Wednesday 30 March 2011

A guilty secret I've harboured (No sniggering, please!)

I've never told anyone this about this little incident which makes me curl up with embarrassment. No one else involved knows the truth which I've kept it to myself for 30 years. Until now.

I discovered one day that on going to the toilet for a 'sit down' what I was passing out had a deep reddish colour. The first time I saw it it caused me some alarm, but after a short while it cleared. Then after a few days it appeared again. It got me quite worried, fearing that I might have incurred some kind of rectal tear, and if this was the case it could be really serious. So, after much thought and trepidation, I decided that, although I'm one of those who will see my doctor in only the most necessary circumstances, I made an appointment.
I'm sure my explanation must have been circuitous and spluttering beneath my furious blushing but he did get what I was trying to say. He made me drop my pants and lie on my side on his examination bunk. Then he inserted a small piece of apparatus into me ("with a little torch and a magnifier" he said, reassuringly.) After some moments with both of us in rather undignified positions he said that he couldn't see well enough as there was too much 'matter' in there but he recommended me for early inspection at Oxford's major hospital. I had to go along with this as, having gone so far, I couldn't very well back out now.
Within the next day or two I got my appointment confirmation with instructions not to eat anything solid for at least 24 hours previously. It was a full-day examination - one in which I was treated to the indignity of an enema, conducted by a female nurse - my first and so far only one. (The enema, I mean, not the nurse.) Then I was given a glass of barium solution to drink (I can still recall that chalky taste) and had to wait for what was probably a couple of hours at least. Then, with an older male specialist and a couple more female nurses around they got to work with me wearing nothing but one of those hospital open-backed smock-like gowns. Once again I had to lie on my side while a camera device was pushed up me, my innards then showing up in all its gory and glorious detail on a TV monitor in front of me, looking rather like a basket of snakes which seemed to wriggle as the camera was moved further up, this way and that. Needless to say once I saw it I couldn't bear to look any more. (I'm squeamish about anything anatomical - most especially when it's personal.) I just heard the man saying "Hmmmm, hmmmm, nothing there, nothing there....." After some minutes of this one of the nurses exclaimed "What on earth could it BE, doctor?" I don't remember his answer but it wasn't very precise. Anyway, at the end of all this palaver, the camera tube was 'unplugged' from my bottom and I was allowed to dress and then go home, being told that they would let my doctor know any results. I never heard from them or from my doctor again, at least not on that subject.
It could only have been a few days later when I noticed the same 'symptom' had appeared yet again. I sat down and thought it through. What had I been doing in recent days? Where had I been? ......What had I been eating?
Then it hit me hard and made me want the earth to open up and swallow me. I'd been eating.........BEETROOT!

(Now, you promised not to laugh, remember?)

Don't ask me why I'd never once noticed this effect during all of my previous years. I've always eaten beetroot regularly. I like it. Of course the same thing still happens every time - and on every flipping occasion I'm reminded of all that time I'd wasted both for others and myself, including the worry. Oh cringe, cringe, cringe! I never owned up to my realisation to either my doctor or the hospital. If I had been called back for further tests I think I would rather have died than to have told them the truth. I would probably have feigned ignorance and said something like "Oh well, if it happens again I'll let you know." and then slunked away.

So there, after 30 years of it being trapped within and festering - it's OUT!

And it's NOT funny!!!

Saturday 19 March 2011

If you can't see what's wrong with these, bend over!

All garnered in recent times from the B.B.C. which, at one time, I used to think represented the paragon of correct spoken English:-

1) "In Iraq a series of explosions have taken place."

2) "Crime has increased by 50%" (No mention of what period this is over.)

3) "Michael Jackson could hold an audience literally in the palm of his hand".

4) "Of the two candidates he was the one who got the most votes."
and a mistake of the same type with - "Saturday will be the best day of the week-end."

5) "The town's population was decimated by the flood."

Okay, in the last one I'll admit that although the commentator clearly meant that the
population had been reduced to about a tenth of its former figure, and not by a tenth, my
Chambers dictionary states that the word is currently used to mean "to reduce very
heavily", so that at least may have changed in my lifetime.

When I was at school, if anyone made such errors as those above, at best they would be openly ridiculed by our English language master-priest or, more usually, the unfortunate boy would be given a taste of the 'strap' on his hand, usually comprising several strokes. These straps, by the way, were made from heavy duty rubber and imported from Ireland where they had been lovingly crafted by Irish priests - all for our own good, you understand. After just one stroke your hand would sting like nobody's business - but, as I say, a mere single stroke was not considered adequate for the desired efficacy. (Though it's always odd when one thinks back and recalls that it was always the same few boys who were the ones repeatedly punished. So maybe not so effective after all.)

