Well, what can I say apart from thank you? Following my last entry when I resumed blogging after my apathetic self-imposed hiatus for three months my stats for viewing figures went through the roof. It seems like I was briefly a (very minor) underground hit in the blogosphere as I believe it is called. Get me with the techspeak. Maybe the very old and fairly battered dog can learn new tricks after all. Honestly, thank you all so very much, it really is appreciated.
Shame it didn’t last long but my enthusiasm for blogging like my enthusiasm for anything at all in the miserable existence I am now leading evaporated as soon as it briefly flared up. If you want to know why I am writing this post now then you know the drill, just click on the read more button below. I’ll even throw you in a description of the stunning vista of the four walls of my living room for nothing!
There you are, thanks for jumping in. I’ll start by explaining why I am writing this in the very early morning of 02/12/2020 and that is because the sleep fairy has gone on steroids and is currently knocking seven bells out of me. As I write this I have been awake for over 50 hours straight and and still not in the slightest tired so I thought I might as well have a go at this.
A secondary reason is that this insomnia has led me to indulging in huge bouts of gorging on the BBC iPlayer and I am rapidly running out of programmes I want to watch. Last week I watched all 24 episodes of Blackadder in one hit which I know is a bit excessive but what else is there to do? OK, the question was rhetorical.
What follows below is the piece I have been writing in dribs and drabs for weeks now and I had started by discussing the brief upsurge in my viewing figures here. Apologies if the following all seems a touch disjointed but that was the way it was written.
I know a lot of my readership personally and where they live so I can guess most of who is accessing my idiotic ramblings but I genuinely would love to know who in Qatar and Malta, for example, regularly seem to read my musings here. Please do get in touch, I’d love to talk to you.
I seem to get a daily look from China but I suspect that is the CCP (Chinese Government) using an algorithm to search for the term Chinese virus, which I use frequently as being factually correct and not at all used in a denigratory way towards the Chinese people. I only just learned recently where the word algorithm comes from and it is fascinating, I shall deal with it in a moment.
If it is your first time into one of my completely inane (did I miss the “s” from the word insane, either is a correct statement?) and random ramblings, welcome and may whatever God(s) you believe in have mercy on you. For those of you who inexplicably do this more than once, I can only say that there must be more masochists in the world than I had imagined but who am I to deny you such self-torture?
I am reminded of a very old and slightly off-colour witticism I heard once regarding a masochist who begged a sadist to, “Beat me, whip me, abuse me, degrade me, hurt me badly”. The sadist smiled and simply replied, “No”. Think about it but now back to work.
Let’s start with the word algorithm which I teased you with a few pargraphs ago.
If there can be anything positive to be said about the current fallout of this largely preventable pandemic, as I have already discussed in a previous post and is fairly well scientifically proven now, it is that I am now under enforced house arrest and have loads of time to watch documentaries and learn new things. OK, I know it is a very poor trade off for the million plus lives already lost and the untold global misery and these figures only represent directly attributable virus cases and do not take into account the suicide rates and deaths form domestic violence, child abuse and the like but it is still an appalling figure.
As I mentioned above, my online organ of choice for bingeing on documentaries is the BBC iPlayer and I appreciate that many of you will not be able to access it as I believe it is only available in the UK, where I pay over £150 in a TV licence fee for the privelege of watching old content! My TV packed up about five years ago and I never replaced it, I can get everything I need online. Some of the documentaries may be available on YouTube which is another great source of interesting programmes and, better still, it is free.
I just used the word bingeing and it seems to have taken on a life of it’s own in the last few years but, if you think about it, the concept is as old as “civilisation” itself. We talk regularly now about “binge-eating”, “binge-drinking (a favourite of the anti-alcohol brigade)”, “binge watching” etc. The afore-mentioned BBC iPlayer even has a section entitled “Biinge-worthy series”. I think I’ll give that one a swerve.
From Roman Bacchanalian feasts, through the prodigiously hungry Henry VIII (hungry in every sense of the word) to the Victorians and their gargantuan spreads, bingeing is as old as the time when it became possible to do so and eating and drinking were not merely a means of staying alive. Back, however and yet again, to the algorithm and I promise I will get there soon.
