Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My Wife Was A Zygon Terrorist

Tonight we were at a function at the NPG, where they are running the Gay Icons exhibition, to celebrate Stonewall UK's 20th anniversary. The good, the glorious and flowing golden showers of champagne.

Unfortunately this one of Ricky Berens (a Beijing gold medalist) didn't make the cut - unlike his swimsuit.

The science part

The idea is that the water runs down the swimmer's ass crack. By clenching the buttocks intermittently (and the key is the timing) the ass-crack water jets out, giving the swimmer extra propulsion, and an extra edge.

That's the theory. As for me, well, it's quite the look. Thanks to Bjørn.

Odd one out

Or spot the difference. What is it with the Doctor and redheads?

But will I write better?

I'm holding off buting a new MacBook Pro until it's released with Snow Leopard. I have this notion that a spangly new Mac will make me a more fluid writer. That play or book I'm convinced I have inside me - somewhere - will just pour out!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The End Of Time

It was a tiring weekend, flying up to Dundee, driving the 80 mile return journey from my parents' house to Aberdeen 3 times and coping with my mother and father's distress.

My mother looked in reasonable form on Friday night. However each time we saw her - Saturday afternoon and Saturday evening - she looked progressively less well and on Sunday I saw immediately something had worsened.

She was taken back into the operating theatre at 1am on Monday morning and, in the 3rd operation she has had in 10 days, the rest of her left leg was removed.

It is disappointing that she has now lost the whole leg. With the original leg amputation (just below the knee) she would have had a better degree of mobility than she will now.

She is back in intensive care for the moment.

Deep sleep

Last night I had yet another intense dream. Once again it was the "boyfriend dream". That's the one where I'm aware that I should be or was with Xfe, but, for some unexplained reason, we are no longer together and I'm back either with S, or B before him.

Last night I was with B. I asked why we were together, explaining that I had made vows to spend my life with Xfe, not him. B responded telling me that he and I would be together for the rest of our lives.

I was walking in a busy street with B, and I passed Xfe. He looked at me and I looked back at him. We both tried to reach out, but we couldn't connect. The flow of the crowd we were among carried us ever apart.

Then B and I were at Cambridge University where he was being allocated post-graduate accommodation. We waited with undergraduates and the mother of one of the undergraduates enrolling made a speech. It was about her days at the University and dealing with the tutors. The immediate reference point for that speech was the "My Story" column in Saturday's Guardian magazine. I'd read it just before turning the lights off in bed.

I asked B again why he and I were together, becaise I had been with someone else and another in between. I couldn't understand why he and I were together.

I asked him if it was a dream. He didn't reply. I concluded that this was a dream and that I would wake myself up.

Usually I can wake myself up in a dream if something unpleasant is happening. This time I didn't wake up.

I remember trying extremely hard, 4 times to wake up, without success, puzzled. Then suddenly I woke up and sat up. When I realised I was awake, I looked round to check Xfe was there...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Not So New Who?

There's Matt Smith looking rather dandy, filming series 5 of Doctor Who.

I think under Moffat's watch there's going to be some harking back to the origins of Doctor Who. See the "new" look TARDIS exterior, for example. The bow-tie and braces somewhat Troughton-esque.

Pics from Blogtor Who

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

And I Think It's That I Remember

I'm writing this on Sunday afternoon, in London, waiting to for news of my mother's amputation.

At just after 9.30am this (Sunday) morning, while Xfe was at his yoga class, my brother called.

My Mum is in hospital in Aberdeen. He was with my father at our parents' house, just outside Laurencekirk and approximately 40 miles away.

It seems my mother had a difficult night.

Because of the pain, she has found it difficult to sleep (as she has for months before).

On top of that, with all the machinery she's attached to in the HDU, there's a constant hum and beeping of background noise. She has a tube going into her neck. She moved blocking the flow and it set off an alarm.

Lying in hospital, all on her own in the semi-darkness of glowing machinery, she suddenly felt alone. All alone. She became worried about today's operation and her ability to recover. Her heart started racing, setting off more alarms.

