Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What? Another year gone?

Here we are at the end of 2008, marked, as every year, by Savannah’s birthday (Happy Birthday, Sugar).

As well as the usual births, deaths, marriages and haircuts, the past 12 months has seen quite major changes in the lives of some of the bloggers who frequent this place:

Pat completed her book by instalments via her blog and is now compiling and editing it into shape suitable for publication.

Mary has moved to yet another country to become a new Resident Alien, with yet another language and culture to adapt to.

Eryl has followed her passion and is doing her post-grad degree in creative writing.

Charlie is still alive, much to everyone’s amazement, including his own. However, he still hasn’t got his book ready for buying yet, which I really would like to read while there’s still a chance I can tell him what I think of it.

Hangar Queen had the final op and is now the woman she always knew she was.

Tom has taken his video business in a direction that he finds infinitely more creative and rewarding.

FLG is over 80lbs lighter than he was this time last year, and is becoming an inspiration to many.

A few bloggers have drifted away, stopped blogging or found more interesting things to do with their lives, while others now use Facebook as their primary form of Internet Socialising.

My personal achievements this past year include major leaps forward with my photography; a gradual letting go of the idea that somehow I have to personally save the universe; and probably the biggest accomplishment of all – I managed to get a Christmas Present for Maggie that a) was a surprise and b) she was delighted with (I’ve always told her she can either have one or the other, but not both).

2009 promises to be a year of great potential as Maggie continues to grow in skill and acclaim for her artwork; we are going to see if we can get to Nova Scotia, Canada, to put on an exhibition; and I have my mind slowly focusing on setting up a part time photography business.

There are fears and worries aplenty, but I’m determined to ignore them for at least a few more days.

May 2009 be more fun, more interesting and more rewarding for you than 2008.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Damage Limitation

I hope everyone has survived Feastmas more or less intact!

I've been asked to Guest Blog over at MizFit. I guess it must have been because of my understanding of fighting the multiple reasons I yearn to over-eat, rather than any expertise in exercise and fitness (hahahahahaha).

My approach in this season of Xcessmas is one of Damage Limitation - I know I'm going to over indulge, but if I eat healthily at every other opportunity, and only indulge on the food I love, rather than any old thing just because it happens to be there, then the physical damage will be limited by the time we crawl into January.

So if I only put on 5lbs instead of 10lbs, then I can see this as an achievement, rather than a reason to beat myself up, feel depressed and eat even more to comfort myself (the overeating cycle familiar to anyone who uses food as their main drug of choice).

So if you'd like to follow my thoughts, or even contribute your own, do pop over to see MizFit and leave a comment on the post Damage Limitation:

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Festivities

Whatever religion, nationality, species or level of cynicism, I hope you manage at least a few smiles this festive season.

If you click on the photo below it takes you to a place you can print off a larger one, if you want a copy for your wall or mantlepiece.

Wishing you all the best!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Baby Cormac

On Sunday we drove up to see the latest addition to the family, young Cormac.

Needless to say I filled the entire memory card with photos, but here are a small handful I edited:

Mother and child

Looking up at his Uncle Rogan

A healthy appetite

Grandad and Grandson

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Intimate Portraits

What I love about portrait photography is it’s like having a dressing up box, only with facial expressions rather than costumes.

I love faces; or perhaps more accurately, I love the way people inhabit their faces.

And I find my own face an endless source of fascination too, though not in a narcissistic way. Maggie is constantly surprised I will take photos of myself with quite unflattering expressions. Perhaps it’s a more female thing to want to always look your best – younger, thinner, smoother skinned, more alluring. But I’m enjoying my face more as it ages: the lines, the skin, the shadows, all make for an infinitely more interesting photograph than some plastic skinned, “perfect” yet immensely dull 20 something model.

Or perhaps it’s just I’m so secure with Maggie I don’t have to worry about impressing anyone else. Either way it makes it considerably easier to try out different photographic and editing techniques, because I’m always available when I need someone to experiment on.

The idea, “the camera never lies” is one of photography’s biggest cons. “The camera never tells the truth” would be a far more accurate saying.

A photograph is a single instant in a continual movement through time. Our faces rarely stay still for more than a few moments, so no one position can accurately embody all the others. It would rather be like hitting a single note and somehow thinking it represented an entire opera.

So what are we trying to convey in a posed photograph? A feeling, a mood, a story, a narrative – something far more than just a brief visual representation (which is the purpose of a passport photo, not a portrait).

Like anything, practice is the key: the more I do this, the better I’ll get.

So, if anyone fancies their photo taken in the near future, I’ll do it for expenses only. This means if you live within easy walking or driving distance, it will cost you a mug of coffee and a blether. If you live in a different country and want to fly me out, put me up for a few nights, feed me food and coffee and fly me home, that will be fine too :)

I’m particularly pleased with the photo below. Don’t be concerned by the expression – it’s an example of what I mean by playing in the costume box. And it has considerably more impact if you click on it for an enlarged version.

What do you mean chocolate's not good for you?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Grandad III

This is it folks, I am now a Grandad three times over.

On Monday 15th, at 4.45pm, my grandson, Cormac, was born, weighing in at a respectable 9lb 8oz.

He’s gone from this:

to this:

I would like to claim all the credit, but to be honest my stepdaughter, Layla, did most of the work. OK, all of it, if you’re going to be insistent about it. Can’t a grandfather claim a bit of reflected glory?

Both are healthy and doing well. We’ll be going up to visit at the weekend.

For those who are wondering what I'm doing being a Grandad at a mere 42 years of age, please refer to this post, and this one.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Happy Midwinter Celebrations*

Santa, reindeer, stockings, trees with lights and baubles, acquisition of material goods to be had under said tree, turkeys, honey-roast parsnips, brussels sprouts, mince pies, dense dried-fruit puddings with rich brandy cream, roasted chestnuts, advent calendars with chocolates, eating to excess, snow, mid-winter, robins, tinsel, cards and exchanges of gifts.

I have, in fact, read the bible from cover to cover and none of these things are mentioned anywhere in relation to Christ, his birth or his teachings. Oh, I know he was given gold, frankincense and myrrh when he was born, but he didn’t hand the 3 wise men an X-Box, a pair of slippers and a DVD of High School Musical 3 in return.

With the exception of the obligatory primary school Nativity Play, and the name of the festival, Christmas has very little to do with Christ and/or Christianity.

And I think this is where the embarrassment and confusion for non-Christians, agnostics, Christened-but-only-go-to-church-for-weddings-and-funerals and other never-really-thought-about-it pseudo Christians comes in: how to celebrate it without causing offence to people of other faiths.

“Season’s Greetings!” “Happy Holidays!” and “Mine’s a sherry!” we say, worried about how anyone who is not Christian but cares about their religion might take it if Xmas is mentioned (and isn’t X-mas a great get-out of mentioning Christ too?).

