Month: September 2018

September 4, 2018

6.00 am: Did I sleep or not? GA plays havoc with my grasp on reality, Circadian Rhythm, and blood pressure. On the basis of prior experience, I anticipated that the latter would plummet, both today and tomorrow, and, thereafter, return to normal. My days this week are going to be punctuated by periods of rest, as well as bouts of comic one-armed wrestling with jam jars, milk containers, and canned food; one-handed typing and camera-phone operation; cautiously slow shaves; and precarious showers with a plastic bin liner strapped to my arm. As the nerve block injections into my hand began to wear off, I experienced an irritating and unrelievable itch under the bandage and, I suspect, a plaster cast too. (Which would explain the residue of white powder on my fingers.) I’d taken two heavy doses of Ibuprofen and Co-codamol (which exacerbates the experience of perpetual drowsiness), in the hope that these drugs would keep severe discomfort at bay. If not, then, I’d suffer like Paul Atreides with this hand in the Gom Jabbar.

Around 1509, Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) drew a full-length nude self portrait. He’d have been about 38 years of age at the time. It has a remarkable honesty, unselfconsciousness, and vulnerability. There’s no shame, indulgence, or eroticism to be found in its fearfully penetrating vision of frail flesh. He died eighteen years later, at the age of 56. (I’ve outlived him.) In the 1520s, the artist came under of influence of the religious Reformer Martin Luther (1483–1546), and subsequently converted to Protestantism. Around this time, Dürer began to be concerned that he was losing his sight and the freedom of his hand:

8.00 am: A communion. 8.30 am: I wandered around the house in track bottoms, looking like a chav. (With only one hand, negotiating the buttons and belt of slim-fit regular trousers would be … well … a challenge.) My concentration level was sporadic, so I caught up on Instagram tagging, with King Crimson playing in the background. (My elder son and I will be seeing them, again, in November. Note to self: I owe Mr Fripp a letter.):

In my head, I could still sense that my little finger was bent over at 90°. This must be akin to the experience of ‘phantom limbs’, wherein amputees can still mentally visualise and ‘feel’ the absent body part. What had been true was now an illusion. That, in itself, was a proposition worthy of further consideration. The finger appeared to be straight, because I could see it was strapped cosily to the normal finger. But my brain told me the contrary. I believed the truth with one part of mind, but not with another. A curious sensation:

The painkillers gave me chest-rattlingly loud hiccups. (‘Man-up, buddy’, I could imagine my ‘muse’ saying; ‘Some people have nausea, stomach inflammation, and vomiting too, you know’.) True.

After lunch, I rested for a while following a minor ‘wobble’. (The lower blood pressure had kicked in.) The site of the operation had begun to sting. 3.00 pm: Back to tagging. I turned to my scholarly journal, periodically.

7.30 pm: An evening off. My younger son wished to watch The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine (1968). I was all for that. My parents had taken me to see it in Cardiff, when I was nine years of age. It really wasn’t for them. I was mesmerised, though. It remains a remarkable piece of animation. And who could forget the joke about the ‘University of Whales [Wales]‘. Never did suspect that, in later life, I’d be studying and working at the Aberystwyth branch for most of my professional career.

This is the one thousand and last post. The Diary began on July 16, 2014. It has continued, with breaks for feet-finding, holidays, and short periods of respite, for over four years. Initially, its aim was to provide an insight into the day-to-day experience of a university academic. Inevitably, other aspects of my life seeped into the narrative. Academics are only human, after all. My decision to bring this story to a conclusion today is arbitrary, in one sense. One thousand is a large and rounded number. And that many blogs was more than sufficient to the task. I anticipate that another diary will emerge in another place and at another time. (This present Diary will remain readable.) When, and what its form, content, purpose, and regularity will be, and who (if anyone) will be allowed to read it, is as yet undetermined. The events of my life will decide. My thanks to all of you who’ve followed ‘the story so far’ as either dedicated or occasional readers, and for your encouraging comments, wise counsel, good humour, understanding, and sober reflections along the way.

The bed of fallen leaves
that Ophelia laid,
Is drawn away upon the tide.

The box, resealed and bound
within another now,
Is cast down in the teal sea’s drop

The wind blows westerly
across the cloistered park,
Towards the shore where he’d look out.

The sea that heard his heart
recite, his tread and breath,
Retreats and bares the cold shingle.


September 3, 2018

5.30 am: I awoke and readied myself. The last time I visited Neath Port Talbot Hospital, on October 16, 2017, Storm Ophelia was battering Ireland and the western seaboard of Wales. (There is no diary entry for that day, oddly):

I recall taking the train from Aberystwyth to Mid Wales, and being followed by a cloud of dusty amber light. The landscape and sky took on the complexion of a mellow apocalypse. Today, there was only driving rain.

