Wednesday, 26 December 2012

I always wanted a treehouse

One of my friends, when I was about 11, had a lovely treehouse. We used to climb the 20 feet or so up the ladder into the hatch and a different world suddenly presented itself. It was in a lovely straight apple tree with an unusually long trunk. Apple trees are usually stumpy little things, especially these days when mechanical picking seems to be selected for. But this was a majestic specimen and rarely, as I remember, produced many apples. But as a site for a treehouse, it was perfect.

But then he had a garden that was an acre. In our diminutive (though large by modern standards) garden, there were only a couple of spindly silver birches and they rapidly outgrew the space and had to be cut down.
No chance fora treehouse there. I was envious.

My friend used to sleep out occasionally in his treehouse during the summer months. It was a six by four space with a felted roof which easily accommodated an eleven year old boy in a sleeping bag. This, we considered, was very cool.
A dark Boxing day landscape and some rain on the lens.
Today, we went for our Boxing day walk somewhere I wouldn't usually go. Our traditional walk was deemed unwise on account of the route skimming the edge of the Somerset Levels where at the moment, some villages are still cut off by floodwater after several weeks of watery isolation. Best not go there, we thought.

So we headed up towards the Cotswolds to the area I grew up in around Wotton Under Edge. It rained a lot, of course it did:  It hasn't stopped raining since April. But it was nevertheless very beautiful and I revisited some boyhood memories of fossil hunting and string spear-throwers. It's all a bit overgrown there now but when we were kids, the trampling of many pairs of juvenile feet kept the undergrowth down. All manner of games were played here and what finer playground could a ten year old lad and his friends hope for?

How could you NOT imagine hunting dinosaurs here?

It was, until that unreasonable tyrant puberty changed my motivations and made me feel acutely isolated and miserable, a great place to be a kid

And though I didn't really find myself experiencing any nostalgia for the place or the time, I did occasionally view it through the eyes of my ten-year-old self. It's strange revisiting somewhere from your distant past, but as I mentioned once before, memories are best viewed as just that and to attempt to recapture their atmosphere is usually a mistake. But I did stumble over some of that and I did get the urge to make a bow and arrow. But I didn't have any string and it was raining too hard anyway.

Looking at the small settlements, Wortley, Aderley, Nind, it struck me that the old ramshackle farms and crumbly buildings which used to house farm labourers are all now pristine, renovated and very des-res. Many of the old tumbledown cottages must now be worth half a million or so, with their limestone facades and in one case, thatched roof (we never had thatched roofs round there. What are they thinking?). One place even has a pair of stone stags on plinths. I know taste varies, but that is a bit tacky, surely? No, no, I shouldn't judge and perhaps they come to life at night and are joined in the garden by satyrs and centaurs. I like to think so.

There is, it seems, money about, if you look in the right places. And I do not begrudge this development: The places would surely have fallen down and been lost had they not been bought and done up. And it means there are plenty of people with sufficient disposable income to finance the local farmers' markets and enough pushy determination to keep the local schools open and to a high standard.
I always wanted one of these!
But in one garden, I saw this, and though I do not harbour any envy for the big, remote, beautiful farmhouses, I do envy these kids their tree house. I hope they use it and don't spend all their time on the PS3.

Monday, 24 December 2012

How Little and How Often?

I wonder who invented whisky. I just bought a bottle. It's a Birthday present for someone and it will be a few days before I give it to him. But it's ok. He won't read this so I won't spoil the surprise.
I don't like whisky. I had no idea which one to buy. Is Johnny Walker Red Label good? When I taste it, it makes me feel immediately nauseous. It's a taste I never developed and probably just as well. There are things such as skiing, motorbikes and whisky which I have avoided because I just know I will love them and if I get a taste for them, it will be my undoing. So, whisky will remain for me an unacquired taste.

The shops were as one would expect on Christmas eve: Lots of couples wandering along the aisles of Tesco's, Yate, desperately trying to remember what they came out for and how all this previously undesired stuff had found it's way into their trolley.

Very little here by way of inspiration. Everyone was surprisingly pretty much silent as they goggled at the shelves. Perhaps they had used up all their words for the year and had got to December with none of their allocation remaining. So maybe they could only point speechlessly at the pyramid of kitchen towels, half-price mince pies and bottles of Baileys and shrug. I know how they feel.
Words do seem to have a life of their own. These days I find them rather reticent. Whereas they used to flood into my head at the merest opportunity and overflow here, now, I have to squeeze them from my uncooperative brain and on to the page. I don't know why this is. It could be due to a lot of reasons, some neurological, some circumstantial, perhaps even some behavioural. Perhaps I don't need them any more?
Whatever: At some point in the last nine months I seem to have lost my Way With Words. And I miss it.

A friend who is a published author said that it is like any "muscle" by which I assume she means that it gets stronger with use (in which case, the iris, the tongue and those smooth muscles that produce peristalsis ought to be exempt from the catchall "any" as they don't get stronger with use.)
But I take her point.

And so, in an attempt to rediscover what it means to be articulate and to preserve what vocabulary as remains to me, I shall be jotting down the occasional thought here.

It seems to me that a wholesome home life is good for the soul. Yesterday I spent almost a whole day cutting, drilling and tapping M8 threads in steel plate for my van and I found it immensely rewarding. But when this kind of thing becomes your main passtime, spare waking moments tend to be spent on staring into space and thinking how to make a stool for the van which can be sat on but which will slide into the bed the rest of the time and contain all the frying pans etc. Mechanically, its inventive, but it does not inspire. Rather, it kind of calms. Which is ok if that is what you are after. But not all the time.

But I think the whole point of this blogging malarkey is for us all to find our way to a Vibrant Life of The Mind. Well, perhaps I shouldn't generalise for everyone, but that is a large part of it for me. That and the connection it feels it gives to Wider Humanity. At the moment, it is all a bit quiet in here and not vibrant enough. And nobody likes feeling lacklustre, out of touch and un-shiny, do they?

So, Little and Often is how it needs to be.

And as an afterthought, in no way connected: Does anyone ever get a word that decides to inhabit their brain for a day or so and pops up all the time in their mind's ear? For me, today, it is the word "Helminth". Such a fresh sounding word I feel (given what it denotes). Sorry. Complete non-sequiter there. I am hoping for more of that as the sudden changes of direction make life more interesting.

And that is enough rambling nonsense for today, I think.

