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Topics - Gyppo

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The Gallery / "Life's a funny old thing, Son." A Dad story.
« on: January 16, 2018, 01:23:25 PM »
"Life's a funny old thing, Son."

Dad never spent long in the past,
he had a philosophy of the now,
living the moment.
It served him well.
But sometimes he'd slip away
into the warrior's reverie.

Briefly lost in another time and place,
reliving a distant time.

"You alright, Dad?"
He knelt by his motorbike,
paused in mid repair,
spanner in hand,
eyes turned inward.

A shake of the head,
light returning to his eyes.
"Yes.  Just thinking...
If it wasn't for some bloody A-rab
with a damned great log
you wouldn't even be here."

"How's that, Dad?"

"I went to rescue another Matelot,
outside a bar in Port Said.
He was getting the thin end of a fight
with a bunch of A-rabs.
Several of us joined in.
The last thing I saw
was a sea of striped robes
running at us,
and a bloody great log,
coming straight at my head.

"I came around in hospital
at a shore base,
and my ship had sailed.

"The man who took my place died
when a tin-fish came calling,
straight through the stoke-hold."

He shook himself,
like a dog shaking off river water
after a swim.
Came back to the present.
The shutters were down again.

He wiped his oily fingers on a rag
then tousled my curly little head.

"Life's a funny old thing, Son."


Review My Poetry / Open letter to all members: Prose and poetry alike.
« on: December 29, 2017, 08:16:29 AM »
For anyone new here who doesn't know me, I'm Gyppo.  I've been here almost since the beginning and love this place.  But...

It is terminally ill.  It isn't going to get better.  The new owners don't give a damn.  The moderators no longer have the tools they need to fight the spam.  They no longer have technical support. There is nothing they can do.

How difficult can it be to understand this is entirely out of their hands?  The fact they are still hanging around trying to help people shows their character and resilience.

The best thing you can do is cut your losses and head on over to

where you will find many familiar faces and an administrator who cares passionately about getting it right.

In the meantime, may I suggest you log on here at MWC and use the search function - which miraculously still works - and 'mine' any of your previous postings you really want to save.  Okay, it'll be a mammoth cut and paste session  to get stuff back onto your own system if you've been on here as long as I have, but if you just hang around waiting for some good fairy to appear and 'do something' you're wasting your time.


The Coffee Shop / This is the story I shared at Mum's Funeral Service
« on: December 23, 2017, 05:52:08 PM »
   This is the Mum story I told, with appropriate actions, at Mum's 'Going Away Party'.  I couldn't have done solemn without choking up, so this is what the people got.  We didn't call her our Ageing Valkyrie for nothing.

   Probably pretty much word for word seeing as it was so recent.


   "Over the last two weeks I've spoken with a lot of people and they all had a 'Mum' story to share with me.  I guess in ninety-two years you get to touch a lot of lives.  One of the words which cropped up regularly was fearless.  I know why this was, but it's not really true.

   "Fearless, to me, implies a kind of stupidity, in inability to recognise danger or problems.  And stupid is not a word I'd associate with Mum.

   "She could be as scared as the rest of us, but she never let it stop her doing what needed doing, or even just what she wanted to do.  Here's an example of what I mean, and I'm sure many of you will recognise Mum in this tale.

   "Keep in mind she was eighty when this happened."

   There was already a lot of nodding and smiling, and even a few muted laughs.

   "I was coming back up from town around midnight.  We still had those old yellow street lamps, so it was fairly gloomy.  None of the modern security lights along the alleyway alongside our house either, so it was black as hell along there.

   "As I got nearer I saw a shape creeping along the hedge at the side of our house.  Definitely creeping, but with purpose.  When I got nearer I saw it was Mum, carrying a quarterstaff in a very businesslike grip.  She saw me and stopped walking.

   "Keep in mind this wasn't an old lady's walking stick being brandished fearfully.  This was six feet of sturdy ash pole, a genuine weapon, which could crack skulls or break ribs when used properly.  And Mum knew what to do with it.  I taught her the basics as part of learning myself.

   "What are you up to, Mum?"

   "I heard a suspicious noise in the back garden so I had to check it out."

   Around that time we had a local yobbo who was creeping around at night making a nuisance of himself because he didn't like me.  Mum was never the sort to pull the blankets over her head and pretend the problem wasn't there.  We saw plenty of proof of this when we were young and Dad was working away.

   "I didn't put the lights on.  I crept downstairs in the dark, grabbed the staff from by the door, and crept out the front so I could surprise whoever it was."

   Then she demonstrated the other side of her nature, the willingness to just pass the buck if she felt someone more qualified was there to do the job.  She just handed me the staff and said "I'll go and put the kettle on.  But I won't put on the kitchen light in case it scares them away.  I don't want to spoil your fun.

   And that, for me, sums up our Mum."


   The 'audience' didn't burst into cheers, but there was so much head nodding, smiling, chuckles,and muttered "That's Paddy" comments I knew I'd picked the perfect tale.


