Friday, May 30, 2014

hip-op progress report…

It’s just 9 days after my hip replacement and I’ve just returned from a half hour walk…
This isn’t any kind of boast (and I was on crutches and, ok, it did involve a cafĂ© trip!), this is simply in keeping with the information outlined in the excellent “post hip replacement physiotherapy” booklet that I was given about a month before the operation.
Nevertheless, I do find it pretty amazing and all SO different to my mother’s hip operation experience – or at least my vague memory of it - (and my maternal grandmother had two hip replacements, I think?).
Although I’d promised that I would refrain from “going on” about my experiences, I wanted to make a few notes to remind ME of the process, together with some general observations:
1.       I checked in at the Emersons Green NHS Treatment Centre at 6.30am and taken up to theatre some time after 10am. I was duly briefed by the anaesthetists and the surgeon before being given an epidural spinal injection (which numbed the lower part of my body) and then a face mask (which put me out). I don’t remember being “brought round” but felt absolutely fine, perfectly coherent (well, no worse than normal) and could just start to feel my toes coming back to life.
2.       Taken to a recovery ward at 11.40am (I noted the time) and remained there being monitored by a nurse until I returned to my two-man ward at 12.40pm. The numbness had disappeared by 2.30pm and I felt fine (but obviously had to remain bed-bound). Fitted with electronic, pulsating leg wraps which provided a continuous rippling effect (to counter potential blood-clotting?).
3.       As you might imagine, the medication regime continues, but I’ve been really impressed that the emphasis has been on “pain avoidance” rather “pain relief”.
4.       I continue to do all my daily physiotherapy exercises (pre-operation exercises were also set up) and they stress the importance of these in ensuring a speedy, effective recovery. The one negative aspect of my own recovery has been a very swollen right leg (thigh/knee/calf)… my right leg is currently 50% bigger than my left(!) - but this is apparently not unusual (see the note below).
5.       I’m due to have my staples removed next week (a fortnight after the operation) and I should be able to drive again after 6 weeks. I’ve got a final check-up (hopefully) at Emersons Green after 8 weeks… after which, all the raised loo seats and frames, crutches, leg raiser (my favourite!), reacher equipment will be collected!
ALL the staff at Emersons Green have been simply brilliant – professional and friendly – and this was from the cleaners and food servers right through to the entire medical team. I have nothing but praise for their efficiency and ATTITUDE (not just during my stay but also during pre-op period… and beyond)… and also their humour!
Photo: I’ve posted this to amuse those of you who know me well! I’m very much a list-maker/schedule-maker and so, of course, with ALL those daily exercises to do, it seemed only sensible to have a schedule that I could mark off on a daily basis! Sad, but funny!
Note: The Royal College of Surgeon’s website states this about swelling legs after hip operations:  Swelling of the leg is very variable and can be quite troublesome to some patients for several weeks. Swelling can cause the leg to ache and indeed make the leg feel very heavy. To avoid this, sitting for long periods is discouraged. In between frequent walks, it is better to be in a reclining position. Don’t worry if the leg becomes very bruised. This will settle in due course”. I hope so!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

