Day 138

Apart from feeling a little stiff, particularly in one leg (the left for some reason), I am otherwise suffering no adverse effects from my longer walk yesterday. This is welcome as today is a big day with the visit from Andrew and Sharon. So more tidying up this morning in a last minute attempt to get the remaining jobs done. It is a losing battle, however, and in our place tidying up is never completed but simply abandoned when we run out of time!

I make some time, though, to listen to two of Bach’s Keyboard Works from my CD by Andreas Staier and the Freiberg Baroque Orchestra.  Well, you have to have a break and some tea at some point. The sheer vibrancy and textural interplay between harpsichord soloist and the accompanying musicians is a delight.

Andrew and Sharon arrive about 1:15, in time for a lunch of corned beef and potato pie which Lesley has made. After lunch Andrew helps with the soldering issues which have been causing me problems. For some time it appears that the problem was not going to recur, but then, suddenly, the solder refuses to behave as it should. It looks, however, that I already have the solution in my possession in the unlikely form of something called a Brass Sponge!

In the by-now tradition of unhealthy eating Lesley and Sharon pop down to Cawston Fish Bar for four sets of chips with fish/battered sausage etc depending on the order.

Andrew and Sharon set off for home at about 9pm and despite my recent progress I slump in a chair quite tired out.

Day 137

In a post a few days ago I threatened to break my promise and write about one of my walks.  So here goes.  Around lunchtime I brave the inclement weather and walk up to the farmhouse outside the village. Unlike last month, this time I walk along with relative ease, including the uphill sections. I cover the distance there and back in 22 minutes (including a break at the destination) which is a full 10 minutes quicker than last time. While feeling a little tired after the exertion it is nothing by comparison to a month ago.

Hopefully there will be no further effects and I can continue getting fitter. Apart from the exercise it provides I love walking along the lanes and bridle paths which surround the village. To think that this lovely countryside is in danger from runaway climate change is appalling.

Tomorrow we are looking forward to Andrew and Sharon spending the day with us. They have put their dog Pippin in a kennels for the weekend for an event on Saturday which they have to attend. This means they can spend more time with us. I need to get stuck into some tidying up!

Finally the reward, I get to watch the Rugby, Wales vs Australia. Well. OK. I would have watched this anyway. With any luck I’ll be down in Cardiff in two weeks time myself to watch Wales play South Africa. The tickets were booked a long time ago before I got the initial cancer diagnosis. It’s always been a little target in my recovery to be able to go to the game and I am hopeful now of doing so. I always love the atmosphere in Cardiff on game day, with the stadium being right in the centre of the city there is really nothing else to compare it with.

Day 136

A big day. Today is the day I take my car to be MOT’d. For the first time in months I need to get up relatively early to get my car to the garage for 9am. I surprise myself by being up and ready to go on time.  Apart from a brief drive in Lesley’s car two weeks ago this is the first time I have driven anywhere, especially on my own, since mid August.

Lesley gives me a lift from the garage into Rugby to pick up some things including a couple of Not Roast mixes I have on order with Holland and Barrett. We get home about 10am and following a couple of chores I settle down to do some work.

I am not looking forward to the phone call from the garage.  Finally they call around 2pm. My car has passed the MOT and they are finishing the service. This is a real surprise as it is fourteen years old and has not been driven for the past three months! But there is other work that needs doing as a result of standing idle combined with the age of the vehicle.

Lesley takes me to the garage about 5:30pm and I arrange to take my car back on Tuesday for some work on the front suspension. I experience a peculiar sense of freedom as I drive home via Halfords to pick up some electrical cable. It may take me a while until I build up to driving longer distances, however, as driving is still liable to tire me out at present.

Day 135

I get to do a load of work free from network problems. That was a nice experience and things are going really well with this at present. The fact that I am able to concentrate on work for a few hours at a time now brings forward the time when I am able to go back to work. This is helped by the fact that I work only 9 miles away from home with a fairly straightforward journey and can park right next to the building.