   By the time I'd checked the perimeter and the hidey holes Mum had a drink waiting for me.  I think she was quite disappointed I didn't find anyone.


   I have to say today was one of the most joyous funerals I have ever attended.  Emotional, yes, solemn at a few points, but overall we were there to celebrate Mum's life, and we did.  Mum always said she wanted a 'going away party' and that is what we gave her.

   Some attended in full formal black and others were more colourfully attired because we told them it was their choice.  Likewise with flowers.  'But no Lilies.'  Mum hated Lilies

   There were enough flowers without it looking like a damned florist's shop.  All bright, and no damned Lilies.

   My two girls provided a square arrangement, mostly white with a purple ribbon bearing the words Grand Matriarch.

   Afterwards the flower arrangements went off to be rearranged and given to old ladies in nursing homes.   Apparently hospitals no longer encourage flowers.

   It was a full house, all forty seats in the chapel were taken up, plus three friends in wheelchairs and a few people standing at the back.  I'd reckoned on perhaps thirty, but a few more came out of the woodwork, plus a male nurse representing the Nursing Home.  "I don't turn out for all the funerals, but Paddy was a delight to talk to and easy to care for.'

   The non-religious ceremony was taken by a minister who had paid attention to what we told him and strung all the stuff together really well without it sounding like a cut and paste job.   (I know a good piece of writing when I see it.)   Anyone who didn't know would think he knew the family.

   The entrance music was Morning, from Grieg's Peer Gynt suite.  One of mum's favourite gentle tunes.  Dad used to tease her by calling it the Queer Bint Suite.

   The minister read a poem we chose.  Sis defaulted to me on this choice saying Mum had told her I knew which verse she wanted.  It took a while to track it down, but it summed up her spontaneous nature really well.  It's in the public domain, so I can quote it in full.

I meant to do my work today

I meant to do my work today -
but a brown bird sang in the apple tree,
and a butterfly flitted across the field,
and all the leaves were calling me..

And the wind went sighing over the land,
tossing the grasses to and fro,
and a rainbow held out its shining hand -
so what could I do but laugh and go?

By Richard Le Galliene

   Then the minister delivered the tribute, which was a beautifully crafted bit of work.

   Then I stood up, scorning the microphone and lectern, and told a 'Mum Story', complete with actions as well and saw people smiling and laughing.  I couldn't have done a solemn piece without choking, but this was Gyppo the performer, telling a favourite tale, and if there's an afterlife I bet Mum loved it.  (I'll share it with you elsewhere.)

   Then the two eldest Great Grandchildren did their bit.  The eldest delivered a message from Mum's Grandson and family living in Serbia, who couldn't make the journey, plus their own tales about what kind of Great Grandma she was.  Once again invoking smiles and some open laughter.

   Then Kizzimiah, my youngest, delivered a lovely speech with similar results.  She gave particular emphasis to Mum's 'Warrior Woman' status, saying it was a title she and her sister were proud to inherit and carry forward.

   A few people looked surprised at some of the stories, but still nodded as if to say, "That's the Paddy we knew."

   Then we had a few quiet minutes with Ase's Death, a beautiful tune despite the sombre name, also from Peer Gynt.

   Followed by the committal and the closing words.

   The departure music was Wagner's Ride of The Valkyries.  We took a few minutes to sit and listen, and feel the surprise from behind us as people who didn't know the piece realised what a boisterous tune it was, before Sis and I led them out.   Some spontaneous baton-less conducting was joyfully embraced!

   They could have played it a bit louder.  I could hear Mum, usually mindful of the neighbours, saying "Turn it up, and sod the neighbours for a few minutes."


   The wake was well attended, many more Mum stories were told.  It was a gathering she would have been proud of.

   We had a short rolling slide show on a laptop.  A couple of dozen pictures  There would have been a few more but when I  was scanning them onto the thumb drive last night I knocked the  scanner onto the floor and bent the connector.  I straightened it out but it got a bit fractious.  I thought it best to stop before something got seriously broken.

   But we had the best pictures already, Mum and Dad's wedding shot, Mum as a Forces Pin-Up,  Mum with her 'posse ' long before groups of friends were called a posse, various shots with family, and her Women's Land Army and Timber Corps badge which arrived only a few years ago.  ("It's very nice, but they took their bloody time about it, didn't they?")

   Sis and I circulated, giving folks a guided tour of the slide show ;-)


This same piece will be on another website as well.  And there are still Mum stories to share.

   Paddy, (Mum), the Grand Matriarch of our tribe, having become unbelievably frail  over this last year, was finally allowed to escape from the trials of this world.   She had a damn good run at life, did many of the things she wanted to do, and survived things which would have floored a lesser woman.

   She was also the most ruthless and unbiased proofreader any author could ask for.  I've missed that over the last few years as dementia tightened its grip.

   When Dad went over the handlebars of his motorbike in the mid sixties and was in a coma for six weeks, and then confined to a wheelchair for the next fourteen years, Mum just buckled down and took up the slack.  She brought me and my sister up to be reasonably civilised and well adapted people despite the odds, and occasional problems.  Not content with this she then went on to be a Grandma, and then a great Grandma.

