Here's to better days

Just as I think my leg and back may be on the mend - obviating the need for further medical intervention - I am back to square one. I think that perhaps the way that I am constantly lulled into the belief that I am getting better is what is worst about all of this. I start to feel fine, then all of a sudden I am in agony. It comes on so quickly and without warning that all I can do is lie on the floor and wait for it to ease. I am already taking the maximum dosage of the medication, so no further relief can be expected from that quarter. I suppose all I can do now is wait and see if there will be an improvement before my next doctor's appointment on 11 March. I am trying hard to stay cheerful and optimistic, but it is getting ever more difficult with the passing of time. I am constantly reminded of how debilitated I am: I can't drive and I can't go for walks. For the past four weeks, my days out (and my only exercise), have consisted in taking the bus to the supermarket, and having a coffee in the cafe there. I look out of my kitchen window and I see Auchterhouse Hill standing there taunting me. I look out of the living-room window, and Craigowl Hill is laughing at me. I have spent most of today (when not lying on the floor) sitting at my computer writing letters to my clients explaining my situation and asking for their patience and understanding. A couple have already said that they are quite content to give me more time: as for the others... well, we'll just have to wait and see. With all of this on my mind, I have not had a chance to even look at my cameras, let alone pick them up. So, instead I leave you with an image I captured last June when I took Liam and his best friend, Joe, to Edinburgh for the day. I did the post-processing today, so I suppose it qualifies on that count. Here's to a better March.


Come on... you're winning!

Point of clarification: by the look on Martin O'Neil's and John Robertson's faces you would think that Celtic were being beaten instead of leading 5-0! During the half-time break in the Scotland v. Italy 6 Nations game yesterday, John Inverdale mentioned that we were watching the game for the Wooden Spoon (which goes to the bottom placed team). His co-presenter in Paris, former English centre Jeremy Guscott, gave him a doubtful look, which Inverdale chose to ignore. Now, if there is one thing that really gets on my nerves, it is the arrogance of English media personalities, who either forget, or who simply don't care, that they are broadcasting to people who do not support the English teams, and who choose to gloss over the fact that their own team isn't exactly setting the heather on fire. Today at Lansdowne Road, Ireland (my favourites to win the 6 Nations this year), beat England by 19 points to 13. If Mr Inverdale would care to take a look at the table, he will notice the fact (uncomfortable for him, no doubt) that the World Champions (how often do we have to be reminded) have not managed to win a single game yet, and, along with Italy, are propping up the table with nil points. Perhaps the England v. Italy game will be the Wooden Spoon decider! I know that Scotland aren't very good, but then again... we have 2 points! (Let me enjoy it while it lasts!) I happen to believe that England will win their remaining two games (yes, I think they will beat Scotland), and that they will end up with two more points than us (because I don't think we'll beat Wales) - I just wish their commentators would stop being so smug - especially when they have nothing much to feel smug about. Yesterday I said that my perfect sports day would be victories for Celtic, Ireland and Liverpool: well, the first two came true, and the third came so close. Two out of three ain't bad. And while I'm on: I have nothing against Chelsea - I just can't stand their manager. He was a prat at Porto, and he hasn't changed since - as events at Barcelona midweek and Cardiff today have proved.


Why not open mine!

The postman brought some joy this morning... and another book for the collection. I don't know what to do with the book. I've long since run out of shelves, and the ones that I have are already straining under the weight. They were cheapo bookcases out of B&Q, and were only ever intended as a temporary solution until I could get a joiner up to build me more substantial book storage in my study. Like most of my good ideas, however, the wooden built-in bookcases remained in my head, while the formica covered chipboard remained in place. As for the joy. Well, I received my first royalty cheque for my book, The Last Empire: 30 Years of Portuguese Decolonization (available from Amazon and all good bookstores, as well as a few rubbish ones too, for the ridiculously low price of 20 British pounds). It was unexpected, because I thought that the only people that had this book were people that I sent freebie copies to! The money, all £70 of it, will be going towards my new camera. Watch out JK Rowling... the Boy from Bute is hot on your heels!!! While £70 for a year's royalties might not be a lot, it is £70 more than I expected, so I'm quite happy. Now all of you need to do your bit, and buy the book! I feel a challenge coming on! Let's see if you can make next year's royalty cheque bigger than £70... and to prove you have a copy of the book, take a photo of yourself with it! (It's worth a try!!!!). The other joyous event today was Scotland finally winning a rugby international: although I have to wonder what is it with the touch-judges who seem hell bent on denying Scotland tries. We had a perfectly good try disallowed in the France game three weeks ago - and it cost us the match. Today we had another one chopped off for a forward pass - as if the touch judge, who was well behind play, had a good view. My understanding of the rules is that the ball is allowed to be passed forward when this is caused by player momentum, and, of course, there is no foul when the ball is passed in a line. Still. Not as crucial this week. Now... if only Ireland can beat England, Liverpool can beat Chelsea and Celtic beat Clyde, then I will have had a perfect sporting weekend!