Monday, 10 December 2012

A Very Mellow Weekend


This last weekend, after my five days in bed with flu and a 41C temperature, some friends, chancing catching my bug, came to stay. We had planned to go off in vans to Cornwall, but it was cold and we were all still hacking and coughing. So we thought we would have a quiet weekend.
I find it lovely if a little odd to be able to say that as an adult, I have known someone for thirty years. I am surely not old enough to have had effectively a thirty year friendship with someone I didn't meet as a child. But it is so and regularly, we meet up and spend lovely weekends together. Much beer and wine is drunk and some excellent food consumed, all the while enjoying the company and conversation of like-minded people. It's what life is all about, I think. 
This weekend, we went to Bath to the Christmas market, but it was far too busy and I confess I struggled a bit with the cognitive load of managing to avoid the trajectories of hundreds of people milling about. 
So, yesterday, we went for a quiet walk around Woodchester Mansion which I have written about here before. I snapped this picture of the quaint boathouse in which I am troubled now to see that the window is open. Who opened the window and why? In Summer, this is an idyllic spot, but on a Winter's day, there is a strange air about the place and one could almost imagine some troubled spirit standing looking out of the window. I am not usually given to such thoughts but it did feel mildly spooky, especially considering the unfinished mansion just up the valley. The Romans were here thousands of years ago and at the top of the valley, long barrows still exist where bronze age burials took place. It is a place of atmosphere.
So, on we went around the lakes, whilst buzzards wheeled above us in the still cold air and ducks quacked in the water with derisory laughs of ridicule at the muddy feet and hubris of we passers-by.
It was a lovely crisp day and the walk was just so wonderfully English - something I rarely consider since I was born here, live here and spend most of my time here. 
So, we walked and talked and there was a bonfire where some National trust volunteers were clearing dead wood, and the woodsmoke just smelt so right.
We returned to the van and drank tea, ate cake and talked some more. Gradually a Winter's day elided into a cold evening as the sun went down. Home called to us, with dinner already in the oven.

At home, I made mulled cider with an otherwise rather undistinguished apple wine from last year, some cider and assorted spices with brown sugar. In fact, I made about a gallon. 
Sitting round the table with friends and family, with a big joint of roast pork, home-grown roast potatoes, mulled cider and Jethro Tull "Solstice Bells" playing, the World was perfect for a moment. Outside, the dark Gloucestershire countryside was now asleep but still very present in the feeling of surrounding the room, the house, the town.
Banana & Ginger wine. A dessert wine of about 18% ABV. Small glasses only...
And now, my friends have gone home and I look at the gaps in my wine rack with a feeling of deep satisfaction. And it occurred to me that my banana and ginger wine needed bottling. And so having drunk the excess that wouldn't fit in the bottles, a feeling of general mellowness comes over me.
A very good long-weekend. And it's not even Christmas yet!

Monday, 12 November 2012

Revisiting Uncomfortable Places and a Resolution

I had intended specifically not to write about this, because it was something I didn't really want to remember. And I don't want to seem like I am going on about it. This is probably the last I shall say on the matter directly.

Last week, I went back, 32 weeks to the day, to where my sub-arachnoid haemorrhage happened. I decided to go to a dance at the venue where, eight months earlier, that horrible, sickening thing happened in my head and of which, mercifully, I remember very little.
I remember the song that was playing and the move I was attempting when, like a tube of toothpaste squeezed hard with the cap on, something burst into my head. Quite literally. And the yellow that flooded my vision, the whining noise like the noise from the test card, and the agonising explosion in my head that immediately ensued, it all came back to me, albeit in an attenuated way.
Initially, when I arrived, I couldn't walk into the room. I walked up to the door and it was as if there was a force-field off which I bounced, the way two strong magnets will repel each other in that weird way, authoritatively redirecting your hand along the lines of force.
Only it was my whole body that was redirected. To a chair in the foyer, where I sat and shook and probably looked utterly pathetic.

Some kind people who were there that night, came and sat with me and created an air of calm, for which I am grateful. So I determined to follow the comforting ritual of taking off my shoes and putting on my (new!) dance shoes. This seemed to allow me to roll along a well-worn path of familiarity and I managed to get the momentum up to carry me through the door and into the hall.
And, you know, I am quite astonished at the aversion I felt. Histrionics is something that normally seems incredibly irritating. But the strength of my feelings were quite overwhelming and very unexpected for a matter-of-fact chap like myself.
So, I danced, and being brain-stem stuff, the movement flowed and I felt at ease quite soon. However, I decided not to tempt fate and when "Moves like Jagger" came on, I sat down. No aversion per se, just prudence.

Well, here we are, eight months on, and more-or-less back to normal. Thinking is still a bit hard and I get distracted easily. This is frontal lobe stuff. Even now. But concentration has improved, possibly even to a better level than before, as I have had to consciously put in place strategies to cope. Attention is still a problem. Some voices will take hold of my attention for reasons I cannot fathom and will hold it against my will. Dragging it back to the task in hand can be hard or impossible and this makes me instantly confused and tired in a way I had not experienced before.

Sometimes, like when I was in the building society, trying to sort out some stuff for my mortgage, a (usually female - no idea why this is) voice will cut through my concentration like the sound of chalk scraping on a black board and it will be as if someone has hit me on the left hand (again, no idea why this should be) side of the head with a shovel and I will reel away in confusion. Certain "Teachery" voices do this repeatably. But I am getting better at "centering" myself and now don't have to go and have a lie down. Progress indeed!

And I confess, I don't feel as clever as before. Some raw mental horsepower seems missing. I cannot say whether this is because some circuits of my neural machinery suffered damage due to lack of blood flow or the interference from clots and "cellular debris" (as the neurologist delicately referred to the gumming up of the works caused by a bleed and subsequent healing). Or perhaps it is to do with my attitude: Where things seem tiresome, overly complicated or even merely irritating, I find I am unable to find the motivation to take it in. This is a problem at work where the majority of daily issues seem to fall into these categories. This also may be neural, or perhaps a new and semi-conscious indifference to minutiae. But I am working on this.

Writing, like this, also seems quite a challenge. Whereas it flowed before, now it feels "lumpy", like swallowing dry bread and trying to sing at the same time. Again, is this capability or motivation? I cannot say. I don't really know what to do about this.  need to think a bit more on it perhaps. Or maybe "just do it" (though often, I don't really feel like it)

But in general, reading how dreadfully affected so many SAH sufferers continue to be, even years later, I count myself lucky now to be as compos mentis as I am and fortunate at how physically well I have recovered. I was confused as to what to expect: It wasn't a big bleed by SAH standards and it could have been so much worse. Thank Nimodipine, I didn't get the spasms in my my blood vessels up there! That'll do for you, even with a lesser bleed, like mine!

But I am still surprised at the lingering effects now that the pain and tiredness has pretty much disappeared. Perhaps the remaining problems will mend, like the rest seem to have, or perhaps I will be like this forever. In which case, that's ok. I don't mind being a little bit less intelligent but a bit happier at being alive.

