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Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Sketches

When I am writing I like to have an image of the person I am describing or writing about. My latest attempt is a book called Ego Sum and it traces the life of a man, born noble, enslaved, escaped and restored to family and friends, who then gave it all up to serve his God and Saviour. So these two sketches are my attempt to depict him in the role of slave and shepherd and in later life as the Bishop he became.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Calling on the Emergency Services

This morning I had to call on the services of the Ambulance Service for my own rescue for the first time in my life. It was complicated by the fact that I could not get to the front door to open it. In fact I couldn't get up off the floor. My back has given me problems in the past, but this took the biscuit. It took the whole tin full.

When there is a key in my door, you cannot unlock it from the other side. There was a key in the door, so my neighbour couldn't open it for the ambulance and I couldn't get to it. Call the Police, borrow a neighbour's ladder, try to get in through the bedroom window... The security latch can't be reached from outside. I crawled to the window, managed to haul myself to where I could disengage the lock and collapsed again on the floor. The Policeman climbed over me, opened the front door and vanished before I could get his name or thank him. If by any chance he's reading this - Thank you!

The Paramedic now arrived with all her kit and paraphenalia. I don't think I've ever had such sympathetic treatment - and I did ambulance work for the first six years of my service in the Fire and Rescue Service - or such a professional examination. She got me on Entonox, reduced the pain and then got me onto the bed. Then she did an ECG, checked for anuerisms in the abdomen (A major cause of back pain apparently), took my Blood Pressure and assured herself and her controller that, back spasm apart, I was healthy. While we wiated for a doctor to get back to us she even made me a sandwich for breakfast and made sure I had plenty of liquids on hand.

With the doctor's response in hand she administered the appropriate medication and made sure I was comfortable. I shall always be grateful to this lady and to the Policeman - but my neighbours have been superb as well. Both have been in to check on me and on Paddy Cat who - I think - enjoyed the excitement! I have just sent off an e-mail to the Ambulance HQ expressing my gratitude and thanks and will now try to contact the Police HQ for the same reason. When someone does something well, we all to often take it for granted, I learned a long time ago that a simple thank you to these professionals makes all the difference in the world!

This is what public service and neighbourliness is all about. And the state of my back?

Well, the new medication has made a world of difference. It ain't fixed yet, but it's a heck of a lot better than it was!

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Back trouble

My back has been "grumbling" for several days after I lifted something awkwardly. Yesterday it seized up on me totally, and today I'm totally immobilised. It couldn't happen at a worse moment, Holy Week starting, packing to do, tidying needed before Mausi arrives on Thursday and right now I can't drive a car...

Nothing seems to help release it either, but then maybe I'm just being impatient. And annoyed because I couldn't even get to church today.

Rest, take the pills and stop stressing about it... Yeah, right.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Sorting papers...

I am appalled at just how much paper I have managed to accumulate over the last few years. The problem is I never throw away notes, letters, statements and being on a committee or three means I have huge folders of minutes, membership lists and the like. You can't just dump these, they contain information that might be considered personal - and therefore covered by the Data Protection legislation...

Which means that the bin bags I am slowly filling with this stuff is going to have to be shredded - there is so much it needs an industrial sized shredder - or burned. My problem is that until I get this paper jungle reduced I can't really start the next phase which is cutting down the books I have accumulated.

OK, coffee break is over, back to the sorting...

Monday, 22 March 2010

Opthalmic pictures...

Off to the Opthalmology Department at Gloucester Royal Infirmary today to have some new pictures taken of my retinas. Yes, I know, too much information...

Before Christmas, during a routine eye examination a "mole" like mark was noticed on the retina in one eye. The surgeon did a check and decided that it wasn't something to be concerned about, but wanted clearer photographs so that is what I'm doing today. So if you notice someone with massively dilated pupils and trying to hide behind dark glasses....

Oh well, off to the Gloucester Royal... Getting home again could be interesting.

