Thursday, October 31, 2013

The horror past!

It hurt!  

I like to be asked if I want an injection, so that I get the kudos of refusing and showing how macho I really am.  I want given the choice and he went straight in and drilled away to make the hole bigger to make it smaller.  Such things do not make that much sense to me, but it produces Mercs for dentists so it must make sense at a higher level.

The gap is now filled and the ragged edges are no longer cutting the inside of my mouth.  I cannot bite on it fully yet, but I am sure that it will settle down.

The rest of my teeth (how long is it since I last went to a dentist!) are fine – which sort of supports my self interest of dentists as opposed to the health of patients theory, but let it pass, let it pass.  It would appear that I grind my teeth, obviously my response to my inability to make the world more in my image!  I have now had an impression of my top set of teeth taken in the dental clay that I remember from my visit to a specialist in Cathedral Road over fifty years ago.  It is funny how the taste came back to me at once.  The clay will be used to make a plastic mould that I will have to place on my teeth each night.  I suppose that one should take every opportunity to preserve the natural teeth that one has.

The last dentist I truly trusted told me that with reasonable care I should have my teeth for the whole of my life.  The stiff price for a piece of soft plastic seems a fair price to pay for continuation of the battered enamel that I still sport!  So, back to the dentist on Thursday to get the rest of my money’s worth.

Considering how much I have heard people pay to their dentists, to get away with only (!) €265 for a visit that I feared would lead to the reconstruction of a tooth which would have been at a cost well into four figures.  And if you divide the figure by the number of years that I have waited for this forced visit, it is virtually nothing.  And I get a piece of individualized plastic!

I have now had comments on my poem and it is heartening to find out firstly that some people like it, and secondly that they have made a real effort to understand it.  With a response like that it is not difficult to reciprocate.

Tomorrow is the first day in Spain when I could buy a little object of desire.  There is, of course no justification for its purchase whatsoever, but I am going to find it virtually impossible to resist.  Quite impossible.  Though it may take a slight readjustment of my finances to afford it. 

That is surely not too much to ask? 

It is, after all, essential for my peace of mind. 

And school were I only going there!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What might have been!

I am not necessarily in the habit of asking naked men to look inside my ear, but that did seem a real possibility yesterday because I had cut my nails.

One impulse buy from our local Chemist was a pair of earplugs, its USP was that it came with a cool looking aluminium tube which you could keep on your key chain – earplugs being something which one obviously needs to hand on a constant basis.

Anyway, I bought them because they looked good and were encouragingly expensive.  They worked too.  Not as noise reducing things, but in keeping water out when swimming.  Their efficiency directly affected the quality of sound getting to my ears via the bones in my face from the complex system that I have to listen to music as I swim.  So far so obvious.

The problem was insertion.  I was obviously more enthusiastic than I should have been in putting the damn things in my ears, and the little rod things on the business end of the earplugs were foolishly short.  Especially when the tweezer-like assistance of reasonably sized nails could not be called on to help extricate them.

One come out easily, the other gradually sank further into the ear as my fingers probed.  It was at this point that I considered asking for help.  And the only help available was a guy showering.

Luckily the social problems of approaching a naked man and the linguistic ones of phrasing my request in a foreign language combined to promote a certain fevered ingenuity and I ended up utilizing a biro top to dig out the offending intruder without any concomitant injury to ear or dignity.  Unless of course anyone had been watching my increasingly desperate fingerings for any length of time.  But there again, the only possible observer was covered in soap and unaware of the on-going social dilemma that he was narrowly outside.

It is at times like these that one appreciates more and more the observation by some American thinker or other that, “Most people live lives of quiet desperation!”

On a more positive and undispairing note my first TMA has been sent off with the way that the bloody thing was presented taking me more than two hours to craft!  Don’t let anyone tell you that creating headers in Word is anything less than equivalent to a dark night of the soul.  OK, I was trying to do this with all the requisite instructions in Spanish, but even so it was a good thing that I tried it out on dummy documents first because I lost two in their entirety before I got something that was acceptable!

From the questions on the forum I cannot and will not believe that many people are actually going to get right the fairly simple instructions for the way in which work should be submitted to tutors.  Even as an experienced teacher I have been shocked at the fatuity of some of the requests for clarification.  Clarification about pieces of information clearly and plainly set out in the instructions that the OU kindly gives students to try and lessen the tension.  We are taking a second level course, which means that most people doing it have experience of the OU from their first level courses.  The way that things are done there is basically the same as here.  Oh well, some things never change!

My completed poem, “Suez 1956” has now been posted in the forum and I await comment.  The thinking behind the exercise to product the poem was to go back into your life and delve about finding out bits and pieces about the specific time.  I have done that, but not in an obvious way and I fear that the finished result may be somewhat opaque to the casual (and foreign) reader.  But I worked on it a lot, have produced a satisfactory number of drafts to make it look as though coherent, artistic thought has gone into it and now it is for the rest of the group to ignore!

