Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Smug Alert

This photo has just won me a Fujifilm S100FS camera in their March competition.

The Willow Harvester

I think this might be the first competition I’ve ever won.


These things never happen to me. In the Statistical Bell Curve of Competitions, I’ve always languished down in the tail end where winning just doesn’t happen.

Until now.


Smug, smug, smug, smug, smug, smug, smug, smug, smug, smug, smug, smug, smug, smug, smug, smug, smug, smug, smug, smug, smug, smug, smug, smug, smug, smug, smug, smug, smug...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Dream dream dream

I left school nearly 26 years ago.

There followed a few years of the University of Life before returning to education, getting some Highers at a local college and going to the University of Dundee, which was nothing like Life, but at least gave me a piece of paper saying I’d been there.

But I graduated from Dundee nearly 14 years ago.

So why have I been getting a flood of back in school/college/university dreams over the past few months?

Most of them are based around the idea I have assignments to hand in, but I don’t know what the topic is; I had homework but don’t remember being in this class before; and not being able to find the room/teacher/tutor I had to visit 5 minutes ago.

Sometimes these dreams link together and I’ll have the memory of a previous one acting as the past in the present one. And it’s not uncommon for me to wonder why I’m in school when I’m clearly older than the teacher, and probably more qualified.

Usually my dreams are pretty straight forward – like a few days before going to the dentist I’ll usually dream my teeth are all falling out. But I can’t connect to these school dreams at all.

Still at least for the past few years I haven’t had one where I suddenly find I’m missing my trousers and underwear as I enter the classroom.

XKCD had it right with this strip…


Monday, March 23, 2009

I must be the Bearded One then...

“You are ‘The Bearded One’. I claim my £1,000.”

I realised I had a fixed grin on my face and I hadn’t blinked for several seconds. “You must, er, read...”

“Your blog, yes. Well, I haven’t read the latest posts, but I do follow it sometimes. I liked your piece on the Burns Festival. I was there with the Choir when the panicked police didn’t want to let us across the bridge.”

A complete stranger has just started talking to me like he knows me.

I should feel at a distinct disadvantage, but the truth is, it’s familiar territory.

You know how people often say, “I’m terrible with names, but I never forget a face!”? Unfortunately, I forget the face too.

Usually I have to meet someone several times, and not too long apart, before name and face start to sink in. Even then, if I don’t see someone for a long time, unless I know them extremely well, my memory will dump them into an inaccessible part of my head.

My general strategy, developed over the years, is to smile at anyone who looks at me and be prepared to appear friendly to anyone who acts like they know me. If I do recall them, it’s quite likely to be 20 minutes after I’ve left their company.

How well I get away with this, I don’t really know. Either people don’t realise I have no idea who they are, or they’re too embarrassed to say, “you haven’t a clue who I am, have you, you bastard?

But it’s the only strategy I know, and seems to work better than openly admitting I’ve forgotten someone I taught in a class, worked with in the past, or am married to their sister...

Maybe this is why I find it easy to spout my personal viewpoints, mental and emotional anguish, and unlikely scenarios to a bunch of unknown people who live anything from a few yards to several thousand miles away, via my blog.

Strangers are probably just friends I’ve forgotten.*

*Don’t think that gives anyone the right to come up and ask me to lend them a fiver though

Saturday, March 21, 2009

World Down Syndrome Day

March 21st is World Down Syndrome Day - the date being chosen to reflect the fact people with DS have a 3rd chromosome attached to their 21st pair (we all have 46 chromosomes, coupled into 23 pairs, but people with DS have that triplet, meaning they have 47 chromosomes in total). For this reason, DS is also sometimes known as Trisomy 21.

So with the figures 3 and 21 being highly significant (and no month contains 47 days), 21st March seems like a good date to raise awareness of Down's Syndrome.

Depending on how long you have been visiting this site, or how much you've been poking about, or how good your memory is, you might, or might not, know my daughter, Meg, has Down's Syndrome.

Click on the "Down's Syndrome" label on the sidebar, under the Find Your Favourite Topics section if you would like to read any of my writings concerned with DS. Alternatively, check out the links under the "With a dash of something extra..." where you will find a lot of excellent blogs written by parents of children with DS.

I can't think of anything new to add that hasn't been covered in those previous posts, but if anyone has any questions, I'm more than happy to give answers and help educate people past society's misconceptions and prejudices.

Meanwhile, I thought I'd post a triplet of photos of Meg, each with a different treatment. The first is in colour, the 2nd in black and white, and the third has a sepia tint to it. All of them go to larger versions if you click on them


Friday, March 20, 2009

Queuing Quandary

As the checkout is approached, we notice more than one queue. What to do? Which one should we join?

Normally I would make a rapid calculation using a home-grown formula based on the number of people in the queue, the size of their shopping baskets/trolleys, their ages, whether they have their money and loyalty card at the ready, and the age and chattiness of the person swiping the goods through.

But no matter how much I refine this method over the years, in the end experience shows there is only one universal about queue joining: the other one always moves faster.

However, I have devised a solution.

It’s not easy, and it takes practice and a great deal of empathy. Because at the heart of it, you need to remove yourself from the centre of your universe. You need to become a bit part player, rather than the hero or heroine of your life.

The trick is to look for someone in the other queue, preferably someone slightly agitated, in a bit of a hurry.

