A blog not so much for daily activities but to reflect on my past & my experiences.
On retiring after 56 years in paid employment, I looked back on some experiences that shaped and informed me. Some big, most quite small.|
This blog will not focus on daily happenings, but will look at what has happened in my life, and also my reactions to some of the more significant events as i see them. I guess this is more a collection of themes that I might one day gather together as an autobiography - or make available to anyone who would want to use it in a biography, almost certainly only a curious family member. I should also say that this will not be in chronological order, more how my memory stimulates me in a particular direction at the time.
So let's see how it goes, and how committed I can be to the process.
|Memory is an odd thing. I was reminiscing to myself just recently that, looking at a photo of the final year of my primary school (I think you would call it Elementary school in USA), and this was in 1953, that I could still remember pretty well all their names, and the names of a few who were absent on that day. But I can’t remember where I’ve put my keys.
This made me reflect on the changes in names over the past sixty or so years. Gone are the Pamelas, Maureens, Sheilas and Marians. Gone are the Brians, Terrys (and the good Lord forbid Terrence) Russells and Keiths. And Brayden, Scott, Elisha and Jorja were wholly unknown. Ah, but my primary school crush was Anne, who I still remember with a secret smile. And so the world changes, and we with it. Well, we’d better if we don’t want to be left behind.
|Well, the operation went well, and I started the rehabilitation process quite well. But I might post this to JAFBG because I was scheduled to go home today, but no, I’m being held in quarantine because, apparently I have contracted influenza A.
Oh yes, I did have the influenza vaccination, but my GP told me, “well, yes, i’ve had a few patients with the ‘flu after having been vaccinated.” Oh great, Why me? Now I’m going to be isolated for another week, having to stay within four walls with my only individual contact being with ‘carers’ All wearing surgical masks.
Unfortunately, this is inevitable, but at least I can use my iPad to.contact WdC inter alia. And catch up on my reading, and maybe some writing, too, if the mood takes me! I’ve been away from home for a little over two months, so I guess I’ll be able to tolerate one more week, although I don’t have any option!
At 77, one doesn’t have too many weeks to waste, so I’d better use my time positively. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, so it’s a question of walking the walk, not just talking the talk, as I’m very prone to do. (How come one is prone to do things and not supine to do so? Language, language, language.)
|I haven’t been at all active on WdC of recent times, but I thought about posting on some of my recent experiences.
It all started late last year with a laparoscopic cholecystectomy- in other words, the surgeon whipped out my gall bladder through keyhole surgery. The told me my gall bladder was chock full of stones and I was most grateful none had escaped and caused the excruciating pain characteristic of gall stones.
Okay. Next we come to 11 February this year when I had a left hip replacement following increasing arthritis. That was completely successful, and I returned home without too many problems.
But then, one horrible problem. I lost control of my 4 wheel walker - it escaped from me and I fell heavily on my left hip. The result was a complicated crush fracture, needing a new hip orthotic and six pins across the leg. That was on 23 May, and here I am in a hospital bed after the nurse has given me my evening meds, and added a needle full of blood thinner. Next move will be what is called a Transitional Care Package which involves six weeks residential rehabilitation and six weeks home support.
Moral of this story - in Australian anyway, private. Health insurance is essential, especially when you are 77 years old!
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|Sometimes life plays some nasty tricks on you -without any prior notice! On Easter Monday, my wife and I were returning from a pleasant day out - around 5.30 pm, light fading, wet road, lights on, in a string of traffic all travelling around 20 kph under the limit. A notoriously bad stretch of road, but what happened was completely unexpected and largely inexplicable.
Without any waring, a car travelling in the opposite direction and towing a trailer, lost its trailer. The said trailer aquaplaned across the road, and either it hit us or we hit it, moving around 80 kph. The first thing we knew was a loud (very loud) bang, and we ended up on the side of the road facing in the other direction with our heads buried in air bags.