Hurrah.  Finally get to run a test train on my model railway – if only for one foot! A real sense of achievement. There has been a lot of preparation only to get this far but I am hoping it will pay off as I have lots of components and cable now ready for installation. At least my soldering has been successful! I have also found out that my little Andrew Barclay industrial loco actually runs. Now that I know this part of the track works I can wire the rest of the section and get the train running the length of the board.

In the evening I decide to catch up a little with some politics. The mid-term elections reminds me that it would be interesting to find out what issues are bothering Senator Bernie Sanders in the United States. I have a lot of respect for the ex-Presidential candidate and find his approach to problems of equality and social justice to be an effective one, focussing on oligarchies as opposed to a class based analysis which can be unhelpful and exclusive.

Day 134

Woke up to the news bulletin. The outcome of the US Midterm elections is clearer. It appears that the result was indeed that the Democrats did as well as they expected if not as well as they hoped. It seems that they face the same problems as progressive (as far as mainstream US politics can be) parties in other countries. They are struggling to persuade many people to vote for them despite widespread dissatisfaction with their conservative opponents..

2:45pm Birmingham Midland Eye Centre.  I have to undergo a test to determine whether my field of vision is not impaired before seeing (no pun) a consultant. Before last summer, high ocular pressure was the health concern which bothered me most.  Bladder cancer put that into perspective! But it is still a nuisance I have to put up with the hospital appointments as left unchecked it can result in Glaucoma and blindness. But the difference is stark.  While the optical medics take ages to make a decision and fiddle with my medication, the cancer medics acted immediately. A direct result of the conditions they are treating.

I have decided that I will change my blog postings from the 1st December. I’ll stop posting every day in favour of thinking about specific issues which I face, not just post cancer but more generally. I may even dip my toe back into social media since I abandoned it completely after my cancer diagnosis. I’ll do a little tweeting, while avoiding Facebook with which I really struggle.

Day 133

With all the Bach keyboard music I decide to go back to the simplicity of the unaccompanied Cello  Suites and listen to Yo-Yo Ma playing numbers 4 to 6. The more I listen to Ma’s playing the more absorbing I find it.  At times I have to do other things and get distracted from the superlative playing.

It is also a reminder of what I have learned as an improviser, that a written page of music in the Western tradition contains a relatively small amount of information! One communication theorist estimated that the stave notation system often held only about 20% of the information needed for a performer to realise the work.  The rest of the required data is made up of a combination of performance tradition and the performers own interpretation. This is something which newcomers to music find difficult to accept.

In the evening there is more rugby – Cardiff vs Uruguay. The gulf in class is clear with Cardiff’s second string team comfortably beating the South Americans. Nevertheless it is an open game and while there are frequent stops for rule infringements, the passages of play are fluid and exciting.

I am working my way through the early chapters of Parry’s The Way of All Flesh. It is well written and though the start of the plot is pretty brutal I find I already care about the characters, particularly the main protagonist.

Staying up late to see the early results from the US Midterm elections.  After getting the last US Presidential election and the Brexit result so wrong pundits are loathe to comment. But even to me it seems clear that the Democrats have done reasonably, though not spectacularly, well. The first Senate result is the re-election of one of my favourite politicians, Bernie Sanders, an independent who votes with the Democrats.

Day 132

I am trying to develop a structure to my week which reflects a working pattern. So as the weekend is over and it is now Monday I get stuck into working from home in the afternoon and manage 4 hours before I have to give up. This shows that I am recovering some stamina and energy. The other give-away is that I am often feeling hungry meaning that I am placing greater demands on my metabolism. The problem is that I need to avoid putting on weight!

The puzzling soldering problem with a contaminated tip is still ongoing. I have searched the internet for solutions to the problem in vain. This is really getting frustrating so I call my brother to see what equipment he successfully uses. Unfortunately it appears that he got his stuff from Maplin’s which is now defunct! I have learned much about life from studying the Tao te Ching, but it is sadly silent on troubleshooting soldering problems! I guess Lao Tzu would countenance patience.