Whilst shamelessly “bingeing” on documentaries in the dead of night a few days ago I stumbled upon a series of three one hour pieces about the role of Moslem scholars in the development of Western scientific thought. I had read a bit about this subject, although not nearly enough to have a good grasp of it, and I knew that, even before the time of the Crusades which led to horrors then and horrors that persist to this day, Moslem scholars were streets ahead of their Western counterparts.
The series was presented by a guy called Jameel (aka Jim) al-Khalili who was born in Baghdad to a Moslem Iraqi father and a Protestant Christian English mother. In spite of this, or more possibly because of it, he is now an atheist like myself and was Chair of the Humanist Society for several years.
Professor al-Khalili’s family had to flee his home country when Saddam came to power and found refuge in the UK where he aquired the name “Jim” and went on to an absolutely outstanding academic career whereby he is now a Professor of Physics at the University of Surrey, a Fellow of the Royal Society and about a dozen other things. The man has a brain the size of one of the planets he studies so closely and obviously loves so much. I love his presenting style and, with what might have been a slightly contentious subject given the present world order, he was completely objective, spoke to his audience in a very relaxed but informed way and it was a joy to watch. I sat up for hours in the middle of the night watching it and I do really recommend it if you can get it. I promise the algorithm is coming in the next paragraph!
One of the Moslem scientists Prof. al-Khalili concentrated on was a guy who rejoiced in the name of Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī (yes, I c&p’ed that to get the accents) but when translators came to “Latinize” his name it became “Algoritmi” so it is not hard to see where the word alorithm comes from.
Actually, the concept of algorithms dates back to the Babylonians in about 2500 BC and the Egyptians a millenium later but our friend Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī (I love that name) refined the concept somewhat in the 9th century AD, not to mention an astonishing range of other mathematical concepts including quadratic equations. I should really hate him for that as they were the bane of my life at school, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Simple division is an algorithm and even I can do that despite having to take my shoes off to count to 11! The word algorithm is merely a Western corruption of his name. There you are, I told you I’d get there in the end.
Strange as it seems to one of my generation, the very fact you are able to read this just about anywhere in the world (if the CCP have not banned me yet) is because of algorithms. It is a bit odd to think of a Persian scholar well over a millenium ago working out things that would lead to my offerings here being available to anyone on the planet with a power source and some sort of internet connection. I do wonder, if he were able to come back today, what he would make of it all. He’d probably prove mathematically that the Higgs Boson Collider was going to end the world or something equally radical. What if he had met the late Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein? That would have been a conversation and a half even if I would not have understood a word of it.
Enough of my philosophising here and back to my own little story, which frankly pales in comparison to those I have spoken of above. You will remember I had left you last time having been discharged for the second time and again too early I thought. I am all in favour of preventing bed blocking but was I worried that another re-admission with yet more complications might prove troublesome. I still had the idea firmly planted in my head that it was a distinct possibility I could still lose my left leg and that was something I obviously didn’t fancy much.
I had a complete pharmacy’s worth of medication which I am still taking to this day many months later, including the much disliked daily subcutaneous injections in my stomach, which was still not properly recovered from the previous three months worth of sticking needles in there. I have to tell you that my lower abdomen now resmebles something that has been kicked several times by an angry mule and you will be glad too know I am going to spare you the horror of posting an image here, which brings me to my next point.
I realise there is a lot of text here and not much in the way of visual relief so I shall add a couple of images here. I’ll include an image of those damned needles, one of which I am going to break off from composing this to stick into my much abused abdomen!
OK, now that that unpleasant task has been undertaken I can concentrate on boring you further. There I was, back at home, told to be keeping the leg elevated again but to take some exercise, it seems they had learned from the previous debacle where I had obeyed them to the letter and my relative inactivity had led to secondary clots. Here is the said limb reposing peacefully as I was sitting typing here.
I am not sure I ever quite got the balance right but, thankfully, as I write this, I have not required a further trip to hospital except for the absolute plethora of out-patients appointments I have had, mostly by telephone. I really do fail to see how they can examine my eye on a telephone which is apparently what they are going to do. I know technology is smart these days but an eye examination on the ‘phone is not going to happen.