Fortunately several other cars stopped to offer assistance (for which we were most grateful), an ambulance was called, the cops showed up, and we were transported to the local hospital. Tests and examinations followed; we stayed for three hours, before having to get a cab home - 100 kilometres for $270.00 - hopefully our insurance will pick up some or all of the tab.
My poor wife was covered in bruises from neck to knee, and I suffered some minor damage to my sternum. The resultant pain meant our GP prescribed some strong pain-killers for both of us, and it will take a few weeks to get back to something roughly approximating normal. This is largely the reason for me not having made any real contribution to WdC just recently, but I'm headed back in that direction.
The car was a write-off, but fortunately our insurance company has agreed to a reasonable pay-out. There has been no explanation for the trailer becoming detached from the other car. Some speculation, but no hard evidence. Now we have to find another car; once again, fortune has smiled as our daughter-in-law has lent us her car. She and our son both teach at the same school, so transport for them isn't a major problem.
You win some, you lose some. Fate? Luck, bad and/or good? I don't know, but I do know that without seat belts and air bags, my executors would almost certainly be asking for a white case for me. But not this time round. My wife, who has strong religious beliefs, has thanked God every day. I don't - for me, it was just a random throw of the dice. But, whatever, we're both still around to tell the tale.
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|My last blog update reminder told me I hadn't posted for 78 days, 12 hours, 55 minutes, a shameful performance (or lack hereof!). My only excuse is two prolonged bouts of computer problems, the first involving an upgrade from a VERY buggy version of Windows XP, and a parallel upgrade from Office 2003 to Office 2007. Then, with the introduction of the NBN (Australian readers will know what that is), I needed to change to WiFi,which took a while to settle. I think (hope) everything is now settled.
My original intention with this blog was to reflect on issues in my past. But "Reflections" allows for a multitude of sins different possibilities. While battling computeritis, I managed to get some reading done, in particular a book entitled "The Thing You Think You Cannot Do: Thirty Truths About Fear and Courage", by Gordon Livingston MD. This is an amazing read, and I recommend it to everyone.
Gordon Livingston was a doctor in the US Army during the Vietnam fiasco. He knows the meaning of courage in many of its forms, having lost one son to cancer at age six and another to suicide in his early twenties.
Now I don't want what I have to say to be seen as any sort of attack whatsoever on the men and women who serve in our armed forces - it's not.
"It is easy to wax sentimental each Memorial Day about our unforgotten heroes. (in Australia it would be Anzac Day) But if all we do is put on American Legion hats and lay wreaths and enshrine the memories of our unlucky countrymen, we miss the opportunity to learn something from their fates. Something about what happens when patriotism is equated to support for the latest military adventure-and who pays the price. (My emphasis)
Since Vietnam, we have had Grenada, Panama, Dominican Republic, Beirut, Somalia, the 100 hour walkover in the Persian gulf, the twenty-first century adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. Do the families of the men (and now women) lost in these places find themselves grateful and at peace with their sacrifices? I wish it were so, but I doubt it."
"We cannot repay the families of our lost soldiers, families who must find consolation apart from the ceremonial remembrance of those who do not share their sacrifices. Rather than simply honoring the men and women we have lost, we are celebrating the notion that we live in a world in which we resolve conflicting ideas about how to live only by force. We tell ourselves that each military undertaking is required because some value - liberty, democracy - is threatened and must be defended. The instruments of such defense are our sons and daughters.
Next Memorial Day, before you join in the romantic reverence for the dead with its implied willingness to add to that number, I ask you to think again about the cost, not of liberty but of misjudgement. I would not wish on you my own memories of young men who, at the end, could only call for their mothers as their lives leaked away far from home."
He also makes some interesting points about the reality of war.
"When I was in Vietnam (1968-69), the first thing I noticed was that the actual fighting was done by less than 20% of soldiers ("grunts")unfortunate enough to be assigned to the infantry or Marine rifle companies. There was, as I recall, little talk of freedom or democracy among them
Another important discovery I made at war was that in a combat unit, what separates the dead from the survivors was not courage but luck. The person who took the AK47 round, stepped on the mine, bled to death before the medevac arrived was random."