I watch a programme on Channel Four presenting the results of a poll on Brexit. Tediously they yet again include Nigel Farage. Amazing! He is like a political barnacle which we cannot shake off. Caroline Lucas hits the bail on the head by saying that whatever the outcome we need to address the underlying disaffection which was a contributor to the Leave vote. Absolutely right. We need to finally deal with the consequences of de-industrialization.

I am still considering how to evolve my blog.  My thought is to reduce the number of postings giving more time to develop ideas. The overall approach is important. Am I doing a kind of diary, or a reflective journal or something entirely different?

Day 131

I persuade Lesley to drive me out to B and Q and Halfords to pick up the parts I need for the model railway. The B and Q part was easy but it appeared that half of Coventry were trying to crowd onto the little trading estate where Halfords was located.

I get everything I need apart from a terrifically named Archimedes Drill. This is a drill about the size of a small torch which when pressed down converts the movement into rotation allowing fine scale drilling.

OK, I’m going to break my promise and mention my afternoon walk. Once again it is to the Brook and I feel good with a faster pace. It is late afternoon and with low cloud it is typically late autumn – November, the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, as the saying goes. So next weekend it’s back to my nemesis – the farmhouse! I may even mention that in this blog – you have been warned.

In the evening I do some tidying up, including shredding some old Rugby Green Party documents which, annoyingly, should have been destroyed by others years ago! I have now done so. Of all chores I find tidying up the worst.

Online I find a NASA video where an engineer describes the steps a probe will take in the next few weeks to land safely on Mars. I am aware of how they do it, but I still watch. As I mentioned in a post when I went to see the film First Man, I find space exploration compelling.

Day 130

I start to lay track on my model railway and quickly realise that I am lacking some essential parts and materials. Its amazing that no matter how prepared I think I am to do something,  I still lack components when the time comes to do the job!

A real couch potato day watching two rugby matches; Wales vs Scotland kicking off at 2:45pm followed by the Connacht against the Newport Dragons at 5:15pm. The first match is the more exciting, being competitive until the last 20 minutes with the added bonus that the right team won! The second match was more predictable with Connacht effectively running away with the match before half time. So the wrong team won. Such is the vicariousness of life.

I have been thinking about whether I should update my wardrobe with some new clothes.  This is partly due to adapting to the requirements of my post-operation life and partly because I feel like it.

The Robert Harris book is not holding my attention so I decide to leave it and come back to it at another time. I find this with books; I read a few chapters and occasionally set them aside to return at a later date when for some reason they interest me. Instead I decide to have a go at a book bought for me as a gift by my work colleagues, The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry. This is set in mid-nineteenth century Edinburgh during the time of the medical body-snatching scandal and the start is pretty lively!

Day 129

The day starts well with a software fix from our supplier. This means I spend the morning creating some more content ready to upload to my works server soon after lunchtime. All goes well until it comes to uploading the software and the system reports it will take an hour and five minutes.  Not too bad until sixty-five minutes pass and the system still says it will take an extra 50 minutes!  The software does not get finally uploaded until well past 4:30, leaving my colleagues little time to prepare the finished product for a client.  However, swift work means all is complete by 5:30.

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‘Reflections’ from 1966 in pretty good condition, including the original dust cover!

I have got hold of a copy of J.M. Dunn’s Reflections on a Railway Career: LNWR to BR.  It was published in 1966 and I’ve managed to get hold of a decent old second-hand copy from the internet. The reason I’ve got the book is 2 chapters on the time he spent at Tredegar Shed at the end of the LNWR period and the start of the successor LMS company (mid 1920s).  Further chapters deal with his time in neighbouring South Wales valleys. It is, however, an extraordinary story, starting in 1913 and finishing over 50 years later.

The incredible thing is that leaving school with no qualifications Dunn was taken on into a worthwhile career by simply writing to a railway company.  Now, I know that such a thing is still possible today (not necessarily on the railways) – I’ve seen it happen! But in a world where so many people now have degrees, while the number of openings for people to have long careers in living-wage jobs has shrunk, this must be a relative rarity today.