Officially sick!

I shuffled down the early-morning sleet strewn pavements of north Dundee. I had to be at a certain place at a certain time. My mission was important. My destination: so close, yet a painful world away from me, and on the other side of a busy road. In my current state, there was no chance of me taking advantage of any gaps in the rush hour flow of vehicles. I had to find a lollipop man or a lollipop woman: they have the authority to stop the traffic to allow children to cross in safety. But how would they react to a middle-aged, stooping man with a walking stick? I didn't want to risk their refusal to assist, and there were many Burberry cap wearing teenagers - late for school - milling about, snowballs at the ready to catch their victims unawares. Liam finally told us that the reason for his general demeanour last night was school related: some Third Years were grabbing First Years and rubbing snow on their faces and up their shirts and down their backs. Liam was one of their victims at the morning break. He spent the whole day in cold, wet clothes, and had to walk home from school through the slush. He got home, reluctantly went to his guitar lesson, then went to bed very early, feeling unwell. He hadn't done his homework, and didn't want to go to school because he would get three punishment exercises for his pains. I reported this to the school, with the First Year co-ordinator assuring me that, in the circumstances, Liam would not be punished, and that the Third Years would be warned that what they are doing, whilst not bullying because they are not picking on a particular person (Liam was just in the wrong place at the wrong time), is not far off it, and will not be tolerated. The Co-ordinator said she would speak to Liam about this - so that's me in trouble when he comes home. Anyway, I decided not to use the lollipop person, and crossed the road myself - a minor triumph. I entered the doctor's surgery. He examined me (again), told me to increase my Gabapentin intake to 1800mg a day, gave me a sick line to take to the Department of Work and Pensions (how Orwellian a name for a government ministry can you get!) - for what purpose I do not know, since I am self-employed, and then hit me with the big one. I have a slipped disk, and am to be referred to the hospital - although I have to wait another two weeks because the neurosurgeons only take referrals after six weeks of GP treatment. All very well, but I'll probably have to wait six months for an appointment with the consultant. Not looking too good at the moment. Nevermind, now that I have a sick line, I have returned to work: working through the pain to ensure that the book and journal are both published on time (and to make sure that my bank manager remains content with me).

Back to work


Lost in the supermarket

Just thought that I'd throw in a bit of colour for a bit of a change. Practicing with a variation on the pseudo-lomo tecnique that I had some fun with way back in August, only this time I've altered the colours rather than just make them more vibrant, and I resisted the temptation to add any motion blur. I kind of like it, and, let's be honest, it is a break from all that black and white I have been doing. A word of warning, though, the black and white kick is still not out of my system, and I will be returning to it - perhaps even as early as tomorrow - who knows? I'll see how I feel. Another day of false dawn on the trapped nerve front. This morning I was feeling okay, and I even managed to put the wheelie bin out (although I did slip and get covered in snow) and make breakfast for everyone. The respite was short lived, however, and I was soon back to my old self: doubled up and shuffling. It was so bad today that an 80 year old woman sprinted past me on my way to the supermarket. Try as I might, I just couldn't keep up with her sprightly pace, and she was soon a speck in the distance. I got some pictures printed out today at a commercial printer. Why do they say they print 7x5" and 10x8" when it is quite clear that they don't. I set up a number of images to the required sizes and at the optimum resolution in Photoshop. The prints I got back were all cropped smaller than the advertised sizes (and the sizes I had created the images at). The girl on the counter told me that the machines always crop smaller, although she couldn't tell me why. Now I need to remember to make an allowance for the machine... rather than just accepting that the machine will do exactly what it is asked to do. I mean, I did all the hard work for it - all it needed to do was print the bleedin' pictures. Still, apart from the poor cropping, which was only critical in a couple of pictures, the prints were of an excellent quality. I just wish they did matte as well: then I would use them all the time.



