Unreliable and possibly off-topic


Monday, October 27, 2008

The Greys

For 6 weeks Mum's been loitering with intent at her local pet shop, Paws Here (suppliers of Bad-Dog Jakie's kibble). Who can blame her, with its collection of beautifully socialised small pets for sale, or as boarders, or as companions of staff. The wee wan and I had a love-in there a few weeks ago; me with the rats and the wee wan with two grey bunny sisters. Following independent love-ins both solo and with the wee wan, the grey bunnies have gone home with Mum. Here are my new sisters, and the Big and wee wan's new aunties, Leah Marie Grey and Lady Jane Grey.

These wee honeys accept claps, warm a lap and eat up their greens with relish.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Truth and Consequences

Arriving home yesterday evening, I could hear the screaming from the street. Once inside the stair, I recognised the voices and realised with heartsink that this rammy was being enacted inside my own flat and refuge.

Two Fraggles were conducting a high-volume row in my hallway, oblivious to my entrance. My phone rang, and one, clearly the worse for drink, delivered articulate but outrageous abuse and vitriol down the headset to a remote Fraggle's mother. My own Fraggle, the luckily sober Big Wan, was hiding in another room. As all three Fraggles rapidly exited the flat, I was the recipient of another phone call from the hapless Fraggle mother, who delivered some context. I learned the pissed Fraggle had spent much of the afternoon delivering abuse and vitriol to his unfortunate Fraggle victim via my telephone and PC.

This was not what I need on any evening, and most particularly that evening. My home had been squatted, my resources hijacked for a hate campaign, and my son had failed to act when action was needed. I'm medium fond of the pissed Fraggle, who's received the benefit of much free advice in my auntie capacity. But he was already on two strikes for disobeying my no-smoking rule; three strikes and you're out.

The disrespect for my person and home and Big Wan's failure to manage the situation were disappointing. Worse was my ethical duty to speak to the pissed Fraggle's parents. For were it Big Wan, I would wish to know of such behaviour from another parent.

To his credit, the pissed Fraggle later phoned to apologise, and we had a chat covering the need to walk away from rage, that intoxicants cloud your judgement, that age 16 is a temporary mental illness which resolves, and that despite his remorse I was still duty-bound to speak to his parents, who love him and therefore need to know when he's heading off-base. When the Big Wan was but a twinkle in the eye, I never dreamt that this would be part of parenting.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Black spots

A bad week for these. The cleaners at my work, Fred and Liz, have each had family black spots. Fred's sister died suddenly on Tuesday, and Liz's dad is in the Western being slowly poisoned by liver failure. The man hadn't smoked or drank alcohol in 14 years, but (in Liz's phraseology) was found to be 'riddled' with tumours in his lung, kidney, stomach, bone and gullet. He received the diagnosis on his 54th wedding anniversary. What can you say except sorry, and to mention the wonderful humanitarian gifts offered by the Marie Curie hospice service.

Peter Ballocks was told on Monday his gullet cancer hasn't responded to chemo, and he has ~2 months. They offered to insert a stent to allow him to (gradually) become accustomed to eating solid food again, but he refused this. "What's the point?", he said. H. etc brought Reekie back to Edinburgh the next day, to spare the dug from his dad's externalised rage. She's back down in the Borders again now, absorbing the flak as she always has. I'll go down next weekend so The Ballocks can be angry at me too, and maybe if he's ready, try to soothe him. Whatever he needs to achieve ease. He often feels cornered by words, so I'll take him Casal's Bach cello concertos; he loves classical music.


Friday, October 17, 2008


It feels like such a treat to arrive at the weekend and enjoy options! No jobbie, no kiddos, no duties, no incoming fire!

Through happenstance and acts of God, I'm sometimes back in that seventh circle of hell called 'middle management'. This is a place/headspace where one owns all problems yet lack resources to solve any. Middle management hell can incorporate (if you let it) a jobbie, a Big Wan's school performance, friendies' life events, neighbours' noise complaints, an ambulance nee-nawing to a stranger, the result of a national election, and the wound from your singular failure to fix all these.

What have we learned?
a) Entrained behaviours are not necessarily adaptive
b) Sweeties taste nice but can make you diabetic
c) You can fix some broken stuff, but others need thrown out


What a lovely Saturday I had! R. and I daundered in the Botanics picking up autumn leaves. The chestnuts, maples, beeches and birches (Castaneae, Acer, Fagaceae, Betula) are quite magnificent at the moment. It was clear, sunny and sharply cold, a high wind chasing clouds across the sky.

Then we caught the new Coen Bros film, Burn After Reading. For once, we both loved a film and roared with laughter throughout. This is one I could and will watch over and over again- a complicated black comedy involving espionage and romance. No learning or hugs: relatively good people get stuffed and relatively bad people walk out scot-free. Intelligence is not rewarded and God is dead in this film.

The cast is superb (John Malkovitch, Tilda Swinton, George Clooney, Brad Pitt), with a beautifully crafted narrative and the disparate characters delivering pithy one-liners. It's going to be a slow burning cult film like Big Lebowski, with the cogniscenti throwing around catchphrases from the film in years to come.

"Tell Dr Cox I've got her new key", "I'm an American citizen", "I haven't had a run in 3 days", "This is a clusterfuck" and "What have we learned?". I want to go again next week- it's just going to get better and funnier on repeated viewing.