Alternatively we might feel a tad hypocritical yelling, “Merry Christmas!” if we’re not actually Christians ourselves. I mean, how comfortable would I be saying, “Happy Hanukah!” to Jews, “Merry Ramadan!” to Muslims or “May your chalk circles keep your demons in check!” to Satanists?

As non-Christians it wouldn’t matter to us what it was called. The reality is we enjoy this time of year as a family, with it’s little rituals, sparkling lights, excited children and tasty food all happening when the nights are long and the sun is rarely seen. In fact, life would be a great deal easier, and certainly less hypocritical if the Christ bit was dropped.

I can fully understand why more committed Christians bemoan the fact their celebration of the birth of their saviour has been hijacked and turned into something nothing to do with His teachings, because it has (even if the early Christians hijacked the pagan mid-winter festivals in order to assist the spread of their own religion).

But I can also sympathise with everyone who wants to have a warm cosy family time with gifts, comfortable rituals and a bit of excess, without having to worry about religious overtones.

Given the real heart of Christianity lies not in the birth of Jesus, but his resurrection from death on the cross, perhaps the big Christian festival of the year ought to be Easter, rather than Christmas, and December 25th ought to be abandoned to the revellers.

However, that particular Spring festival seems to have been hijacked by chocolate eggs and bunnies…

*Or Happy Midsummer Celebrations to our friends south of the equator

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

TV – choice, choice and more choice

Around the middle of next year, this corner of Scotland is having the analogue TV broadcasting transmitter switched off. Subsequently we will only be able to watch television if we have either digital or satellite receivers.

With ever increasing channels, more entertainment packages, more personalised recording and viewing options, when the switchover happens we are going to be faced with considerably more than the 4 channels we currently have. Indeed, depending on what route we take we could have anything from a dozen to several hundred to chose from every time we sit down in front of the box.

And yet on average we watch only between 1 and 3 programmes a day. Some evenings there’s nothing on at all. So, much more choice should be a good thing, right?

But as a rule, we don’t watch game shows, “reality” shows or soap operas. We don’t watch daytime TV, sport, makeover shows, or even the news very often.

Occasionally we watch the odd drama or documentary, but mostly our television viewing habits consist of one or two comedy programmes, Dr Who, and Rogan and I make time for Top Gear and Heroes. Meg’s a major fan of Strictly Come Dancing, but basically, that’s it.

So what will 600+ new channels offer us, other than more game shows, more reality shows, more soap operas, more daytime TV and many, many, many, more repeats?

Faced with so much choice we’re wondering whether to make one that’s never mentioned: drop it completely.

We can still keep the screen for watching videos and DVDs, but once the digital switchover happens, if we don’t buy/rent/install the appropriate hardware, live TV becomes a thing of the past and we no longer have to pay £139.50 a year for the licence.

Programmes we feel we really, really don’t want to miss could be watched afterwards via the Internet. BBC iPlayer provides almost all of its major programmes for up to a week after they have been broadcast, and the other major channels tend to do the same.

In some ways I can’t believe I’m even considering this. Not have a TV? Does this mean we’ll have to tune the piano and make our own entertainment?

But then again, how about spending our evenings reading, talking, playing games, sitting in front of the fire, having friends round and occasionally watching a DVD?

There’s something awfully tempting about it.

Strange how we never see this option advertised on TV…

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Brain Fu.n..c...t....i.....o......n........

Parts of my brain no longer seem to function to anything like the degree they used to.

It’s a worrying trend.

In some areas it’s different only in so far as I wear out much more quickly. I can’t cope with a great deal of activity – physical or emotional – without quickly becoming a zombie.

But dealing with this is largely about accepting my limitations and trying to balance my energy levels; being aware of when they begin to drain and stopping before it goes too far.

However, the bit I’m becoming increasingly concerned about is the processing part slowing down too, not just the battery life. It’s not just that I don’t last as long, but unless I’ve had a coffee my brain just doesn’t function as quickly either.

If I were 30 or 40 years older, perhaps I’d accept it as part of an inevitable process.

But I’m not. I’m only 42.

And sometimes, it’s just a little bit scary.

Still, on the bright side I’m not needing incontinence pants.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Wired for sleep

“Would you like a cup of tea of coffee?”

“Won’t that affect the sleep study?”

“Not really, we only have decaffeinated here.”

The nurse returned with a cup of tea. Personally, I’ve never seen the point in decaffeinated coffee; to me it’s like non-alcoholic beer, Formula 1 races with no crashes, or having mutant genes but no superpowers.

“I’ll be back in 15 minutes to start putting the wires on, so you might want to finish up in the bathroom.”

I looked at the fresh cup of tea in my hand. “Um, 15 minutes isn’t going to be long enough for this to work its way through my system…”

“Don’t worry,” she replied, “if you need to go during the night, just buzz and a nurse will bring you a bottle to go in.”

I left the tea on the bedside cabinet, untouched.

Shortly thereafter I smelled like a vodka distillery as I was swabbed with surgical spirit before various sticky patches were placed over my body, face and head and attached to wires leading to a box full of little sockets. I had two straps placed around my torso, which looked very similar to ones I remember Maggie having to measure contractions; a plastic thimble with a wee red light was stuck on the end of my middle finger; and some kind of tube was placed around my face with 2 tiny offshoots sticking up my nostrils. Picking my nose was going to be tricky.

“Climb up onto the bed now please, Mr Ayres.”

“I guess it’s a bit late to say I’d rather sleep with my t-shirt on…”

I have to say, the idea of sleeping at all at the sleep clinic seemed rather optimistic. If I turned to my right, I had to pull the wires over with me; if I turned to the left, the bright green light on the box of sockets shone directly into my eyes; and if I lay on my back, I could feel the electrodes pushing into my skull.

Eventually I drifted off, waking periodically to shift position or try and scratch some itchy bit now inaccessible under a rubbery patch.

Then, suddenly, I was wide awake. I figured it must be close to 6.30am when I was due to be roused.

Then again, it might only be 5.30am.

After several attempts to read my watch by the wee red light on my middle finger, I gave up and rummaged in my bag for my battery alarm clock, which has it’s own light.



The next two hours lasted about 13 years and then I began to drift in and out dreams about being in car rolling backwards with no brakes, being back at school but without any trousers, and ET trying to phone home with a glowing red finger.

Just as I finally dropped into a deep sleep I was woken by a nurse telling me it was time to get up.

While the nurse from the night before had been generally chatty and good-natured, the one who ripped off the wires and patches with no mercy but plenty of my body hair, was clearly in a foul mood. The only thing I managed to tease from her was she was almost at the end of her shift and couldn’t wait to get away.

At breakfast one of the patients from another room complained long and loud about how a mask she’d been fitted with kept coming off every time she moved, and when it didn’t come off she couldn’t breathe, and how she’d spent the whole night continually calling a nurse to her room to rectify it.

I had no problems guessing which nurse had been “rectifying” all night.