The snow that fell overnight and all through the day, took all of the highway authorities by complete surprise, despite it being forecast since Sunday. The local radio was telling us of school closures across the length and breadth of the east of the country. Liam listened attentively, hoping that his was one of them. Alas, it wasn't, but I took one look out of the window and saw the blizzard dropping more snow on the ungritted main road as vans and cars slid into the kerb and told Liam that he was staying at home. He pretended he was disappointed, but he didn't take much persuading. Mizzie ran out the back door and down the steps, straight into two inches of snow, before stopping to sniff the ground, shake the cold stuff off of her paws and running straight back up the stairs to hold vigil on the top of the tumble dryer. Gavin phoned me to see if I was up to going out taking photos of the snow with him. I wish I was, but I'm not. So, instead, I arranged to meet him for a coffee in the Tesco cafe where we had a nice natter over this and that. By the time I had struggled back to the bus stop, the snow was falling heavier than ever. Got back to the house just in time to sit down with Liam and watch a DVD as my poor leg recovered from the strain. A good day, though, as I did manage to get out and actually meet another human being, and what better way to finish the cuddly animal series than with a real live cuddly animal!

Mizzie frolicking in the snow



At last! I've caught up and am now completely, totally and definitively up to date with my photos. You'll be glad to know after yesterday's rant that I am not going to be saying much today. I will, however, introduce you all to João the Cão. So named because he was purchased in Portugal and, when Liam was much younger, I was instructed to take him to Portugal with me every time I had to travel there. He is a bit the worse for wear is this little globetrotting toy, for as well as having to share bag space with clothes and shoes, he has seen his fair share of the inside of washing machines. João is a diminutive fellow, and can quite easily fit inside a coat pocket. He was one of Liam's favourites because he accompanied me on my trips, so Liam could be with me by proxy. As for his name... well, we decided on João because it rhymes with cão. Cão is the Portuguese word for dog, which is what João is (or at least he is a representation of one). So that's it. You've now met all of Liam's old friends. Now I'll really have to think hard about what to photograph tomorrow!



A shameful day for football in Britain, with cointhrowing and riots during and after the ManU v. Everton, Bradford v. Blackburn and, worst of all, as far as I'm concerned at least, at the Celtic v. Rangers game. There can never be any place for thugs at football, and the clubs and police must do all they can to find and punish the culprits. Of course, I have been more concerned with the events at Celtic Park. While I am relieved that there were no riots at or outside the ground, I was shocked to see coins and cigarette lighters being thrown at a Rangers player. Many Celtic fans are attempting to defend the hooligan behaviour by arguing that Rickson's actions (he applauded the Rangers fans whilst standing in front of the Celtic supporters) were inflammatory: the response was unacceptable and indefensible. Rickson can be an idiot at times, we all know that - we can all be idiots at times. He knew what he was doing, and perhaps he shouldn't have done it, but that is no excuse for physically assaulting him by throwing a cigarette lighter at him. The so-called Celtic supporters who threw the objects have done nothing but brought shame on the club they purport to support, and have blighted the good name of a set of fans who, only two years ago, won both the UEFA and FIFA awards for best behaved supporters. Someone knows the responsible parties: for the sake of Celtic Football Club and its supporters they should give their names to the police. There can never be any place in sport for thuggery and hooliganism: it is only a game, after all. Anyway, rant over, I would like to introduce you to Dino the dog. Dino is a huge (and I mean huge) soft, extremely floppy and gentle soul. When Liam was smaller he used to lie on top of Dino while he was watching the cartoons on telly. Later, Dino became Liam's wrestling partner. Our previous cat, Muzzy (we are nothing if not original when naming animals), used to sleep on top of him. Now Dino spends his time as Liam's PlayStation footstool. Later you will meet the last of Liam's reprieved friends, when I introduce you to the diminutive João (pron. Zho-a-ow).



I'm getting there.... honest. Just give me a chance, and I will put up a photo for the day it was actually taken, and not the day before. Once again, I must apologise for putting up today's picture tomorrow, but I have been very, very busy crying into my coffee. Because I live in Scotland, I was unable to purchase the Old Firm derby on the pay-per-view channel. (Had I lived in England or Wales, I would have had no problem.) As I attempted, all I got was a message saying that "This broadcast is not available". Apparently, people in Scotland and Ireland have to subscribe to the SPL channel, which costs £13 per month, instead of being able to watch on a game-by-game basis. So, the upshot of the story is that I had to shuffle (quite literally) down to a smoke-filled pub to watch it there. The other clients, most of whom were there to watch the match too, were a mixed bag with Celtic and Rangers supporters sitting and standing next to each other enjoying the banter and the game. A Rangers fan, who knew I support Celtic, even gave me his seat when he saw me with the walking stick. Good natured bantering aside, I am upset because Celtic spurned umpteen chances to score (the Rangers 'keeper had an excellent game, it has to be said), and ended up losing 0-2. With this defeat, our chances of holding on to the League title are all but gone, because the last Old Firm game of the season is at Ibrox (home to Rangers), they have a much better goal difference, and they are currently three points in front of us (although we do have a game in hand). So... it seems quite appropriate to introduce you to Hamish. Hamish, as you can see, is a teddy bear. If you are a follower of Scottish football, you will appreciate the connection. Hamish was a Christening gift to Liam from his Gran, Cathie. He has always been one of Liam's favourites, although I can't say that he is one of mine... he is just too.... smug-looking, straight laced and hard-stuffed for my liking. Tomorrow it is time to meet Dino.