   Her Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren thought the world of her, and she of them.  Although she had few illusions about us and saw as for what we were she loved us unconditionally.

   So we have a whole new life to adjust to now and although we appreciate any words of sympathy don't be surprised if we retreat back into ourselves for a while to regroup.  Letters and emails may be in short supply for a while as we grieve in our individual ways.

   Mum will, as requested, be cremated and - as she said - 'go out through the same door as your Dad did'.  Quite literally at the same crematorium and the same chapel.   She was convinced he'd be waiting there for her, probably wearing his cocky little grin and saying "Took your time, didn't you, Love".  Because if there is another world he'll be there to greet her.  Probably turning up just in time, with a residual little blob of shaving foam stuck behind one ear, like the way he always managed to just catch the bus when we went out as a family.  I'm sure an old school Baptist and his Pagan wife will work it somehow ;-)

   Now, like any wounded animals, we need our own time and place to heal.  Comforted by the one over-riding thought that nothing is hurting or confusing Mum any more.

   We shall miss her.

   Gyppo, his two warrior women, his Sister, and the rest of the tribe.

Entitled,   Bonnie vs Gyppo

A curious contest in a pub.  No arm wrestling, drinking, or violence involved.

The Gallery / Bonnie vs Gyppo; A pub game: Her bag vs my pockets.
« on: December 02, 2017, 08:26:24 AM »
   Bonnie vs Gyppo

   Bag vs pockets.

   There was a girl called Bonnie who quite often turned up with the group of girls my wife knew.  She was a bit of a loner, but always welcome when she decided to tag along.  If she came into a pub where there were several recognisable groups she'd float around for a while and then settle with one or another for the rest of the evening.

   A brief description is called for.  Average height, slim, black hair, dark eyes, usually bright red lipstick, (her only obvious make-up), and a generally reserved nature.   Hippy style clothes, but generally the darker colours.  Low profile unless she chose to step forward into the limelight.  (Hey, I've just realised where one of my characters came from.)   Plus her 'capacious woven bag'.

   This bag was legendary amongst her female friends.  Bonnie could always find a solution in there for any problems which arose at work, or when they were out for the evening.

   The first time I met her one of the more ample girls had just popped a button from her blouse, but successfully fished it out of her beer..  "I don't suppose..."  She looked at Bonnie, who rummaged in her bag and produced a little sewing kit.  The button was sewn back on.  With a length of appropriately coloured thread.

   "That's Bonnie, our Miss Fixit."  One of the others said.

   "What if the button had been really lost instead of caught as it popped loose?"  I was genuinely curious.

   Bonnie dug in her bag again and came up with a wide reaching selection of buttons threaded on an oversized safety pin.  The pin, in its turn, had several different sized pins threaded through the loop on the end.

   "He's got stuff you wouldn't believe in his pockets."  My wife nodded at me and the big-bosomed button popper said "That's true.  He's always prepared, like Bonnie.   A proper little Boy Scout.  I'd have asked him if Bonnie wasn't here."

   "I was never a damned scout."  I would have loved some of the activities, but not the rules and that pathetic 'dib dib dob' nonsense.  Smug little bastards.

   "I was never a Girl Guide, " Bonnie countered.  "Too damned organised for my liking."

   The others, by some weird female telepathy, decided to play a game of 'Bonnie's Bag' to pass the time.  They created imaginary problems and Bonnie and I had to produce our own solutions to them.

   In response to Bonnie's collection of pins and buttons I produced a loop of string threaded with several man-appropriate buttons, and a nappy pin tucked behind the lapel on my jacket.  And a card with lengths of white, black, and brown  thread and a couple of decent sized needles.

   I couldn't match her little scissors, but had two knives, one very small and very sharp for fine cutting, plus a Stanley knife blade inset into a double thickness sewn onto my leather belt as a final backup.

   We went through the obvious stuff, like headache pills, plasters, a small roll of electrical tape for holding things together, and matched each other with no problems.  The piles on the table between us grew slowly and other patrons began to take an interest.

   "Something to use as a tourniquet?"  Someone challenged.

   "I prefer direct pressure,"  Bonnie said, "But you can make a great compression bandage from a twisted pair of tights."  An unopened spare pair was slapped down on the table.  "With a pen to tighten it."

   I answered with a eighteen inch length of quarter inch square catapult elastic.  "Self tightening once you tuck the ends under."

   "Paper to make a note."  A stranger chimed in.

   Bonnie had a neat little 'ladies notebook' with a small pen down the spine.

   I had a spiral reporter's note book, with an elastic band as a page marker and a pencil anchored with a length of string.  "Pencil doesn't smudge if it gets wet."

   "What if your pencil breaks?"  Button-Popper, a natural born Devil's Advocate, with the Cornish delight in being contrary just for the joy of 'pissing on someone else's fireworks'.  Usually with no real malice.

   "He'll sharpen it with the little knife."  My wife was definitely on my side so far.  "But Bonnie's pen might dry up."