I have now a January 2021 telephone appointment about the chronic cataract in my right eye, which is effectively useless now. This is a following an appointment in February 2020 when they told me I would have an appointment within six to eight weeks to discuss sugery. I told them there and then I wanted it and now I will not now cross a busy road after dark as I cannot judge the distance of vehicles. If you lose the sight of one eye it is impossible as depth perception depends on stereo vision. I know it is difficult under the current circumstances but surely they can do better.
The whole situation is made even more ridiculous by the fact that I have had two face to face, or should that be mask to mask and PPE visor consultations with two different and equally charming hepatologists. I am old and grizzled enough to understand but I do wonder how medical professionals are coping with, for want of a better term, “bedside manner” with patients, perhaps children or people who are anxious about medical procedures. I am sure many people are already working on their Ph.D theses about how lack of facial contact has impacted the medical profession.
There is already a massive body of work dealing with how much non-verbal communication we rely on, and much of this is to do with facial expressions and interpreting the tiniest signs in other people. All gone now, so once again many sarcastic thanks to the Chinese authorities for destroying the world as we once knew it, it will never return to 2019 levels.
Again, just to break the monotony, here are a couple of snaps I rattled off one day when I had to go and let the vampires take more blood out of me. It is no wonder I am so thin, I hve no blood left in me, it is all in their test tubes.
Apart from merely resting your eyes for a second, what it does show is how modern and pleasant the Royal London is. I remember the old hospital well and, whilst it was always kept spotless, it was nevertheless an aging, Victorian building and it looked it.
I was at home therefore and effectively “confined to barracks” although with instructions to attend my local Doctor’s surgery on a daily basis for the Nurse Practitioners to change my dressings and they needed some dressing, believe me. As I mentioned before, I have a better than basic medical training from a “former life” in the Forces and I know how to bandage and dress wounds but, whilst it is a relatively simple process with others, it is a bit difficult to do to yourself. Not impossible but not easy, so I was glad of the services of the lovely practice nurses at my local surgery.
It would be remiss of me at this point not to mention the paragons of virtue that are nurses. I have mentioned in previous posts my absolute and massive respect for these wonderful people. I remember in the 70’s or 80’s there was a fictional series on BBC TV about nurses which was called “Angels” and it was not inappropriately named.
I have no wish to be meoldramatic and I only ever got the full story long after the events but I was facing potential death twice in the last 18 months. Certainly, the surgeons, anaeshtetists and associated theatre staff require huge credit for their Herculean efforts but it was nursing staff that got me better. 24 hours a day every day, anything I needed and they were there. As always I do not wish to be indelicate but the concept of asking a young lady (or even a man moreso nowadays) to empty a bottle full of your urine because you are not allowed out of bed is pretty hard to do and I could never quite shake off the embarrassment inherent in that situation. They never blinked an eye. I think it is disgraceful and demeans my country hugely how shabbily they are treated.
I would also be hugely failing in my duty to report fairly now if I did not name and pay tribute to the fine trio of this very select band who cared for me post-operatively. I mostly saw Nurse Glynnis (Glyn) Williams and less often Nurse Helen Sun and Nurse Vivian Chan (they only work part time) and we are back to the UN notion of the British NHS here. Glyn is obiously indigenous British, Helen told me she is from China (I suspect Hong Kong) and Viv is Malaysian. Did I care? What do you think?
All three of these outstanding ladies looked after me wonderfully, especially at the start when the mere act of walking to the surgery was making me “leak” and giving them a Hell of a job to clean up. The image a couple of pargraphs ago was their work and I really cannot remember which nurse did it but they were all so proficient. Look how beautifully clean it was although that didn’t last long.
My other potential problem was feeding myself as I did not want to be standing for a long time in the kitchen so my culinary options were limited not so much to what I wanted to eat on the odd occasions I do but to what I could make quickly. I do not have a microwave so that was out but no problem for the single bloke chef, anything on toast will do nicely.
Beans on toast (a classic and I tend to liven mine up with chilli and maybe hot Madras curry powder), cheese on toast, another much maligned classic and there are so many things you can do with it. I have even been known to eat the remains of the previous night’s curry cold on toast for a hangover breakfast! If you go the cold curry route don’t bother buttering the toast, the semi-congealed ghee dose the job nicely. Bon appetit. As long as you have a loaf of bread, you’ll never go far wrong. Students the world over will attest to this.