Still trying to catch up! I might even manage it one of these days. After a miserably painful day today (Saturday), I am feeling slightly better tomorrow (Sunday), although I do still have a dull aching sensation down the front of my left shin, numb toes and a sharp pain just below and to the left of my coxix (I think that's what it's called). Enough about me, though. I suspect that you are all here today to meet Alfie the Ape. This was another of Liam's young childhood favourites, mainly because he has very, very long arms, and can hang from the door and play the guitar. Liam used to like putting Alfie's arms around his neck and cuddle him. Now he is more often to be found under the bed, or being peddalled on by Mizzie. I must admit that Alfie is probably my favourite, and that I am always glad when Liam stops us from putting him in the black bag. Hamish will be tomorrow's guest.



Ooops! A day behind again. This photo is for yesterday. It breaks all the PaD 'rules', since I didn't take it yesterday; however, I did think about it, so that's okay... isn't it? No matter. It's here, and I'm counting it for yesterday, and there is nothing anyone can do about it. So there. Flame me if you want, but remember that I have a very, very sore leg and that I am practically immobile (says he shamelessly playing up his current severe pain :D). Take pity on me and say hello to Bobby the Bear. I bought Bobby for Liam's first Christmas (away back in 1992), and he quickly became his favourite cuddly toy. They were inseparable, and Liam wouldn't sleep if Bobby wasn't there with him. Now, of course, Bobby has been forgotten, and relegated to the bottom of the wardrobe, underneath the old bags, shoes and toys. He has not been abandoned, though, because when we have our annual pre-Christmas clearouts, Bobby (along with some other cuddly toys) always seems to get a reprieve from the black bag. I intend to introduce you to some of Liam's other 'friends' (as he used to call them). Tomorrow is Alfie's turn.


Tourist board X-files

I don't want to speak too soon, but I think that either: a) my leg is starting to get better; or b) the drugs are starting to take effect. I hope it is the former, but I suspect that it is the latter. Never mind! What's a sore leg to someone who is being bombarded with tributes! As if the dedications from Bruce, Antonio and Gilles were not already more than I could reasonably have expected (and much more than I deserve), along comes Autumn Sky, aka LC, with an outstanding photographic dedication to me. Above and beyond the call of duty he went, by actually lying down on a railway track to get the desired image. A superb photograph achieved at risk of life and limb - these trains travel very fast, and you don't hear them until they are on top of you (as I found out to my terror as I rather stupidly tried to run across the West Coast Main Line several years ago). A great big thank you to you LC: the photograph is excellent, and the thought behind it was extremely touching. In fact, I must say a great big thanks to all of you: because I am too 'medicated' to concentrate on work, I have found that photography - both yours and mine - is what has been keeping me sane these past few weeks. Your comments, concern and, yes, your tributes, have all helped me through this trying time. I just want you all to know that it is much appreciated. As a reward, I am going to let you into a huge secret. This is something that the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Tourist Board have been trying to keep under wraps for several years, because they believe the enigma is what keeps the well-heeled tourists coming. Nessie (the Loch Ness monster) exists - and she's made out of blutak. Mum's the word. You didn't hear it from me: I'll deny it.


Sticking to the Moon

Nothing much to report today, since I haven't been able to get up to too much. Two things achieved: I washed the breakfast dishes, then, with the help of my downstairs neighbour, I managed to get some of the washing hung out to dry. Apart from that I have spent the day lying on my back, doped to the eyes on the pills that the doctor has given me, trying to concentrate on reading and, having given that up as a non-starter, watching a couple of episodes of Band of Brothers. Many of you will be pleased to know that I ran into a couple of blutakbeasts this afternoon. They had recently been watching the film Apollo 13, and it reminded them of their own space programme back in the 1960s. Apparently their first successful Moon landing took place on 1 July 1969, which means that they just beat the Americans to it by a couple of weeks. Their own space missions were apparently so hush-hush that they were willing to allow NASA to take all the plaudits. They explained that they were in a bit of a sticky situation at the time, and that they were desperate to obtain new poster material since they were sick and tired of holding up the millions of Che, Jimi Hendrix, CND, Richard Nixon, and French existentialist slogan posters. Their leader at the time, President Stig E. Bakplastique, decided that what was needed was an image of the planet Earth from about 250,000 miles away. Tireless and indefatigable efforts (excuse the tautology - I did it for effect) were made in a no-expense spared push to glue old Fairy Liquid bottles and pipecleaners together to make a spacecraft capable of taking the brave Stickonauts on their historic journey. At first I thought that they were pulling my leg, but then they showed me the photograph of Nieds Stuckon, the first blutakbeast on the Moon, actually on the Moon. And as we all know, the camera doesn't lie. Does it.