Despite being the first to be unplugged, the first to turn up for breakfast, and the first to clean my teeth, I was the last to be seen by the doctor and wasn’t allowed to leave until I had done so.

She looked at the sleep diary I’d kept for the past 2 weeks then looked up at me with warm, sympathetic eyes. “Why are you sleeping so badly?”

“Um, I was kind of hoping you might be able to tell me…”

“Well I’m afraid there was nothing obvious from last night,”

“Nothing obvious?”

“Well no one had to come in and resuscitate you at any point. So this means we’ll have to thoroughly analyse all the data and see if there’s anything hidden in there that might reveal something useful. It should take no longer than about 4…”

“Hours? Days? Weeks?”


At least it didn’t rain during the 100mile drive home from Edinburgh.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Travelling at the speed of life

Mid afternoon: I’m slouched on the sofa drifting in and out of consciousness. Noises from outside and around the house merging and separating from random thoughts, images and dreams. I hear Maggie approaching with mugs of coffee so I sit up, stretch, drop back into the cushions and try focusing my brain.

I sit quietly, gently sipping the nectar, feeling it massaging my muscles, blood vessels and brain as the caffeine coaxes me out of hibernation.

The front door slams.


Rogan kicks off his shoes, drops his school bag with a thud that rattles the walls and stomps down the stairs, already in conversation and talking at us with energy and enthusiasm.

I watch him as he tells us about something that did or didn’t happen at school; constantly moving, animated, alive. I feel like a sloth watching a hummingbird, wondering how anything can be so active and not spontaneously combust.

Then he’s bouncing back upstairs to get himself a snack while my assaulted eyes and brain wonder what hit them.

But something is nagging me. I drain the last of my coffee and allow the thought to surface.

“Was I ever like that, before the Fatigue?”

“Most of the time,” replies Maggie.

I don’t know if I’m more unsettled by the idea I was, or that I no longer am.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Siblings, photography and cake

My stepdaughter, Holly, has been down visiting us this past week. She was 4 when I first met her; she’ll be 23 next birthday.

I thought it might be worth trying to take a photo of her with Rogan & Meg, so set up the lighting studio kit I bought a few months ago. Unfortunately there isn’t an area in the house big enough for a full lighting studio, and even finding the largest potential space still left much to be desired. With very little room to manoeuvre, furniture had to be pushed up against walls, boxes had to be stacked precariously and washing had to be strategically placed outwith the direct line of the lens.

I thought I would try and herd them into respectable positions and take a few dignified shots, suitable to send to relatives in the coming festive season. Unfortunately before my finger reached the camera, their true natures manifested.

Rogan and Meg especially tend to get a bit hyper when any of their older siblings come to stay, and this past week has been no exception. Holly is indulgent, patient and, when I come to think of it, seems to enjoy winding them up to fever pitch.

Last night, when I took Rogan and Holly out to the cinema to watch the new James Bond film, Meg made a cake for Holly to take home with her. She was very thorough and conscientious, and did it almost entirely herself, with only a little help from Maggie.

A vanilla sponge with butter icing centre, topped with pink icing, white chocolate mice and hundreds and thousands.

Holly left today. And while the house might be a bit quieter, it also feels emptier. There’s a Holly-shaped hole here at the moment, which we’re all feeling.

It’s a shame she took the cake with her, I could really do with a slice just now.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Down Syndrome Barbie

What could be more natural than a girl having a doll she can dress up and accessorise and dream of becoming? Or is Barbie a very narrow, if not impossible ideal of beauty, which only reinforces the dissatisfaction girls and women have with their own looks and body shape? And is the idea of creating dolls with particular physical conditions a good or a bad thing?

Over on 5 Minutes for Special Needs, I begin to explore these ideas. Your thoughts, opinions and contributions to the debate would be appreciated.

So if you have 5 minutes to spare, do take a look at Down Syndrome Barbie.

And if there are comments you desperately want to express that would not be suitable there, feel free to leave them here :)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Me vs The World

“Has it ever occurred to you,” my mother used to ask, “that perhaps, just perhaps, if the rest of the world disagrees with you it might not be everyone else who is in the wrong?”

Periodically I’ve wondered about this.

I did find it odd, for example, when I was in Canada people seemed to think that not only did I have a bizarre accent, but they had none at all. This was in complete contrast to my own opinion.

I’ve always found the idea of wearing football shirts when you’re not playing football a bit strange too. Especially when people wearing one kind of shirt feel obliged to intimidate or beat to a pulp, someone wearing a different coloured shirt.

Nationalism has always been an enigma to me. Why wave a flag to say I was born on this bit of rock rather than that bit of rock. And what’s that? You think we should go over to other people’s bits of rock and shoot them? No, no, I’m afraid your reasoning escapes me.

And even more peculiar, I am expected to show my support for athletes, pop stars or other famous people because they were born on the same bit of rock as me, even though I don’t know them at all.

Not to mention I was supposed to support the school rugby/ football/ cricket teams, despite the fact the aggressive bullies who were out to make my life a misery usually populated them.

Religion is a bit surprising too. There are far more people in the world who have some kind of unprovable metaphysical belief system than atheists. Indeed, more people in the world believe in reincarnation than don’t. If sanity is governed by majority reasoning, then all who do not believe they will be reborn must be insane.

Then there’s TV. Soap operas, game shows and “reality TV” all leave me cold, and yet they are the most popular forms of television in the country.

What about beauty? Why do so many people cling to one, narrowly defined definition of attractiveness, when we are surrounded by such exquisite diversity?

Having pets always seemed a bit weird to me. Oh I can fully understand using animals for work - sheep dogs, cart-horses, huskies etc - but parrots, hamsters and snakes? As I write this, a family have just walked past the window with a huge Irish wolfhound on a lead. I have to say they didn’t look much like Irish wolf hunters to me; the dad was wearing a Manchester United football shirt for one thing (and he didn’t look like he plays for Manchester United either).

Why would anyone want to buy an incredibly lifelike baby doll that “looks, feels and even smells like a real baby,” for £95?
Who collects Cliff Richard plates, “rimmed with precious 22ct gold”?
And do dog owners really have no sense of poetry?

The world out there rarely seems to make much sense.

Mind you, I’m the kind of person who tends to assume everyone has mental health problems, and anyone who says otherwise is just in denial. For that matter, I’m also always surprised to find anyone over the age of 34 who has never considered suicide as a rational option.

To me, of course, all my reactions are perfectly ordinary; they don’t seem weird, bizarre, peculiar, strange, mysterious, unusual, outlandish or eccentric. But in so many ways they appear to be at odds with general consensuses.

I daresay anyone reading this will agree with some and disagree with others, but very few will consider all my viewpoints exactly as their own.

This can lead so easily lead to a sense of isolation, alienation and even a fear of being found out to be different.

But that seems pretty universal: just about everyone feels they don’t quite fit in. And those who fear discovery the most are often those who shout the loudest about the need for conformity.

