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Ramblings · of · a · self-made · pauper


Failed aspirant aristocrat with lofty ambitions and no motivation

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It seems that the Gin Palace is hosting a mouse. I say ‘a mouse’ it’s probably multiple mice; it would be too much to hope that there’s just one of the little brutes.

We (well, mainly ellefurtle) first noticed a musty smell a fortnight ago, that we couldn’t pin down and then we found little poo beads in corners, which we hovered up. There didn’t seem to be much, if any, activity and we naively assumed that the cats had found one, played with it and disposed of it. The worry at that point was that we would find maybe half a mouse at some point.

But we didn’t. Instead I found it very much alive and well, thank you so much. So out we went and obtained traps, which it promptly ignored. Peppers nearly caught it on a foray into the living room while I was working from home, but it got away – that might have been my fault as in an attempt to clear impedances from the cat’s way, I made escape easier for the mouse.

The traps were baited and placed in the most likely runs. I took up the kick boards under the kitchen units to give the cats access and – NOTHING. They mooched under, had a look and came out again. In the meantime, we spent pretty much every evening bleaching the kitchen floor, particularly under the fridge, which Mickey has frequently mistaken for a loo.

Anyway, the other night, Peppers came in with a mouse in his mouth. Unfortunately he put him down to play with it and it ran off. Hilarity ensured before the cats got fed up, leaving Furtle and me running around in circles trying to gee them on AND corner the little sod. Eventually, more by luck than judgement, we managed to get it out of the kitchen door and into the garden.

That, we hoped, was that. A couple of days later it was quite apparent that either mouse number one had returned or, there was (is) at least one more in the place. So we can’t put the kitchen properly back together until we’re happy this one and any chums has buggered off (and/or died).

I’ve plugged as many obvious mouse holes as I can find with steel wool, to limit the little brute’s options – and we’ve put the kickboards back, as although the cats could get under there, they couldn’t move very fast once under. It just meant the mouse didn’t have to try so hard to keep clear of them and I’m not that sporting.

We started off with humane traps, aiming to catch it and release it in the park. We moved on to old fashioned standard traps and now we’re on a combination including glue paper. This latter has come closest to working as I found the sheet we deposited under the fridge, over by the kick boards by the sink, where it had got stuck and scrambled across the floor, past the cats and freed itself before disappearing back into the shadows, unhurt, but possibly a little balder in places. I don’t like using this stuff, but it’s the only thing that’s even partially having any effect.

I hates them more than Mr Jinks ever did.
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As we approach August Bank Holiday, I thought it might be nice to update for the first time in a couple of months.

I had planned – and half written a piece about THAT VOTE back in June, but as I refined and developed it, I realised that everything I was saying, or trying to say had already been said by other people and probably better expressed. And then I just sort of stopped writing anywhere except for the odd thing over on FarceBørk.

Anyway.

When the Referendum was on, we were, ironically, in Germany; Konstanz, to be precise, for a long weekend. Happily we’d bought our Euros before the pound tanked on the announcement of the result.

My God, it was hot, and my knee was still playing up from the torn ligament I’d suffered at the beginning of May. I think the heat took some of the enjoyment out of the trip for me, but we did get to the garden island of Mainau again and this time it was late enough in the year for the rose gardens to be in full bloom. This part of Germany remains one of my favourite places in the world and we shall go there again, but not for a while, I think. There are other places to explore.

In July, the sister-in-law got married to jfs. That was a good day, but again, so hot. Anyone who thinks we’ve not had a summer should bear in mid the fact that the end of June, nearly every day of July and most of August (with a few blessed days of relief) have been melters.

In further exciting, though unwelcome news, I have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. I guess it’s ben on the cards for some time, but still, you never quite believe it will happen to you personally. I’ve never had any symptoms – or rather I didn’t know I had symptoms. Apparently getting up most nights for a pee is a symptom, whereas I thought it was a side effect of my habit of having a large cup of tea at bed time. If I missed the cuppa, I didn’t get up for a pee at about 3 am. That said, only once in the two months since I’ve been on diabetes medication, have I had to get up in the night, and I still have that cup of tea.

