Unreliable and possibly off-topic


Sunday, November 30, 2008


A flying trip today to the Borders to check in on the Ballox, who's having a second wind of health and functional status after a 5 day admission for palliative care at the Kelso Hospital. The hospital/hospice augmented his oral Good Stuff (oxycodone and morphine) with fentanyl patches and ondasteron, then released him home as he wished. The fantastic care Ballox has received in Kelso means he now trusts them, and allows district nurses in to check on him. He even accedes that when the next downturn comes, he'll accept in-patient care back at Kelso Hospital.

He was more mobile and cheerful than I've seen him for 6 weeks, and made my day by moving himself to the sit on top of the storage heater in order to "get the ballocks warmed up". He disnae know his nickname, you see. He worried that it would be too hot in his flat for me, so invited me to strip off naked if that would be more comfortable, since "he was no longer in a position to take advantage". God love him- I will remember and cherish this visit forever.

The other pleasures I received today were chocolate-box sugar-frosted landscapes on the drive down and back. It remained below freezing all day, so I was treated to views of every tree and hedge rimed with glistening ice, outlining and solidifying every fractal edge. Sumptuous.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Fall Sunday

A potentially horrid hangover Sunday was recently transformed into a brilliantly pamperful day by my birthday book token. Willfully declining to rise from my bed or answer the phone for 18 hrs, instead I worked my way through Mark E Smith's autobiog 'Renegade' and someone else's musico-docu book 'The Fallen' in a single slothful glut session. The former is MES's reconstructed, denial-filled dictation from his local pub, presumably to a ghost-writer; the latter a personal and documentary account of the author's journey to trace the 40+ sacked or resigning members of MES's personal vehicle, The Fall, over its 30 year history.

Neither are great works of literature, but what fun to read; a guilty pleasure akin to my 'Chat' and 'Pick Me Up' (crap-mag) habit.

MES allegedly loves Edinburgh, though thankfully I've never met him and would cross the road if I saw him on Princes St. I've especially never met him when he fails to show up for gigs, repeatedly. He may have voted Tory, though eschewing politics. And yet The Fall have consistently spewed out glorious, spitting, cacophonous, meticulous stuff.

'What have you got in that paper bag?'
'I chucked out the Alka-Selzer'
'Mm-brrr-zap the subject'
'He wanted sex in the dummies eyes'
'That's what you get for having a hobby'
'A prickly line of sweat covers enthusiast's forehead as the
realization hits him...'
'I've never felt better in my life'
'I got my last clean dirty shirt outta the wardrobe'
'The people I like live in kitchens and halls'


Saturday, November 15, 2008

The War Zone

Strange and existential. Today I had a family meeting about dear departed dad's headstone, then a viewing of the film 'The Baader-Meinhof Complex', then emergency voicemails concerning the Ballox, and gradually I lost the ability to distinguish fact and fiction, war and peace.

1. Headstone: Tasked with organising headstone, I researched the format, made contact with the EHC who can help with Hebrew, found their expert to supply and oversee Hebrew translation/transcription, and sourced a stonemason experienced in Hebrew. It's up to those with opinions and a purse to see the project through now.

2. Baader-Meinhof Complex film: Harrowing and duplicitous. It upset me that three members of R.'s group asked me afterwards "Did you enjoy it?". No, I did not enjoy it, for it was not a feel-good movie. I discerned no insight from any of the other viewers that the B-M/RAF protaganists were anything other than psychopaths. No insight from any viewer that events such as the 'suicides' could be open to other interpretations. I was a saint by not reacting when one viewer explained to me that her definition of terrorism is any acts of violence conducted outside a state-declared war. Thus soldiers are exempt, and once a conflict is stepped-down by state-declared communique (e.g. Iraq), any non-military action is terrorism. I am very proud that I kept me mouth shut.

3. Ballox: nightmare. I arranged a home visit by his wonderful GPs on Weds. Ballox was sleeping and wouldn't open door, coming close to a police door-forcing situation. Despite promising to accept daily nursing care from the district nurses last weekend, Ballox refused nursing help that day and the GP explained that since 'compis mentis', his wishes to die alone uncared for must prevail. That day he took a taxi into Kelso and bought new boots and a rifle with which to shoot rabbits. How he imagines he'll use these since he canny walk is anyone's guess. Good.