The fact is we all feel pain, excitement, fear, love, anger, happiness and despondency. What provokes any of these emotions is different for each of us, but we all feel them nevertheless.

So while I can go through times when I’m convinced I must have been exchanged at birth by aliens doing some kind of experiment to see if I’d notice, I content myself with the fact everyone feels this way at some point in their lives.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Avoiding Expert Advice

I’ve just been reading “Professional Photographer” magazine (UK). I was hoping to get hints, tips and insights into improving my photography, especially as I’m giving serious consideration to setting up a part time business, which would allow me to work around my Fatigue.

Did it inspire me?

Did it hell.

After reading a few articles, a couple of reviews and an interview or two I was ready to throw my camera in the bin, stuff my face with chocolate and/or slash my wrists.

Unless you are an award winning, internationally known photographer, using cameras that cost in excess of £10,000 and lighting equipment worth triple that amount, then clearly you are nothing other than an inadequate pretender.

I should have known better.

When I used to run my web design consultancy business, I subscribed to a magazine called DotNet, which was full of everything the professional web designer should know.

Except all it did was make me incredibly depressed. Slowly piles of unopened magazines rose in my office, glaring at me, daring me to open them so they could show up all my inadequacies, telling me if I was true professional, I wouldn’t be intimidated, therefore I must be a faker.

But there are many different sides to web design, from coding to databases to graphic design to marketing strategies to understanding how to effectively integrate all these things with your business. No one is an expert in all these fields, so either you become a specialist in one or 2 areas and employ people, or strategically link with other businesses, who specialise in these other realms, or you try and do it all and come across as amateur in everything.

What this means is, no matter how expert you are in your field, a magazine covering all aspects is going to make you aware of just how much you don’t know.

So it is with photography. Are you a natural with people, objects or landscapes? Do you want your images to be perceived as art, tell a story, or report an event? Are you wanting to shout to the world “look at me” or make other people feel better about themselves? Do you like the technical aspects of lighting studios or prefer quick snaps? Do you like everything to be perfect in the single shot, or do you enjoy the process of manipulating the image afterwards?

Consequently, with a magazine such as Professional Photographer, even if you were an award winning, internationally known photographer, using cameras that cost in excess of £10,000, you would still feel inadequate after reading it. *

The only real way of keeping your confidence is to keep away from critics, pessimists, and (especially) realists.

Far better to be happy in your own world than miserable in everyone else’s.

*And I’m not even going to begin mentioning how I felt after reading “Men’s Health” magazine. How to get a 6-pack in 6 weeks - pah!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

An embarrassing illness

I can picture clearly my father yelling it was impossible to stop the car and my mother telling me to wind the window down and stick my head out.

I was 9 years old.

I still shudder to think what the car behind us must have thought as I emptied the contents of my stomach at 60 mph.

I used to get terribly carsick as a child, much to the irritation of my parents and my siblings. As one of three children I was supposed to take it in turns to sit in the middle of the back seat, but I would make such a fuss, my brother and sister had to share it, all the time thinking I was just faking.

I never got airsick, seasick, train-sick, or even carsick if I was in the front passenger seat; but stick me in the back of a car for more than 15 minutes and I would be overcome with nausea.

As an adult, the sole driver in the family and more than 22 years experience of sitting behind the steering wheel, I’d all but forgotten this childhood illness.

However, I’ve discovered it’s not a sickness I can confine to the dustbin of memories. It seems I still suffer from it.

And it’s embarrassing.

If I’m travelling anywhere with more than one friend I will always offer to drive, just so as to avoid having to mention it. Sometimes, however, people want to repay what they see as my generosity for shouldering the fuel costs and insist they drive.

Sooner or later I end up in a situation where I have to mumble, “er… do you mind if I sit in the front as I, er… get, er… sickintheback… ”

And I swear, other passengers give me a look like they think I’m faking it, and are swithering as to whether they should challenge what they see as this outrageous claim.

The other night I was given a lift to an event by a couple I’ve only met a few times. The husband was driving and there was no way I could possibly ask the wife to sit in the back.

I took a pair of travel bands – wristbands with a knobbly bit on them that presses into a point on the wrist, which apparently helps with motion sickness – and desperately hoped there wouldn’t be any delays in the 20-minute drive each way.

I managed to just hold out on the way there, but the drive back was appalling.

The road meanders up and down, and round sharp bends, this way and that and with the wild weather the drive took even longer.

My hosts weren’t talking quite loud enough so I had to keep leaning forward to join in the conversation.

No one else ever has the heating set at a temperature I’m comfortable with.

Had the journey taken 5 minutes longer, history would no doubt have repeated itself. Fortunately it was dark, so I think my forced nonchalance wasn’t scrutinized too closely as I climbed out the car and insisted next time I’d be more than happy to drive.

I’ve never understood the desire for a chauffeur. I know if I come into a whole pile of money, I’m buying a 2-seater sports car and it won’t just be a mid-life crisis purchase.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Barrack Obama and the normalcy of difference

Is the election of Barrack Obama good for just race relations in the US, or are there wider implications for the acceptance of difference?

I've penned (typed?) my thoughts over on 5 Minutes for Special Needs under the post,
Barrack Obama and the normalcy of difference.

Pop over and leave a comment there or here if the mood strikes you

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Messiahing is someone else's job

One thing this ongoing Fatigue has finally driven home is I can let go of my Messiah Complex.

When I can’t maintain righteous anger for more than a few minutes without feeling exhausted; when indecision wears me out faster than making a wrong decision; when I’m overwhelmed with a sense of how insignificant I am; there’s not much chance of being able to change the world.

Maybe it’s time to let Obama give it a go.

Mind you, Palin has the fervour of one who believes she was divinely chosen...

Friday, October 31, 2008


For decades, at this time of year I’ve battled away with carving turnips into basic lanterns.

And while the turnip flesh gets recycled into soup, stews or mashed neeps, uncooked it’s a tough, unwieldy vegetable where you’re as likely to remove a finger as you are create a hollow to contain a candle.

So I have to admit to a sense of relief at the gradual importing of the culture of Halloween pumpkins from the US. They are infinitely easier to carve and, as I’m beginning to find out, offer greater versatility.

For the past couple of Halloweens I’ve just done the 3 triangles for eyes & nose and some kind of squiggle for a mouth, but this year I discovered you can create a secondary layer of pumpkin carving by removing the outer skin, but not all the way through the flesh.

Of course the Americans and Canadians have known this for centuries, but here in the Ayres household it has come as something of a revelation.

Although my first attempt at this style of carving is not going to win any prizes, at least the kids were thrilled with it, which is all that matters. I’ll leave the super fancy ones until next year.

Personally I felt quite smug about carving a self-referential pumpkin on the pumkin...


Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Ultimate Answer to...

It has been said 42 is the answer to the ultimate question of Life, The Universe and Everything. However, as my son Rogan pointed out this morning it is also the ultimate answer to the ultimate question of “How old is Kim today?”