Update:

I now have one extremely dilated pupil, the result of drops so they could take the picture below. At least I know I have retinas and that they are intact. Also I can now prove I'm not some sort of positronic robot... I;ve managed to disguise the circuitry quite well I think!



The "object" of all the excitement is the little triangular dark spot in the left centre field. Apparently nothing to panic over - its the equivalent of a mole...

Friday, 19 March 2010

Catching up at last

At last I can say I have opened, read and sorted into the appropriate filing system, all the post that had accumulated in my absence. Some of it was obvious and went straight into the permanent file, other bits were not so obvious and needed careful consideration and then there is the bit that has to be kept - the taxman insists - and so needs to be kept in an appropriate file.

Filing is not one of my fortes. I have always found it utterly boring and ninety percent pointless. Only about ten percent of what is lying around in my filing system is actually ever refered to again. The problem really is - which ten percent?

Packing up the flat is proving a challenge, since I have been involved in a wide range of activities and thanks to the bureaucratic mindset that has created layer on layer of rules about what has to be kept, how it may be disposed of and what may be disposed of I actually need a second flat just to file some of this rubbish. Anyone know where I can get an industrial size shredder?

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Commemorating St Patrick

An authentic statement by the man himself - this is a declaration of faith on the grand scale.

Typical dress for the inhabitants of the western and northern part of Britain and the Hibernians in the 5th Century.

The great granite slab that marks the spot where St Patrick, St Brigid and St Columba of Bangor are buried.
Three saints on one grave lie.

Missing the boat...

Listening to BBC Radio 4 yesterday was enlightening. It was a phone in debate on the subject of housing prices in the UK and interestingly all the usual panaceas were trotted out and aired - more "social housing", higher taxes on larger homes to pay for "social services", high house prices due to multi-home ownership, high lending by banks, not enough lending by banks, restrictions on building, etc. The only thing that no one raised was the issue of lunatic housing laws and policies that discriminate against young men and women who are employed, married (or in stable partnerships) and haven't yet got children. This becomes even more the case if they are what I shall call "natives" of these isles.

Rents are very high, especially in the Home Counties - that group of counties clustered around London - and that is, in turn, driven by the size to the mortgages the owners are carrying on the property and the demand for the available properties. Social Housing is available, but primarily is used to house ethnic minorities, single mums or multipartner families with tribes of kids to be housed. It is allocated on a "points system" so if you are employed and not in receipt of "benefits", married or in a partnership that is stable, have no kids and don't have a "social worker" supporting you, you have no chance of getting even an interview for a place on a waiting list. No one in the chat show even mentioned this.

There is a further issue here which I am in a position to know at first hand because I live in an area where the bulk of the housing is "social". This is the case of families and other permutations, who got into this hoiusing when starting out and remain in possession and occupation at rents that are definitely not "market related" despite the fact that these folk now earn ten and twelve or more times what they were earning when first allocated the home. Thus, people who can afford the "commercial" rents of places like London by virtue of being in the upper quartile of wage or salary levels, are living in houses and paying rents equating to less than a tenth of their present incomes, while others, earning a quarter or less of the salaries these lucky tenants earn, struggle to pay rents equal to three quarters of their income. It is that sort of issue which needs to be addressed and which could really make a difference. But no politician at present in Westminster is bright enough to work it out or has the balls to actually deal with it.

And as for the Whitehall W*nk*rs< they are so well protected in their Ivory Towers they wouldn't recognise the problem even if confronted with it. Its in the Rules you see - and the Minister made those. Yes, and pigs can fly.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Getting sorted

The mail pile is reducing slowly, the flat is getting back to normal. Madam Paddy Cat thinks I should be spending all the time making a fuss of her or refilling her food bowls, but there is a lot to be done.

Still, I'm making progress. Slowly.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Bills, bills, bills ...