Changing the diet hasn’t been quite the chore that I thought it might be, though I think I need to give it more thought. There is still room to cut back on the carbs and up the protein. I have been eating more fruit and veggies on the basis that if you can’t escape the sugars, you may as well go for the minerals and roughage. Trouble is, I might have over done it slightly. The sudden influx of apples, bananas and green veggies has really turned my digestion on its head. I have had to compensate by eating eggs. Let’s just say that if my broadband gave the same download speeds, well…

I’ll leave that hanging, actually. I’m wavering on the edge of too much information.

Beyond that, though, the main change is that I have sworn off the cider. When I go to the pub it’s back to the real ale or – as in times like this, when it’s bloody baking – lager. I feel fine and other than having to take more bloody pills and it being harder to avoid the quack, life rolls on as usual.

The garden is coming along nicely. We had a small barbecue a couple of weeks back, when we welcomed mathcathy and her fiancé, Patrick along with the newly double-barrelled Scott-Roe family. It all went rather well, I think and everyone seemed to have a good time. We should do more of that sort of thing in the summer, after all, what is the point of a garden otherwise?
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I’ve just listened to Pink Floyd’s ‘Atom Heart Mother’ on my iPod. It’s the first time I’ve listened to it from start to finish for many years.

It is a very interesting experience: I’d forgotten so much of it that it might as well have been the first time I’ve concentrated on it. I’m not really that familiar with Floyd’s output before 1971’s ‘Meddle’ and while it’s years since I listened to that album (I find that I don’t currently own a copy), my memory puts it firmly in their early Prog catalogue, which developed through ‘Dark side of the Moon’ in 1973 through to their final album, ‘The Endless River’ in 2014 (which itself was more of a musical goodbye to the late Rick Wright, than anything truly new).

I don’t quite know what to make of ‘Atom’. I guess I’ll take one step further back and listen to ‘Ummagumma’, to try and place it in some kind of musical perspective. I am almost entirely ignorant of any Floyd music prior to that, with the sole exception of the song ‘See Emily Play’ which is interesting (it doesn’t seem to have been on any of the UK albums – certainly not before the 40th anniversary re-releases), but what little I know of the Barratt era leaves me cold. Other bands did psychedelia rather better than the Floyd.

‘Atom Heart Mother’ is late-period psychedia, and to sound suitably pretentious, sounds like music from two years earlier (one of the tracks references 1968) struggling to emerge from its cocoon as early prog. It’s an interesting, but not fully engaging listen. The band have yet to leave dittyville at this point, and the extended use of brass and flutes feels like they took flower power, took it off the hallucinogens and swapped them with steroids.

I am pondering, after ‘Ummagumma’, whether it’s worth investing in ‘More’ (but that’s a movie soundtrack, or even the first two albums, despite my reservations. I must buy a copy of ‘Meddle’ though – and I am thinking about re-examining my 37 year dislike of ‘The Wall’…

I should do some work.
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Working from home again today, as I had to go to the doctor for my knee again.

Or so I thought – she asked a couple of questions about the knee and confirmed with me that I have a hospital appointment for an x-ray on the 21st, and then took my blood pressure. Still, she confirmed that that is now back within normal operating parameters (Captain), so that’s okay.

I’ve noticed over the past couple of days that the knee is better than it was, though it still aches abominably on the way home from work and into the evening. Just as long as it’s sorted by the time we go to Germany, later in the month.

I am not enjoying the humidity today. The stroll up to the surgery, which can be no more than a third of a mile at the absolute limit, left me drenched with sweat. I know that’s partly down to weight and the fact that I’ve not done much walking of any sort for the past month, but even so, it’s warm and uncomfortable. I can hear the occasional distant rumble of thunder as I type and we had to leave the garden where we had lunch (Furtle is at home today, too) as the odd, very large blob of rain started coming down.