With my 32 week revisiting of the venue, I feel I have exorcised the final demon. The chapter is obviously not closed as I am still getting cognitive weirdness. But something has now resolved in me and I am calmer about everything.
So, with that experience laid to rest, I shall not mention it again. Case closed. Time to get on with working with what I find in my slightly rearranged brain. Let's see what it can do, shall we?

Monday, 29 October 2012

slowly, deliberately, seeking expression again.

Once more, I have resumed an aspect of my Old Life and am in Germany, at one of the hotels I used to frequent about once a month for the last 20 years or so. It feels both grindingly familiar and at the same time, very different.
It is nearly nine months since I was last here. Not a significantly long time in the Grand Scheme of Things, but a lifetime in what has transpired in the intervening time. I confess, I feel very different.
And perhaps this is what is at the root of this apparent paradox. Events which on the surface may appear familiar may be experienced in a profoundly different way based upon our internal state or attitude towards them. It's a perspective thing perhaps.

So, here I am in Paderborn, at the Arosa hotel awaiting a meeting about arcane technical and logistical matters and not feeling particular fussed about the whole thing. Time was, I would be very concerned to be making the right impression, to be ensuring my presentation said what I thought it ought to, to present the right image to represent my company.
Now, I feel that the overwhelmingly defining factor connecting myself to those I am meeting is our shared humanity. Ok, their business and mine are co-dependent and there are aspects of ours that if they were optimal, would be significantly less advantageous to them. That's business.

But underneath it all, we are people and this somehow renders these superficial differences irrelevant to me now. I feel much more connected to the human condition as I perceive it to be shared by myself and by others since my little mishap of earlier this year.

Feelings in general have been something I have been thinking about quite a lot in recent weeks. I have not felt like writing. Oh, there is material a-plenty. I ponder and muse about things as much as I ever did, possibly more, in fact, but I haven't had the urge to write the resultant thoughts down or share them. They are mine. Who else would be interested? And why should they be?
So, I haven't committed them to words. And to be frank, getting even this out of my head and onto the page has been like passing a kidney stone.

But here I am, in a familiar external landscape, looking out from a new internal landscape. It really is most interesting. Refreshing is perhaps a word I could use which encapsulates my feeling about it all. Refreshing and calming. Matters are not so pressing as I used to feel. And I wish I could share this realisation with all those people at the airport fretting loudly over the telephone about this deal or that appointment. It is surprising how little that previously seemed important enters into your thoughts when you are lying flat on your back in a hospital bed wondering if you will ever be the same again.

But feelings, they are slippery blighters aren't they! As Autumn progressed, I noticed that a calm and comforting melancholy came with it. Not that there is any Summer to mourn the passing of. Indeed, if ever there was a rubbish year in which to spend months of convalescence, this was it!
But it is very odd to experience feelings which are a melange of atmospheres and memories but for which words could not possibly exist.

The brown and orange leaves blowing about in the street, the damp coolness of the air, its woodiness hinting at decay and fruitfulness. Simultaneously, all these engender a feeling of.... what? Cosiness?
Retreat? Sanctuary? The sense of something having run its course as the Natural Order decrees? I really could not articulate it. But I know what it feels like. And I suspect, so do you. But we cannot explain it to each other, as we can't be sure what we feel is the same. We could just sit and both feel it perhaps, and know somehow that, probably, we are sharing a concensus on what Autumn feels like and represents.

And then there is the strangeness of the suddenness of the appearance of such feelings. They can lie dormant until called to mind by some time, event, song or scent. We may forget we were able to ever feel this way until reminded. And suddenly perhaps elation, inspiration, a sense of the world holding greater possibilities, erupts into us and we wonder where the feeling went in the interim. And we perhaps concern ourselves briefly with how we might retain such feelings to lift us out of the daily anaesthesia of routine and the seemingly endless supply of grey Autumnal days.

For instance: When Winter is relinquishing its grip and, perhaps in late March, the first smell of a cut lawn reaches us through our newly opened windows, how powerfully the feelings flood back. Suddenly, we remember there was Summer and we were really really ALIVE. And Summer smelt fresh and wonderful and brought us to life in a way we had forgotten. The scent of cut grass sets off a cascade of emotions: A feeling of hope, of possibility, of a more enlightened and carefree existence, floods into us and we cannot quite remember the ebbing away of this as Autumn crept upon us. But POW! Back it comes and we recognise it immediately and welcome its reminders of how invigorated we are able to feel.

What other feelings are lurking unremembered and inspirational somewhere within our memories, awaiting the trigger to awaken us to a different and elevated sense of existence? And how do we get to them? Or do we wait until it is their Time? If ever such a time should recur.

Gosh. Writing is hard. What used to flow, now has to be squeezed out unwillingly. It has been like moving furniture around in my head to get to the words and only finding some of the ones I wanted because others have fallen behind the piles of clutter and objects put aside in haste to keep even a basic level of access open. I wonder if it will get easier, or if I can even find the drive to find out.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Follow your dreams (to the dustbins)


The air smells different today. I couldn't say why. Smell seems to lack a coherent vocabulary to describe its characteristics. It is September and though no Summer was really forthcoming this year, the scent of crispness that displaces that of cleaning products and cooking smells, greets my previously housebound nose unexpectedly and I find it somehow viscerally disappointing without really knowing why. 
If Summer implies freedom, friendship, picnics in parks and carefree laughter on sunny days (though in reality this rarely happens. But the illusion persists despite our experience.) then surely, the onset of cooler, darker seasons must imply the loss of such freedoms: The closing down of "outdoors" and the moving to the smaller more isolated spaces of our social lives.

But today, the differences in the air brought by the changes to vegetation and meteorology appear to suggest a more profound change of emphasis with regard to mood. A more introspective, calmer period is dawning: The resumption of "Real Life" after the frivolity of summer days demands our sensible attention.

Ok, so there weren't really more than a handful of long, warm days this year. Summer was officially a washout. The worst, wettest, coolest here in over a hundred years. But the days were long, if filled with unreliable weather.
This morning, on my way to work, people seemed more focused, less jaunty. There is a sense that it is time to be serious now and to shoulder responsibilities more diligently. The time for carefree is over for now. Time to settle back into routine.

I awoke form a dream where I was in Helsinki and had to get to the airport to catch my flight home, but could not find a taxi. I walked unfamiliar streets that looked a bit like Birmingham and a bit like Oslo, and got increasingly agitated at the growing probability of not getting to the airport in time.
Then as dreams are wont to do, I was at home in my bed with no confusion at the sudden discontinuity. But the bin men were coming and there was a panic in my head because the garage is full of cardboard, the black bin is full of general rubbish and I could not remember which day it was to put out which bin. In my dream, I hauled impotently as I struggled to haul a green wheelie bin over huge bags of discarded cardboard packaging to the drive where the truck was already moving past to the next house.