   Bonnie took out a pencil as well, with a plastic cap protecting the point, and added it silently to her pile.

   I topped this with two more pencils from a slim sleeve pocket.  Next to my fishhook disgorger.  Bonnie, unsurprisingly, didn't have one of the latter, but she had a very similarly sized crochet hook, 'for catching up and anchoring dropped stitches in cardigans before they really start to run'.  Several of the girls attested that she'd fixed problems for them.

   Bonnie had several unopened little packets of tissues for cleaning up spills, mopping blood or spilt beer.  I had a wad of kitchen roll, in a plastic bag to keep it dry until needed.

   I had a small bottle of food flavouring for enhancing fishing bait when the fish were playing hard to get.  Bonnie had a bottle of nail varnish, which she never used for it's intended purpose - being a lass with short practical nails - but for anchoring 'runs' in tights.

   The game went on for at least twenty minutes of challenge and counter challenge, through things like change for the phone,  (No mobile phones back then), and 'get you home' money folded up tight and tucked away so we wouldn't be tempted to use it for anything else.

   "Bet you haven't got one of these.  Bonnie slapped a pretty little beaded purse on the counter.  It seemed very out of character for her, but maybe it was a childhood treasure.

   "Not exactly , but..."  Digging deep into my hidden 'poacher's pocket'.  "A purse net, which doubles as a string bag when the bottom drops out of a cheap plastic carrier."

   There was a nod from Bonnie.  A look into her now much slimmer looking bag.  Then a lengthy pause

   "Are we done?"  I asked, suspecting that like me she still probably had stuff  we didn't intend to show in public.  The euphoria of playing 'one up' can lead to some unwise revelations if you get carried away.  I had a feeling Bonnie, like myself, enjoyed an occasional audience on her own terms but was rarely carried away

   "I think so...   But I'll buy you a drink if you can match this."  She triumphantly slapped a small but rarely used make-up kit on top of her pile.  Most of it was dried up and useless.

   My wife looked at me with some doubts, mixed with a small gleam of female triumph.

   "Will this do?

   A double ended squeeze tube of green and brown Cammo-cream, equally dried up and nearly forgotten.

   We exchanged a look of deep down mutual recognition, shook hands across the table, bought each other a drink by unspoken agreement, and repacked our bag and jacket respectively.

   A grand girl, Bonnie.  We smiled and nodded when we met in the streets afterwards, but that was all.



Review My Poetry / In Absentia (Just a spot of whimsy.)
« on: November 29, 2017, 10:59:23 AM »
Just a spot of whimsy...

In Absentia

Someone stole the touch pad
from my microwave today.

It was there earlier,
the one minute button
responding to my touch
as I flashed up pancakes.
The dancing green letters
counting down to culinary delight,
with lime juice and brown sugar.

I poured a mug of milk,
for making hot chocolate,
sipped a little bit first
because it was too full.
I hate cleaning the turntable
when things overflow.

I put it in carefully,
closed the door,
and my left hand searched,
vainly, for the touch pad.

I gazed like a dumbstruck idiot,
knowing something was wrong.
Missing buttons, wrong colour.
White instead of black and silver.

My little freezer, quite rightly,
has never had a touch pad.


Review My Poetry / Her aura was usually green
« on: November 28, 2017, 01:06:42 PM »
As you folks accepted the 'pale gold lines' of the Magic Circle I'm tempted to turn you lose on this one.  It's not about Mum.  Don't worry, I'm not going to make a habit of 'going all mystic and weird' on you ;-)


Her aura was usually green

A verdant spring green,
pulsing with life and hope,
standing well clear of her body.

Occasionally scarlet with anger,
her rage at fate repelling boarders,
friend or foe alike.

Sometimes just a pale grey
like over-washed denim,
clinging close to her physical body,
echoing a recurring medical condition.

But on a good day,
when she glowed with health,
running my hand along that spectral outline,
well clear of her skin,
we felt the connection,
a silent communion.

It's truly there, rarely seen
and often unspoken,
but absolutely real.

As tangible as flesh and blood,
and if time and distance are no barrier
she'll be smiling unexpectedly,
wondering why she's remembered me.


Friday is one day, correct?  Yes, it repeats every seventh day, just like all the other named days.  But each individual Friday only contains twenty-four hours.

So by what peculiar Amazon algorithm does adding the prefix 'black' make it last a whole week?

Curious minds which understand language need to know.


The Coffee Shop / A glorious misprint. Any more you'd like to share?
« on: November 26, 2017, 03:44:14 PM »
Robert Musgrave wrote, apropos of something completely different: “You may be amused that my first introduction to Schadenfreude was via a howling misprint in a cheap paperback dictionary, in which it was defined as the derivation of joy from the misfortune of otters.”

   A few stops later we escaped and climbed some stairs before bursting into the daylight which felt momentarily expansive before the tall buildings loomed into my consciousness.  We weren't far from the hospital, which had a huge reception area almost worthy of an airport and we found someone to tell us how to get into the tower part where we were destined for the fifth floor.