On the other hand, Furtle bought me a small USB powered fan, which is now on my desk blowing cooling air directly onto my face. I am secure enough to accept that it is moulded in pink plastic.
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Back in the office after last week’s bank holiday and privilege day (for Her Majesty’s birthday, natch), followed by three days’ working from home in an effort to spare my knee. It’s still not right, but restricting the hobbling to the confines of the Gin Palace and garden seems to have helped to a degree.

Apart from trying to get some work done from home – not always easy with two mad cats demanding attention – I have been playing Warcrack, trying to get some stuff sorted before the new expansion comes out at the end of August. I have too many alts, I think. I’m going to delete a few, but those I have previously maxed out will probably stay. After all the effort of doing that (even if they’re not currently maxed out), deleting would seem to be a complete waste of effort, even in a game which by definition is pretty much nothing but a time soak. Trouble is, I have two more to level up if I am to keep them at max level and I’m not sure I can be bothered.

Anyway.

Yesterday, before stopping and actually enjoying the garden a bit (we had G&T’s on the patio, late afternoon/early evening), which was nice. Often we spend too much time faffing with the garden and forget to enjoy it. As it was, we did a bit of maintenance and planted a very pretty Natasha Richardson rose on the top bed, next to two longer established, but unnamed roses.

Initially we thought about putting on the patch we still call the lawn (though it hasn’t had grass on it for about 4 years), next to my Cardinal de Richelieu rose, but there is the possibility of a colour clash, plus the fact that the Richardson has a splendid scent, which would be wasted further down the garden. I might save up and buy a nice Duc de Guiche to go next to His Eminence.

Next week I suspect we are going to have to do a lot of trimming, weeding and trying back. It’s turning into a jungle out there.
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I am getting fed up with having a sore knee now. The joys of being offered a seat on the train or the bus don’t make up for the fact that it’s sore and, after a while walking, squeaky. I’m not even allowed to hit anyone with the walking stick.

Sunday (you may know it as yesterday), we went across to Leytonstone to see jfs, Alix and Young Willum. My gammy leg and I sat with the baby most of the afternoon and managed to keep him asleep for nearly all of it (with breaks for bo0ttles of milk, obvs). John caught up on work and Furtle helped her sister do stuff. In addition to looking after the youngest member of the household, I managed to fall out with the cat, with whom I am no longer on speaking terms. He might be missing a leg, bit his remaining claws are suitably sharp. He better look out before getting within range of me again.

In the evening we ate pizza and watched Marple on DVD. We are catching up on the ITV version initially starring Geraldine McEwan and latterly Julia McKenzie. I am enjoying them very much, even the episodes where they have adapted a non-Marple Agatha Christie story, though I still think Joan Hickson is the definitive Marple.
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One week on and I am still plagued (for a given value of ‘plagued’) by my left knee.

It became apparent quite quickly on Monday that it is not going to heal immediately. To do that, I should need to remain on a chaise longue, leg elevated whilst dusky maidens fed me peeled grapes and wine (or more likely, cheese) at regular intervals. Any minimal movement from a) to b) would be undertaken by sedan chair. Sadly, I am not a Roman Emperor and this is beyond my means. I have to travel into an office and get paid to be bored for eight hours or so each day.

So it is, that I bought a walking stick. A nice, sturdy, foldable walking stick from Boots, which in many ways is all that a walking stick should be. Except long enough. At 5’ 11¾” tall, I am too tall for a standard walking stick. About an inch too tall. Or the stick is an inch too short; it amounts to the same thing. Who decided that being just shy of six feet tall made you tall in the modern world. I’d have thought it’s just a smidgen above median height in the UK. Tall for 1940 perhaps, but not 2016 surely?