“UKIP if you want to… this man’s not for kipping” (or words to this effect)…

I found the weekend’s EU election results - which saw UKIP emerge as the UK’s most popular(?) political party with some 28% of voters opting for them in a turn-out of just 34% - arguably the most depressing of my voting life.
It was a weekend full of euro-sceptical election results throughout the EU (with extreme parties on the left and right having successful campaigns). I feel sure that, over the coming days, newspapers will be full of political analysis which will express things far more lucidly than me. But, for what they’re worth, these are my own brief, knee-jerk, raw reactions:
1.       I personally despise UKIP and all it stands for (eg. its demands for the UK to pull out of the EU; its attitudes towards immigration – bordering on racist at times; its general jingoistic, little-Englander view of the world and this country in particular)… but, whatever your views, it hasn’t needed rocket-science for UKIP to come up with a successful political formula for the EU elections.
2.       UKIP was always going to appeal to those on the right of the Conservative party and, especially to the large numbers of euro-sceptics amongst them.
3.       The UK coalition government has been trying to tell us that the economy is recovering and everything is rosy (and, indeed, the rich have been getting much richer!) when, for the vast majority of the population, life has continued to be very tough financially. In such an economic climate, where secure jobs are still difficult to find and keep, it’s very easy for UKIP to point the finger at immigration.
4.       The weekend’s results could be seen as a vote against traditional politics (“nobody’s listening, nobody understands”?). The major parties obviously claim they’re listening but, in reality, they continue to do “their own thing” or actually “don’t get it”.
5.       The fact of the matter is that UKIP, despite a) having no members of parliament, b) making countless errors and making numerous inappropriate remarks (duly reported in the national media) and c) having no track record, has been able to make a simple, straightforward appeal to disillusioned voters.
6.       In the light of remarks coming from a UKIP representative excusing the party’s poor results in London being due to the fact that the electorate was “cultural, educated and young”, it would be far too easy, completely unfair (and yet very tempting) to describe the typical UKIP voter as possessing the opposite characteristics!
7.       Somewhat pathetically, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m rather opposed to democracy! Essentially, the electorate is composed of idiots (oh dear, grumpy old man!)… if we had a referendum on bringing back capital punishment or on withdrawing from the EU, the country would no doubt overwhelmingly approve.
8.       I voted Green in both the local and EU elections (the Greens gained a MEP in the south-west and our local council now has six Green councilors). The fact remains that the Greens are highly unlikely to feature as big-players at next year’s General Election.
9.       I’ve previously expressed my thoughts on the Labour Party and its leadership (this is one example from September 2012, but there are others if you want to be bothered to search!). My own political instincts are left-of-centre and, traditionally, the Labour Party should be my spiritual home. Unfortunately (as well as it no longer being “left-of-centre”), in my view, the Labour Opposition has fundamentally failed to communicate a coherent message. Given the political climate, it SHOULD have been the party who was pressing for change and highlighting key issues… it SHOULD have been the leading UK party in this weekend’s election by a long way. But it didn’t. Its performance, in my view, has been appallingly bad.
So, yes, over the next few days, all the major political parties will be telling us how they’ve been listening to the electorate and how everything’s  going to change… and, of course, it won’t (well, not enough to satisfy people like me).
For the Labour Party, in particular, a massive shake-up is required. I don’t anticipate a change in leadership (if ONLY it had opted for Alan Johnson as leader!), but it does need to communicate effectively. At present, the message is both lacklustre and incoherent (Alex Salmon or Nigel Farage could give lessons!)… Milliband is a decent bloke and earnest in his beliefs, but he often comes across as a lightweight - and not someone the country is looking for as a leader.
I feel very apprehensive about the outcome of the next General Election.
The Labour Party SHOULD be forming the next government but, as things stand, I can see the Tories winning – even in a coalition with UKIP (perhaps UKIP will have a dozen MPs by then? How depressing would that be!). What’s worse, in the absence of an effective Opposition, I can foresee the Tories becoming more right-wing and, eventually, pulling us out of the EU altogether.
Give us all the strength and determination to try to ensure this doesn't happen.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

before the winter chill

On a bit of an impulse (you can do these things when you're retired, you know), I wandered down to the Watershed for a light lunch and then decided to see the afternoon (cut-price-for-oldies!) screening of Philippe Claudel’s latest film “Before The Winter Chill”. I just loved his 2008 film “I’ve Loved You So Long” – which, perhaps not surprisingly and like this film, also starred Kirsten Scott Thomas.
Essentially, it’s a rather elegant depiction of what the Watershed’s blurb describes as “slow rot in the French privileged classes”. Scott Thomas plays the part of the wife (Lucie) of a successful surgeon, Paul (Daniel Auteil). Paul starts receiving flowers every day from a beautiful young woman (Leila Bekhti) who claims they’re a thank-you for her successful operation…  at first, Paul is flattered, but it starts to get uncomfortably difficult when the young woman seems to be stalking him on a daily basis… putting pressure on Paul and Lucie’s comfortable existence.
As you might expect, it’s beautifully acted and impressively put together… BUT, to be honest, I found it incredibly unconvincing as a story.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

