peaking into a sort of viewing hole- a bit like a seaside what the butler saw machine – and tinkering with numbers. This continues intermittently throughout the day punctuated with an enormous amount of note taking. I do hope someone reads them. Heres an interesting fact. As you know for any procedure the patient is obliged to sign a consent. My nurse said that in all her 14 years no one had ever refused to sign. Is it just possible that this little bit of bureaucracy is a waste of time and money. Wouldn’t it be easier for consent to assumed unless someone says so.

Anyway a very pleasing conclusion to the day, relayed to me by a charming doctor by telephone at 7.00 in the evening. I am supremely grateful to the glorious national health and all who serve in her. Three cheers – hip hip hooray, hip hip hooray, hip hip hooray.

Oooo that pumping sensation!

Yesterday I thought I had done my back in again. I made the mistake of picking up a computer and moving it to another room and and later I felt somewhat odd. Spent the night awake fretting and in moderate pain. I knew that today I would have to lie still for up to six hours and as it stood six minutes was pretty unendurable. Arrived at the stem cell unit and told them all about it – Lo! It’s a really good sign that the bones are pumping out the marrow stem cells – pain in the back, thighs and sternum – apparently people have been admitted to A&E thinking something has gone horribly wrong – someone please remind me to read the list of side effects properly when I get given a new drug. I don’t do so because my tendency is to embrace symptoms like lost puppies – warmly and for life. Once I was informed the symptoms fell away like the rose petals in American Beauty, indeed the more it hurts the better I feel – Perhaps this is a potential new pain management technique just tell people that the pain is good for them.

Waiting for two hours at Leeds hospital to see if I am ready to go on machine – then no weeing for 4 hours or so – yikes.

Photo on 19-01-2016 at 14.00

now i am all plumbed in and have only one spare hand. i pity those people whose veins are such that they have no free hand at all – cannot scratch an itch for themselves – holding out without weeing ok. the stuff on the right are my stem cells – its going well – 2 more hours

A serious challenge for my scholarly readership

Over the years I have developed an obsession for a piece of music by Monteverdi * that ends his opera Coronation of Poppea written in 1642.

Here it is. I love this recording, but it is 1 min 18 seconds into this video

What (I think) I know about this piece (no serious scholarship ever undertaken), and what makes it so fascinating to me is as follows: –

1. It is a love duet between Nero and his prostitute wife Poppea after she has contrived to ascend the throne of Rome leaving a trail of blood and misery. It is based on real events recounted by Tacitus.

2. The opera is framed by various goddesses, in articular ‘Amor’ the God of Love is set against the goddesses of Fortune and Virtue or Wisdom (I think). Amor intervenes directly in the action.

3*. It is said that this duet may have been the work of one of Monteverdi’s pupils (don’t think dopey nerd who knows a few power chords though). Cavalli is mentioned.

4. It is thought that the audience would both have known the story of the real events and may have also known that subsequent to the marriage Nero kicks Poppea to death in a jealous or drunken rage.

So my questions relate to the following possible scenarios

1. Audiences of the time just wanted a good happy ending and did not care about the story – so Monti provides just that.

2. Monteverdi was being incredibly modern and ironic in not musically hinting at us what a couple of bastards we have here.

3. The fact that ‘love trumps all’ is sufficient to justify an ending of such beauty and thus negates any need for musical subtext

4. Monteverdi’s pupil had not read the story and just churned out a crowd pleaser

5. Monteverdi lost the plot – he was very old

This duet seems to me like an ending unlike any other in the canon of the time (not that I know sod all – Charles help please) in so far as evil is truly triumphant, there is no moralising summation, no irony, no attempt to hint at anything other than a deep loving joy proclaimed by two of the nastiest characters in all opera.

Anyone prepared to do the reading necessary, listening, viewing to find out? I would really love to know what the most likely scenario was.