Even Downstair Neighbour's pithy note on the main door couldn't spoil my evening. "Could whoever trailed cat litter down the stair clean it up immediately. My landing stinks of cat pee". Needless to say, I (or rather Big Wan) was the culprit, though there was no smell of cat piss from the very light sprinkles that Wee Wan had failed to sweep up. He's such a drama queen in writing, and such a feartie in person.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Colours of shite

There's all colours of shite pouring down at the moment between the jobbie, the Big Wan's teenage alienation, the neighbours' complaints and the capitalist economy.

Sometimes I would like to be the sole colonist of the Moon, and start all over again pure of construct and history. On the Moon, no one will own or manage others, or require of them duties. There will be no assumptions or expectations, no property and no currency. Time and labour will not be bought and sold. There will be no intermediary between need and supply, as need will must.

I'll have a small garden to grow moon veg and flowers, a hand-turned sewing machine to make fancy dress for my own amusement, and a cat for company, to give milk, and to keep me in my place. Given the lack of atmosphere to transmit soundwaves, language will be movement-mediated, and every word will be happy when it's a cartwheel or a handstand.


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Asking for Axe Murder

Hi [ion]

I'm happy to discuss your suggestions for reducing noise between our 2 flats and think that another meeting between us might be the best way forward.

Perhaps we could arrange to meet one evening next week but before doing so I would like to take a moment just to get things in their proper perspective and clarify my position which seems to have been misinterpreted somewhat.

My one objective through all of this has been simply this: to try to ensure that when I go to bed, I can sleep without being woken up in the middle of the night.
Everyday noise has never been the issue and while any efforts you've made to reduce this are appreciated, as far as I recall, I have never asked or expected that you or your children modify your behaviour or restrict your lifestyle in any way during the day or evening. While I do hear some noise at these times I have always viewed this as an unavoidable part of tenement life and not something I would complain about. The only complaints or requests I have made have related to noise occurring directly above my bedroom late at night i.e. after midnight, that has woken me up or kept me awake, leaving me seriously struggling to do my job the next day. I think anyone in that situation would try to do something to improve it. If you felt that I was attempting to get you or your children to be completely quiet at all times then you have misunderstood my objective and I hope this has helped to make it clear.

As I said, I'm happy to discuss your suggestions for getting us closer to the stage where we can both get on with our lives without bothering each other. I am pretty busy for the rest of this week and will be away at the weekend so perhaps next Wednesday or Thursday would suit? You are welcome to come down here for a coffee or, if you prefer, I can come up to you. You can let me know when and where would suit you best.

[Downstairs Neighbour]


Hi [Downstairs Neighbour],

Apologies for my lack of response- been busy with one thing and another and did not intend either rudeness or disrespect by this.

Clearly, we need to solve this problem, so please let me know your availability next week for the chat you request.

As an heuristic agenda I have a few possible solutions in mind, involving either moving my PC to another room, or insulating your ceiling and/or my floor. Adoption of your bedtime by us is not realistic and will only cause further failure and stress to us both. My solutions would instead involve some limited expense, but I hope (like me) you may decide these will be worthwhile in the long run.


I'm reading this back now and thinking; Downstairs Neighbour is sooo lucky I haven't deliberately stayed up late playing techno (which I need class As to enjoy) purely to make his life a misery. Mind you, he manages that quite well by himself...


Saturday, October 04, 2008

HPV and me 4- MRSA

I'm 2 lbs lighter after Monday's op and 2 inches smaller in waist size! Thank the Lord and the NHS for fixing me up!

I was last on the surgical list, because (as I learned) routine tests had shown another iatrogenic problem: that I (or more specifically my fanny) carries the MRSA bug. Thank you Baby Jesus!

My lovely surgical nurse explained to me that the NHS stopped testing health care workers for MRSA long ago, when pilot studies showed that >70% of hospital staff like me are asymptomatic but colonised carriers of MRSA. Public health policy, I have since learned, is one of "Don't test, don't ask, don't tell".

Knowledge of my MRSA colonisation meant that I had to be 'done' last, and transferred from Day Surgery to a ward for barrier nursing while I came round. Like most carriers I'm asymptomatic, and only discovered my status because of incidental tests. The surgeons recommended I see Occupational Health, and since this is me at my workplace, I phoned NHS24 to seek advice.

Given Day Surgery's 'get her out of here' reaction, I kinda thought NHS24 would be on red alert, advising me to sterilise everything I touched, signing me off work and banning me from patient contact till treated. I felt dirty, and intensely concerned for my colleagues' and patients' safety. However... NHS policy is that asymptomatic MRSA carriers like me should not be treated (since they'll just be re-colonised next week) and should continue regardless, implementing just the standard hygiene practices such as hand-washing and glove use.

The NHS24 nurse was thick enough to tell me that since I don't use my fanny for work, I pose no infection risk. She was stumped when I pointed out the logical fallacy and error of omission: that a lack of testing of my other skin areas is not evidence that only my fanny 'has' MRSA. Personally, rationally, scientifically, I'd conjecture that MRSA flora in one's fanny gives a high likelihood of MRSA colonisation of other skin areas.

However, after a course of an appropriate antibiotic (on which I insisted) I am probably now 'clean'. At least until the next time I touch a door handle at work and am re-colonised, through transmission from one of my healthy, untested and blissfully unaware colleagues or patients.