Two wonderful things have happened to me today. The first surprise came with the postman, who brought with him a package all the way from Montreal in Canada. When I say it was a surprise, I am exaggerating slightly, because I have been expecting it for a while. Still, whether expected or not, it was a nice thing to receive. Let me explain. A couple of months ago, an exceptionally talented Luso-Canadian photographer, Antonio Pierre de Ameida, dedicated a photograph to me. I was really taken aback: firstly because it is quite a tribute to receive recognition from such an exceptionally gifted photographer; and secondly because the photograph that he dedicated to me is an outstandingly good example of reportage photography (which is my preferred type of photography). I loved the photo and the dedication so much that I asked Antonio for a print, which I have now received, and which will shortly be hanging on my photo wall in the living-room. Thank you very much Antonio. The second surprise came when I was browsing through my favourite Pbase photographers' latest updates. I got to Gilles Navet's page - another wonderfully talented photographer - and discovered that he has dedicated his daily photograph to me; moreover, he has even emulated 'my style' (I didn't think I had such a thing!!!). This is an awesome tribute, and I am lost for words. To have photographs dedicated to me by photographers as talented as Antonio Pierre de Almeida and Gilles Navet is some tribute indeed, for in my opinion, they are up there amongst the best on Pbase. I am completely overawed by it all. Thank you. After all this excitement, I decided that I wanted to get out the house for a walk. I have been a prisoner in here since I came back from Portugal a fortnight ago. The neural inhibitors don't seem to be working, but I had to get out despite the pain. I thought that I would head up to the supermarket to buy a frame for the print Antonio sent me. I didn't try to walk this time, but took the bus. In itself, this got me down, because by the time I made it to the bus stop, which is only 50 yards from my front door, I knew that there was no way I would be able to walk any further. I feel like a prisoner with an indeterminate sentence hanging over my head. I just wish that this pain would go away and let me lead a normal life again.


This one's for Linda

Linda and I met at a difficult time for both of us. Our families and friends said it would never last. We've had our ups and downs over the years, and have gone through some very difficult times. We have managed to survive them, and here we are, 14 years on, still together, and still very much in love. This one's for you. Despite all the heartache I've put you through in the past, will you be my Valentine?

My luve is like a red, red rose
O, my luve is like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June.
O, my luve is like the melodie,
That's sweetly play'd in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonie lass,
So deep in luve am I,
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry.

Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun!
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only luve!
And fare thee weel, a while!
And I will come again, my luve,
Tho it were ten thousand mile!

(Robert Burns, 1794)


We used to work so well together!

I had a pleasant surprise this morning when I received a phone call from Mr Northstar telling me that he, being the romantic bugga that he is, had brought Mrs Northstar to stay in a hotel in Dundee for a Valentine's treat. They dropped in for a cup of tea and a chat, and we blethered about the state of the NHS, amongst other things. Mrs Northy, who is studying some oriental healing technique called Riki (I'm not sure about the spelling, and I thought that maybe it had something to do with Edinburgh) tried to help alleviate my pain. I must admit that I did feel the heat from her hands, and that it did provide some relief, as I was able to sit relatively comfortably the whole time they were here. Anyway, they had to make the treacherous trip up the A93 to their abode in snowbound Inverurie to relieve Mrs Northy's mother of babysitting duties. After they had left I settled down to watch the rugby. The day just kept getting better and better as France beat England by a point. This means that England are, at least for now, just as piss poor as Scotland. I'm sure it won't last though (but it is nice while it does!). A relatively pedestrian and uninspiring French team has now managed to beat both Scotland and England - but my money is riding on Ireland to win the 6 Nations this year, and for Italy to wrest the Wooden Spoon from Scotland (please, please, please). The picture was taken at Heathrow Airport a couple of weeks ago, with the post-processing done today. As you will know, Concorde was a joint British and French project.