Facing Vlad

Significant achievements of the day

1) Stayed in bed till 1:30 feeling rough after a night of weeing but hurrah no puking
2) Got up feeling much better
3) However lay in front of telly? First time I have watched afternoon TV – so felt like a looser
4) Could not focus on anything challenging so read the circuit diagrams for my –A/B coin box – pleased that having read electronics for dummies could nearly make sense of it.
5) And …. figured out how to connect it to the exchange and a phone and much to my surprise it worked
6) Had to find some old coins that fitted it. The new decimal coins must be a different size despite being the same denomination
7) Revelled in the sound of the two gongs indicating the insertion of  10p and the 2p – oh unabated joy!
8) Riding this wave of triumph faced up to the grizzly prospect of injecting myself.
9) Decided to run at it, like a ski jump – no time to think about Vlad
10) Strode with purpose and resolve to fridge
11) Got my box of bristling goodies – like hedgehog freezopops.
12) Hurried to my room – did not want Maria to witness the display of raw courage tempered with shaky hands and loose bowels
13) Swabbed my belly and felt momentarily quite “Trainspotting” would have preferred a rubber hose in the teeth – rather than a rubber belly twixt thumbs
14) Remove cap from needle as instructed (pointing away from oneself) seems unnecessary as surely an accidental impalement is as good as a deliberate one – although injecting in the eyebrow or up the nose might not have the same benefits
15) Maintaining a ski jump velocity launched the quivering lance into the blubber
16) Blimey an absolute doddle
17) Emerge shining with delight to write this blog and cast Vlad to the wind.

Home with stone age vomit response supressed

I have emerged from my day of imbibing and passing fluids. I must say it was a very pleasing day all in all. There is nothing more relaxing than being cared for and waited on hand and foot with no nagging sense of guilt, after all I could not exactly nip off to Costa – although some hardy smokers are to be seen in the carpark with their tripod wheely things . I suppose I could have gone to Costa but I was pretty embarrassed just walking through the hospital waiting room, like some harbinger of ‘this could be you if your diagnosis is crap.’  The tripod wheely thing really is the ultimate badge of poorlyness even more than a wheelchair in my view. It elicits a kind of – ‘oh God what’s wrong with him, must be really bad’ sentiment. At the most I had two bags on my tripod my friend across from me had four and his had protective black bags over them, like monks hoods – we competed as to whose tripod communicated nearest to death. He won.

The drugs do their work over the next three days basically destroying cells in order that new ones can emerge – unfortunately the primitive part of the brain assumes that you have eaten a mouldy  or some icky stone age sabre tooth kebab and accordingly induces you to puke – not realising that the kebab has been given intravenously and puke as much as you like it aint going nowhere. So I have three days worth of primitive part of brain switch off vomit reflex drugs. I also have to inject myself in the stomach once a day with what the nurse described as a tiny needle. I would count anything longer and thicker than a petite baby’s eyelash as not tiny and this constitutes at least two drawing pins in length and a strand of capellini pasta in girth. I don’t relish it at all. She was worried enough about my preparedness to cope, to suggest I came into the hospital so they could observe me do it to myself. Can you imagine inflicting pain on yourself with a sharp instrument while being judged by a professional panel – no thanks. Anyway first ‘shot’ is tomorrow night. Wish me luck.

A view from the chemo bridge

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This is my view from the bridge. It’s very quiet here today but the lovely chatty nurses keep me company and lavish me with tea and quality street. I also get my lunch here – quite a picnic, crisps, cake and sandwiches – I feel like I am at Charlie Chalks – I am hoping for a balloon at the end “I have had chemo today”.

I am being pumped with stuff for 9 hours solid so plenty of time to blog. Because of the volume of liquid being pumped in one is obliged to relieve one self of it about every hour still attached to all the tubes. I have seen this in movies but never had a go myself. It’s a surprisingly free spirited process. First you unplug a couple of devices from the mains, at the back of your mind is the thought that you might A – accidentally unplug the person next doors life support, B – deflate like a punctured lilo, then you need to wrap the wires around your wheely tripod thing as the alternative is to negotiate a load of tubes and a load of wires like something from Jules Verne with the potential to end up in an undignified sprawl as you slip surreptitiously past the waiting room. Having negotiated a series of doors cunningly not designed for persons bearing a wheely tripod thing you with your voyeuristic tripod wheely thing take a leak or a dump. However during said process the machine that pumps stuff may sound it’s alarm. The effect is an instant curtailment of urinary flow and thus the commencement of a vicious circle –

A little while later – I am now on the the heavy duty poison and feel completely stoned – not bad – very good indeed! I have just conducted an interview with two charming medical students while under the influence – oh dear – I hope I did not go on about God or vintage telephones. Very interesting chat, at least for me. The cyclophosphamide is my usual chemo but this mega dose has produced my usual Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds symptoms – it seems that almost any drug induces euphoria in me – aren’t I lucky.