Anyway, I quickly realised that by the time my knee has recovered, I’d have done my back some harm with the slight –almost imperceptible - lean to the right I was forced to make. Now I have mercifully infrequent issues with my spine. Mum always made me stand up straight, shoulders back when I was a kid, so now if I find myself hunching up feels unnatural and uncomfortable, so I straighten up. Nonetheless, I have had enough experience of back pain to know that I can cope with the deep dull ache of a crook knee infinitely better than I can with a creaky back.

Wednesday I left work early, but not early enough, to go up to New Oxford Street to visit that worthy umbrella and walking stick emporium, ‘James Smith and Sons’ to sort myself out. Of course, it was the evening of the day of the State Opening of Parliament and all the traffic diversions and other restrictions made it impossible for me to get there during opening hours.

My knee really enjoyed that.

I don’t know what the problem was yesterday lunchtime, but I slipped out at just after midday and spent around ninety minutes getting there and back – a distance in total of about 4 miles. Whoever was paying the Congestion Charge certainly got their money’s worth. The traffic barely budged and having made it as far as Horse Guards on the number 88 I gave up waiting for a 24 and hobbled to Embankment and the safety of the Northern Line.

I finally made it there and I am now the proud possessor of an ‘extra long’ foldable walking stick. It looks quite swish, too. The extra inch makes a Hell of a difference.

There are, it has to be said, benefits from wielding a cane around town. People get out of your way, rather than you out of theirs, and particularly once you are out of the centre of town, people give you seats on trains and buses.

I could get used to this, but more so if my knee didn’t ache like all blazes most of the time. That I could happily dispense with.
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This weekend we took Friday off work and went to Canterbury. Over the past few years we’ve tried to get there at least once in each twelve-month, just to escape London for a while.

This time around, we decided that we’d try a bit of a walk along the Stour and take the binoculars to see the wetlands and the local bird sanctuaries. Nothing too strenuous you understand, just a change of scenery and a chance for a bit of fresh air, with a couple of pints of decent ale at the end of it. Of course, having struggled the three miles out to Chartham, we took the train back to Canterbury. That took substantially less time.

Chartham is an odd little village – or at least the bit we saw was. As you come into the place from the Stour path, you notice a derelict terrace on the left, a row of white painted cottages built to look vaguely Georgian, but probably dating to the early 1920s. All shuttered and boarded with ivy growing over many of the windows. Then you decant onto the street, which has a church in one direction and a derelict-looking factory on the left. Except that it isn’t derelict, but still in use and proudly proclaiming to have been built as a paper mill in 1949. I doubt it’s had a penny spent on it since. Walking past that you round a corner where there are a few disconsolate, oddly built houses (hard to describe what was wrong with them, but they looked odd, nonetheless) and then there is the Artichoke a 4½ star recommended watering hole with a door I could barely get my ample tum through shuffling sideways. Still, a couple of pints of Whitstable India Pale Ale later, I was in a forgiving mood.

The short walk to the station allowed us to look at a little more of the village in which, with a couple of notable exceptions, most of the buildings are many centuries younger than the architecture would proclaim. It is as if aliens had been directed to build an English village, but only had third hand descriptions to work from.