   The lifts were big enough until they started filling up with people.  I stayed flat against the wall, thus feeling slightly less than totally surrounded with my eyes on the door and the panel of buttons.  As is often the way with such things the announcements were somewhat out of sync with reality.  "Doors opening" seemed to come ages before they did, and "Doors closing" before I'd even crossed the ten feet or so to the gap.

   Sis was behind me again and the thought of separation loomed large as I wedged my bum against the door, thought 'Not f*cking yet it isn't' and waved her ahead   I may have said it out loud because I got some funny looks from the damned plebs who were trying to push in before we'd even got out.

   But once we arrived in the fifth floor the slick smoothness of a well rehearsed system kicked in.  They're in the process of setting up an automated log-in system, but the smiling and very black lady behind the counter just coped quietly with my desire to see a real person.  The waiting room was full, all the seats taken, but I stood there and filled in my form with a few prompts from Sis.  (I'm good at remembering events and people, but not dates.)

   "When did I have my biopsy in Basingstoke?" 

   "Um..  When I was on holiday."

   "Which holiday?"  Bloody globe-trotters.

   "When we were in Serbia, so that's...  July."


   By then the waiting room was half empty again as nurses came and took people away.  The injections were running a bit behind the flow of patients, but we were all shuttled off  into little curtained cubicles, or corners in a corridor until the radioactive stuff was 'brought across' from whichever bunker it's stored in.  There's a serious tracking routine in place to keep track of the very expensive and potentially dangerous stuff.


   A cheery little Filipino-looking lass came to fetch me.   She looked just like my former neighbour's wife and even pronounced my name the same slightly off-beat way which took two goes before I realised who she wanted.  Sis settled down to wait with her book, off-duty for a bit over two hours.

   My little nurse parked me in a phlebotomy chair and deftly set me up with the cannula in the back of my hand.  No bruise two days later, so she was damned good at her job.  She found blood on the first attempt and I hardly felt the needle go in.  The little bit of wriggling around to get the tube in place felt uncomfortable, but it's under the skin so there's not so many pain receptors there.

   She seemed worried that I hadn't jumped when the needle went in.

   "Didn't you feel anything?"

   I didn't fancy explaining that I'd sent myself away for the vital seconds, mentally distanced myself.

   "Not much."

   She explained what she was doing as she went along and I was quietly entranced by the sing-song cadence of her voice.  They squirt in a saline solution to make sure the cannula is working properly.
   "Did it feel warm, or cold?"

   "Neither, so far."

   A little frown and then, "Can you taste or smell something unexpected/"

   "No, I don't...  Yes!  A taste of bleach."  My mouth was suddenly dry and full of the taste.

   "Like toilet cleaner, yes?"  Grinning at me like a teacher with a thick pupil who has suddenly come good.

   "Well, I've never drunk bleach but it tastes like bleach smells if that's the answer you're looking for."

   "Good, that means you're all ready for the Gallium now.  It will be about quarter of an hour."   Off went my little dusky maid and I never saw her again.


   A little man came along to do the Gallium, carrying a small all-metal version of a plumber's tool box, with the central handle and a tray on either side.  Sis saw him bustling forth and back along the corridor where she was waiting and agreed that he looked like a little toy-making Elf.   "If he'd had the right sort of hat he'd have looked perfect."

   I couldn't place his accent , something which sounded Germanic but less guttural and abrupt.

   The cylinder of Gallium solution wasn't at all like a normal syringe.  It looked like one of those colourful anodised master brake cylinders you see on custom bikes and cars.  Usually blue or red.  This one was red with a stubby black lever across the back end opposite the nozzle.  (See what I mean about the subconscious tape recorder?)

   Maybe it's anodised lead to provide nuclear shielding for the people who have to work with it.

   He twisted the little lever on the cannula to open the path for the 'hot shot' and it snapped off.  "Oh, that is not meant to happen."  Several gouts of very thick and lazy-looking blood squirted out before he turned another of the little plastic taps and scurried off to get a handful of tissues.

   Like a fussy little housewife he was muttering about how important it was to clean it up before it started to dry, otherwise it would be impossible to get the stain out of the chair.  It would have been a bit off-putting for the next patient to find a bloodstained chair awaiting him.

   After that he pumped in the magic juice, waited a bit, and unhooked the cannula.  Peeling that big plaster off the hairy back of my hand was the most painful bit to date.  Then he told me to stay still as possible for three quarters of an hour so the gallium would be evenly dispersed around my body.  "If you walk around too much it will all gather in your legs, then the scan won't work properly."

   Sounded like good advice to me so I actually went to sleep for a while. after he left

   He dumped his little tool box in an alcove where later on I saw them taping all sorts of stuff up into sealed containers, either for disposal or cleaning and re-use. So I guess each patient had a new toolbox.  Sis said he was very busy little Elf, constantly trotting forth and back through the waiting room with his radioactive cargo

   Not long after I'd woken up and had a little walk up and down because my arse and legs had gone to sleep another little nurse came to fetch me.  There's a mystery for you.  How can a numb bum feel so uncomfortable?  One of Life's Greatest Unsolved Mysteries.