But I digress. It's often said that it doesn't really matter if what you say is incorrect as long as you can get over your meaning. I can't agree entirely with that because when I hear errors like these my distraction causes me to miss the rest of the information.
Well, I won't say things were better in my day. Oh no! That is just too much of a cliche. But I must at least register disappointment that things have come to such a pass when the organ which one feels ought to be propagating the English language with pride is, in fact, so sloppy in its use of it.

Tuesday 15 March 2011

Self-photos - A futile vanity project?

I don't think I'm alone in thinking that if you want to find out what you really look like, don't look in your own mirror. Look at a very current photo or look in somebody else's mirror. My own regular daily mirror images are somehow loaded with flattery, and I don't know why. Maybe it's to do with remembering how one once used to look and the eye is unwilling to relinquish the memory of what once was - a denial of reality, in effect. It's always quite a shock when I'm brought face-to-face (literally) with how things really are.
This morning it was only on the seventh attempt (above) that I got anything like a picture which is close to being acceptable to myself. Some of the tries looked like the photo of a corpse! Goodness knows what others think when they see me outside. But I suppose it won't be long before I'm wishing I could have even today's looks. (Moan, moan, moan.......)

Friday 4 March 2011

How should one refer to a female adult?

On a radio programme today, which deals with listeners' reactions to what they've heard, a female listener rang in to berate a (male) doctor in an earlier programme who'd been talking about morning sickness during pregnancy, where he'd repeatedly used the word 'ladies' rather than 'women'. She found this condescending, insulting and demeaning.
I, myself, have always referred to 'ladies' because I feel that that word is more respectful than the other one. Actually, it's not the first time I've heard this viewpoint but she was so up-front and offended that I'm wondering if my viewpoint is a 'generation thing'. For the record, I also use the word 'gentleman' when talking to a third party about a particular male - and sometimes, when appropriate I'll say 'young man' (or young lady) which maybe compounds the original 'offence' - though I will concede that the word 'gentleman' has, for some, overtones of referring to a public toilet, as has the word 'ladies' - but I can't help that!
The word 'woman', because it contains in abbreviated form the word 'womb', makes me feel a tad uncomfortable to use in 'polite' conversation. But maybe my views can be dismissed as just those of an old-timer whose crusty attitude has been superceded by time and generally-accepted behaviour. After all, I'm still one of that dying breed who, while receiving glowering looks of disapproval from the men remaining seated, will give up my own seat on a bus or a train for a lady, oops, sorry - a woman!

Wednesday 2 March 2011

Another disturbing film to keep me awake at night.

It's been 15 months since 'Paranormal Activities' (the first one) had pressed all the right 'scare- buttons' in my mind. So it was that yesterday I saw the next film to give me the most sleepless night for quite some time.
'Never Let me Go' is a British film about three young adults who, as children, had attended a kind of boarding school where all the pupils are reared (and this isn't a spoiler as it's evident in the early part of the film) with the sole intention of being organ-donors when they reach maturity. The story behind this frightening scenario has a fine pedigree - based on a book by Kazuo Ishiguro ('The Remains of the Day' etc) and given a screenplay by Alex Garland ('The Beach', 'Sunshine', '28 Days Later' etc.)
What I found particularly unsettling in this film was that the 'victims' accepted their fate without question and, furthermore, their highest aspiration was to survive long enough to denote as many as three varied organs over a relatively short period of time, while being progressively debilitated in the process. However, they are given to understand that they may, by demonstrating satisfactorily that they've 'fallen in love', defer their fate by being given a year or two's grace to enjoy their experience. Of course they don't know in advance which organs will be eventually removed from them. It could be something as survivable as the extraction of an eye or it could be their entire liver.
There is little, if any, visual 'horror' to be shown on screen. It's the very notion that is so disturbing and which made me almost break out into a sweat last night when all was still and quiet and my mind gravitated to where it wanted to dwell.
It's usually ideas, sometimes only suggested or implied, that tend to scare me more than full-frontal horror. For example, even though I don't care for the sight of blood I've never found the notion of vampires particularly frightening. Everyone has their own personal 'trigger-points'.
Incidentally, much has been made here that the trailer for 'Never Let Me Go' gives no indication of the seriousness of the storyline. If I hadn't known beforehand, when I first saw the trailer I thought it was just about a love triangle between two young women and a young man, and I wouldn't have bothered to go. But even though I was definitely disturbed by the experience of seeing it, I'm glad I'd heard about the reality of what it was about and I made the effort. So, if you're not entirely put off by what's involved, I'd say "Do see it. A good film."