I arrived at the hospital at 9.10 am. The building’s interior looked like the type of shopping mall that you experience between airport security and the flight gates:

The care nurse dealt with me promptly and thoroughly. By 9.30 am, I was in the waiting room biding my time until my call to the ward. My case was fifth on the list of operations. Currently, the surgeon is performing the second of the day. I’m hoping that the procedure, the second on my left little finger, will finally right the problem. This condition is genetic and skips a generation. Likely or not, one of my grandparents had it, and one of my children’s children will get it. It’s a frustrating, but not a life-threatening, illness. I’ve much for which to be grateful. I was glad to be in South Wales again, among reassuringly motherly accents: ‘How are you my love?’ I was surrounded by patients with complaints that weren’t visible. A few appeared to be wearing their partner’s/spouse’s dressing gown. A TV game show bleated-on mindlessly, just out of view. Me, I was googling surgical procedures for a fasciectomy. ‘Yikes!’ The room was soporifically warm:

I met, first, the anaesthetist, who explained the various options with regard to nerve blocks, general anaesthetic, morphine, and their combos. There’re always potential dangers. Both of us were keen to minimise the risk to muscle movement and nerve response after the operation – particularly in view of my ambition to remain a guitar player. And post-op pain management was a serious business too.

I noticed the scar on my knee, which was caused when my penknife slipped while I was whittling at the age of ten years old:

A doctor of no fixed role talked me through the ‘disclaimer’ form at 1.00 pm. The surgeon confirmed my routine, with helpful explanations, fifteen minutes later. By 1.45 pm, I was on my back counting down from 5 to 1, breathing in and out on every count. I got to 3 and … .

3.15 pm: ‘How are you feeling?’, an ‘angel’ asked. I was in a different place, at what seemed like a moment later. (Is this what death will be like?) Once the discharge nurse was convinced that I’d got my head around the pain-killing regime, I was let out into the world. The staff had been, to a woman and a man, polite, reassuring, efficient, and, above all, professional. My hand had been in good hands. All praise to the NHS.

September 2, 2018

I woke at 7.00 am, but persuaded my body to remain prone until 8.30 am. The period gave me time to consider tomorrow’s ‘adventure’ in South Wales, and how I’ll map out my week in the aftermath. 10.00 am: I prepared for Morning Prayer at Holy Trinity Church. This week, I wasn’t involved in the service’s delivery. The countdown to Diary‘s conclusion continues. (ETC: September 4.):

10.35 am: Off to Church:

The services at Trinity are traditional, serious, and unspontaneous. We sing hymns (some of which go back to the Protestant Reformation), chants, and psalms accompanied by a pipe organ, have a robed-choir, affirm creeds, read from King James Version of the Bible (sometimes), confess our sins, intercede for others, and give thanks and praise using the scriptures and patterns of prayer than go back to New Testament times. There’s no ‘worship group’, raising of arms, claims to charismatic gifts, or TVs and overhead projectors. All in all, its very formal. But for me, the services have been, at times, utterly transcendental. God has met with me in that church, often. And it’s a mode of worship that fits my personality like a glove.

2.00 pm: Running was too comfortable for comfort over the Summer; so, today, I ran in the rain. My course was determined by the principle of maximum surface contrast. My boys have been ragging me about how I get sock to foot, left to right, assignations wrong. Here’s evidence that I can get it right (or is that left):

2.50 pm: Home, wet, in need of a iced water. Then it was off again on a walk to the promenade and a favourite coffee shop:


September 1, 2018

5.30 am: I awoke. Since I’d be one arm down for the next month, I put in a final session of floor exercises as the day broke. I suspect that my running also will be curtailed, at least until I’m out of a sling. I’m not good at press-ups, but I’m determined to be. The Harvey Boys are committed to maximising the health, fitness, and wellbeing that they’ve been given.

6.30 am: Saturday is toast day. An indulgence (for me). Marmalade and butter on a well-baked slice of brown bread is a very painterly proposition. Utterly sumptuous:

7.30 am: A communion. 8.00 am: On with the paper. One-hand typing will make for slow progress next week, so I tried to make good headway throughout the day in this respect. I’ll work at the mixing desk next week (which can easily be managed single-handedly). Yesterday evening, I’d drafted the bridge to the next idea, and to the first image/sound case study. This now needed to be written up and illustrated. Then followed a half-hour tussle with a directional animation, moving upwards, slowly, and in a straight line. I needed to produce a scrolling text by this means. The outcome wasn’t exactly the opening credits to the Star Wars films, but it did the trick.

I reviewed the text and PowerPoint together before moving to the next idea. One must keep an eye on the whole, constantly. On, then, to a fun bit: constructing a sound effect to superimpose upon a static image. At the very least and lowest, the result will entertain the audience. The presenter should, in any case, take responsibility for maintaining the listeners’ engagement.

12.45 pm: Apple fall from one of two fruit trees in the back garden. These are a little tart to the taste, but edible … especially when stewed:

After lunch, I headed for town, drawn inexorably to my usual watering hole, where I went berserk: I purchased a ‘skinny blueberry muffin’. This was the ‘lite’ version (319 Cal) of the ‘proper’ combustible . It was tasty, but impossible to eat without making an embarrassing mess. Sticky little fingers:

I needed time out to reflect upon the week behind, and the one before, me. Decisions had been, and will be, made that effect not only myself, significantly, but also others in my personal and professional spheres. My choices have been directed by circumstances, consultation, counsel, and conviction. Having accepted my own determinations, I feel at ease. Now begins an exciting period of transition. Before the roots of my current life are pulled up, I must prepare the soil for replanting elsewhere.

2.30 pm: Back at homebase, and the finalisation of the soundtrack recording, using a handheld digital recorder, which gave me a higher bit rate and a better bass response (via the subwoofer) than could any audio-capture software:

Once edited and applied within the PowerPoint, I dedicated the remainder of the afternoon to image/sound analysis. 5.20 pm: ‘Ssssh! Rest now.’