   The PET/CT scanner is indeed more like a doughnut than a tunnel, but it's still about four feet thick.  The opening on each end seems bigger than the MRI scanner and it has a couple of steps in size reduction towards the business part.

   There's a long rail leading into it and I had to shut down the thought that it looked like a hi-tech frog with his tongue stretched out waiting for a fly.  Something told me this wasn't an image I wanted to ponder over for the next half an hour or so ;-)

   No need for the ignominy of a hospital gown.  Just empty your pockets,  away to one side of the machine.  Take off your belt.  Lay on the very flat support.  Let the nurse arrange a neck support and a similar thing with two grooves under the back of your knees.  All very brisk and businesslike.  For a second I had a brief flash of an interview with Pierrepoint the Hangman explaining how deftly and quickly he could pinion a man's legs and arms before hooding him and pulling the lever.  "You owe it to them to be completely professional."

   It also occurred to me that I had seen three other patients go into the scanning room but not one of them had come back out.  I found out later you left through a different door so they could keep things flowing.  Plus if you did collapse, or have the screaming ab-dabs ,you wouldn't unsettle the next patient.

   I had to put my hands up above my head.  Like when you lie on the ground with your head on your hands, but much less comfortable.  You have to pull your arms in alongside your head until you're more or less holding your elbows with the opposite hand. 

   This is a very uncomfortable position to maintain for more than a few minutes.

   The nurse threw a blanket over me with an almost conjuror-like flourish and managed to cover my face as well.

   "Hey, I'm not bloody dead yet."   If that was part of the deal I was getting back off.  Instant decision, which would have been irrevocable.


   She took the blanket off my face and must have seen something in my eyes because she apologised again, sounding a lot more contrite and serious this time.  After tucking in the blanket she did up a couple of broad Velcro strap, wished me an 'enjoyable little nap for twenty five minutes or so' and scurried off to sit behind her big glass window in mission control.

   The board fairly shot into the scanner, invoking human cannonball thoughts again, shuttling me back and forth twice before settling down with my head well clear of the back end.

   There were two little flickering blue LED readouts on the rim above my head.  They meant nothing to me, but they became a source of great fascination.  Particularly when the discomfort in my unnaturally positioned arms started to bite.

   The board gradually inched forwards with a few whirrs and clicks, but nothing like the ungodly racket of the MRI tunnel.  What felt about half way through the time my head was drawn into the first step of the tapering funnel section, so I closed my eyes and concentrated on breathing steadily, distancing myself from the reality, and trying to ignore the pain in my shoulders and the painful numbness of my bum.

   About five minutes from the end I nearly lost it.  I'd been daft enough to open my eyes briefly and knew my head was in the narrowest part.   But still hanging on to my sanity.  Hanging onto the thought that it must be nearly over.

   Then my elbow brushed the side.  (Shit, even recalling it now freaks me out for a few seconds. and locks my shoulders rigid.)  This is why it didn't get written up on Thursday night.  I didn't want to take that feeling into my dreams with me.

   I felt the damn tube squeezing me like toothpaste being forced through the nozzle.  Common sense was telling me the tube hadn't shrunk but I felt my muscles tensing to push me back out.  I pulled my arm even further across, not giving a damn if it spoiled their pictures, already knowing they'd have to try another day if I messed it up.

   I must have willed my racing pulse to a near standstill for the next few minutes.  Right on the crumbling edge of blind panic.

   Suddenly there was a jingly chime, similar to the one which the lottery machine makes when it reads a winning ticket.  As I called out "Jackpot" the board suddenly shot out of the tunnel and the nurse raced in, undid the Velcro and whipped the blanket away.  I don't know if they have a video feed to monitor the patients, but she told me to take a few minutes to get myself together before trying to sit up. 

   I was still rigid for a while and it really hurt to move after staying in that one position, but when she cracked the door open again I was sitting up and rearranging my trousers.  She guided me out, walking on limbs which didn't really feel as if they were mine, to the waiting room where Sis was buried in her book.  "Just wait here for five minutes while we check your scans are all okay."

   Sis looked up as the nurse vanished.  I don't know what she saw, but she looked concerned.  "Was it that bad?"
   "Yes...  But it could have been worse.  I nearly lost it for a few seconds."


   "Yes.  But it's done now."

   "Then I'll just finish my book, there's only a few pages left."

   That girl knows her brother.  Instead of making a fuss she gave me time to get myself back.  Five minutes of mental reassembly before the nurse came out and gave me the all clear to leave.  Just as well.  Nothing would have got me back in right then.

   Back down on the ground floor I tried to leave through the wrong entrance, still a bit disorientated, and was gently chivvied in the right direction.   We decided to get through the tube system before it got too busy and grab something to eat and drink at Waterloo.

   The tube carriages looked enormous.  They truly did.  I may have wittered on about this for several minutes judging by Sis's patient smile.  I understand the psychology but it was fascinating to experience it personally.  (And all the time that damned mental tape recorder never missed a beat.)