Hell mend 'em, all.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Art of Juggling

I struggle to keep up with washing-up and laundry at the best of times, but there's a lot more to be keeping airborne at the mo. Peter Ballox's imminent death occupies most time and mental energy (a novel in itself). Also school visits about Big Wan's under-achievement, medical crises in dear friend's families, neighbour relations, bathroom renovations and headstones, and managing being a manager. I've a pertinent analysis and tactic on each of my issues, and absolutely no time to annotate.


Saturday, November 08, 2008


It's time to commission the dear departed dad's headstone. I've been researching on and off for months, but it's now overdue for mum, sis and I (all shiksas) to get practical about it.

This job is a tough one because the dad is the first of his liberal Jewish congregation to be buried at their grounds and his stone will set a precedent. Responsibility!

Because proper Jewish ritual was important to the dad at the end, we reckon he'd want an inscription both in Hebrew and in English. This makes for a lot of text, and the Hebrew has certain traditional formats and phrasing that are very easy to get wrong.

It's traditional to denote Jewishness by symbolism (gender-dependent and tribe-dependent) and a header meaning 'Here lies' (gender-dependent). Then the dear departed's Hebrew name (a patronymic construction) and their dates in the Hebrew calendar. Date conversion from Gregorian to Jewish calendar are dependent on times of day as well as dates, and written calendrical dates in Hebrew are neither decimal in construct nor Arabic in notation. The traditional Jewish footer (a five-letter abbreviation) is often translated as 'may his soul rest in peace', but has a closer (and more lovely) meaning as 'may his soul be bound forever in the bonds of eternal life'.

The Orthodox community, who generously helped us with taharah and tachrichim at his death, will help us again with the Hebrew inscription.

Mum and the wee wan accompanied me to Piershill Cemetery today to view the current burial grounds of the local Orthodox Jewish community, to get some pointers. The headstones tend to be tall because of the dual-language inscriptions. Our own family taste is for small and simple, and we'll see how close we can get to this while satisfying form and format. Luckily, Mum has said that she doesn't want to be commemorated on the same stone (since she's not Jewish) which is just as well- there will be no room.


Thursday, November 06, 2008

Going around, coming around

This is about Peter Ballox, who's getting closer to the end of this life and/or the beginning of the next.

I spent Monday evening with him when he was up for his (pointless) chemo. The deterioration in his physical condition was quite shocking, but though the body is fading the mind's sharper than for years. I know for a fact he was in considerable pain, but he hid it artfully, making quite a show of his remaining abilities and minimising his increasing disabilities.

We talked about the dug, his immaculate new housing association flat in the Borders village, sci-fi, the US elections and his now constant thirst. In the air was that we both know his life expectancy was estimated at 2 months a month ago.

Because I'm a hard bitch, I asked why he's still having chemo, and why he's not yet hooked into the Good Stuff from palliative care for his pain. I'm not supposed to know about the pain. He hid it well, but a horrorshow enacted the previous evening had proved that if dying painfully, you're likely to receive better practical compassion from a vet than from a 5-star NHS teaching hospital.

Peter used the death-word and the dying-word a few times, allowing me to ask what kind of these he wanted. The denial-wish kicked in and was behaviourally evident- getting up to feed the dug, offer me unwanted tea, fetch cold milk for sipping (quickly puked back up). But I'm a hard bitch and came back to those words when he was calmed. In a personal conversation, we covered some practical and aspirational aspects of the how, when, who and why of the d-words.

Peter was at his very best: ripping the piss out of me in such a charming and affectionate manner, and disclosing some personal regrets of astonishing grace.

I wrote to Peter's Borders GP that night, because though he'd rather die than ask, the Ballox now needs the Good Stuff. And the GP listened, I think, since he persuaded the Ballox into being admitted to the Borders hospital today to optimise his pain management.

The Ballox has always despised H.etc.'s cat, but puss became very ill too this week, requiring expensive surgery. It fills me with pride that Peter has quietly paid for the cat's operation, when he's never before put his hand in his pocket for H.etc. It's late in the game, but never too late.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Go Obama!

Willing this man on, against better judgement, in hope for a better future for the planet. Quite possibly the electronic voting travesty, or voters' inculcated racism, will rob him of presidency at the last moment. Quite possibly if elected he'll immediately cave in to capitalist pressures, or some nutter racist will assassinate him for his mild perma-tan. But I can't remember investing hope and wishfulness in any previous US election.

Colleagues are warned I'll be up much of the night watching the returns, and not to expect much of me tomorrow. I want a small stars-and-stripes to wave tomorrow, should he succeed. Go Barack! A black in the White House! Chocolate City here we come!