She asked if the hospital could call her oldest sister. A former doctor, her best friend and only a short distance from the hospital. She probably needed the comfort of a parent (whom failing someone who loved her). My aunt went immediately.

My mother told her that she was worried she was going to die. She didn't want to be alone.

It was the hardest thing for me to hear, so many helpless miles away.

How many times, as a child, had my mother sat with my brother or I when we were poorly? In that moment, when she was alone and needed the loving company of someone close, I wasn't there.

I only knew on Saturday morning that the original operation had been unsuccessful. I hadn't known that there was a risk that it would not. Knowing my brother was going to visit this weekend, with my nephew, I thought I'd take my turn next weekend. I didn't think there was a need to be there.

I spoke to my aunt this morning (Sunday, as I write this). I wanted to thank her.

She said that my Mum was worried; she didn't think her body could cope with the next operation. She told my aunt that one of the things that was worrying her was that she wouldn't see me again. She said that I was coming up next weekend, but it would be too late for her.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Dorian Again

On Saturday night we went to see Dorian Gray at Sadlers Wells.

I'd seen it last year.

There's nothing particularly exciting about Matthew Bourne per se. He had the idea to do Swan Lake with an all male troupe of swans; and from that his reputation and ability to realise artistic vision stems.

Dorian Gray is perfect in a contemporary context as a modern morality tale concerning our obsession with youth and celebrity.

It's also, incredibly, homo-erotic and super-sexy. The music by Terry Davis is thrilling; at moments, married with the dancers' energy, it took my breath away, really exciting me.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Two Little Boys

Twists, coincidences and history repeating

Having been away for the last three Saturdays, I've missed our Saturday morning routine.

I love waking up and listening to the Today programme on Radio 4, knowing that I don't have to get up for work. Our alarm doesn't go off on Saturday, so when I turn the radio on, I hope I've benefited and slept past 8am. I never know until I hear the first time check on the radio.

Then just after 9am we listen to Saturday Live.

Sometimes I'll get up before 9am to buy the Guardian. I take it back to bed and we both lie in bed, reading and listening to the radio. Other times we will get up while Saturday Live is on and head out to the local greasy spoon cafe for an unhealthy breakfast, collecting the paper en route.

Breakfast involves some or all of the following, depending on health consciousness -v- hunger and food comfort, fried egg, sausage, bacon, chips, beans, toast, brown sauce, chilli sauce, tea and coffee.

On yesterday's Saturday Live property show presenter Sarah Beeny chose 'Bad Penny Blues' by Humphrey Lyttleton and 'Two Little Boys' by Rolf Harris as her inheritance tracks.

Sarah, who has three young sons, and is pregnant with a fourth, recounted how she sings 'Two Little Boys' to her eldest two. She wants them to grow up as friends.

Just like my Mum.

Every time I hear the song I'm instantly taken back to my early childhood; I think of my Mum singing that to my brother and I. She made no secret that one, very important hope that she had for her boys, was that they would grow up as friends. That they would love and support each other.

Did you think I would leave you crying
When there’s room on my horse for two
Climb up here Jack and don’t be crying
I can go just as fast with two

I'm happy to report that I was my brother's best man, and he was mine. In times of his need I've provided whatever support I can, and likewise M. has for me.

My mother has a right to be proud that she brought us up that way and instilled those values; some of my closest friends do not enjoy a happy relationship with their siblings.

Listening to Rolf Harris sing 'Two Little Boys' on the radio yesterday, and hearing Sarah Beeny's aspirations was especially poignant.

My mother's been rather poorly lately. She has various conditions, and though she rarely complains and just "gets on with things", she's been suffering excessively.

While we were in Tel Aviv she was taken into hospital. After various tests it was discovered that there severe blockages in some arteries in her leg. The blood was not circulating and she needed an arterial bypass.

While they were doing the bypass they discovered that the pin that had been put in her big toe when they broke and re-set her foot about a year ago (the rheumatoid arthritis had gnarled her hands and feet into locked balls) had broken, and the bone had become infected.