If I was hoping (and part of me secretly was) for a revelation of wisdomic proportions, then I’ve been disappointed. Although the creation of the word, “wisdomic” might count for something.

Still, the day is going well. I’ve had croissants for breakfast, a fancy chocolate with my espresso, and in amongst the birthday cards was a fantastic drawing of me and my granddaughter by my 4 year old granddaughter.

I’m feeling loved.

Tonight we’re having a few friends round for food, music if anyone brings an instrument and, if Eryl’s reading this, hopefully a bit of storytelling.

We were planning on having a wee bonfire out in the garden, but the very wild, very wet and very windy weather currently sitting over this part of Scotland has scuppered that idea. I did suggest we could try it under the cheap plastic gazebo but it was pointed out to me:

a) it’s not big enough to fit everyone under, as well as a bonfire
b) the rain is largely horizontal so wouldn’t really offer any shelter anyway, and
c) it’s flammable

So now I’m wondering if we could do one in the middle of the living room floor instead.

Friday, October 24, 2008


This past week has been spent on the Isle of Mull, off the West Coast of Scotland.

People we know have taken over a hotel in Tobermory and needed some up to date photos of it, as well as the spectacular views. In return for a few days of clicking my camera, we were given the best room in the house.

During our stay we drove round various parts of the island and came across some old boats, just rotting away on the shoreline. Well, there's only one thing you can do at that point, and that's screech to a halt, leap out of the car and start taking photos, in the full knowledge they'll look fabulous in full or partial black and white.

It's well worth clicking on these images for larger versions


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Product reviews

Sometimes my opinion as a blogger is sought after.

Sometimes I’ve been asked to blog about a particular event or cause.

Sometimes I’ve even been asked to review a product.

I must admit I’m always incredibly surprised to be asked. I mean, on average I get about 50 visits a day, most of which are accidental where people were clearly looking for something else. “Gifts for a 9 year old” and “Naked Bearded Men”, seem to be common search threads leading people here, although not in the same sentence I should add. And I can only begin to imagine the disappointment for the recent searcher of “Man thong, hooters

Last year, for example, I was sent 2 Skype Phones to play with as part of drive to create a blogger buzz about them. Packed full of 3G technology and access to the Internet, it was a sort of forerunner of the iPhone. Unfortunately we live in one of the few places in the UK where there isn’t a signal strong enough for 3G technologies to work, so they’ve sat accumulating dust for about 11 months now and no blog review was ever written.

Recently though, I was sought out to review an item and was offered either a sample product to keep or a payment. How much wasn’t mentioned at this point, but it is currently being sold online for only $39.95.

The sales page is nearly 5,000 words long, full of pseudo-scientific explanations and diagrams of active molecules and happy cells. In full detail it spells out all the problems it solves, benefits it gives you, and major enhancements you can expect in your life should you purchase one.

Who would have thought a small adjustable, plastic loop with a magnet glued to it could make so much difference to a man?

I decided not to get involved; partly because gullibility isn’t my middle name (although did you know it’s no longer found in a dictionary?), but mostly because you could make your own with an elastic band and a fridge magnet.

However, if anyone knows the boss of Aston Martin, I’m more than happy to do a 3 year trial of their DBS and write a blog post about that.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Rogan is 13 years old and really needs his own room. It’s been a toss-up between my study or Maggie’s art studio, and as she’s made money selling art while I’ve made no money surfing the web, laughing at Garfield Minus Garfield, and leaving the occasional witty comment on someone’s blog, I’ve lost.

So after nearly 3½ years, this wee room little larger than a single bed, with no heating and a carpet that hasn’t seen light for, well, about 3½ years actually, will no longer be mine by the end of this week.

In an ideal world we could do with a house that had at least 4 more rooms than this one, to contain my own study as well as the kids having a room each, a music room, a photography studio and a spare room for guests and/or junk. An outbuilding to convert to a large studio for Maggie wouldn’t go amiss either.

While we’re at it, sea views would be rather nice too, perhaps with a path down the cliff to our own private beach.


Anyone got a spare million or two? You’d make this family very happy. Meg does a wonderful impression of Puss in Boots doing the big eyes thing in Shrek 2, which will melt your heart and make you feel really good about yourself.

Meanwhile, as even Rogan’s cake business is unlikely to bring in the kind of income we need to find a place with even 1 extra room, I’m likely to find myself wandering from room to room, looking for a quiet corner to sit on my coat and put out my begging bowl to attract the attention of passing Internet surfers.

“Excuse me guv, spare some change for wireless broadband?”

Friday, October 10, 2008

Filtering Friends, 5MFSN and DS Awareness Month

October is in fact Down's Syndrome Awareness Month. I thought I'd better mention it to make sure you're aware. So, there you go.

I don't write a huge amount about DS on this blog because, well, after 10 and a half years of Meg, I don't think about it that much. Most of what I write about Meg is just writing about family stuff.

However, more recently I've been making monthly contributions to 5 Minutes for Special Needs - a community blog/website dedicated to ideas, opinions, experiences and words of wisdom and insight for parents, carers and people associated with those who have special needs of one kind or another.

This has given me the opportunity to reflect a bit more on the way Meg has affected our lives when it comes to the DS.

And with my 42nd birthday looming in a couple of weeks this time I've been thinking about how Meg, and people's reactions to her, affect who becomes a closer friend rather than just an acquaintance.

So if you're interested, pop over and read Filtering Friends, and leave a comment if one occurs to you.

In the meantime, as it is Down's Syndrome Awareness Month, let me make you aware of the grouping on my sidebar called, "With a Dash of Something Extra..." Here you will find links to sites of people who are parents to children with DS. Some have exquisite photos, some are quite political and a couple are not written in English.

Randomly choose one or two and go and read a few posts.

Oh, and feel free to ask any questions.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Ultrasound Scan

“Is it a boy or a girl?”


“I guess everyone says that, eh?”

“Everyone, yes.”

“Can I get a photo of the ultrasound scan to take away with me?”

“Of your liver?”

“Er… yes…”

“Put in one of those cards which has a teddy bear on the front?”

“Well, actually I thought an onion might be more appropriate. You know, liver and onions; classic combination?”

Fortunately it appears the haemochromatosis hasn't done any damage to my liver.
Unfortunately I wasn't able to get a photo.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Consenting ingredients

If I had made black pudding out of my own spare blood, would vegetarians be able to object to trying it?

Strictly speaking, no animals would have been harmed...

Monday, September 29, 2008

Hole in my shoe

I have a hole in my shoe.

Not a big one that lets in the water and makes my socks wet, just a small one in the heel where it has worn through to an air pocket.

If it’s a dry day no one knows.

However, if the ground is damp, each step makes a noise like a queef.

Which might be more embarrassing if more people knew what that was.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

If the face fits, wear it...

In my last post, when I put up a wedding day picture, quite apart from the not unexpected remarks about my hairstyle, both Pat and Mary made comments to the effect that I'd "grown into" my face, or that my face now fits me better.

