Monday, January 25, 2010

Second City Sadness

A walk followed by a pub lunch. My son and the collie. Smashing.

We chose a pub where we’ve eaten several times. Not a fabulous gastropub but a friendly place where you can get a respectable lunch, even slightly later on a Saturday lunchtime. Reliable pub grub.

We ordered our drinks and wandered over to a table, grabbing the menu as we went. Settling ourselves down, I needed to manoeuvre around a young man in a wheelchair with his leg extended on a support. He was sitting with his girlfriend and some friends. I glanced across again and saw that there was another young man at their table, also in a wheelchair.

We made our selection from the menu and I went to the bar to order. Turning round, I realised that there was another man in a wheelchair at another table, also with family. As I sat down at our table, I took in the table to our right. There were four young men sitting there, all in wheelchairs.

Each wheelchair carried the paraphernalia needed for its occupant. The urine bag, the wound drain, the pain relief drip.

The least injured had lost a foot. Most had lost one leg, chiefly above the knee. Some had both legs missing. One young man had a stump remaining for his right leg and, it appeared nothing left at all on the left, including his hip. His wheelchair sported a greater selection of tubes and bags and he had a foam support keeping him upright.

Dark humour all around. They chatted casually about where they had been injured and who had died alongside them. One talked about feeling that he was lying in cold water when his leg had been blown off. He was wounded on the last day of 2009. Throwaway references to places I hear on the news each morning. Camp Bastion. Lashkhar Gah. Helmand. The pain killers and the morphine needed to bring them back on the long flight. “I never expected to come back without a bum”.

Junior Mad and I ate our lunch quietly. When it was time to go, the Warrant Officer accompanying these young men looked across at me and smiled. Did he see the sadness in my look? It seemed feeble to sit there with tears pricking my eyes. What did I have to be sad about? I was sitting there with my son, both legs intact, older than any of those boys.

As we left, they were setting off for their return journey to the West Midlands Rehabiliation Centre. Each one donned wheelchair gloves and they were lining themselves up to wheel themselves back. No ambulances or mini-buses. Just learning to get on with the rest of their lives.

Don’t bother telling me that we have a professional army and these young soldiers signed up for this very job. They chiefly come from the parts of the country where there is no longer a manufacturing base, they have minimal educational qualifications and their only expectation is a life on benefits.

Perhaps Brown or Blair can explain what the hell we're doing there. We've been there since October 7th 2001. Such little progress has been made that they cannot afford to run parliamentary elections.

Have a look at the map. Do you think it's worth it?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Free and simple pleasures

I've been tagged by The Wife of Bold . My top ten simple pleasures. Ha! Simple pleasures. Me? The High Maintenance Woman?

Well here they are...

1) Reading in bed, with a cup of tea. Complete bliss.

Not complete without a collie, of course.

2) Going to sleep.
This is such a luxurious, indulgent feeling that I will sometimes shake myself back awake, just to enjoy it all over again.

3) Climbing to the top of one of the hills There and enjoying the 360 degree view.

4) Waking up and remembering that Madette or Junior Mad has come to stay. Even better: both.

5) Bach's Goldberg Variations, played by Murray Perahia.

From the first note to the last, it is sublime.

6) Radio 4. Melvyn Bragg's "In our time", "I'm sorry I haven't a clue", "The Archers" and so much more.

God's own radio station.

7) Cooking for friends. Maybe not free but it doesn't have to be expensive ingredients. Such a pleasure to make a meal to share.

8) Watching the red kite. I could watch their graceful flight for hours. And usually do.

9) A moment of sheer vanity. The colour of my eyes. They're green. Proper green. Not a bit green with some blue or grey. Just green. As a teenager, I hated most bits of my body. My shape, my hair, my skin. Yeuch. At about the age of twenty, someone commented on the colour of my eyes. Taking off the glasses and looking hard into the mirror (one of those "Goodness, Miss Jones" moments), I realised that they really are green. I've liked them ever since.

The colour green hidden in this icicle, in fact.

10) Sitting with a collie head resting on my knee.

Love given and received.

And I have an eleventh pleasure. Reading your blogs. Keep them coming. They are such an enjoyable experience. And if you've got this far ... what are your ten free and simple pleasures?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Ring in the valiant ... ring out the darkness of the land

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson. In Memoriam.

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda .... Happy New Year