On reflection, and this all reinforces it, it is the young men and now women who fight, bleed and die in wars. But it is the politicians who set the processes in motion, and they are not at risk of injury or death. It is the willing (but unaware) volunteers, and much worse, the conscripts who must be taught to kill for reasons which they do not understand. And let us ask ourselves what benefit we gained from Vietnam, from Iraq, from Afghanistan or any of the other series of catastrophic misjudgements - and how are our lives better for it?
|There is a popular myth that, "your schooldays are the happiest days of your life". I'd like to know who perpetrated that myth and give them a piece of my mind. In retrospect, I couldn't wait to get away from school; the day I left was one of the happiest of my life.
I can't recall much about my time in Primary (Elementary) school, although most of the teachers were pretty decent. Bearing in mind I was a Londoner, a primary school camp near Wexford in Ireland was a big deal. We all slept in bell tents which, for most of us was a whole new experience.
I can also recall the news of the death of King George VI in February 1952. We were sitting in the packed dinner hall when the news ran round like a Chinese whisper, but it was perfectly true. The accession of Queen Elizabeth plunged the school, indeed most of the country, into a frenzy of Elizabethanism with numerous projects focused on the so-called "Golden Age" of Elizabeth I.
Among these was the 1953 (my final year in primary school) school play, "The Queen's Emissary" (know to the cynical few as "The Queen's A Misery"). I had a leading role as Senor Luis De Toledo, Governor of Guayaquil in Ecuador in March 1579, who was conned out of a treasure trove by the visiting Francis Drake. I was (and still am) a hopeless actor; to call me wooden would be a compliment. But I had (and still have) a good memory, and could recite a whole list of complicated Spanish names and titles without too much trouble. These plays were always big production numbers to give as many kids as possible some sort of role. This production had twenty nine listed characters.
The culmination of primary schooling in those days was the dreaded "11 Plus" examination which would determine whether you went on to a grammar school or to the Secondary Modern school generally regarded as an educational Siberia. I was lucky - I got to go to a grammar school although only after an interview with the headmaster, about whom more later.
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|I must confess that I am an inveterate hoarder - somewhat to my wife's irritation. In particular I have hoarded letters that contain some significant information. And on 4th September 1958, I received the following letter from The British Petroleum Company in London:
"... we now write to offer you an engagement as a Student Apprentice in Commerce in the Training Division of our Personnel Department with effect from the 14th September, 1958 subject to the following conditions ... the Company will, so long as you are able to perform and actually do perform the duties required under your engagement, pay you salary at the rate of ₤315 per annum, payable monthly in arrears."
₤315 per annum comes down to a little over ₤6 per week, hardly a living wage, even in 1958.
But there was an upside to this. The idea behind the Commercial Apprenticeship was that we would spend six months of the year in a department of the company in London, the other six months studying. Moreover, that study would be away from London, in this case at what was then known as the Portsmouth College of Technology (now Portsmouth University) some 75 miles south-west of London.
The advantage was that the company paid all board and lodging, tuition and books. On the other hand, this involved nine eighteen year old herberts living in close proximity, away from home for the first time (most of us) in what was very much a naval city.
I'll have more to say about all this later, but in retrospect, it was remarkable that there were no calamities, catastrophes - or unwanted pregnancies
|I was born at a very early age (please excuse my weak attempts at humour) at 9.00 pm on Saturday 6 December 1941 at 67 Elgin Road, Seven Kings, Ilford, Essex, England. It was a home birth, although I remember nothing about it My paternal grandmother was present, but my father had not been around for at least three months. He had been posted to North Africa with the British Eighth Army.
I was born in what had originally been called the scullery of a double fronted two storey Victorian house where my parents rented the ground floor. Much more than that I cannot say, although my mother and I together with my grandmother, and an aunt evacuated ourselves to Droitwich in Worcestershire to live with another aunt and uncle who was employed at the long wave radio transmitter near the town.
I didn't meet my father until I was over three years old when he returned from the Middle East, so my early formative years were heavily female focused. In retrospect, I believe that was a very positive experience.
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