Friend of the Festival

This image was inspired by one that Gavin took last week of Glasgow's Science Centre and the affectionately named Armadillo Conference Centre. As most of you will know, I lived in Glasgow for many years, and consider it to be my home city. It is where I bought my first house, married and divorced my first wife, where I had my first job, where I attended university, where I met Linda, where Liam was born and where my favourite football team hail from. Quite simply, although I was born down south and brought up on Bute, I consider myself to be a Glaswegian. I love the place, and I miss it terribly. So, when I saw Gavin's image, it took me back to 1988 and the Garden Festival, which was one of the high points in the redevelopment of the city and its 'cultural rennaisance'. Throughout the 1980s, Glasgow District Council put a lot of effort into reinventing the city. The sandstone buildings were sandblasted clean, stripping away a century of pollution. Buildings that once were black were transformed - none more so than the Glasgow Central Station Hotel, which emerged from behind the protective plastic sheeting and scaffolding as a beautiful blond sandstone building. The city was completely renewed as one architectural gem after another emerged from under layers of soot. More than this, however, the streets that seemed so dark and menacing became bright and welcoming. Along with this, the Council gave grants to the owners of tenements to repair and clean their properties. For ten years, Glasgow was wrapped in scaffolding. The Council's campaign 'Glasgow's miles better' was an international success. Derelict land, such as the Queen's Dock (Anderston) and Prince's Dock (Govan), was completely redeveloped with the construction of the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC), which attracted international hotels to the centre of the city, then came the Bell's Bridge (the first bridge erected over the Clyde at Glasgow in 120 years) linking the SECC with the newly constructed Garden Festival site in 1988. I was proud to be a Friend of the Garden Festival, with a season ticket that gave me unlimited access, although I only went twice! Success followed success, and in 1990, Glasgow became European City of Culture, followed in 1999 as European City of Architecture. The opening of the rebuilt Royal Concert Hall in the early 1990s (just before I moved to Dundee) marked a high point in the reinvention of the city, as Glasgow - the industrial centre of Scotland, and much to the annoyance of Edinburgh (we like to annoy Edinburgh!) - became home to Scottish Opera, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Scottish Ballet. One day I would like to move back to Glasgow.


The culprit or the victim?

Third doctor's opinion obtained today. The only doctor who thought to press a needle on the sole of my foot. I didn't feel it. It's the sciatic nerve that has been 'banged', and it will take a few weeks to right itself. The muscle relaxants are no good, apparently. I've been given a neural inhibitor that will, I am told, stop the pain signals going to my brain while the nerve calms down. God speed the day that the drugs begin to take effect. In the meantime (tomorrow, that is), I'm going to listen to Hibs (hopefully) beat Rangers at the footie before watching Scotland (hopefully) beat Ireland at the rugby.


High, isn't it!

Okay, that's me up to date. I hate the thought of missing a day, and I hate it when it actually happens. So, please bear with me as I try to keep things in the right order. Gavin phoned this morning to see how I was getting on and to let me know that the D70 has just come down in price at Jessops. As soon as my overdue paycheck has paid off the credit card bill, I will be the proud owner of the beast. Anyway, the pain has somehow managed to find its way down into my leg now. Sitting is not a pleasant experience (nor is standing or lying down, come to think of it). I got a second medical opinion, which just confirmed the first (surprise, surprise - as if one doctor is going to contradict another doctor in the same surgery). Short of going to casualty, there is little else that can be done - although I think that I will take a chance on the chiropractor. So, still on the medication, and still running into these little critters crawling over my office stapler. When told what it's function was, they just laughed and insisted that it would never catch on.


Diamond geezers these Spurs supporters!

Still suffering and feeling awfully sorry for myself until the postman arrived. Amongst the bills and junk mail was a huge cardboard envelope. It was like Christmas. I opened the package and pulled out the contents: a beautiful calendar by our very own Linda Alstead. Certainly brightened up my morning, and briefly took my mind off of my pain. Now the calendar is hanging proudly in our kitchen. Thank you Linda! See. I can be concise - even if I am a day late. (Especially when I'm a day late!)


Stickilles at the Seige of Gloy

Being forced to take powerful anti-inflammatories and painkillers, such as valium and codeine, I find myself unable to do much work. Between the pain and drowsiness, I seem to have entered a twilight zone inhabited by strange blue creatures that have an unfathomable love of attaching things to other things. These blutakbeasts, as I have come to call them, are afraid of physical contact with one another, because they tend to meld together and separating them is a very, very messy business. Over the past couple of days I have got to know and like these little critters. Once they found out that I am a historian, they seemed eager to tell me all about their past. Today I was regaled with tales of blutakbeast heroism and bravery during the days of Ancient Grease. It was for them a difficult time, because grease is deadly to them, stripping them of all of their adhesive strength. Their greatest hero of these ancient days was a formidable warrior called Stickilles, whose greatest fame was gained during the Prittstik Wars fighting for King Aroldite at the Seige of Gloy, a fortified city on the shores of the Bostik Sea. Unfortunately, although the forces of adhesion won the battle, Stickilles died after slipping on a sheet of greaseproof paper. This is just getting silly now.