Something to set the stem cells flowing


Sadly, I gather that the stem cell gathering process that starts tomorrow does not lead to the potential for a new me – wrong sort of cells. I quite like the idea of popping back in 1000 years time to see how things are going, although what I have at the moment seems unimprovable (strange word) so coming back in 1000 years only to be disappointed that things aren’t as good as they were (arghh what is the future pluperfect historic conditional) is not so desirable. The future will have to make do with my telephonic vocal mausoleum complete with a computer voiced version of me produced by my incredibly kind and staggeringly clever friends at Cereproc . I have yet to realise its full potential, but by way of a demo here is a recording of my voice (recorded) and my voice (computer generated) dipping in and out of a poem written specially for the box (see if you can tell who is who) – just to be clear this is an in progress rough demo (with a number of tech issues) and does not show off the potential of my new toy – but to be doubly clear and for those ignorant of computer generated voices, most of the sentences spoken have never, ever, been spoken by me, they are spoken entirely by the computer reading the text from the screen – impersonating me. Many pauses and quiet bits please listen on hifi or headphones.

As a special bonus you can now see live video from the inside and from the outside of “Marge” here – if you are very lucky you may see a visiting punter, although spiders are still the most enthusiastic subscribers.

…and as a final offering I have installed an Asterisk telecoms server at home with which I hope to produce some more interactive versions of the ‘me’ voice but for now it just has a test message with a Becketian/Hawkings piece I wrote for two characters with the same voice – Dial 01904 215445 (normal geographic charges) or VOIP 0904 87 290 (no charge) At the moment it will only accept one caller at a time – very early days, very big how-to book.

Please note – all the above systems are subject to complete melt down – the most common reasons being; me messing stuff up or our frequent power cuts.

Got that off my chest – now what’s next – ah yes 2016

Hurrah next week I start two weeks of treatment to harvest stem cells. I shall be quite ill.

In case I die, unlikely as it is not a dangerous procedure at all, but as death by some other means – excessive sloth, excessive gobbiness, assasination or excessive consumption of parma violet chocolates – made in York and unsurpassed in the canon of great choccies, is a distinct possibility, I thought I would supplement the well known ten commandments with some more of my own, updated to take into account my whims and changes of resolve. BTW – One of few things I find unacceptable about Jeremy Corbyn is his reluctance to change his mind – this is a dangerous characteristic he would do well to moderate. There is nothing like a good U-Turn to command my respect – only complete monsters are ‘not for turning’ and we don’t want anymore of those. Showing unassailable resolve only pleases the sort of nits who think the second word war ended in our favour because we had a leader in Winnie who showed resolve, conveniently forgetting about things like the Russian Front, American cash, the weather and luck.

While I remember – I have redesigned my main page to make it easier to access my wisdom – personal, professional and poetry – go to  to enjoy my many fruits.

A little navel gazing follows –

I apologise, I guess I really am a pompous old git now. No that’s not it, really – I just like being perverse. I promise I do actually really like most people, nearly everyone actually, but there is something about certainty, about believing stuff, that really rattles me and makes me want to shout at people and hate them. I can’t accept the idea that anything is beyond the reach of ridicule and debunking. Nothing is sacred, absolutely nothing – I could really offend (but I wont) by listing the things, people, ideas that are subliminally designated by the Appleton set (model for many other similar ghettos) no-go areas when it comes to a good arse kicking – I was recently reminded by  friends of a few I have already targeted that can be safely repeated; poppy day (the biggest changer of my blog), being charitable, social responsibility, earning a living, knowing stuff, doing stuff, owning your own house, sending birthday cards, jacuzzis, reading books, – seriously would you dare go to a friends house for dinner bearing a half decent bottle of prosecco from Waitrose and pronounce “Actually I encourage my children not to read as I can’t be bothered to read those poxy boring kiddie books with them.” – all I am saying is, that this view,  along with any other contrary view imaginable has more power to disrupt, to cause change, to entertain and to puncture complacency than the self congratulatory remarks we (especially me) made as competitive middle class parents about reading the complete works of Turgenev to our children when they were two. Its also massively more fun and fun is fun. Middle class social interaction requires that you spend a good part of your energies in constructing a persona who has a ‘very little brain,’ but is not half so appealing as Pooh Bear.