We didn’t manage much more, other than a few wanders around Canterbury, poking around a few shops. For once we were there only for slightly over a full day –Friday afternoon until Sunday morning and my knee limited the fun as I’d buggered it before we even got there. Getting off the bus at Ilford station on the way out, I landed heavily on my left leg and there was a loud (to me at any rate) crack followed by a sharp pain. Happily I’d seen fit to pack one of my Nordic walking poles, which saw double duty as a walking stick (and still is). I’m not sure, but I think I snapped a tendon. It aches, My Dears, oh, it aches, but if I can get moving it improves as it warms up. Stairs remain a chore, though and guess where we stayed? In the City Gates Hotel, where we first stayed a number of years ago. The hotel with a small entrance at street level, which takes you up stairs to a series of rooms and over the roof tops to an extended and unexpected array of rooms. It’s quite fun, but damned awkward with a poorly drumstick.
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I don’t know what I’ve done, but whatever it was, I’ve done it to my left knee.
It aches horribly when I walk on it, it feels like it’s in the muscle and the bone, which suggests either that I clocked it without noticing at the time, or that there is a touch of rheumatism brought on by the damp weather these past few days. It’s not the same as the recurring but intermittent pains I get which feel as though the joint needs oiling – that is a proper sharp pain and one I know I could lose if I ever manage to unship a few tons.
At the moment it’s worst when I’ve been sitting for any length of time and though it doesn’t quite go away, the ache lessens as the joint warms up, which suggests to me that the bruised muscle hypothesis is closest to the mark.
Very annoying and not a little uncomfortable.
Changing subject, it is now a year, pretty much to the day, that I got my first ever tattoo. Now they say these things are addictive and without wishing to confirm or deny that, I have to confess that I am pondering getting a second and rather bigger tattoo, this time on my right upper arm. Remarkably, ellefurtle is on board with the idea as long as it’s done properly and doesn’t just end up as a big black and grey blob.
Unrepentant fanboy and geek that I am, I am pretty sure that I should like a Batman tattoo. At first I thought a sleeve with a portrait, but I then moved towards the idea of a crouching figure. That is still a possibility, but there are some more stylized designs I quite like, so I remain undecided. I’m willing to pay the going rate for a good job, but it’s remarkably difficult to settle a design and then to find a tattooist you trust enough to create something you’re happy to have on your arm for life. Good grief, it took me forever to get a simple ‘Om’ design. This could be a never ending search!
If ever I decide and then find someone I’m confident can pull it off, I’ll post the result up here for posterity.
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A fortnight or so ago, I went out on the booze with my good friend, colonel_maxim.

The pub was packed, but he had discovered that the upstairs sitting room was both unlocked and its small bar staffed. We decided very quickly that paying through the nose for organic bottled cider was infinitely more preferable to traipsing up and down the stairs trying not to spill from pint glasses and hoping that no-one realised that there was additional seating to be had. It worked and we became expensively and extensively blootered over the course of the evening.

It was only during the early hours that I realised just how bladdered I’d contrived to get. I woke up sometime around 4am with a thumping headache and a full bladder. I scooted, as one does, to the bathroom and shortly thereafter I was suddenly and remarkably ill. I think my stomach attempted a complete escape – certainly it ejected its coronal layer. I wobbled back to bed and got up again, feeling ghastly, when my alarm went off at seven.

It was, as I recall, the work of but a moment to decide that actually, if it’s all the same to anyone else, I was going to go back to bed. ellefurtle was fully supportive of my ability to barely stand and think, so I emailed the office with the news that I was feeling awful, having consumed something the night before that had disagreed with me.

Which was, of course, true: I simply omitted any mention of alcohol; I felt it wise. I then went back to bed and failed to wake up again until gone midday, when I felt better, but not recovered.

Of course, taking a Thursday off sick looks suspicious in isolation, so I was forced to keep my head below the parapets on Friday, too. An unexpected 3½ day weekend had something of a transformative affect, I must say, but I should have preferred not to preface it with the worst hangover I’d had for over ten years.

Last night we met up again and this time Furtle popped along. We managed to avoid the excessive refreshment of the earlier escapade, but nonetheless managed to get a little frazzled around the edges. We wandered home in due course, getting back to the Gin Palace around midnight. A cup of tea and some toast, then bed. All was well.
Except that at 5am I awoke radiating heat like a furnace and with indigestion and a full bladder. There followed a minor, scaled down repeat of the previous escapade and I wobbled back to bed, re set the alarm for 8.30 and crammed in an extra 90 minutes of sleep. I made work, albeit half an hour late, but I’m still not fully recovered. Were it not for the fact that I have the rest of the week off legitimately, I might have sent THE EMAIL.

I don’t think cider and I are on quite the chummy terms we once were.
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