I am not a believer in the symbolism of dreams. That the unconscious should construct elaborate metaphors involving snakes, horses, cardboard or thwarted travel plans seems unlikely. If I was concerned about the direction of my life, surely it would just say so by providing a dream in which I changed my job or moved out to live on my own? It wouldn't couch it in oblique terms of domestic waste and impossibly cluttered garages. Would it?
Perhaps the above is telling me that my life is full of baggage and if I don't sort it out, time will have passed and I will have missed the time for opportunities, whatever my unconscious might deem those to be. Or maybe I am just fed up with the enormous amount of recycling piling up in my house and don't want to be domestically immobilised by another two weeks' worth.

However, the very fact that I find myself dreaming of such mundane scenarios must surely ring alarm bells. Does life become so grindingly quotidian that rather than dreams providing us with unexplained powers of flight, exotic locations, or even nocturnal physical dalliances, it instead fills our sleeping emotional landscape with concerns about refuse collection? I would be perfectly happy to discuss possible meanings by the way. Perhaps I am mistaken and dreams do contain profound truths about our states of minds. It's just, the Freudian approach sound so "made up" and when given to such flights of fancy, anything can mean anything. It becomes subjective and unhelpful opinion. But I am willing to hear anyone's hypotheses on the subject.

However, with the winding down of outdoors life and summer pursuits, it seems the return to routine is having rather too prominent an effect on my unconscious which may be manifesting as dreams about dustbins.

Perhaps I really just need to get out more, despite the season.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Overdoing it

I don't want to dwell on matters neurological but my journey back to health continues on its lurching rollercoaster path and it was suggested to me that writing it down at each stage might be helpful. I confess that the linear act of committing complex happenings into a narrative is very therapeutic for me and helps me make sense of what is going on in my still below par brain. So, I shall continue to document it and should you find it tedious, other content will soon appear which might be more interesting. Or not. Either way, I will point to that in the final paragraph, so if you are still reading and even mildly interested, but the find the rest of the rambling tedious, you could always skip to there.

So, after such a lovely two weeks' holiday with all the attendant joys of music and revelry and absolutely no intellectual activity at all, it came as rather a shock to go back to work. Opening my inbox to find 1496 unread messages as initially unsurprising, but once I had knocked off the easy corporate-spam, the  remaining 972 suddenly seemed quite overwhelming.
The nature of email is such that multiple threads of conversation can arise from a single initial question, copied to many people who then respond with their contributions to various different distribution lists. The result is a tangled mess of communication of varying relevance and currency. In fact I wonder how I ever managed it, or anyone does in fact!

Anyway, my brain crashed. Like a PC with too many windows open and too little memory for the new operating environment, the hourglass popped up and the whole thing ground to a halt. I sat there looking like I had been hit with a mallet.
Then the phone rang and I was "invited" to attend a meeting in Dusseldorf for which I would have had to have left at 4 a.m. tomorrow morning. My requests to change the date were rejected and my confidence and mental coherence crumbled into abject distress. In a state of agitation, I was forced to call Occupational Health and gibbered incoherently down the phone for half an hour until the nice lady calmed me down a little.
What followed was several days where The headache returned and I had to resort to painkillers to get some relief and eventually sleep.

And it becomes clear to me: The neurologist had said to me "You will make a full recovery, but it will take six to twelve months before you are back to normal. In the meantime, executive function will remain impaired. You can go back to work, but you will be disappointed."
He explained about cellular debris and what the pre-frontal cortex does and some of the effects I would continue to experience.

I did go back to work and I am disappointed.

Physical injury is no stranger to me. Over the course of my life, I have partaken in various daft activities and occasionally a hare-brained scheme would leave me with some injury or other. In each case, the doctor would say "Six weeks..." and I would think "Four weeks then.." and usually, I was right. The medical profession is by necessity somewhat pessimistic.

So when the learned fellow said "six to twelve months" I heard "Four months".
But I was grossly mistaken. Brains don't work that way. Ok, you see here a coherent thread issuing forth from a "working" brain. But what I hadn't anticipated was the subtle but profound problems associated with the remaining impairment. Categorising and comprehending information, and then adding it to an existing context is still incredibly difficult and this is pathological - something was damaged and needs to be repaired. It's quite fascinating in its way.

Each email I read contains information which swims before me like a myriad of tiny fishes, slipping out of my grasp and taunting me by darting away before I can even see what shape they are. It frustrates me beyond belief and must be a nightmare for those around me who merely want a straight answer to what seems a simple question. I just can't get it together (yet).

But it will get better. The necessary neural pathways just need to be built and reinforced. It will take patience and practise.

So, what can one do? Well, I was advised to attempt cryptic crosswords. I tried. It felt like writers cramp in the forefront of my brain. And anyway, there are too many conventions in each newspaper for me to know what is expected.
Then there is the Roald Dahl approach of puzzles and suchlike to challenge the brain. This was a helpful suggestion I received here (thank you Kay) which I am still researching and which shows promise.

But a friend suggested, as I lamented the dearth of plums this year, that I write down my wine recipes and methods. I do, though I say so myself, make excellent home made wine. My ginger had caused trained wine tasters to exult loudly and call for rich fruit cake as a worthy accompaniment and my damson has caused long minutes of silence with its richness and velvety gorgeousness. (The secret with the ginger wine is to put a couple of bananas in the must. But more of that elsewhere)
Last year's pink plum wine. Cheers!

The thinking is, and it seems sound to me, that by putting the recipes and techniques into writing, I can take complex information and organise it, thereby getting the hang of the whole logical sequential approach thing originating from an amorphous cloud of knowledge and information. I think it might help.
I had been meaning to write a book on this for some time and had started my sister blog in preparation for this very purpose. But it rather fell into disrepair. Well, perhaps now it is time to put it all together. So that's what I shall do!
But if anyone has any idea how to get better at cryptic crosswords, I would be very grateful!

Friday, 17 August 2012

Attention!

I was in a cafe today in Bath. It is Cafe Retro which is one of my favourite places to get a coffee or lunch when I am about town. I find it cheerful and unpretentious and the coffee is excellent. Coffee has been a great help to me these recent months. It helps me focus and clears away the confusion for a bit.
However, what struck me today was the hum of conversation in the place. Now, I have had some trouble with my brain of late, as you probably know. Some bits subsequently weren't working very well, causing me to feel a bit thick on occasion and to have trouble concentrating when there was a lot going on. A crowded place, with a lot of conversation has been a challenge to me, causing me to sometimes have to go and sit outside somewhere quiet whilst my brain cools down.