Time to digress now and dip into my “cooking for one in a hurry becuse your leg hurts” recipe book, such as it is, and give you a favourite toast spread of mine. I really should start looking for a publisher for that title, I am sure there is a niche market somewhere.
I am giving the quantities for just me but obviously you can factor it up as required. Take a tin of sardines (mackarel works equally well) in tomato sauce and throw it in a bowl. If you can only get sardines in brine or oil, drain that off and add a good squeeze of tomato puree. Two or three anchovy fillets, some chopped capers and a very finely chopped cornichon / gherkin if you have it.
For some strange reason, in London, pickled cornichon, which were once a staple in fish and chip shops, are known as “Wallies”. I have never known why, so if anyone can assist please do get in touch as I would be most grateful. Nowadays, you will be hard pressed to find a proper fish and chip shop as most of them are now halal chicken shops run along the lines of a KFC.
My formerly excellent local chippy was run by a lovely Cypriot couple displaced in 1974 by the illegal occupation of their country by Turkey when they had to flee to UK as penniless refugees. It is a Bangladeshi chicken shop now run, not by refugees, but byneconomic migrants. I do wish people, especially the press, would differentiate between the two.
Back to the recipe and this is the important bit, you need heat. Any sort of hot sauce will do, tabasco or any other type you may happen to have to hand. My little local Asian supermarket stocks a brilliant brand called Maggi extra hot Malaysian chilli sauce, and it works a treat for this. In the days before house arrest when I could still travel, I used to see Maggi products all over the world but, for some inexplicable reason, they seem to be very limited on the UK market. A generous dollop of whatever you have and then lots of black pepper, don’t bother with salt as the anchovies are already salty enough.
It is probably unlikely but, if you cannot gt a chilli sauce, don’t panic, just mix up some tmato ketchup and some very, very finely chopped chillies and you’ll get the same result. If you cannot get tomato ketchup you must be living in a yurt / ger in the wilds of Mongolia or somewhere equally far-flung. Yes, I could give you a recipe for making it but life is too short, mine certainly is now, so I would refer you to the two billion recipes online. I just searched on on “recipe tomato ketchup” out of interest and there are over 32 million suggestions for that online, so you’ll find one to suit.
Mash everything gently with a fork. I would advise against using a food processor or even hand blender, you want to retain a bit of texture or it is just like baby food. Toast your bread on one side, turn it, spread it with your lovely sardine / mackarel mix, right to the edges and pop it under the grill again for a minute or two, you’ll know when it is done. I have toyed with putting grated parmesan or even cheddar on it to make it more like a traditional cheese on toast but beefed up, or should that be fished up?
I am not quite sure how I got side-tracked into recipes, I really did not intend to. Honestly, just use your search engine with the word recipe you will find over two billion, I was amazed. They don’t need me adding to it and I am sure that most of you cook far better than I do anyway so I’ll leave it alone and get back to, where was I? I am not sure how I side-tracked myself into “cheapo cookiing for beginners” but you know by now how I tend to write. Having said that, do give it a go, it is a cracking snack or even a main course if, llike me, you have the appetite of a small bird. If it takes you more than five minutes to do then get a more powerful grill!
Back now to my poor old leg and the wonderful nurses. The first time I went they had a good look at it, called one of the Doctor’s in and between them they decided that once every two days would suffice as opposed to the daily visit originally ordered. That suited my fine as walking, whilst not exactly paniful, was still an uncomfortable and decidedly slow process. Remember, I was still stitched up with the dissolving sutures at the time.
The other problem was going to be my trousers,yes you read that correctly, my trousers. I definitely do not go in for the current fad of so-called skinny jeans as a) I think they look stupid and b) I already look quite skinny enough without drawing attention to the fact. Wrangler boot cut will do me fine thanks.Socks and shoes were going to be another problem. Between the swelling and the bandaging that just wasn’t going to happen. We had a glorious summer in London this year, at least it looked like it out of my window, shame I could not get to enjoy it. I literally lived in shorts and flip-flops right up until the first week of October when it started to get chilly on the odd occasions I did go out to the Doctor’s or the pharmacy or the local supermarket so that was handy.