Her toe had to be amputated.

On Saturday she found out that the arterial bypass operation was not successful. They have to amputate her leg.

My Mum who, in her youth, was a semi-professional dancer and still retained a love of dancing (she could really rock-and-roll with my father-I'd seen them do it many years ago); my Mum who ran half-marathons; my Mum who climbed mountains.

I spoke to her yesterday and was reminded of my Nana who, although she had fairly good health right up until the end of her days, suddenly deteriorated, especially mentally.

She was resigned to what needed to be done. I asked if she was upset. She said she needed to be strong for my father.

My Mum sounded distant; there was something strange even about her accent. Mid-way through our conversation she asked me who else I was speaking to on the phone when we had been talking (no-one of course). She explained that the nurse had given her the phone and said it was her solicitor calling!

I was upset that she was a little confused.

Of course, she is on a morphine drip and self-medicating for the pain. I suspect that had a little to do with it.

As I write she will be getting ready for or having the surgery. The doctors do not know how much of her leg has to go; that will be determined by the surgeon during the operation, depending on where they can find a pulse.

For me it's sad, but it is not a tragedy.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Deep Tan Fading

Like all good holiday memories, a deep tan inevitably fades.

I'm rather fair skinned and always have to take care in the sun. I tend to go salmon pink, but eventually it settles and becomes a reasonable tan. Still, I have to wear plenty factor 50, which I reduce down to 30 for my face.

After summer holidays 1 & 2 I've built up a rather credible tan. In fact it's almost a deep tan

Xfe, however, is a different kettle of fish. Here he is halfway into the holiday-and already there's quite a contrast between his tanned and non-tanned parts.

And here's a bit of me looking red hot!

Unfortunately, on reviewing the Tel Aviv holiday snaps, apart from this, there's not one single pic of me :(

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Tel Al - Day 17; All Good Things...

This time tomorrow I'll be back in London, our holiday in Tel Aviv over.

Given that I'm looking forward to being home, I think the holiday has served it's purpose. I'm feeling very relaxed and almost looking forward to getting back to work. In truth, I suspect it's getting back into a routine that appeals.

At least I'm up-to-date on my office emails, having dealt with those I needed to and directed on the others to those who could do it for me.

Of course it will be nice to be back in our own bed too.

We spent the morning of our last day in Tel Aviv on the beach (what a surprise). Today it's 35C, getting hotter. I've noticed, too, that there are a few jellyfish floating around in the sea. So I think we were here at the right time.

We've not much planned for when we're home. We're off to Sadlers Wells on Saturday night to see Dorian Gray. I have a friend staying in town on holiday (though not with us), so we will probably catch up with him sometime over the week.

Then, of course, there's always the next holiday to look forward to!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Tel Al - Day 16; Night & Day

And so, back in Tel Aviv, we have the same room as we had before we left for the Dead Sea (the same happened last year).

We look south, toward Jaffa, and have views to the west (land) and to the east (sea) .

the view from our balcony-night (and below-day)

Friday night, the start of the Shabbat, is the party night in Tel Aviv.

How you spend Shabbat depends on where you are. In Jerusalem, life usually comes to a halt as the orthodox Jews observe the Shabbat.

Unless you're an ultra-orthodox Jew.

In that case you throw rocks and bottles, set fire to rubbish bins and scream "Nazis" at police. All over the city council's decision to provide free municipal parking near Jerusalem's Old City for tourists on Saturdays.

Ultra-orthodox hardliners believe even one garage can spoil the sanctity of the sabbath, a day on which it is prohibited to drive or engage in any work. "We are talking about the character of Jerusalem," said Shmuel Feffenheim, from the Eda Haredit group that has led the protests. "We do not accept that everyone be concerned just with his own territory. The city has a sanctity.

Here in Tel Aviv however, they brunch and go to the beach.

Friday, July 10, 2009

TelAl - Day 15; Sodomy

We left Sodom (yup that's where the Dead Sea is at) and the Dead Sea at 10am local time arriving back at El Dan (the car rental company in Tel Aviv) for 1pm. That's 185km, 115 miles. We did 173km in 2h15m. The last 12km took us 45minutes. Typical.