As an aside, I have had the last two weeks off as annual holiday.
Van in the mountains
We piled up the van with all manner of stuff and headed to a friend's farm in North Wales, where every year for the past, oh, maybe seven, he has cleaned out the barn and used it to host a private mini-festival. Everyone present is selected from friends and aquaintances and amongst those are a number of members of most excellent bands.  During the days, living was communal and if I picked up my guitar or banjo to play, often someone with a guitar would wander across to join in and ere long, a small session would be taking place.

Tents and vans appear in a freshly mowed field and we stayed from Thursday to Monday, helping where we could with preparations, clearing up and most importantly, haymaking. After all, it is a farm.
Children of the Revolution
So, the festivities and outdoor living carried on over the weekend and there was much singing, dancing and consuming of beer. 
Soundcheck in the now-clean barn.
Dogs roamed around with stolen sausages, children chased them laughing and not a care in the world was entertained for the whole time. It was a bohemian dream for a few days where pleasure, music and company dominated everyones' consciousness. I am chilled in a way I find hard to describe.

Party in the barn: Somewhere in this night, I got my brain back
And somewhere in that weekend, a switch seems to have been flicked in my brain. Something came back which I have previously lamented the  loss of. I feel complete again. More than complete in fact, if I articulate a feeling that is hard to explain. The experiences of the ghastly happening and subsequent recovery have left a mark which will stay with me forever. From the rudimentary consciousness of those first few weeks through the headaches and regaining of physical coordination and mental faculties, I have learned a tremendous amount which provides an almost endless supply of inspiration for curiosity. And gratitude. I met recently, before my malaise occurred, a survivor of a much more serious SAH and he was significantly different from his former self. I realise how much I have to be grateful for and shall never ever take my life, or my brain, for granted. It could do easily have been otherwise.

And so, as I was sitting in the cafe today, i remarked to myself how the hubbub of voices would have caused me a major "moment" a few weeks ago as my brain tried to make sense of it all at the same time.
But now, I find I can "float" on top of it all and "tune in" to individual conversations or voices. This is an improvement I welcome. But also, it gives me cause for thought.

Normally, where we direct our attention is not consciously under our control. Ok, we may sit writing an email in the office, or watching television, thinking we are concentrating, but if a man cam in wielding a knife or even wearing a silly hat, our attention would be drawn to him and away from the task in hand. This makes sense and is to be expected. However, it becomes clear that some process in our unconscious constantly monitors our surroundings and takes note of what to ascribe significance to and the relative weightings of pieces of information in our environment. And this is not visible to us, or even a process we are aware of.
Well, this has not been working in my brain for some months. All information is equally significant and my brain has been trying to process the whole lot simultaneously. This is obviously impossible and the attempts have caused me some distress. However, today, I sat in the cafe and realised that not only can I focus now and allow this repaired process to do its job, but that I am actually aware of its exixtence and of its operation. Where it was "below the waterline" before, now its workings are apparent to me.
And it is utterly fascinating!

Sitting listening to the hum of discussion, I note some voices demand attention more than others. Speech which is emphatic is more difficult to ignore. Emotional emphasis is flagged as more highly significant and more worthy of attention.
Some male voices are quite compelling. I cannot work out why, but a certain resonance or tone causes the attention to be drawn to it. Also, some bossy women seem more evident in the surroundings than before. I note that with the compelling or emotional voices, I am drawn to examine the content of the speech: With nagging voices, I am afraid the initial response is somewhat more visceral and less civilised.

To observe this process in action is utterly captivating. From a maelstrom of noise that would paralyse my consciousness for a period of time, now information is emerging and the process of extracting it and ascribing significance to it is becoming less of an effort and more unconscious. Unconscious and yet now transparent.

So, now there is another set of questions to occupy the curiosity: What are the criteria upon which our minds base their decisions of where to direct the spotlight of attention to?

These are questions I probably won't find answers to but out of a near-catastrophe, I have had the opportunity to examine some of the intricate functions of the human brain at first hand, as an observer. As a self-regarding mechanism, the brain does give us some wonderfully interesting insights into our own humanity.

So, next time you are in a pub, a restaurant, anywhere with a lot of enthusiastically interacting people, I urge you to just pause a moment to listen in to the whole, and then individual components of the verbal melee. And become aware of the incredible amount of work your brain is doing without you having to worry about it. It really is very impressive.


I am back! :-)
As a postscript, I would like to say thank you to those who have encouraged me to see the positive in all of my recent experiences. Your insistence that I be patient and that I was still compos mentis has been appreciated greatly. Thank you all.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Radio Silence

There's not much doing in my head these days. A cursory listen to the space between my temples shows something akin to a pub with no beer. Everyone has buggered off.
Whereas once it was a bustling, noisy place where a throng of voices clamoured for attention, now it seems to be deserted. I don't know where everyone went.
It used to be that an idea would spark a torrent of words, each one falling over itself in its rush to be expressed. One word led to another which led to another until ere long there was a number of paragraphs which somehow explained what had occurred to me and gave some release.
It's not that the words have gone. I can wield them as deflty as ever from the mace-blow of a blunt statement to the stilletto precision of a careful inference.
But the ideas seem to have departed. Things just don't pop into my head any more. Even writing this is like passing a kidney stone.

It could be that my brain is rewired after my haemorage. Indeed, given the area of my brain in question, this is quite likely. The pre-frontal cortex performs a lot of high level  executive functions and it may just be that the spontaneity of observation and reaction I relied upon, which  "just happened" just isn't working now.
I know some neurons, I don't know how many, will have died and with them some of the functions they performed. A loss of blood flow in the brain can do that, even a small interruption.
I know also that planning and attribution of significance to information is impaired. I confess, I don't feel as clever as I did before. Thinking is hard and makes me immediately fatigued. Perhaps all of this is implicated in the departure of the Muse from my life.

But I miss it painfully. I feel stupid, mentally clumsy, profoundly empty and somewhat lonely as a result of the loss of this drive to communicate. The long rambling email conversations I used to have with friends just dried up. The meandering discussions of abstract concepts, arcane but relevent to the experience of the human condition we all share just no longer happen. And I miss it all. Abjectly. I just find suddenly, I have very little to say. And I feel lesser.