There are still two days left before the deadline for submission for our assignments and since one of the frequently asked questions is about the exact time on the last day that the official cut off time actually is, you can understand that many of the students work to the time limits.  This means that there is little time for anything else, so my poem is well under the radar of most of my fellow students at the moment.  After the 31st there will be a blossoming of conversation on the forums due to sheer, unadulterated relief at work completed

Mentioning that we have been eating out is not generally something of note, but that fact that we had to sit inside the cafĂ© yesterday because of rain is.  I sulked for most of the day and made withering comments about the cruelty of the weather until I caught the forecast for the UK.  When I shut up.

Today has been less than elevating, but the sun has been struggling to shine and a watery sky and various artistic reflections on the curling waves has somewhat pacified me.  And the meal in the Maritime was excellent.

Toni is continuing to work with passion on some abstruse problems connected with routers on his course and he continues to get A’s.  I am, of course, of course, naturally, delighted for him – but he is setting the bar a little high for the rest of us, i.e. me!  The response from the tutor for the first piece of work will give some sort of indication about where my approach is likely to go for the rest of the course.  It will be a fascinating revelation.

The piece of grit in my mouth this morning turned out to be part of a crumbling back tooth.  This disintegration has been threatening for some time and now seems the appropriate time to do something about it so, when the magic hour of five pm has past, Toni will be phoning his dentist and making an appointment for me.

I never used to be squeamish about dentists because the person who looked at my teeth was a family friend, employed my aunt as his receptionist and gave me presents for my birthday and Christmas.  Then he died and the horror that others had told me about in their dental lives suddenly became real when a stranger began poking around doing who knows what.

Paul Bartley became a trusted prodder in Cardiff, but it is impossible simply to turn up and expect a successful dentist to see you.  The last time I did that on a trip to Cardiff, I was offered an appointment three months (!) away.  Reality hit home and now I have to go, not only to a stranger, but also to a foreigner as well!  The horror!  The horror!

Today has been a day when my diet, or “think about what you’re eating before putting it in your mouth” has been conducted with a little less thought and more in the mouth experience.  Though I have to say that the fish I had for lunch was low cal. and my attempts to make tinned Lidl curry low cal. (draining the meat from the sauce and putting it on a base of carrots and peas rather than rice) shows that I am making an effort.  And the new belt I bought before lunch, although long, is shorter than the one it replaced and I am already at the second hole.  By such indications are we of little will power satisfied!

Tomorrow the dentist, and I am sure there will be grisly details to be savoured by the afternoon!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Work begins!

Morning Pages done.  Elma (apple) tea drunk.  The day ahead set aside for the work that I need to do on the TMA.  So now is the time to go for a swim.  Yesterday, my first swim for some time, I felt refreshed and I swam solidly and didn’t feel the usual strain which comes with missing out on daily effort.

Today is Saturday and I usually do not go to the pool during a weekend, but I need to make up for lost time and if this Sunday is not to buck the trend on the slow downward impetus of my weight, I cannot afford to reject any little effort on my part to get the grams off.

I have decided on the story that I am going to tell for the TMA and I have been single minded in my intention to play the OU game as far as I can and cynically apply all the detail that the instructions suggest might be an approach to the writing.  Some of my details will have to be applied after the fact by finding opportune places to add phrases rather than be working the other way round and allow my writing to develop from the details that I have captured and displayed in my notebooks.

For all my cynicism I have applied myself assiduously to the writing of my notebooks and “stuff” is building up but, like my faulty memory, the stuff has no real order to it.  It’s undeniably there in blue and white, but I am not sure about how to use it.  As time does on I think that our tutor’s suggestion of some sort of index may be the way forward, but I am not quite sure about how to organize that at the moment.  I can see myself spending more time on the organization of material than its use, and that way lies madness!

At the moment, only one of my phrases (in various forms) actually stays in my mind, “He had all of the words but none of the grammar”.  What it means in any precise way I am not entirely sure.  And its literary progenitor is fairly clear - than you Oscar!  In literal terms it is easy to understand, though a wide vocabulary and lack of organization might suggest some sort of autistic savant and little more; the metaphorical impact of the term is more interesting and suggests social ineptitude or isolation.  There is more work to be done with it and I am sure that I can use it in some character description and hope that the reader passes over it with little more than a bump of aphoristic pleasure rather than looking for too deep a meaning!

My other course on Brands has taken something of a background place at the moment, but the weekend should see it come back into some sort of prominence.  We are now well into the second week and I am falling behind.  It was interesting to be with Andrew for a few days and his thoughts, based as they are on clear and extended professional engagement with this very concept, were revealing.  Probably more in a cynical sense than anything else, but revealing nonetheless!

The first draft of my writing is complete and now the real work of making it fit in the OU pigeonholes begins!  In many ways this is the real struggle, because writing a structured piece about something which happened to me when I was seven or so, is really not the difficult part!  Although, you never know, it may be a revelation for me when I get the tutor’s comments!  “How are the mighty fallen” is a phrase redolent with echoes of past upsets and squeaks of future possibilities!