Wading through the post has turned up a number of big bills, all but one expected. That one will be challenged, but that is the way of life I guess. Today promises to be very busy, my new specs are waiting for me in Cheltenham, I have materials to return to the library at my former employer, quotes to be obtained from a storage company and boxes I need to hunt down so I can start the packing process...

It's going to be a busy few weeks ahead.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Abbey home ...

It was wonderful to once more be able to worship at the Abbey again after a three month "famine" in my worship. It was quite a home coming and nice to be there again.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Home again

Well, we got home safely yesterdayand its good to be here, even though I now face an uphill battle to get some unfinished work I commissioned, completed! Plus there is a mountain of mail to sort through and deal with, laundry, shopping for groceries and essentials...

At least I got a good night's sleep and Madam Paddy Cat is delighted to have me home.

Ce la vie. I'd better get on with it all.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Níl aon tintéan mar do thintéan féin

PHRASE: Níl aon tintéan mar do thintéan féin
PRONOUNCED: Kneel ain tin-tin mar duh yin-tin feign
MEANING: There's no place like home

In case you're wondering, that is Irish, but it doesn't matter which language its said in - its true.

For the curious, I'm probably sat on the flight heading home right now.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Farewell to Tehran

It's been a long haul but we are finally going home. Now trying to pack six months of 'stuff' into two suitcases already filled with gifts from our students and the staff of the TFFSSO we have been working with. It ain't easy!

We have had some fun, a few tears and several frustration, but the people we have worked with have been fabulous and if you want to know what the Biblical hospitality looked like, come here. Yes, there are problems in Iran and there are things that the west doesn't like about the culture, but then, who is to say that we have it right either. The Iranians we have worked with these last six months are, to a man (and some women!) courteous, respectful and generous. They want the things we want for our kids, health, security and the prospect of careers or rewards for the effort they put in. They are very family oriented and guests are invariably treated with a generosity that puts ours to shame.

As I look back over the last couple of days and take stock of the meals we have enjoyed, in a family home where we were treated to some specially, and I think not easily, prepared dishes that were delicious. In a traditional restuarant last night that certainly didn't come cheaply to our host and today our course treated us to a party, then the staff insisted we share a party they had laid on for us, and then a special lunch...

Yes, I'm going home heavier than when I arrived and will have to lose some of it, but I am truly humbled by the gifts individuals had chosen specially for us. Each has been slected with care and a degree of love and respect that is really moving. But one of the really great memories I take home os the evening spent at a language school with one of our colleagues. The students were delightful, both young men and young women and the questions they asked us showed just how our western image is slewed by the way our media present us and how their own misrepresent it. They are deeply conscious of how they see themselves as being misrepresented by our media as well, but hopefully we have now put a few things straight for this group at least which will perhaps feed back into other groups and start to change attitudes.

A bit of a pleasure today was to pass a box of a certain chocloate treat which is known for the slogan "Have a break, have a ...." to my young Afghani and Iranian boys and men working on the building site. Since my intervention for health and safety when one got a nail in his foot, they have had proper overalls, proper boots and gloves and helmets and I have been greated with friendly "Salaams" and cheerful smiles. Today I got almost tearful "Khod ah Fes" from them as they spotted me strolling just before I left. Again, I can but hope that they will eventually go home remembering that some westerners at least, aren't out to bomb them or bully them into a way of life they do't particularly want, but actually care about them as fellow travellers in this journey of life.

And so, to bed, as Sammy Pepys was wont to write. We have a 03.30 pick up to get to the airport....

Monday, 8 March 2010

Snow cover

On Saturday, Mausi spent over an hour shovelling snow off the sidewalk outside her house and her drive. Over 20cm had fallen overnight and more descended during the day. The autobahns were chaotic with the heavy trucks stuck, sliding and blocking lanes and slip roads. Bad driving practice also played a part and one person died in the many pile-ups.