banksy: the room in the elephant

If facebook is to believed, it seems that most of my friends were glued to the television last night watching the Eurovision Song Contest (personally, I avoid this stuff like the plague… but accept that I am the exception and probably a grumpy one at that!). Well, as a welcome alternative to the ESC, Moira+I, plus another full house, were at the Tobacco Factory Theatre to see Tom Wainwright’s play “Banksy: The Room in the Elephant”.
This is the scenario (a true story): Banksy was in LA for the Oscars when he sprayed ‘THIS LOOKS A BIT LIKE AN ELEPHANT’ on an old water tank. The tank was residence for a local legend, Tachowa Covington, who over seven years had furnished it with carpets, a stove – even CCTV. As news spread of Banksy’s latest work, a consortium of art dealers soon appeared to repossess the water tank. Suddenly, Tachowa was homeless again…
This one-man show features Gary Beadle - apparently he used to be in Eastenders… but then I wouldn’t know that, would I (because I’m a grumpy old bloke…) – who was completely brilliant!
Fascinatingly, the play was being performed as part of a double-bill, with Hal Samples’ film “Something From Nothing” (using a patchwork of material gathered over seven years – including, rather weirdly, footage of the play being performed on the Edinburgh Fringe!).
Really impressive, funny, sad and thought-provoking (a story telling a story about itself, telling a story about itself).
A brilliant, stimulating evening.
PS: The publicity given to the Banksy artwork (“Mobile Lovers”) that appeared in the doorway of the cash-strapped boys’ club seems only to have underlined the play’s poignancy.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

april-may 2014 books

More book stuff:
This Boy (Alan Johnson): This is a remarkable, extraordinary account by Labour MP Alan Johnson of his childhood living in Notting Hill of the 1950s. He lived with his mother and his amazing, resourceful sister in condemned housing (no electricity, no running water and certainly no central heating!). His lazy, drunken, violent father abandoned the family for a barmaid when Alan was very young. His hard-working mother struggled with poor health and died, aged 42, when Alan was just 13 and his sister Linda 16. Johnson is only a year or so younger than me and so many of his childhood memories (post-war working class background, 1960’s music, football – but NOT, thankfully, the abject poverty) are also mine. It’s a moving and an uplifting story (with not a hint of self-pity) about the childhood of a man who was brought up in poverty and yet, despite this, later became General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union before entering parliament as an MP in 1997 (and, in my view, should have succeeded Gordon Brown as leader of the Labour Party). He’s an excellent writer and someone I greatly admire (even more so after reading this). I can’t wait for his next book.
On Beauty (Zadie Smith): This is the first Zadie Smith book I’ve read and, clearly, she’s a gifted writer (the book won the 2006 Orange Prize for Fiction). For me, however, although I found it entertaining and very readable, I thought it was actually an unremarkable book and another example, perhaps, of why I have a preference for reading non-fiction. Sorry!
Swimming In A Sea Of Death: A Son’s Memoir (David Rieff): Susan Sontag (American writer+filmmaker, professor, literary icon, political activist etc) died in December 2004, aged 72, and this is a courageous tribute of her final years by her son, David Reiff. She’d previously overcome two bouts of cancer, but was eventually diagnosed with an incurable form of leukaemia in 2004. In many ways, this book represents Reiff’s continuing process of grieving (which verges at times on self-pity)… and also an attempt to deal with his (as he sees it) guilt for perhaps not doing as much as he might have. It’s an elegant and profound book.
Hawthorn+Child (Keith Ridgway): Blimey, this is a strange, dark, uncompromising, unpredictable, but rather refreshing “detective” novel (except that it isn’t really). At times, I felt as if Ridgway had simply cut-and-pasted together unconnected stories he’d jotted down in his notebook. It’s a curious, very clever book (probably far too clever for me!) – well written and somewhat mesmerising.
I Was Born There, I Was Born Here (Mourid Barghouti): Barghouti is a Palestinian poet and writer. This powerful, angry and yet gentle, passionate and supremely eloquent book provides a tragic insight into the plight of Palestinians and their perspective on the conflict and the injustice and humiliation of living under Israeli occupation - the unjust deportations, the outrageous borders and checkpoints and simply trying to exist in a dangerous, fearful world waiting for electricity and water to come back on. It’s an absolutely beautiful book which, given its context, is surprisingly uplifting and encouraging. I think all politicians (especially from USA and Europe) should read this and get a proper sense of the injustice of the Israeli occupation.