   At Waterloo I bought us both a baguette and nearly had a heart attack at the price.  A sure sign I was getting back to normal ;-)

   But no day out with my sis would be complete without some kind of other drama.  Our final train home suddenly slowed down and a few minutes later the guard announced that there had been a bird-strike which had shattered the driver's side of the windscreen.  Probably a curse called down by The Sirens Of Surbiton.  We trundled on through the darkness at reduced speed whilst they made a decision about whether to take the train out of service or just plod along.  I'd like to think the driver had the main input into this, poor bugger.

   They decided to take it out of service one station after ours, because the train behind which the passengers would transfer to was catching up fast.

   "How close is it?" asked a lady sat in front when the guard walked through to reassure people.

   "Right up our bum, Madam."

   It did cross my mind that being rammed from behind by the 'fast service' would be the perfect end to a perfect day.  But fortunately it didn't happen.

   So that was Gyppo's day out with his Sis.  Next time I see her I'll have to ask how I looked when I came out of the scanner room.   One thing the mental tape recorder can't tell me.


   Enter the New Dragon....  The PET/CT scan.

   When I learned that the only place which could do this 'cutting edge scan' was in London, I did what all sensible big brothers do when faced with a nasty problem.

   I sent for my little sister, who knows her way around London, and let her be my personal travel agent.   Her job was to escort me from my home in Hampshire to the scanner in London, and back again.  Basically to deliver me as if I was a parcel and to get me back home safely if I was totally disorientated.

   The thought of dealing with the underground system and the London crowds if I hardly knew who I was or what I was doing was even more scary than the thought of the scan itself.

   So at 10 am on a frosty morning  I was sat on the platform, eating a somewhat disappointing bacon roll, when my escort turned up to get the tickets and start her job of escorting her travel-wary brother through the twists and turns of the underground system.

   The message boards were flashing red and showing  'There may be disruptions to rail services going to Waterloo.'

   That was a promising start seeing as two weeks earlier we'd had to cancel the scheduled scan because of a train drivers' strike.  (I very nearly took an aerosol can to a nearby railway bridge to do some anti-union graffiti.)  But the magic weasel word 'may' stopped me getting too freaked out.

   But the first part of the journey was hassle free.  I launched off into a mind occupying flight of fantasy, dreaming up a potential plot for a book called The Sirens of Surbiton as we passed through and Sis smiled that 'I know my bruv' smile and just went along with me.

   "You know, the kind of cheap and easy book I could dash off in twenty four hours, or three days with sleep because I'm older now, and all the female characters have to have a name starting with S.  Samantha, Sirena, Salome (who would be the oldest and most knowing one), Su-Anne - an American import - and so on."

   The man sat next to me, who had got on at Surbiton, edged away slightly as the flight of fancy continued.  But eventually we reached Waterloo, where he was out of his seat and away like a greyhound leaving the trap.   (I'll swear his feet hardly touched the floor before he reached the door, looking over his shoulder in fear that the mad writer was closing in again.)

   Bet he'll be looking out for it on Kindle though.

   Sex, Sleaze, and Soap Powder in the Sleepy Suburbs of Surbiton.  Although it was just a whimsical diversion it's earned a definite place in the 'maybe, one day' storage section of mind.



   At Waterloo I felt the call of nature and discovered I had become part of The Brother/Sisterhood Of The Key.  One of the side effects of the prostate problem is reduced bladder control, (which is a damned nuisance), so I have a radar key which opens the disabled/accessible cubicle at some public toilets.  In this case it let me into a kind of 'holding area' where there was a small crowd of people awaiting their turn.  Two little old ladies muttering "Oh, Dear.", and a skinny young blonde with a double width buggy bulging with two kids and liberally festooned with shopping bags.
The holding pattern rearranged itself to welcome the large hairy man in cammo, who was thinking something a little more basic than "Oh, Dear."  But the four strangers, united by a common purpose, chatted away quite amicably and nobody wasted any time when they got through the door.

   Back outside, suddenly removed from the ad-hoc support group,  I went back to being the visiting country mouse, bewildered by the big city.  Last time I was there was for the Countryside Alliance protest march, when self-sustaining and supportive protective phalanxes of men and women in green wellies, green or brown Barbour jackets and trousers, many with rolled banners sticking from gun-cases, inexorably but amiably shouldered the locals aside as we filled the escalators and tube carriages en masse to Hyde Park..  I tried to recapture some of that feeling, but it eluded me.

   I was diverting myself with finding alternative meanings to the signs at Waterloo Station, and feeling glad that at around 11-15 it wasn't particularly crowded.  I pointed at the huge battery of Self-Service Ticket machines and turned to Sis.

   "Typical of the way everything's being regulated these days."

   She followed my finger and then looked at me with the blank but wary look I've come to know so well, waiting for the punch line.

   "Or maybe it's just Londoners.  Brainwashed into thinking they can't even masturbate without getting a ticket first."

   I received the 'pained librarian' look, which sometimes suggests she should have been the elder sibling, and she promptly steered me down into the underground station.