Mentally and emotionally lock onto them.

Feel their pain; feel their anxiety; feel their frustration.

Allow the full depth of realisation and understanding to wash over you – for them, the other queue is going to move faster.

And hey presto! Your queue suddenly speeds up.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Skip Watch

“Maggie! There’s a guy out there rummaging through the skip, picking up log-burner sized pieces of wood and sticking them in the pushchair with his kid.”

“Maggie! A cyclist just pulled up by the side of the skip, grabbed a bit of plastic piping and rode off!”

“Maggie! There’s an interesting metal pole sticking out the skip. Do you think we could use it for anything?”

“Maggie! You know those 2 broken wheelbarrows the lads up the road threw in the skip? Both of them vanished within 20 minutes!”

“Maggie! That guy with the pushchair is back. He’s got a saw with him this time!”

This Morning:
“Maggie! One of those two suitcases I threw in the skip last night has gone already...”

Since giving up my study so Rogan could have his own room, I've more or less taken up permanent residence in one corner of Maggie's studio, near the window. Being at street level, this gives me a first class view of the skip that's been sitting outside next door's house for a week or 2 now (See There are some things you cannot ignore).

And one of the major things I’ve noticed, is despite the fact people keep dumping things in it, it never overflows.

In these ecologically sensitive times, when recycling is much higher on the agenda, all they need to do is put empty skips at strategically placed points on various streets in every town. Within minutes people would start filling them up while others would be busy emptying them.

UPDATE - Tuesday morning
"Maggie! The broken plastic garden chair with only 3 legs has gone!"

FURTHER UPDATE - Tuesday afternoon
"Maggie! Someone's taken the skips..."

Friday, March 13, 2009

Iron levels

On Tuesday I had an appointment with the haematologist about my haemochromatosis and how my iron levels are doing after 6 months of having a pint of blood drained out of me every 2 weeks.

It was quite odd to see this usually confident and in control consultant looking distinctly sheepish and embarrassed.

Apparently he had just assumed my local GP would be getting my blood tested after each venesection.

Apparently my local GP has assumed I should keep having the blood taken until the 6 months had passed, when the haematologist would test me again.

Apparently I am now anaemic.

I should have guessed when I stopped feeling the urge to face magnetic north when having a crap.

I thought I was feeling more tired of late; a downward turn since the New Year.

But then, when you’re tired all the time anyway, it’s not always obvious it you’re getting worse or not. With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome there are bad days and not so bad days, and bad weeks and not so bad weeks. So how to tell if I’m just having a bad patch, or things have actually taken a turn for the worse?

It could just have easily been the time of year – me and winter months, with their lack of light and warmth, have never particularly got on well together.

Still, I don’t have to take iron supplements as my genetic mutations mean I’ll recover from this considerably quicker than the average mortal.

But at least I only need to have a needle the size of a piece of scaffolding stuck in my arm 3 or 4 times a year from now on.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The innocent still have nothing to fear...

Revealed: police databank on thousands of protesters*

I don’t have the energy for righteous indignation.

I’m also too cynical to think it will make any difference.

There are bloggers out there – Bock the Robber, Michael Greenwell, Fatmammycat who are happy to scream out about the injustices of the world, and I respect them for it, especially as they are damn good writers and often quite amusing with it too.

We need people with energy and drive who want to change the world for a better place.

And certainly if all the people who complain about wheelie-bin collection times, gay marriages, or how the youth of today have no respect for their elders, actually put their anger into action against world poverty, corrupt governments and the erosion of our civil liberties, the world probably could be drastically improved.

I’ve never been a campaigner; I’ve never been on a protest march; I’ve never even written a letter of complaint to my local newspaper. And I have to admit, I feel a fair amount of guilt about it. I’m only too aware that “evil thrives when good men do nothing.”

But most of my energy goes into getting to the end of the day.

However, as someone with an utter distrust of authority, the growth in surveillance, police databases and the general assumption of guilt is something that greatly disturbs me.

That the police are keeping records of innocent protesters; that they are allowed to photograph us and store all sorts of info about us without our consent or knowledge, yet we are no longer allowed to photograph them; that a climate of fear is continually being stoked up so we fear everyone around is either a paedophile or terrorist, and this helps justify why everything we say, do, or even think is monitored; doesn’t surprise me.

It saddens me; it frightens me; it exhausts me as soon as I think about it; but it doesn’t surprise me. In some ways I wish it did, as then I could use the energy of righteous indignation rather than be sapped by cynicism.

“The innocent have nothing to fear!” is always the cry of those who erode our rights and place ever greater powers into the hands of the ruling elites. “These laws are only there to protect us from paedophiles and terrorists.”

And that is fine.

So long as you believe corruption doesn’t happen

So long as you completely and utterly trust every single policeman

So long as you completely and utterly trust every single secret service operative

So long as you completely and utterly trust every single poitician

So long as you completely and utterly trust every single person in a position of authority

So long as you agree with every single person in a position of authority

And believe they will never put their own interests above yours

So long as you believe miscarriages of justice never happen

And so long as you have no fear that anyone in the future in any of these positions will ever be corrupt

Then you can believe you have nothing to fear.

*With thanks to Kate for pointing me to this article

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Through these eyes...


Carole said my pic looked like a blues album cover, and suggested a band name and title. So here you are, Carole...