A sticky end

Once again I would like to thank you all for your words of sympathy and empathy with my current plight, and for all the encouragement and concern that many of you have expressed. I struggle on in the certain knowledge that my discomfort, painful and debilitating as it may be, is temporary, and for that I am truly thankful, for I am only too aware that there are others who have more serious ailments, who are in greater pain and who have no certainty of relief, either for themselves or their loved ones (one who springs instantly to mind is the ever optimistic and cheerful Petesie, whose courage and stoicism I truly admire). So, enough of this self-pitying. I did manage to get some work done today, and I helped Dave (the handyman) when he came to replace the few slates that had fallen off of the roof during the recent storms. (When I say I helped him, what I actually did was stand on the bottom rung of his ladder while he climbed up on to the roof.) Brilliant man that he is, he was here for over three hours cleaning windows, clearing gutters, nailing down flashing, replacing the putty on a leaking skylight and, of course, fitting the new slates, and he only asked for £40. Diamond geezer, as the London wide-boys say. Talking about poor unfortunates and diamond geezers, I came across this group of blutakbeasts trying to help one of their own who rather stupidly believed that it could stick this pebble to a vertical surface.


Taking the fans for granted

I seem to have been overrun by Blutakbeasts. Whilst they may be pretty gruesome to look at, they are actually harmless; harmless, that is, unless you have a spare wall and things lying around to be stuck on it. If so, then these little creatures will become the very bane of your existence, and heaven forbid that one should fail to adhere properly, for then the chances are that it will fall to the floor and be trodden into the carpet. Nothing, short of an industrial carpet cleaner, will remove its crushed remains from the shag pile. Then, of course, there are the greasy marks that they leave on painted walls... Come to think of it, they are frightening little beggars after all (although perhaps not as horrific as their arch-enemy, the Drawing Pinwolf). I think I have the critters under control, and even if I hadn't I wasn't going to miss the Dunfermline v. Celtic game on the telly. Now, as you all know, I have somehow done my back in, and I have been given so many different pills that if I jump I rattle. I have been prescribed valium and paracetamol for the pain, and diclofenac and codeine for the inflammation. A side affect of all this medication is drowsiness (I must not drive or operate machinery, so I am warned). No need for the drugs this afternoon... watching today's game would put anyone to sleep it was so dire. Of course, the game as a spectacle wasn't helped by the fact that Celtic were 2-0 up within the first 10 minutes: from then on it was little more than a training match for them. As you know, I am a Celtic supporter, and there is nothing I like better (sportswise) than to see Celtic winning... I just wish the players would remember that they receive extremely handsome wages (most of the players in the Celtic first team earn more in one week than most people earn in a year) to provide entertainment to the paying customer. All too often I think they forget that. They certainly did today. I really feel sorry for the fans who travelled all the way to Dunfermline and paid to see that poor excuse for a game, because I honestly think that once the second goal had gone in, the players just couldn't be bothered, and that is an insult to the paying supporter who, in the final analysis, pays their huge wages. I really felt like shaking my walking stick at them :D


Sometimes it's shite being Scottish....

I've fallen a day behind again. The stresses and strains of being practically unable to do anything, whilst having to go to the bank to get the finances sorted out for our new driveway and porch. I managed to walk down the stairs and round the corner, then Linda had to get the car. She remembered that her mum had a walking stick, so I am now borrowing it. Even with the stick, walking is excruciatingly painful. Nevertheless, I managed to limp my way to the bank while Linda parked the car. A couple of old age pensioners barged past me as I slowly manoeuvred my way into the bank. I did notice that rather than make allowances for you when you are obviously having trouble walking, people tend to get very impatient. I had to shout at one elderly woman, who really should have known better, to let her know that I was in extreme discomfort, that every step was painful and that that was the reason I was walking so slowly and with a stick. Not everyone was as rude and unsympathetic, however; a young couple with a baby in a pushchair went out of their way to help me through the crowd in the bank and into a seat. Apart from that there were no other problems, except the atrocious refereeing at the France v. Scotland 6-Nations game. All you French supporters out there know fine well that you only won that game because of the officials... a perfectly good try disallowed and a player sent-off for deliberate offside when he was making no effort to play the ball and every effort to get out the way!!!! It's hard enough for Scotland to beat the other 6 Nations sides without having to put up with incompetent officials as well.