I must admit I wasn't entirely sure what they meant.

When I mentioned this to Maggie, she said she knew exactly, but upon further enquiry she became kind of vague and changed the subject.

Putting issues of weight aside, does my face "fit" me better now than it did in the past? In many ways it's a strange concept; surely my face is my face whatever age I am?

And yet, maybe there's something in it.

There are plenty of people who crave youth, despair as they move further away from it and spend large amounts of time desperately trying to recapture it. But for me, I've always preferred being a grown up; I never liked people calling me "son", although I still feel a bit too young for "Grandad."

But despite the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, in many ways I am more self-assured, more comfortable in who I am than I have ever been.

Finally I've reached an age where other people take me more seriously than I do.

It is said the older we get, the more we end up with the face we deserve - grumpy, happy, angry, peaceful - the frequency with which we express these emotions, causes them to contort the skin into permanent wrinkles. Will our lives culminate with a scowl etched into our appearance, or laughter lines?

Perhaps it's why I find aging faces so much more interesting to look at than youthful ones. Forget airbrushed 20 somethings, I love photos of faces that have been lived in.

However, the way mine is shaping up, I wish I'd smiled a bit more often.

Ages: a few months, 5 & 16

Ages: 18 (yes that is an attempt at a moustache), 21 & 24

Aged 26, 28 & 31 (with baby Meg)

Aged 34, 38 & 41

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Lace Wedding Anniversary

Today Maggie and I celebrate being married for 13 years.

I've written before about how Maggie and I met, and why we decided to wed nearly 5 years later. If you like that kind of romantic gooey stuff, then visit my post Tin Wedding Anniversary.

This year I've dug out our wedding album (basically a few photos taken by my dad and a couple of friends) and put up a picture of a surprisingly young, fresh faced looking couple on their wedding day.

So much seems to have happened since then it feels like several lifetimes ago.

Not to mention hairstyles...

A considerably younger looking couple 21st September 1995

Friday, September 19, 2008

Blood Disposal

That’s the 4th pint of blood removed from my veins in the past few weeks, and unlike previous times, this time I gushed – the entire bag was full in less than 10 minutes. Still, I wish they had a system that required a smaller needle and less initial pain.

It doesn’t particularly help that the local GPs & nurses at the local health centre aren’t generally used to taking pints of blood in a single go. Sure they’re always taking small amounts for samples and tests, but that requires only small needles, and it’s the suction of the syringe that draws out the blood. When taking as much as half a litre the blood needs to fill the bag under it’s own pressure. Thus the needle needs to be longer and wider to allow the blood to flow more easily.

The ones who are best trained to take blood simply and with minimum discomfort are of course the National Blood Service or the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service. This would have the double benefit of being treated by someone who has fewer problems finding the right place to shove the needle in, while simultaneously contributing to the massive shortfall of blood required by the National Health Service.

Unfortunately, the blood donation services are not allowed to accept blood from people with the genetic form of Haemochromatosis, despite the fact it is neither harmful nor transferable to the recipient. There are moves afoot to try and change this, but even when it comes, they still will not be allowing more than 4 donations a year.

What a waste.

So what to do with all this extra, non-usable blood being taken from me every fortnight? Well, I had an idea while the last drops were dripping out of my arm and my head was floating in a light and fuzzy way.

Black Pudding*.

Pig’s blood is traditionally used, but I don’t see why my blood wouldn’t be just as tasty or nutritious. Either I could do a deal with one of the local butchers, or perhaps set up my own specialist business using a suitable name, such as “Sweeney Todd’s Home Made Black Puddings” or “Sawney Bean’s Black Pudding Emporium” with the tag line “The owner puts more of himself into his product than any other maker”.

However, upon further enquiry from my GP it transpires they are not allowed to give me the blood to take away with me, even though it was mine to begin with. Apparently once it has left my body it is categorised as bio-hazardous waste and has to be disposed of accordingly. I’m not even allowed to put it in the compost bin.

Still it’s probably just as well, as with my condition I should be avoiding such iron-rich foods anyway.

*Sam, if you’re reading this, here’s a nostalgic link just for you

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


It seems the older we get, the more upset we become when things aren’t quite the same. The smallest of things can cause the greatest outpourings of bile, rants and scorn.

Forget the protests in Burma against the hideous human rights abuses; ignore the wholesale destruction of rainforests and numerous species of plants and animals; and don’t even begin to think about poverty and starvation in the third world brought about by certain Western governments and multi-national companies supporting corrupt regimes.

For all these pale into insignificance compared to the layout changes they have made in Facebook.

There seem to be more protests and people prepared to sign petitions about this than over whether we were lied to by our governments about Iraq’s possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction and the need to cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands, and misery of millions because of it.

What does it say about us?

Quite simply it says we’re more concerned about what’s right in front of our eyes than some abstract idea effecting people elsewhere or elsewhen.

Cast James Bond with a blonde haired actor? Reorganise the layout of our favourite TV magazine? Change the name of BBC Radio 4 News to BBC News Radio 4? Bump off our favourite soap opera star? Kids listening to some new kind of thumpa thumpa music? Have Dr Who regenerate into someone else? Subtle alterations in the pattern on the toilet paper? HOW WILL WE SURVIVE? GIVE ME BACK WHAT I’M FAMILIAR WITH!!!

Clearly it’s an evolutionary survival tactic. Those who were concerned about distant things rather than the immediate tended to get eaten by roaming predators and so failed to pass on their genetic code. We are descendents of the paranoid, the obsessive-compulsive and the randy.

This is why long-term goals are so difficult to stick to. Faced with a choice between an ideal thinner, fitter, healthier self at some vague point in the future, and a bramble crumble right in front of us, it’s unsurprising which one will win out.

It seems the only real way to make people act on a large scale is to change something right in front of their eyes – something tangible, something immediate.

If each cigarette caused a coughing fit, or if each car journey caused a tornado, or if each chocolate bar caused an instant gain of 10lbs, we would modify our behaviour with much greater speed and intensity.

So with Facebook rapidly approaching 100,000,000 members, perhaps the solution to the worlds problems would be to create annoying little changes in the layout or colouring of Facebook every time another species becomes extinct, another person is arrested, imprisoned and tortured without trial or representation, the global temperature rises another 0.1 of a degree, the government lies to us, or another child dies in poverty.

Perhaps then our gripes could make a difference.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bramble Crumble: Before and After



You seriously thought I could think of getting my camera out to take a photo while a Bramble Crumble was right in front of me, waiting to be eaten?

If you really want to know what it looks like "Before", you'll have to make your own.

Here's the recipe for Bramble Crumble.

I once ate so much bramble crumble I was physically sick.
Didn't stop me wanting more though...


Thursday, September 11, 2008

5MFSN - is Sarah Palin One of Us?