We used half a tank of petrol (I almost said gas-shows how Americanised I've become here) -$51 (I paid extra for the car hire company to fill the tank; the stress of the last part of the drive through grid-locked Tel Aviv and then the auto-locked steering wheel was too much).

As to the car, I have no idea what kind it was, save it was white, it was an automatic and it had 5 doors (including the boot).

It cost me $312 to hire for 3 days, including the petrol and insurance excess waiver charge. So that's just less than 200UKP. Not bad, but then again I have no idea.

I'm just glad it's back with them.

So we have 3 more days in Tel Aviv. I guess that's more sun, sea and shawarma.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Dead Sea Scrote - Day 14

It's 4pm and over 40C outside. We've come inside to relax.

I was fast asleep by 8pm (local) last night and slept through until 2am. I got up to sit on the balcony, in the heat. This desert cools down a little overnight, but the temperature doesn't drop drastically.

I dozed off again after 3am, and woke up at 4.30am to see if I could catch the sunrise. I noticed a number of people on their way to the beach to witness the dawn. However I went back to bed.

We were on the beach at 7am. We bathed for an hour and a half. The temperature of the water and the air are much cooler (though it's the surface of the water that is cooler; warmer water sinks in the Dead Sea) at that time, and it was pleasant.

At about 10am we drove off to the Dead Sea spa at Ein Gedi. Mud, sulphur pools and more Dead Sea floating.

I was happy to notice that I wasn't the only one suffering from scrotum burn. A couple of American guys were complaining very loudly about the same thing. It's the salt and the sulpher. Boy does it sting.

Small world

In one of those twists of fate where you realise how small a world it is, we met the eldest son of my boss at Ein Gedi, here at the Dead Sea. He's playing beach volleyball for Team GB in the Maccabiah Games. A 4 yearly "friendly games" sporting event for Jewish peoples from around the world (they're mainly school-kids).

We were sitting in the sulphur pool, and I saw some Team GB guys come in. I asked one of them which team he was playing for-he was cricket. But he knew J. Soon I'd located him to say hello.

Small world indeed.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Tel Al - Day 13; Driving Across Desert To The Dead Sea

As you read this I’ll be driving us across Israel from Tel Aviv to the Dead Sea.

With the exception of driving my mother the 35 miles or so from Laurencekirk into Aberdeen, and back (when my father was in hospital having his knee replaced) over 4 years ago, I haven’t driven since I gave up my car and moved to London over 8 years ago.

I don’t consider myself a natural driver. Often I dream about driving and the controls not responding, resulting in an accident.

I think that it’s the lack of control that makes me anxious about driving; the lack of control over over what’s going on around me, whether it be other drivers, pedestrians or motorcyclists.

Added to the fact that here everyone drives like a madman – they really do; use of horns is a given – that it’s the other side of the road (I’m not sure whether the lack of driving in the last 8 years assists here or not), road signs are odd, traffic lights at levels I’m unaccustomed to and with the general unfamiliarity, I’m extremely anxious about driving in Tel Aviv.

An accident seems inevitable; the severity unknown.

But we have no real alternative. There’s no train or bus service to the Dead Sea. You can take a private taxi (we did that last year) but that takes over 5 hours when the drive itself should take only half that time.

There are 2 parts of the journey that I’m dreading. The first part and the last part. Getting through and out of Tel Aviv. Then descending to the Dead Sea. It’s a steep and windy journey, down to the lowest point on land on the planet Earth. The road is narrow, the incline sharp.

I’d feel happier doing that part of the journey using a manual (i.e. stick-shift) car so I can use the gears to control the descent. I’ve been told that the brakes are not so effective on the steep climb down to the Dead Sea through the desert, where the temperature will be mid to high-40’s.

Although I’ve only driven a manual car, for the rest of the journey I prefer an automatic. Having to manipulate gears and clutch with everything else going on about me is an unnecessary distraction. So we have hired an automatic car.