   It was one of the shorter escalators, therefore less vertiginous than the ones plunging down into the deeper tunnels.  Not nice, but bearable.  Sis listened to me babbling about what a fascinating bit of Victorian engineering the tube system was, how I admired it in principle, but hated it in person.

   Damn me, I'd forgotten just how small tube trains were, looking like a big toy as it pulled it in.  I can get onto an ordinary train without needing to duck.  Sis stepped back to let me go first, probably thinking she could give me a gentle nudge if need be.  My only thought was that if the door closed behind me she'd be left on the platform and I'd be carried away like a lost soul, beating on the glass like a moth trapped inside a hurricane lamp.

   None of this is exaggerated for effect, just pulled from my mental tape recorder which pitilessly turns me into it's 'study object' at such times.

   The curved roof makes the ceiling seem to close in around you compared to a full-sized train..  But at least it wasn't pulsing as if I was in the intestines of some giant snake, which sometimes happens to me when it gets really bad..

   One things for sure, I'll never ride on Royal Mail's own little underground route, which has been turned into a tourist attraction.   It's even smaller.  Even when it was in regular use for sacks of mail it was frowned upon  to 'hitch a ride'.  Now people pay to ride on it.  Demented sods.

   This has turned into a mighty epistle.  About 4300 word of it.  An extravaganza of people-watching.  Those who know the background of previous scans may choose to start with part two.

The new improved software here doesn't let you post anything more than a couple of thousand words.  This was always a sensible guideline, but now the computer won't let you.  Bloody technology should be a slave, not the master.

   For anyone who doesn't know the background.  I'm claustrophobic, I don't like crowds, and I have prostate cancer.  Hospitals seem to suck the life out of me and I lose all my self confidence and become a bit of an abject wretch, and a pretty insignificant bit at that.  Very different from my usual self.

   The cancer is/was a slow growing form when first diagnosed about five years ago, but six-monthly blood tests suggest it has accelerated a bit and needs dealing with rather than just 'watchful surveillance'.  (The original diagnosis was "You'll very likely die of old age before this becomes bad enough to kill you." 

   So far the changes have meant one trip through an MRI scanner which terrified me to within  a fraction of blind panic due to the narrow confines of the scanning tunnel.  Forty-five minutes of forcing myself to stay calm when I wanted to hit the panic button and just get out of the damned thing.  Even recalling it is unpleasant.

   It looks plenty big enough until the high tech plank you are stretched out upon, flat on your back, arms at your side, lifts up and slides you into the widest part, half way up the vertical height of the opening.  Which suddenly puts your nose close to the top of the tunnel.  Like loading a human cannonball into his cannon.

   It was one of the singularly most unpleasant experiences of my life and left me 'out of sorts' for at least a couple of days.  I'll admit to sleeping with the lights on for a few days after reliving the experience in a dream  and waking up soaked in sweat.


   This was followed a while later by a 'whole bone scan'.  An almost as unpleasant three quarters of an hour acting like the meat in a sandwich between the upper and lower plates of a gamma camera. This after being given a radioactive injection.

   It was made bearable by the fact I could see out through one side, except for the last ten minutes or so when I had to lie with my head facing upwards and the upper plate of the device felt as if it was about to touch my nose.  They tell me there's about a two inch gap, but to someone like me it felt a lot less.
   Further alleviation was provided  by a chatty operator who sat behind her protective window and discussed the contents of my pockets which I'd had to empty out into a tray.  She was probably the only woman who has ever removed my belt, "the buckle will mess up the scan", without any other motive.  A strange feeling.  I had to stay quiet whilst she was scanning my head, but apart from that ten minutes or so I was never truly alone in the 'sandwich toaster'.

   That scan scan took a cross sectional picture of everything from my scalp to the soles of my feet.   The radioactive injection pools around damaged areas, so you have to fill in a questionnaire about broken bones, arthritis, etc.  I half expected to be lit up like a Christmas tree.  Apparently it found nothing more than they already knew.  But I was advised not to give my Grandaughter any prolonged cuddles for a day or two in case she started to glow in the dark as well.


   My third scan was at a different hospital, just a few months ago.  Their MRI scanner is shorter, only about four feet of tunnel,.  All they wanted to scan was my pelvic area, so I lay there with my head and feet sticking out which was much more bearable.  Still noisy as hell, and uncomfortable.  But with my head free it felt no more restrictive than a tight sleeping bag.  Almost a joyous time compared to the other two scans.

   Plus it was a surprisingly spacious hospital  with bigger rooms and wider corridors, and much more height - purpose built from the ground up - out in the New Forest.  Home territory, and the nurses had Forest faces and voices.  Surprisingly reassuring when you feel lost and scared.

   And I made them laugh when my jeans, led by the notorious belt buckle, were nearly sucked in by the powerful magnets in the tunnel.

   But this was where the results suggested a fourth and more comprehensive scan would be in order before they decide how to treat me.


The Coffee Shop / Challenge (Picture)
« on: November 24, 2017, 05:49:21 AM »
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