Norascore, man

Okay, I know that I ain't no Ewan MacGregor, but, hey, I am Scottish... so at least we have that much in common. Not being able to get out and about as much as I would like (or even at all), I have been forced to look deep into myself for daily photos. This is something that has been in my mind for a while... well, okay, I only just thought about it if the truth be known. Clearly a rip-off, with no original thought whatsoever, it is my tribute to one of my favourite films. I'm sure you can guess which one it might be. I remember when this came out. I was living in Lisbon at the time, and there seemed to be a whole load of Scottish themed films that came out at roughly the same time: Braveheart, Rob Roy, Shallow Grave, and then this. Trainspotting was a wonderful tonic after the exciting, but historically inaccurate, Braveheart, and served to show my Portuguese friends that Scotland was a modern country with all the social problems that all modern countries have. I never missed an opportunity to see it again, and ended seeing it about nine times in various Lisbon cinemas. Luckily for me, the Portuguese don't dub films, they subtitle them, so I was able to catch all the humour that my Portuguese friends missed. Certainly takes me back.... but whatever happened to Ewan MacGregor (Renton)!?!


Oranges are not the only fruit...

...but we'd run out of bananas (which isn't a fruit anyway, but never mind). The back is still stiff and sore, so I'm not going to bore you any more with it, except to say thank you for all of your concern, and that I am very open to a holiday in Southern California! I won't take a lot of arm-twisting!! Anyway, to show the new fighting and positive spirit, I have posted a bright picture that is full of Andalucian sunshine and vitamin C. It was delicious and juicy, and I enjoyed every bit of it. As I am effectively housebound for now, as well as being practically immobile, my options for daily photography are severely limited for the time-being. Perhaps this is the challenge that I need. Well everyone, thanks again for your concern. I know that there are many, many people worse off than I am, so I am not complaining... just being a little grumpy! (Well, I am Scottish, and we're supposed to be grumpy!). See you tomorrow :D

PS. Just got a nice phone call from Gavin wishing me well. Thanks Gav.


Craigowl Hill from the Kingsway

I took the doctor's advice and decided to go for a walk today. I thought that I ought to keep it short and not too challenging, so I went to the retail park. That was my first mistake. I got no further than 500 yards than I had to stop and lean against a wall. The pain was practically unbearable. I was not going to let this beat me, so after a short pause, I set off again. After almost one hour I made it to the retail park (it usually only takes 15 minutes) in absolute agony. I went into the supermarket and sat down for an hour while reading the paper and drinking coffee, just trying to pluck up the courage for the walk home. I made my way, initially feeling not too bad, but no sooner was I in the car park than the excruciating pains began to shoot down my left leg and around my calf and shins. The small of my back and thighs were faring no better. I soldiered on to the petrol station, and decided that this could not possibly be doing me any good at all, so I hailed a taxi. I got back into the house, took the valium and diclofenac that the doctor prescribed, then went and lay down on the living room floor waiting for the drugs to kick in and take the pain away. Linda, who was a registered nurse in a previous existence, told me that I should keep movements to a minimum until the pain is under control, which won't be for a couple of days. Only then, she said, should I be thinking about going out for walks or doing the stretching exercises. So, day one of the recovery programme was a complete failure. Fingers crossed that tomorrow is a little better. In the meantime, I did manage to get out and take some photos. In response to requests from a couple of my regular readers (Coleen and Laine), and since I haven't quite got the mono trip out of my system yet, I have decided to create a new gallery: Colours of Scotland. You are more than welcome to head over there and leave comments. In the meantime, I return to my agony as the drugs begin to wear off.


Doctor's orders: walk 2 miles each day

Thanks everyone for all of your concern and well wishes. I took the sensible course of action this morning, and made an appointment to see the doctor. The walk down to the surgery was excruciating, and all sorts of ailments were running through my head. I wondered what they need to do to fix a slipped disk, and whether I would have to go under the knife. The way I was feeling as I walked down the road, I would have been grateful if they operated there and then without aneasthetic. As it was, I managed to limp into the waiting room and sought to get myself into the least uncomfortable position possible while I waited to be called. Upon seeing me, and asking me to go through a few mobility exercises and a quick look at my spine, his considered opinion was that I have somehow managed to exacerbate the back problems I gained through my employment at BT all those years ago, and that my job, which involves an awful lot of sitting, is not helping my posture. In layman's terms, he explained that all the muscles are connected and that they all need stretched. He said that I did the right thing walking to the surgery, and that I must walk more, and follow the stretching exercises he gave me. In the meantime, he gave me ultra-strong painkillers to stop the muscle spasms. So, a two mile walk every day... doctor's orders! Even when I'm ill, I manage to come up smelling of roses! Thanks again everyone for your concern... The sun is out, the sky is blue... I'm going for a walk in Strathmartine!