I have, following one of the “suggestions” of the OU, done a certain amount of research related to the incident that I am taking as the subject for my piece of writing.  I have found photographs of Pendine in the 1950s; looked again at pictures of Ford Prefects with running boards a la Chicago gangsters and windscreen wipers that went slower when you went up hills; read about Land Speed Records broken on the sands and found out the name (did I ever know it?) of the game which involved a rubber ball on an elastic band which you hit with a wooden paddle bat – Jokari in case you were trying to remember if you’re my age, or just interested in these things if you are not!

A certain amount of editing is necessary to cut down the piece to fit the word limit, but that is one of my strengths, god knows I have had to do it for myself and for others often enough!

Tomorrow is the arrival of The Family for the delayed celebration of United Nations Day and the first use of the FCB hors d’oeuvres dishes.  I must take a photograph.  It may be kitsch but at under €3 it is worth every centime!  Especially if I can get the response of a non-football fan, somebody like Suzanne for example; the reaction will be as the adverts say, ‘priceless’!

During some of the time during the last few days when I should have been writing the draft that I have just finished, I have been reading the detective novels of Alan Hunter with the police chief George Gently as his major character.  I thoroughly enjoyed these books (I bought a Kindle omnibus anthology, cheap and an obvious mistake because of my lack of resistance) even though some of the characterisation is a little plodding. 

George Gently himself is portly and he wears a worn Tweed jacket and a trilby.  He smokes a briar pipe, is fond of looking through people and events to a distant objective that only he can see and he constantly eats mint creams.  Oh yes, he is also a bachelor and has a superb landlady.

The settings for these novels have more in common with Agatha Christie than with the harder hitting more modern versions of the genre.  I would set them post World War II but not well into the permissive sixties.  They have more the feel of the lustrum after the end of The Age of Austerity, but they are certainly exemplifications of another age of policing and of society – and are worth reading for that alone!  I only paid about 25 cents for a volume, I am sure that they are available for nothing somewhere on the web; I recommend them.

Now back to the draft.  I want to send everything off on Monday.  Evening!  Latest!

Or we could go out for a quick drink, just to get us out of the house.  Or something!

Thursday, October 24, 2013


When your birthday is in October then surely the most important element in the event is that fact that you have actually spent some time in the afternoon sunbathing!  How wonderful is that!  October, even late October and it is warm enough to lay out on a sunbed and worry about the lack of sun cream that you have applied!

It is very strange to be in a foreign country and not have the requisite number of birthday cards to justify the passing of a year!  There again, who the something or other cares!  I lay out in the sun on my birthday how often did that happen in the past!

So an odd sort o birthday, when I get up early and write my morning pages and then stagger upstairs again and brush my teeth.  This is not the way to do it.  I think.

I have tried to make sense of what I have written and extracted the phrases that I think have some significance from the dross that I have produced.  Some of them are partially interesting, but not convincingly interesting.  When they are listed, I mean the phrase that I think have some value; they do not threaten the position of Wilde in the aphorism stakes!  But I’m working on it.

Let me give you, O reader! a flavour of what I am producing!  If I am serious the only thing that I liked from many days of writing before I was fully conscious was, “He had the words for everything and the grammar for nothing.”  I am not entirely convinced that I understand what I have written there, but I am prepared to work at it for a few moments!  Just like the other quotation, “Life is a forgetting, of casting momentary importance into oblivion.”  That surely has to mean something!  Well, like the last one, I am working on it!

And that is where I am.  Working on it.  After all, by now I ought to know the ways of the OU, but I find that I am learning course by course and I am reading the instructions for each assignment with a more rigorous analysis.  I have no intention of losing another 15% by going it alone and trying for independent originality.  The OU will get what it wants, even if I give it after the fact.  How many times have I explained to students that they should answer the question and pay clear attention to the advice that they are given?  I fully intend to give the OU exactly what it wants.  As far as I am capable of interpreting what it wants!  At least I will give it a go!

My birthday meal this evening was not what I intended, but worked out better.  Why is there always a contradiction in the way I look at things!  So tapas and Sangria de Cava.  Delicious!  I drank all the sangria and didn’t eat all the tapas, though there was a new one of bread-crumbed deliciousness including black pudding.  Not something which, because of its absurd calorific value can be eaten with any degree of regularity, but as a once in a few weeks treat is something which I will do again!

Tomorrow I really will have to make a decision about what freewrite I choose to make as the basis for my next piece of writing.  It is a challenge and, of course, an opportunity.  I will have to produce some sort of draft in the next 24 hours and then work on it so that my ‘reflection¡ can be half way convincing!

My course on brands is taking something of a second place at the moment, but I have until the end of the week to get back on course as long as I do not mess with the timetable for the assignment.  It is more to do with time management than imagination!

I have had my birthday present which is a case and a power supply for something which, at the moment I do not have!  This is strange.  My new Kindle will not arrive until something like the 12th of November; the date when the new version is issued in Spain.  So, when it arrives, I am prepared.

The time is tomorrow, even though this blog will reflect that it is still today: what it is to work to GMT!  But tomorrow is packed with things that I have to do and that is the delight of time which is my own!

Roll on my sixty-fourth year!  Because that is the one that I am in now and will be for the next 354 days!

And that gives pause for thought!