As Mausi reported, the forestry people's helicopter found itself abandoned and forlorn under its covering of snow in the field behind her house. The helicopter is currently working dusting the area with chalk, presumably to keep the soil balance right as the snow melts and the ground water is replenished.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Sunday Meditation

A very dear friend has been diagnosed as having a cancer of the brain. Some years ago she had a tumour, successfully removed, but it left her with a number of disabilities which she has managed to deal with very bravely. These included epilepsy, weight gain and changes in her metabolism. She also had a form of diabetes and this led to developing glaucoma and finally to cataracts. The glaucoma was slowly robbing her of her sight when the cataracts kicked in and it was following the operation to deal with those that further problems emerged which led to the current diagnoses.

All of that put me strongly in mind of John Donne's extremely wise words which I make no apology for reproducing here.

MEDITATION XVII.

NUNC LENTO SONITU DICUNT, MORIERIS.

Now this bell tolling softly for another,
says to me, Thou must die.



PERCHANCE he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill as that he knows not it tolls for him. And perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that. The church is catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does, belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that head which is my head too, and ingrafted into that body, whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me; all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God's hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again, for that library where every book shall lie open to one another; as therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come; so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness.

There was a contention as far as a suit (in which, piety and dignity, religion and estimation, were mingled) which of the religious orders should ring to prayers first in the morning; and it was determined, that they should ring first that rose earliest. If we understand aright the dignity of this bell, that tolls for our evening prayer, we would be glad to make it ours, by rising early, in that application, that it might be ours as well as his, whose indeed it is. The bell doth toll for him, that thinks it doth; and though it intermit again, yet from that minute, that that occasion wrought upon him, he is united to God. Who casts not up his eye to the sun when it rises? But who takes off his eye from a comet, when that breaks out? Who bends not his ear to any bell, which upon any occasion rings? But who can remove it from that bell, which is passing a piece of himself out of this world?

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Neither can we call this a begging of misery, or a borrowing of misery, as though we were not miserable enough of ourselves, but must fetch in more from the next house, in taking upon us the misery of our neighbors. Truly it were an excusable covetousness if we did; for affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it. No man hath affliction enough, that is not matured and ripened by it, and made fit for God by that affliction. If a man carry treasure in bullion or in a wedge of gold, and have none coined into current moneys, his treasure will not defray him as he travels.

Tribulation is treasure in the nature of it, but it is not current money in the use of it, except we get nearer and nearer our home, heaven, by it. Another may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him; but this bell that tells me of his affliction, digs out, and applies that gold to me: if by this consideration of another's danger, I take mine own into contemplation, and so secure myself, by making my recourse to my God, who is our only security.




Source:
Donne, John. The Works of John Donne. vol III.
Henry Alford, ed.
London: John W. Parker, 1839. 574-5.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

An interesting legal question

The arrest of two ships owned and operated by "Green" activists trying to stop the Japanese hunting whales has, predictably, got the Australian Green Party's mouthpiece into what I call "outraged self-righteous" mode. Considering that they have managed to lose a high speed and rather valuable racing craft in their latest confrontation with the whalers by placing it in a position which made a collision inevitable makes their tactics, in my view, highly questionable.

Why the need for such a high speed craft in the first place? Firstly, its hull form and design meant it was almost a "stealth" craft. Second, its enormous speed enabled it to intercept the whalers and then obstruct their operations. Inevitably, it got too close and a whaler rammed it.

If that were all, I might have some sympathy, not much, but some. I don't support whaling, I see no need for it. Japan hides behind a let out clause in the UN agreements on whaling that allows the slaughter under the heading of "research" though what exactly one is researching in slaughtering them is not clear. The Ecowarriors on the other hand have no legal status and use the tactics of piracy and terrorism and, I'm sorry, that is unacceptable. They endanger lives, they endanger shipping and the break every international law in pursuit of their ideology. That is a totally unacceptable approach.