Hopefully the only pain will be financial.

Subjugation by religion

Talking of control…

Yesterday there was a group of religious women bathing on La La beach. Their religion requires them to cover up-their bodies and their heads. They stand out in their bathing attire. I doubt that it is very comfortable.

Why should their religion require these women to cover themselves in this way? Can it be traced back to some form of male control? Does G-d (you can’t write His name here in Israel; and that’s how he is referred to in the papers) really require it?

Update: 12.05pm Dead Sea time (UK-10.05am) - we arrived in 1 piece having battled stoopid American at El Dan who did nothing but try my patience (he insisted he was only needing a car for 1 day, returning Friday. He refused to believe that today was Wednesday), the Tel Aviv traffic, one (almost false turn) and descending from 200m above sea level to 450 below sea level in less than 20 minutes. And the camels. All that in an automatic car where my foot wanted to press the phantom clutch when I switched to lower gear.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

TelAl - Day 12; More Sun & Beach

This morning we went on a bus tour of Tel Aviv, walked back from the Old Port and then went to the beach, where a couple of boys were doing some very peculiar things.

It's extremely hot today, so I retired to the room around 1pm leaving Xfe there. He joined me shortly thereafter; we had lunch by the pool and he's there sunning whilst I'm inside in the cool again.

There's always something happening on LaLa beach. We've started seeing the same people here, adding to the illusion that each day rolls into the next and is nothing more than a repeat of the other. I'm not complaining about it-it's rather nice.

They say that French becomes the official language of Tel Aviv over summer. It's true-French speakers are everywhere.

This year there's quite a contingent of Australians and South Africans. There are some South Africans at the hotel. They don't seem to be nice people; and they have somewhat affected accents.

Still, there's plenty else to distract us on the beach or by the pool*.

Even although I've had an extra week in the sun, ahead of Xfe he has eclipsed me in the tan-factor.

Tomorrow we cross the length of Israel from Tel Aviv on the west to the Dead Sea which forms part of the eastern border.

We have 3 days there. A mini-break from our holiday as it were. While we're there we'll be spending a day at the Ein Gedi spa. Pampering ourselves. I may even have a massage or two...

Who's the Grouch? Seems he's followed me from St. Tropez.

* A typical poolside distraction.

Monday, July 06, 2009

TelAl - Day 11; Sun & Beach

Once again, following Saturday, I'm loosing track of the days. Today is Second Day. Here in Israel, with the exception of the Shabat (Sabbath, no other days have names. Instead they are the First Day (Sunday), the Second Day (Monday) and so on.

Today we're spending on the beach, as we did yesterday.

I've finished reading The Little Stranger.

You will be absorbed

It’s the immigration season here in Israel, where this year some 20,000 “Olim” are expected to arrive in Israel to make “aliyah”, and become absorbed into Israel.

Often they arrive on specially organised flights – and today the new olim arrive from South Africa.

Little America

New York is sometimes referred to as “little Israel”, but it is Israel that is little America.

On reading the papers here, two things strike you:

1 The majority of stories seem to focus on US issues and their impact on Israel; and

2 The paranoia of the peoples of Israel. Everyone, it would appear, is against them.

Yesterday the Jerusalem Post was reporting on a report that the BBC was pro-Israel and questioning how that could be in light of the Corporation’s content on the Israeli blockade and bombing of Gaza, in contrast to only 6 articles reporting on the Palestinian shelling of Israel, despite over a thousand such incidents having occurred.

Today it was criticising Obama for giving Egypt more aid than the annual $3 billion US aid given to Israel.

Still, what do I care of all that, lazing the day away on the beach?

Saturday, July 04, 2009

TelAl - Day 9; Tonsils & Turkey Testicles

On Saturday we were taken to a Mini-Israel, a theme park where all of Israel is replicated by mini-models. There was, however, no Gaza being bombed!



Then we went to a fantastic local (and thus inexpensive) restaurant. I doubt that it is at all on the tourist track, situated as it is in a poorer suburb of Tel Aviv, not too far from Ben Gurion airport.