Perhaps it will come back. I know the latest research on neurons seems to indicate that they do not regenerate. We do not make more of them as adults: Dead neurons are not replaced. However, there are an awful lot of them and those functions which were once performed by now defunct circuitry can be remodelled by the remaining adjacent neural machinery. This is "neural plasticity". To retrain the brain to do what it once did but is now reluctant to do takes application and persistence. I must do those things I want it to get better at. I must do them a lot. and the circuitry will gradually be built by that doing.
Whether this can return an ability that defined a character, I cannot say. Only time and experience will tell. But I am going to give it a bloody good try. And if it doesn't, then it doesn't and I will live with what I have available to me now. At least I still have my words.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Summer Evening Scribbles

I am sitting at the top patio of my garden in the dark. I know this picture is of the garden in the daylight, but the one I took of it in darkness was rather lacking in visual information. "Top Patio" makes it sound grand: The garden is really only 45 feet square. Originally on a thirty degree angle, Mrs E designed it cleverly such that it is now on five levels. I am at the penultimate level, shaded from the freshening wind by the  black bamboo on one side and hawthorn and hornbeam hedge on the other. The sultry heat which we had for a few rare and precious days has departed and though I enjoyed the novelty, this is far more comfortable.
It is quite dark now and I have a fairly rubbish wind-up lantern with which to see the keyboard by. (I can sort-of touch type but the variety of keyboards I use, their haptic differences and the relative placings of special characters necessitate me being able to see the keys)
In the hedge behind me is some insistent and occasionally indignant rustling. I would like to think it is tiny people who live in the base of the hedge and it was accepted in more superstitious times that hedges were impenetrable places which harboured spirits (indeed, I believe the words "hag" and hedge have similar origins). Sometimes when I work from home, I feel as if strange eyes are regarding me with amusement at the folly of my arcane daily transactions. When I look, perhaps I see a movement. Or perhaps it is just a blackbird or wren darting for cover.

Tonight, I was startled by the sound of something scrambling under the fence. Scratching and snuffling, a hedgehog squeezed under and proceeded to nuzzle around myopically for slugs in the leaf litter. So much life goes on around us without our knowing. A toad is waddling under a ledge of marjoram, frogs croak in the pond. And normally, I am indoors oblivious to this other world.

But tonight, I am out here in the dark, with a pint of Bath Ales' finest brown English beer. Actually, I just quaffed the last half inch from my glass and it causes me to muse on something that has been bothering me for a while: Enjoyment. Pleasure. Experience in general perhaps ?
I enjoyed the beer. I enjoyed the pouring of it, the settling of the bubbles into a creamy head, and of course the drinking of it.  I enjoyed the feeling of having three quarters of it remaining as I drank it. And I enjoyed savouring the last mouthful.
And now it is gone. I have the memory of its enjoyment. It's a good memory. I shall, as with many other good memories, revisit it. Beer does leave one with a wonderful sense of having consumed something so very satisfying and it made me ponder for a while upon what precisely I enjoyed about its consumption.
So, this brings me on to what I refer in my head to the "choc ice" question, which popped into my head yesterday as I ate a magnum double choc caramel Mrs E had thoughtfully bought for me:
If I have a choc ice, and you have a choc ice, and I eat mine in half the time you do, who, ten minutes later can deem that they had the most pleasure?
Or if one day I eat it in a minute and another I eat it in three, how can I know which of the two, from the vantage point of now, in the relative future gave me most pleasure? In both cases, I will have had the enjoyment of eating a choc ice. Did it matter if I ate it fast or slowly?

Ok, I suspect the answer is irrelevant anyway, but it gives me pause for thought each time I tear open the packet of a choc ice. How best to enjoy it for posterity. Or now.
In general, it seems most pleasures are best savoured. This gives a longer "now" in which the sensations can be enjoyed, But the subjective memory of a now that lasted three minutes is much the same as one that lasted a minute. Isn't it?

It seems a silly way to waste mental energy I know. But it has implications. So many pleasures are to to be had and how best are we to enjoy them? Long savoured or merely a quickie?

Beats me. Anyway I need another pint. And the insects are biting me so I am going inside. Goodnight everyone!

Friday, 20 July 2012

Hugs

Hugs come in all shapes and sizes. Unambiguously, an interpersonal statement of empathy and emotional support, the hug seems quite universal. I like hugs. But they do seem to vary in meaning. This is usually accepted without thought, since the meanings tend to be clear to us without having to think much about it, at least on an emotional level. I have mused on this a lot over recent weeks, since musing seems to be a calming passtime that soothes my addled and somewhat scrambled brain. I have come to no firm conclusions except to be hugged is, for me, a rather pleasurable experience. However some hugs are more enjoyable than others and this gives cause for a small meditation. Why do hugs vary in their capacity to provide enjoyment? It's a question that I have been thinking about a lot.

The variability of intention is something that has been made very apparent to me in the past few months. Since I came out of hospital, I have had more hugs offered to me (almost exclusively from ladies) than in the previous years of my life put together. It has been frankly wonderful if I am honest.
So, it would seem there are many variables in the mechanics of a hug, subtle variations of which denote the intention and attitude of the initiator.
The factors varied seem to be :
  •    directness/obliqueness of contact,
  •    proportion and height of contact
  •    duration.
At the more "distant" end, we have the side hug, much favoured by more religious and emotionally repressed types. I have not had any of these. This hug is where an arm is thrown around a person, ostensibly drawing them firmly but safely to the initiator. But the participants remain side-by-side. It appears to be designed to show some level of support or solidarity without the risky business of face-to-face intimacy. I think personally that this is a uncommitted kind of hug unless the giver is truly uncomfortable with interpersonal contact, such as someone with Apsergers or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, for whom even this type of hug might be a significant and touching pushing of personal boundaries for the benefit of the recipient.

Then comes the demure leaning-in, cheek-to-cheek, right shoulder to right shoulder hug, usually short-lived and its end signaled by the (occasionally patronising) pat on the back or left shoulder. All other parts of the body, especially the hips, are held at a careful distance. This one tends to (strangely) be favoured by well-turned-out ladies of an ectomorphic disposition. It may often be accompanied by the insincerely intoned "Oh, you poor thing!" as might be cooed to a lame but smelly elderly dog, or an ailing aspedistra with a phosphorus deficiency. I am not fond of these types of hug and they tend to leave me with a feeling of isolation and discomfort, as if an icy blast of wind has blown across my neck from a briefly-opened door. There is a sense of being perhaps a mildly unsavoury character from whom a safe distance must be maintained. I often wonder at my own personal hygiene after such a hug and slink off somewhere quiet to have a serruptitious sniff of my shirt.