Boarding another ship in an effort to seize it, disrupt its operation in a lawful pursuit - and though the ecomaniacs may not like it, the Japanese operation IS lawful - is an act of terrorism or piracy. Its piracy if anything is removed from the ship boarded and terrorism if the other vessel is damaged.

So, whatever the moron leader of the Australian Greens thinks is irrelevant. The Australian Government has no option. International Law, which these same Greens invoke when it suits them, has been broken by their activists. A complaint has been brought through the proper channels and the police have been instructed to take action. Personally I hope, but doubt I will have the satisfaction of seeing, that the crews are arrested and charged with terrorism.

For far too long now, "activism" has been seen as a legitimate way for minority groups such as the Greens, to force their often ill considered and frequently costly and damaging ideologies on the rest of us. Its time to stamp on them hard.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Writer's Blockage...

I'm currently working on a book based o the life of St Patrick, my favourite saint. But I've reached a part that is heavy going to write, not because there is a lack of material, but because there is so much to weave into the story!

So today, while I have a day to myself and my colleague is walking in the mountains (He's just been woken up by the guys he arranged this with last weekend!), I am submerging myself in the events surrounding the Britons, Gauls and Irish between 421 and 431 AD. Though we call these the "dark ages" and are frequently taught that there is little written history for this period, we are misled. There is a huge amount of information available - but it takes time sifting through it to find the links between events and people.

Back to work, books don't write themselves and a hundred monkeys sat at keyboards don't produce the works of Shakespeare even if left to it for years.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

How do you say "I told you so" in Liberal Injustice speak?

Now that's a good question, especially now when one of the Jamie Bulger murderers - Thompson - is back behind bars because he has "breached his license conditions". Thompson is now 27 and enjoyed, until recently, a life funded by the tax payer on the streets of some unsuspecting town. His partner in crime, Venables, is still free on 'license'.

The Home Secretary refuses to tell us what this murderer did to "breach the conditions of his license", but we should be told. After all, this is a man who, as a child, deliberately mutilated and tortured an little boy, then tried to hide his crime by throwing the child onto a railway line. This is the problem with the "liberal" refusal to punish and to protect society from people like this - sooner or later they reoffend.

Hence my question. What did he do that "breached the conditions of his license"? We have a right to know, because this is not an isloated case - it comes up again and again when vioent and dangerous criminals are paroled or released on "license". Half the time the people supposedly "monitoring" them haven't the foggiest idea where they are or what they are doing.

But will our "liberal" left wing criminal supporting government listen? Is Hell frozen?

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Moving apartments

Well, I've seven more days here in Tehran and tomorrow I must move house as there are only two of us left now to complete the contract and we are in apratments several miles apart. So, I have my bags packed to move to the spare apartment now available in the same block as my colleague.

Don't think I'll bother unpacking the bags to be honest.

One problem we will face is the gifts we have been given here. Today we each received a replica drinking cup of a design originally unearthed in Persepolis. Its stone, it weighs (as stone does!) but its a fantastic gift. Nor is it aone, there are several smaller gifts to be taken home as well.

Ah well, at least travelling business class....

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Crowds


If you aren't into crowds then the Bazaar and Tehran is probably not for you. This is the entrance of the Bazaar and it was almost immovable with the crowd.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Tea Rooms, Bazaars and florists - Persian style....


The usual suspects seated for tea. Try it black, unsweetened and with the juice of a fresh orange squeezed into it. In the foreground is the small fountain which sits directly beneath the vaulted dome and domed vent which crowns it. Around the edge of the fountain are the "Hubbly-Bubbly" Pipes which accompany the tea...

Parts of the Bazaar are ancient and parts a bit of a disaster waiting to happen. The vaulted dome in this, an older section, is decorated with stucco work and must have been stunning in its orginial state. An idea of the throng can be got by the crowd here.

Fancy some flowers? This flower seller's shop was almost overwhelming, though most of these are artificial, some are real. Spot the difference....