5 Minutes For Special Needs

I've been guest blogging over on 5 Minutes for Special Needs again, this time dabbling in American Politics and whether parents of children with Down Syndrome, or any form of special need, are pro-life or pro-choice, evolutionists or creationists, pro-gun lobby or anti-gun lobby, enjoy apple pie or despise apple pie, need glasses or have 20-20 vision, shave their legs and armpits or go au naturale.

If you have a couple of minutes to spare, do pop across to read
Is Sarah Palin One of Us?

What Happened To The Greatest Blog Post Ever Written?

I lied.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Coming soon...

I have the greatest blog post ever written lined up.

It will answer the most fundamental questions about existence, and help to truly make the world a better place.

Everything in your life will suddenly and completely make sense.

But as we still don't know yet whether we will be here by the end of tomorrow (see previous post), I've decided to post in on Thursday as it would be too cruel to receive enlightenment only to have it snatched away.

Tune in 8am UK time on Thursday 11th.

Friday, September 05, 2008

The End of the World is Nigh

On September 10th, CERN will being an experiment to recreate some of the conditions created at the point of the Big Bang using The Large Hadron Collider.

Scientists assure us it is perfectly safe

I wonder if there are many of us who will be a touch disappointed if the world doesn't actually get sucked into non-existence...


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Finally relented

As I sit here in not one, but two fleeces, the smell of dusty heating is beginning to pervade the house. It is the distinct aroma that occurs when the radiators are turned on for the first time in a long while.

Forget Autumn, Winter has arrived.

Behold: September in Castle Douglas

Yes I did get a wee bit damp taking the photo

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Seasonal adjustment

It's that time of year again.

Out with the children at the weekend to pick and fill our first tub (see Rogan's post for more info).

Have made a slight change to the header.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Responsible person?

On a recent form I had to fill out for Meg it asked for:

"Name of parent or responsible person"

I was so relieved they gave me the choice...


Tuesday, August 26, 2008


“It’s gey backendish,” said Maggie recently.

“?” I enquired.

“Very backendish: the back end of Summer.”

“Not the back end of a pantomime horse?”

“Pfft,” she replied, and wandered off.

But she was right. And everyone else knows it too. Everyone who’s local, that is.

If you walk down Castle Douglas high street at the moment, you can tell the tourists by the fact they are wearing shorts, t-shirts, flimsy cagoules, and shivering like mad; clearly wondering why it can be so cold in August.

Locals, on the other hand are all wrapped up with several layers of clothing and their winter coats. Mind you, they won’t put the heating on until November, even if it freezes.

Despite living in Scotland for 20 years now, I have never got used to the idea of the 2nd half of August being the onset of Autumn. I was brought up in milder climes, some 400 miles to the south where it is still considered the height of Summer and the next season won’t appear for many weeks to come.

But up here my Southern upbringing betrayed me this morning as I left the house wearing a coat, but no fleece underneath it; I was chilled by the time I got home.

’t will Soon be time for Bramble Crumbles.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Navel Gazing

The problem with breaking is no matter how much glue, sticky tape and patches you use, the intact original has gone forever.

The choice now is whether to keep patching it up and trying to make it look like the original, or turn it into something else completely.

I distinctly remember the first time I broke. More accurately I distinctly remember the first time I realised I was broken, nearly 10 years ago.

Part of me never really accepted I broke. I think there’s a sort of phantom limb thing going on, where you leap out of bed only to remember you don’t have any legs to support you. I can still mentally charge headlong into things only to discover I don’t have the emotional capacity to cope any more.

OK, my intact original was a naïve fool who didn’t realise he wasn’t invincible, but his legacy haunts me.

I grew up reading about heroes - Batman, Conan the Barbarian, King Arthur etc – and knew I was going to be one when I grew up. And at the core of all heroes is that solid nugget of indestructibility; no matter how bad the situation gets, no matter how hopeless it all seems, part of them never truly gives up. Even if they die, they die knowing they were right.

I used to watch programmes on TV about people who faced impossible situations - physical, mental and emotional - yet survived. They refused to be beaten and just kept on going.

I knew I’d be like that.

So to reach a point where I realised if I was pushed to the limit I wouldn’t survive, I would lay down and die, with no dignity, this was what felt like the ultimate self betrayal.

At my core I am no hero.

At my core I am mush.

And I don’t think I’ve ever truly forgiven myself for that.

Friday, August 22, 2008

I know I shouldn't have, but...

After the disappointment of yesterday, I gorged myself on far too much chocolate last night.

And felt considerably better for it.

Today I'm just generally a bit pissed off, rather than feeling that extreme void in chest, like my heart's been ripped out and dropped into the endless pit of despair.

For anyone out there who still thinks self medicating with food is just an excuse to be greedy, this is the bit you utterly fail to understand - chocolate works - at least temporarily.

Faced with the choice between emotional anguish, and a large bar of chocolate, there really isn't much competition. In that state you will completely ignore anyone saying, "Well, if you don't want to be overweight, just stop eating so much"

Unless they're covered in chocolate, that is.

In which case you'll be charged with cannibalism.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Chronically Fu... er, Pissed Off

I went to see the blood specialist in Dumfries this afternoon.

What I was hoping to hear:

That I have a recognised condition, where no one can say, “Did you hear of that Olympic athlete who had CFS and just decided it wasn’t going to stop her and she won gold,” or “It might get better on its own, but it might not, and it might even be degenerative, we have no idea," or "Have you thought about Crystal Therapy?"

That I would be able to say, “See! See! I told you I was ill, that I wasn’t making it up”

That it would be something serious enough to be recognised, but not so serious it would be incurable, unmanageable, terminal or requiring painful or lifelong treatment.

That I would finally be able to get rid of the label, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

What I actually heard:

I definitely have Haemochromatosis, which is going to require lifelong periodic blood-letting.

But at the moment it’s at a relatively low level and is highly unlikely to be the cause of my Fatigue.


Now I have both Haemochromatosis and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (and let’s not forget the B12 deficiency either, requiring lifelong periodic jabs, also not the cause of my CFS)


I plan to spend the evening curled up on the couch feeling thoroughly miserable and sorry for myself.

And I don't want to hear about people in the world being worse off than me. It NEVER makes me feel better

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


I’ve decided to boycott any films I’m unlikely to find educational, enlightening, amusing or entertaining.

And I’m seriously thinking about extending this idea to other forms of media too, like books, DVDs, newspapers, radio stations and websites. If they don’t offer me something worthwhile, I will read/ watch/ buy/ listen to/ surf somewhere else instead.

However, I’ve decided not to call a national boycott on anything I find offensive, distasteful, bland or boring.

Firstly I like the idea of free speech, and that means if I want to be able to express my opinions on anything, I have to allow people to express other ideas with which I profoundly disagree.

Secondly, calling for a national boycott only serves to promote and advertise the very thing I’m trying to turn people away from, while at the same time making me look like I have a closed mind.

Remember when the Sex Pistols shot to Number 1 in the charts after their song, “God Save the Queen” was banned by the BBC?