It was like a dining canteen. The food however was fantastic, despite the turkey testicles and tonsils offered.

You won't find it in TimeOut or any other guides (a good thing). Entebe Morad, 1 Hashook St., O-Yehuda 60200.


Friday, July 03, 2009

Mrs Slocombe R.I.P.

Here's to Mrs Slocombe (Molly Sugden) who once left her pussy out all night, in the cold, that come the morning it needed to be thawed.

How I laughed out lound when, stuck behind after hours in Grace Bros., she had to phone her neighbour:

"Mrs Slocombe here," she began. "I wonder if you could do me a favour? Would you go to my front door, bend down and look through the letterbox? And if you see my pussy, would you drop a sardine on the mat?"

All with the straightest of faces. Goodbye Molly Sugden, we'll miss you.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

TelAl - The Lost Day (Day 7)

I'm not sure where it went, but I seem to have lost a day. Today is my seventh day here in Tel Aviv.

I posted day 4 two days ago, so I've lost a day somewhere. But, hey, who cares. I'm on holiday-which probably also accounts for my calling these "TelAl" instead of TelAv. No idea where that came from!

This morning I finished reading The Strain.

Here are a couple of appropriate anecdotes, given it's a Vampire story:

1 I read the hardback. When I went for a dip in the pool the book "dissolved" in the sun. The glue binding the pages to the spine melted so the pages became unbound (due no doubt to the black dust cover absorbing too much heat).

2 Turning a page I got a paper cut, that drew blood.

Now reading...

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. I think it's going to be a slower read.

Still reading (and getting bored with the repetition of) Sum.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

TelAl - Day 4; Sunset & Beach Volleyball

As to how I spent the day, see Day 3. I tend not to go to the beach on my own, while Xfe's working. I prefer to stay by the hotel pool so I can pop indoors when I'm overheated and I've had enough sun. If I've just overheated I can dip in the pool.

Besides, there'll be plenty of time for the beach next week when Xfe is on holiday.

After a mid-morning swim in the pool to cool down, it was time for London to start the day. I checked my work emails, phoned the office then told my secretary I'd not be looking again for another few days. One of my replies was to an email my trainee had sent on Friday, when really she could have asked someone else.

I finished reading Ella Minnow Pea, and started reading The Strain.

Xfe wasn't due to finish until about 8pm, so I had dinner in the Towers lounge by myself. It's a strange place. Always a handful of US military engaged in something with Israeli tie-in, or else US ex-military doing private arms deals. They really should be more discrete, they never seem to consider that someone might be listening.

After dinner I decided to go to the beach to watch the sunset. The sun sets so very rapidly here.

As you can see, it was very picturesque...


More on Flickr (just click my pics on the sidebar).

Now Reading...

Yesterday I finished Ella Minnow Pea. I'm now reading The Strain (the read that I'm most looking forward to, a contemporary Vampire novel):

A Boeing 777 arrives at JFK and is on its way across the tarmac, when it suddenly stops dead. All window shades are pulled down. All lights are out. All communication channels have gone quiet. Crews on the ground are lost for answers, but an alert goes out to the CDC. Dr. Eph Goodweather, head of their Canary project, a rapid-response team that investigates biological threats, gets the call and boards the plane. What he finds makes his blood run cold.

In a pawnshop in Spanish Harlem, a former professor and survivor of the Holocaust named Abraham Setrakian knows something is happening. And he knows the time has come, that a war is brewing . . .

So begins a battle of mammoth proportions as the vampiric virus that has infected New York begins to spill out into the streets. Eph, who is joined by Setrakian and a motley crew of fighters, must now find a way to stop the contagion and save his city—a city that includes his wife and son—before it is too late.

"None of this romantic, languid young men sucking the necks of beautiful people...I tried also to make the vampires as menacing and as real and as absolutely disgusting and as alien as possible. I tried to make them into a plague of creatures where you did not recognize their humanity — but our own inhumanity in them."


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