The every other day of bandaging plan was OK as far as it went but there was an obvious logistical problem as my surgery only opens for emergency appointments for a few hours on a Saturday morning and there is no nurse in attendance. Thet are closed in Sunday. I am now going to tell you a tale of an A&E Department that does not bandage previously sutured wounds and I promise you I am not making this up.
The Nurse told me to go to the A&E at the Royal London Hospital on the Sunday and they could change the dressings for me. OK, it is a little further to walk but not a major problem. Of I went and, by the time I got there I was “leaking ” fairly badly as I could feel the blood and could even see some showing through the dressings and thick bandages. I had my usual pointless conversation with the jobsworth private security wannabe cop on the door and was graciously granted entry.
After being duly checked over and sanitised I went to the admissions desk (I should get a season ticket there) and explained the problem where I was told that they did not do bandaging of that type there and I would have to go to somewhere called the Immediate Treatment Centre or some such thing, I really cannot remember. OK, where is that? Needless to say it was at the other end of the hospital so it was another walk round there where I presented myself, explained my situation so I was checked and sanitised again and was told to take a seat. Fine, I know hospitals and I had brought a book.
I should point out that it was not a security goon on the door here but a nurse iin full uniform. This becomes important in a moment. After some period of time a male nurse came to see me and told me that they coldn’t do anything for me as they did not do that sort of thing and did not have the right type of dressings. It was only two unremarkable wound dressings and a couple of bog standard crepe bandages. As I said, I could have done it myself if I had had the kit. By this point I was fairly exasperated but I kept cool, thanked him for his time and squelched my way home dripping blood onto the heel of my flip-flop.
This whole sorry scenario begs two questions. Firstly, what the Hell is that Immeduate Treatment Centre there for if it cannot treat patients immediately nor, if the Nurse was right, at any time, immediate or otherwise? I still don’t know what it is they are supposed to do. Secondly, why did the Nurse on the door not tell me there and then that they could do nothing for me and waste half an hour or so of my time sitting about? This is the thing that frustrates me so much about the NHS, it is like the parson’s egg i.e. absolutely brilliant in parts and utterly abysmal in others. I really do not understand it.
When I told the practice nurse about it on Monday she was utterly incredulous and not overly happy especially when she saw the state of the dressing which by that time looked like something from Scutari Field Hospital in the Crimea. Florence Nightingale would have been appalled. Come to think of it the pedestrians of the Mile End Road were probably none too happy either as I was in my shorts and flip-flops and looking like a zombie under construction.
Another incident of note regarding my treatment was that one day, after perhaps a couple of weeks a male nurse in civilian clothes came to the surgery to examine my wounds. Apaprently he was a wound specilist which, I must admit I had never heard of before. He suggested a different type of dressing and also a steroind cream (Betamethasone valerate if you are interested, which you probably are not) to prevent over-granulation which I thought was something you did with sugar but apparently not. Anyway, I have half a tube left if anyone needs it! Only joking, I know never to share meds.
I am not going to bore you yet further with the ups and downs of my treatment but generally my visits to the surgery became less and less frequent until I finished in early October, by which stage they had entrusted me to do my own dressings mostly. I must rather immodestly note that Nurse Glyn remarked that I did a very professional dressing which pleased me inordinately.
To show the effects of all our combined efforts I shall, treat you, if that is the right word, to a couple of images here of my wounds taken today (02/12) to show exactly how well they did heal up. OK, they are pretty ugly but I was never going to enter a lovely legs competition anyway. Come on, I need an image or two to put here and I am struggling, as you can see.
Other than that I have done sbsolutely nothing and since my visits to the Nurse finished in the first week of October I have not been more than 500 yards from my front door as that is how far the pharmacy is from me. Other than that it is twice weekly visits to the supermarket directly opposite my home. Thrilling stuff, eh? It really is wearing me down now, I have had more than enough of this nonsense now.
As I will have nothing meaningful to write about for the foreseeable future I am thinking of doing a project here to try and hold onto what little is left of my sanity, I just have not decided which of my trips to write up. I’ll have a bit of a look through my images and come up with something if I can summon the enthusiasm.
Believe me, dear readers, you will be the first to know when I decide so, as always, stay tuned and spread the word.