Things I still really care about – no U-Turns yet

  • My beloved family and friends – without them the universe is nothing
  • Speaking my mind – being ill has empowered me – I like the ill me so much more than the well me. Sadly others don’t.
  • ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ – the passion that drives people to compete, perform and to care so fiercely – also the production standards are through the roof
  • That all gods are bad news and we should learn to do without them
  • That we need an equal gender divide in politics and all positions of power
  • My cats and the hens that live in the field – not so much the ones I eat.
  • That we could do without government all together
  • That we need a government that taxes us fat-cats to blazes to pay for
  • …the staff at the Magnolia Centre in York who look after me
  • Vintage telecommunications applied to melodrama, music, opera and sound design
  • That we don’t need borders, nations, races, genders or santa
  • I really must finish my Teddy poems and my photography project.

Things I pretend to care about

  • Socialism/politics
  • Anyone beyond my family and friends and whoever catches my attention on the BBC news – come on lets face it if I really cared I would not devote my time to poetry, melodrama and old phones
  • Cancer – I care to survive I don’t care to know or to revel.

Things I have wasted my time doing in the last 18 months

  • Worrying – trouble is I’ve done it for 58 years probably can’t stop
  • Fiddling with things beyond my capability – difficult programming requiring mathematical literacy, small mechanical items eg clocks – not got the brain, patience or dexterity
  • Following plots eg. Dr Who, Endeavour, just about anything with more than two characters – utterly impossible
  • Being nice to bigots who deserve to die
  • Being angry with bigots who deserve to die
  • Selling on Ebay – who cares about making money its only fun to spend it and buy stuff.
  • Replying to e-mails that are headed ‘Staff development opportunity – coping with stress’ – just got one and can’t cope.
  • Tracking my children using ‘findmyphone’ – really not healthy

Things I am really pleased with –

  • My gorgeous family – this sounds sickly but they are the highest of earthly achievements a little bit thanks to me.
  • My phone box – I love it and all it does for me – even when it hurt me badly
  • This blog – I think its great. Naaahhhhh!



HAPPY CHRISTMAS – late, good! bah humbug! christmas/new year tosh.

Sour and grumpy – this how I am characterized by our rapidly dwindling circle of friends – why – because, apparently, I don’t like christmas or new year. I say apparently, because it’s not an opinion I actually hold, rather it is one that has been applied to me by others. christmas, new year, birthdays, weddings, parties – all much of a muchness as far as I am concerned, like any other day of the year when you are obliged to do something you don’t want to do, like washing up or emptying the cats litter tray. Not exactly awful, but certainly not special, just occasions when jolliness is obligatory – but really most people would rather be reading a book, walking the dog, watching telly or sleeping. It’s the element of obligation that pisses me off. Why do we have to say ‘Merry Christmas’? It certainly does not make me merry to receive such vacuous banalities why should I give it. Same with ‘Happy New Year’, pulling frigging crackers, giving gifts, eating food, sitting together, talking, laughing, breathing – tiresome obligations!

So much more fun to give a gift when you fancy, to party when you fancy, laugh because its funny, talk and sit together because you like each other and like to watch the same thing on telly. To say ‘have a great day’ because you want someone’s day to be great, not because on December 25th you must say it,  because everyone else is, because Dickens fans say it should be so, just because a baby was not born 2000 odd years ago on that day – HAPPY CHRIS’s CHRISTMAS! I love it.

PS. And I make no concessions for the ‘joy of wide-eyed children in the morning when they run down in their pink and blue jim-jams.’ The only childhood Christmas I remember finding even a bit special, was when my Nan gave me a gun with a real revolving magazine and bullets that had to be individually charged with gunpowder caps. A meticulous but worthwhile task with many misfires.