As a hug becomes more intimate, it tends to be more face to face. Of course this is effectively infinitely variable depending on the level of intimacy the initiator intends to show. Full front-to-front contact is usually reserved for people who know you well or who would like to. Obviously there is the issue of what to do with one's head in such situation. Being tall, this tends to be less of a problem for me, but when the initiator is of a similar or equal height, The positioning of the head and face can indicate one's comfort or discomfort with the situation. I favour the keeping upright  of my head and staring straight ahead. But when a degree of affection or sincerity is require I may rest my right cheek on the initiator's head. Of course, there is also that occasional embarrassing situation when heads clash. Depending on the force of impact, this can bring a hug abruptly to a close or even, as once happened to me, cause the breaking of a nose necessitating a trip to hospital for an X-ray.

Along with this reduced obliqueness, comes the other parameter of interest: degree of grind. This is essentially, how much of the body, from shoulders through boobs, to belly, hips and finally thighs, the initiator is prepared to, or would like to press against you. Or how much movement is introduced during the pressing together of parts.
Often, it is just briefly immobile shoulders with a mere hint of boob if things are to remain respectable. But sometimes these are enthusiastically pressed against one's chest (or belly or face depending on relative height difference).
Further suggestion can be made by the enthusiastic application of hips into the equation. Sometimes, a saucy grind is offered whicch can frankly ether repel you or make your day depending on the person modulating their movement. Often, one is left in no doubt as to the intention of the initiator, were propriety not required to be be observed. Usually, when one of these hugs happens, alcohol is involved.

Of course, I use the word "initiator" here to imply the person offering the hug. I tend not to suggest hugs but to have them offered to me. This is probably because I am English and a man and as a demographic, we still are a bit unsure about this rather continential approach to greeting or showing affection.


It can sometimes be that upon being inducted into a hug, the recipient (and I understand this is more common if he is male) can decide to change the terms of engagement, grabbing the kind lady and moving her not only more directly in front, but also forcefully applying pressure to increase the surface area in contact. This is often referred to by ladies of my acquaintance as "creepy". It can even extend to "gropey" (or by the younger generation as "a bit rapey!") when some rascal of a chap decides to take a handful or two that was not offered. This is, in my opinion, taking advantage and not playing by the rules. Fellows doing this should rightfully receive a slap across the chops by the lady whose honour was so impugned, or at least some level of quiet but firm protest like a vigorous and painful pinch of the spare flesh of the chap's "love handles".

Duration: well, it has been discovered by reputable science-types that the optimum length of time for a "social" hug is just over three seconds. Any more and one party usually starts to struggle. This becomes a kind of wrestling. It can be comical to behold unless you are the one trying to escape. Of course romantic hugs can last much longer, extending even into hours. This never happens after the first flush of love however, but only when the oxytocin and vasopresin are in full flush at the beginning of a relationship. Or occasionally when it is very very cold.

So, here we have it: a whole panoply of interpersonal signals from mild or insincere affection through to emotional support to true love, hints of lustful intention and sheer lechery.
But through all of these is the shared expression of humanity and empathy. I think the world would be a better place if there were more hugs of any of the above types and I shall henceforth be initiating more hugs. Oh, I shall be respectable about it as befits a fellow of my age, standing and circumstances, but what better way is there to say "I too am, as you are, human, and need love too. Here is some, offered to you to affirm your position in the world and in my life".
And how much happier we all will be!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Back on the road again...

Perhaps it is the final step on the road to normality. I am sitting in the Westin Grand Hotel in Bogenhausen, Munich, eight floors up suddenly aware that what I thought were clouds on the distant horizon are actually the Alps. How suddenly they jut out of the otherwise flat land! They are some distance away so their stature is evident in the fact they are visible. Somehow their presence suddenly lends a different complexion to my stay. From being a business trip, I have a sudden tinge of "Holiday" feeling intrude momentarily as this exotic location in the distance becomes part of my landscape.
I have a headache. It's the same headache at the back of the head that I was so familiar with during my stay in hospital in March and in the following month or two. It's a strange back-of-the-head headache which was what grew to a pulsing crescendo on the dance floor that fateful night. I am not happy that it reappears, but when I asked the neurosurgeon about it, he waved away my concerns telling me it is "just a migraine". That may well be so, but it's presence still unnerves me.

But I probably deserve this headache. I did after all consume three half-litres of beer last night. About three pints: Not an amount I would normally associate with a hangover. But these are not normal times. Beer allows the confusion. I expect to be mildly confused after beer. It's a pleasant, familiar confusion that males all other recent experiences of confusion seem comfortable and unthreatening. But I wish it didn't give me that particular headache.

I was concerned about how I would cope on this trip. I am still somewhat vague where information is concerned and I get tired between my temples when two conversations are present in my field of hearing. Usually this requires me to go and have a lie down but I have been sufficing with escaping to somewhere quieter and breathing deeply. It works up to a point.

So, I managed the driving, the chaos of Heathrow and Munich airports. Getting to the hotel was easy and my presentation went quite well to a roomful of attentive people. I heard my own faltering voice explaining things and realised that I am not quite "there" yet, but given how I felt even two months ago, i am astonished to be back in circulation.

It's hard to work out what it all means. Oh, I m not one for undue symbolism, but I feel different. I saunter through the airport terminals feeling that I have had an experience that renders the petty tribulations of everyday travel somehow far less significant. It feels like a freedom to accept (or reject) expectations on my own terms. I feel I can just walk up to people with a smile and say "Hello! I am Pete. Who are you? What's that you are doing? Will you be my friend" because a whole new frontier of existence has been reached and in it, I am innocent and ignorant of convention: Many older conventions seem redundant now.
I said it was hard to explain.

But here I am, back in Germany, doing what I always did and this seems both familiar but new. I don't really know what to make of it all. I am sure it will all fall into place at some point.
But for now, my grumbling tum bids me head down for breakfast.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Going back Somewhere

Hi. I haven't written anything for a while. Sometimes the mind languishes in the mental doldrums where inspiration is totally absent for long periods. I thought this was just me, but I read some comments elsewhere that lead me to think it is cyclic and that other people are currently experiencing the same thing.
So I decided to drag myself out of the stupor and see if my fingers might loosen up and assist my brain in doing the same. Well, we'll judge how well that went later, perhaps.

Last week, we went on holiday. Holidays are a difficult conundrum currently. Once, little ones ere content to sit on a beach, even unseasonal weather, and dig holes in the sand all day; making sandcastles and damming up those little streams one always finds on beaches.
Now at 19 and 17, requirements are different and finding something we all might like is pretty much impossible. So, we booked a house in Portland and threw the invitation out to our offspring, who enthusiastically accepted.