Remember how Monty Python used the condemning statements of “Life of Brian” by archbishops as a promotional tool?

Remember how you’d never heard of Salman Rushdie until he had a Fatwa placed on his head for writing “The Satanic Verses”?

Remember what you thought about the people calling for the bans, boycotts and fatwas?

But when it comes down to it, I’m a philosopher, not a politician. I want to help people think for themselves, not tell people what to think.

So if anyone wants to know if they should boycott this or that film I’ll have to say, “Look, you've got it all wrong! You don't need to follow me, you don't need to follow anybody! You've got to think for yourselves! You're all individuals!” *

*No bonus points for correctly guessing which film this quote comes from, but minus several million if you get it wrong

Sunday, August 17, 2008

3rd Blogging Anniversary


14 different profile pics

More than 390 posts

Over 55,000 visits

In excess of a thousand afternoon naps

What have I actually achieved in 3 years of blogging (anniversary back on the 11th of August – forgot about it until today)?

Fame? No.

Fortune? Hahahahahahahahahaha. No.

Glory? You’re kidding, right?

On the plus side I have met some truly wonderful people. Unfortunately with only a tiny handful of exceptions, you all live too far away to visit in person.

Sometimes I wonder if the primary reason I blog is merely looking for some vague verification I exist (outside of Doc Maroon’s head, that is).

OK, I’m fishing for compliments.

Or well-crafted insults.

Leave a comment, a smiley face or a set of weird symbols.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Should I be here?

5 Minutes For Special Needs

I've been guest blogging over on 5 Minutes for Special Needs again.

This time I've written a post called Should I be here?. Do pop across if you have a couple of minutes to spare.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Genotype Compound Heterozygote

You want to vivisect me???

“No, no, no, no, no. Venesect you, Mr Ayres. VENEsect. It’s a phlebotomy.”

I’m rather attached to my phlebs. What do you want to remove them for? Suppose I want to keep them?

“You misunderstand, Mr Ayres, Ve Vant your blood, mwahahahaha...


“I said we want to take some of your blood.”

What, for more tests?

“No, we need to bleed you.”

Ewwww. Is that where you cover me in leeches?

Sigh. We live in slightly more enlightened times these days, Mr Ayres. It is exactly the same process as giving blood, only it’s done deliberately to make sure your body releases some of the excess iron it has stored in your body. Leeches might do the job, but they are a bit of a plitter; a syringe is much simpler.”

It turns out I might have haemochromatosis (or hemochromatosis to you lot across the Atlantic who shun the “ae” spellings in words). With luck, this is the cause of my symptoms rather than the current vague diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Although we also have to hope the luck holds out that it’s been caught early enough not to cause any major liver damage.

Haemochromatosis is a condition whereby the body absorbs too much iron, which if left unchecked can cause a great deal of damage to various organs. It’s not something usually picked up by your local GP, but almost by accident some of my blood got checked by a specialist who identified that I carry 2 mutant genes, thereby giving me a Genotype Compound Heterozygote.

This doesn’t mean I definitely have it as I might just be a carrier. But I now have an appointment with the blood specialists in a couple of weeks who are apparently thrilled at getting their hands on someone with a Genotype Compound Heterozygote as it’s not that common.

When I first heard about my Mutant Genes, I wondered if it would give me superhuman powers, like Magneto in X-Men. Perhaps I’d be able to raise up the Forth Bridge and threaten to drop it on the Scottish Parliament if they don’t crack down on Mazda garages in Dumfries saying you need 2 new tyres when actually there’s nothing wrong with them and they’re just trying to con you into spending more money on your 50,000 mile service.

Unfortunately this has turned out to be idle fantasy. The only likely superpower I might have is if I crap in a puddle my stool will face magnetic north.

Great trick if you’re ever lost in the wilderness, you might think, but too much iron is also associated with constipation, so I’d only be able to check my bearings every 3 or 4 days.

In the meantime, until I see the specialists, they have told my GP I might benefit from a bit of venesection, so on Wednesday I will come out of the health centre ½ a litre lighter.

Wonder if it will help with weight loss…

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Meg’s Kitchen Exhibition

Ever since Maggie opened her studio to the public back in May at the Spring Fling Open Studio Event, Meg has wanted her own exhibition.

Figuring it would a) give her something to keep her occupied for periods of time over the summer holidays, and b) prove to be an excuse to invite a few friends round, we decided she could have her own “Kitchen Exhibition” about 10 days before school started again.

For the past few weeks then, she has been busy with pencils, pastels, potato prints, marbling inks and even my camera. Invites were designed, created and posted out, and finally the big day arrived on Saturday.

Despite being only 10 years old, Meg doesn’t seem to distinguish a difference between herself and adults; indeed I don’t think she ever has. Consequently the only non-adult invited was Mary’s younger daughter (who is a teenager and taller than everyone in our family so Meg wouldn’t have made the distinction anyway).

We’ve never really got the hang of inviting people round more than one or two at a time so were caught out by the logistics of having an extra 7 or 8 in the house. This was most obvious when we realised after sorting out food, drinks and cake for a dozen people, the kitchen was probably the worst room in the house to invite people in to view anything, let alone an exhibition.

Still, it seemed to work in the end. Certainly everyone was very indulgent with Meg and she was glowing with pride by the end of the evening.

I couldn’t fit the whole wall into one photo as the kitchen isn’t wide enough, so I’ve merged 4 photos together. If you click on the image it takes you to a larger version.


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Eustacia Bancroft wants to be my friend

Eustacia Bancroft contacted me on Facebook.

Eustacia Bancroft wants to be my friend.

Eustacia Bancroft is very pretty, with red hair, porcelain skin and clear blue eyes.

Eustacia Bancroft is 25, single, interested in men, friendship, dating, relationships and random play.

Eustacia Bancroft isn’t a name I recognise as someone I know, or even the likely daughter of someone I know.

Eustacia Bancroft must have randomly come across my profile and been instantly smitten.

Eustacia Bancroft must have a thing the more mature, bearded man.

Eustacia Bancroft must surely have seen my current Facebook profile pic.

Eustacia Bancroft must be insane.

Eustacia Bancroft has 58 friends on her profile.

Eustacia Bancroft’s 58 friends are all male.

Eustacia Bancroft’s 58 friends are mostly overweight, balding, holding a pint with a silly grin on their face, or all three.

Eustacia Bancroft’s 58 friends are some of the saddest looking bastards I’ve seen in a long time.

Eustacia Bancroft is clearly operating some kind of con, scam or is just laughing herself stupid at the gullibility of blokes who think they are attractive enough to have a good-looking 25 year old woman throw herself at them.

Eustacia Bancroft couldn't have known I’m instantly suspicious of any good looking woman (other than my wife) finding me attractive.

Eustacia Bancroft hasn’t been accepted as my friend on Facebook.

I did toy with the idea of pointing her towards Dr Maroon though…