I didn't feel able to cope with anything more exotic than Weymouth. My mental stamina is almost back to what it was, but I confess, my brain is not (yet?) what it was before recent events took their toll. I feel less clever than before and have less clarity of thought when complex information needs interpreting. So a quiet week in Dorset with no intellectual demands was just the tonic I needed.
There were some places I wanted to visit, specifically too.
In 1969, my father got his two children up early. Then Mum, dad and kids, stopping only to bundle grandparents into the old banger that tenuously maintained reliable motive power, all headed noisily to Durdledoor on the Dorset coast. I don't why he chose that spot. He isn't here to ask now.

I remember it was early, even by the standards of a four year old who was always up with the dawn. It was, to my now responsible eye, brave of my father to to think we might travel all that distance in a car of such unreliability with kids and parents. The roads are winding and hilly and I am amazed the car managed the journey without dying in a cloud of smoke and steam. Perhaps, my father, a mere twenty two years old at that time, had the confidence and optimism of youth on his side. But a Morris Oxford that had seen much better days was a worthy chariot as far as we were all concerned, even if the rear footwells were always full of water on rainy days, slopping from one side to the other as we went around corners so we had to keep our feet on the dog-eared leather seats from which the springs protruded.

But it got us there, and on a warm summer morning in August 1969, we found ourselves hopping barefoot over the sharp pebbles of this beautiful beach, a magical feeling I can recall to this day.
My dad had recently got his HGV licence and, as was his wont, had purloined several lorry inner tubes. Inflated, they were tremendous fun to mess about on in the sea. I still remember my grandfather's bum poking up through the hole in the middle after a particularly spirited wave caused him to capsize. A good day was had by all and in the warm familial glow of children oblivious to political undercurrents, we nodded off on the grandparents as we made the 100 mile journey home.

So, last week, being somewhat near to Durdledoor, I decided I had to see the place again. Forty years later, I stood by its iconic arch looking out at the steeply shelving sea, and I tried to connect to the small boy who had sat, examining each rock hopefully for fossils and being disappointed not to find any.
But he wasn't there. His tracks had been obscured.

My hope had been that I would somehow be transported back to the place and the time, with all the associated memories and feelings flooding back. I had thought the sight of the arch, the beach, the cliffs would cause the sudden confluence of memories overlaid upon the sight before me, coming into focus like a picture you might see on one of those victorian stereoscopes one requires sort-of-binoculars to view.
But I wasn't transported. I remember I was there. But I don't remember being there.
I confess, I was disappointed. There was no leaping-to-mind at the prompting of the scenery of memories; what we ate, what we did that day or my grandfather's face (though the aforementioned upturned arse in a truck inner tube is still visible in my mind's eye, which is some consolation, I suppose).

But the scenery was still stunning and the weather held. So, I gazed through the arch at a small boat sailing by - the epitome of freedom somehow as one stands by a shore looking out into an element which is not our own.
Then I returned to the present day and suggested we find somewhere for lunch. Nostalgia is all very well, but apetite usually prevails.


Friday, 1 June 2012

Looking for Realisations

At the risk of seeming self-indulgent (and is blogging generally not a self-indulgent passtime anyway?), I am adding an update with regards to my cognitive state subsequent to events of twelve-weeks-ago-tomorrow.
Recovery, physically, is complete. I can cycle, dance, run, do anything I could before from a physical perspective. (But not drive yet as the medical panel of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority needs to get together and talk about me to be sure I am safe before they allow me to drive again).

Given that many sub-arachnoid haemorrage sufferers are permanently affected (i.e. estimates vary but about 50% die immediately, 20% more in the next couple of days and a significant proportion never fully recover their original cognitive function) I am blessed to come out of it generally unscathed. I suppose on the spectrum of SAHs, mine was at the very-less-severe end, for which I am immensely grateful.

It is in fact, in its way, quite fascinating to observe the modularity of the brain's function. A small impairment in the functioning of the left pre-frontal cortex correlates with an inability to direct one's attention. It also seems to cause problems making decisions. Similarly, it affects motivation and I find myself sitting for long periods just thinking, unable to rouse msyelf to any form of action, even for activities I enjoy.
But most of all, and this causes immense fatigue, any noise or distraction, especially conversation in the immediate vacinity, prevents concentration and brings about a feeling of confusion and distress which subsequently makes me sleep for a couple of hours.
I am told that this will persist for six to twelve months after the initial occurrence. Impatience grows....

Whilst it is annoying not to have full function of my brain, I find the tendency to distraction actually quite liberating. I can daydream and blame it on my "condition". And I do seem to have become significantly more prone to daydreaming, an activity which in recent years  I lamented the absence of.

But what I really wanted to "throw out there" was an attitude I find myself holding that I feel quite guilty for.
Often, when people ask how I am, I try to explain as succinctly and accurately as I can what progress has been made and to outline the residual effects as described above. Now, I have to stress that without exception, everyone has been absolutely lovely these past 12 weeks or so.
But so often, people will say, in an obviously well-meant attempt to imply a sense of normality: "Oh, well, I feel like that all the time!" or "Now you know how the rest of us feel!" (a comment which has an implied compliment in it which makes me cringe with embarrassment)
And guiltily, I suddenly feel incredibly irritated by these responses. Is that wrong? Am I being ungracious?
Oh, the implications and intentions are good. But I am frustrated by the fact my brain cannot do what it used to (albeit temporarily). To be told, jokingly, that this is normal operation for some people, which undoubtedly is not really the case, does not help. Or is that just me being curmudgeonly?

So, twelve eventful weeks have passed. The unbelievable pain, the headaches, the immobility and permanent confusion at the World, have all passed into indistinct memory now. What remains is feeling that something should be learned from events. I just don't know what. To my chagrin, no unavoidable and profound "carpe diem!" revelations leap out to change my world view or provide resolve to "ignore the irrelevent niggles". To derive significance from the experience, I would have to go looking for it and possibly conjure something up from clich├ęs and accepted wisdom.
My attitude remains, it seems, disappointingly unchanged by my experience.

But if anything does stand out, it is this: People have been lovely. As I resume the activities of normal life, shopping, going to the gym, going to work a few hours a week, I am struck by the immense compassion of people. There have been so many who I either bump into or who actively seek me out who tell me, with genuine concern, how shocked they were to hear about what happened and how pleased they are to see me back in circulation. So many people, people I didn't even know were aware of my existence, have come to find me at my desk and expressed the loveliest thoughts and wishes and I am genuinely humbled by their kindness. Some even brought cake!
So, perhaps I take that from it: That I have more friends than I thought and that more people care about me, and hold me in high regard, than I had realised. I guess, up to now, I must have done something right.

So, and I hope this does not sound too trite, maybe, in return, I will show a little more consideration for others, as I and my family have been shown these last few months.