Life in the Real Desert: Close to Death

Buzzard in desert,
It is safe to say that my day got off to a bad start. The old prospector next door, with his eight noisy mongrels, woke me up when two of the animals began barking at just before 6 a.m. Despite best attempts to head back to the Land of Nod (I was tired as sleep in the night was interrupted by an idiot who was trying to start an engine with no muffler, aka exhaust pipe, attached to it from 23:30 to 00:30, that is half 11 pm to half gone midnight for those who have difficulty with the 24 hour clock) I was unsuccessful, it was too light and I was too annoyed. On top of that it was blooming hot and once awake, both at night and in the morning, sleep was, in the former instance a long time coming and in the latter, not approachable at all.

To exacerbate the poor start to my day, literally yards from my desert dwelling, an elderly neighbour came within a cat’s whisker of knocking me and my bike right off the road. Completely oblivious, at least I hope he was and that this was not a deliberate attempt to help me meet my maker, the sod never slowed down, although to be fair he was not travelling that fast, nor did he acknowledge my shouts of fury and my, very, rude gestures. As my adrenaline surged, I found myself making obscene remarks about his lineage and accusing him of self masturbation, in other words of being a wanker. Had I thought of it, I would have grabbed a rock and sincerely tried to hit the windscreen on the back of his Chevy pickup truck.

I am, it is safe to say, still furious. I still have the huge bump and bruising on my right leg from the other unconscious prat who knocked me off the car park surface, aka parking lot, at Love’s Truck Stop. *A place I have avoided like the plague since that little incident in March.* After my close brush with yet another attempt on my life, I was paranoid about every vehicle that passed me.

I realize that many of my fellow desert dwellers are, as stated in the title, close to death. Failing skill sets, a lack of cohesive attention to tasks at hand, failing health and, in some cases, just a bad attitude full stop, do not make these folks the best of neighbours.

Needless to say, blogging while angry is not a good idea, but, like the Incredible Hulk, sans the green and the increased size, my rage has been running on high since this idiot almost hit me with his bloody truck. All the way to the public library, titles for my first blog post scampered across my imaginary laptop screen, the one in my head, each more annoyed and insulting than the last.

Title’s like, “Rednecks Never Die, They Just Move to Quartzsite,” was the least offensive of the lot. The thing that calmed me down was the continual attempt to rework the old mot, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed Jack is king.” This last internal dialogue, where I kept trying to substitute several annoyed phrases in place of blind, finally allowed the worst of my vitriol to dissipate.

Not completely though.

Just enough to stop the “Hulk smash” urge.

The problem is not just living amongst folks who are closer to death than I am, at least in terms of age. With an existing hole, apparently still in my aortic arch and damage to veins and arteries, as well as in one kidney, I may pop off more quickly than they will. With the exception of a dear new neighbour who has only a short time to live, and this lovely chap will be sorely missed by all who know him, the rest of the population in the neighborhood are a mixed bag who may all outlive me, especially if they persist in trying to kill me with their effing motor vehicles and that is where the problem lies.

These inept drivers may be quite nice away from their cars, trucks, vans and ATVs, although others seem to have the type of bad attitude that brings out the worst in me. If I can keep from becoming road statistic, I will remain tickled to death to have survived my further close brushes with the grim reaper.

Hopefully writing this rant out on a hot and dry day in the desert will help my anger and annoyance to abate further. If not my next update may come from behind bars and not, I hasten to add, the kind that serve drinks.

1 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Living in the Real Desert: Nightlife

Desert Mountain

Since being here in this popular desert oasis near the Arizona/California border, I’ve observed many things. For instance, my smartphone’s 4G from Wal-Mart’s T-Mobile does not work out in the desert, or in town for that matter. It is annoying enough that neither company will be getting any more business from this 50-something customer.

Since living in the real desert, I’ve been caught out, so to speak, several times and wound up walking, or biking, back from town after dark. This habit has provided a great look at the local nightlife. As mentioned in an earlier article about this haven for the aged, one local denizen reported coming face to face with a mountain lion in their front yard. Luckily, I’ve not come into contact with this feline. Yet.

I’ve seen the tracks across the hardpan desert floor and saw more again this evening in my trip through the dusk back to the RV. The paw marks of this beast are huge. At one point the tracks showed the creature had run after something, probably one of the jackrabbits that bound through the cactus and sagebrush.

While walking to and from the town, I’ve seen a surprisingly large amount of jackrabbits, a few smaller longer eared types of bunny (this evening at dusk), a doe (the night before last actually) and something yellow, small and faster than a speeding bullet (the same night).

Getting a late start back to my temporary home, I walked the long way along the road rather than taking my “shortcut” across the desert. Remembering those mountain lion tracks made me err to the side of caution. About a quarter mile from the turn-off to the small community where the RV is located, a small deer came right up to the opposite side of the road from where I was walking.

The distance between the creature and myself could have been no more than 15 to 20 feet as it started to cross to my side of the desert. I lit her up with my small shotgun shell LED torch and seconds later a car came up and stopped. All three participants in this little tableau froze.

After a frozen second or two, the deer turned and disappeared into the darkness and the car reversed a little; looking for the animal presumably and then both the vehicle and I moved on. The doe was nowhere to be seen so she obviously changed her mind about crossing the suddenly crowded road.

Desert Road

No other living wild thing was seen until reaching the desert community where I am currently staying. Three streets away from “home,” I saw a streak of yellow shoot across the road with a burst of speed that would have turned Speedy Gonzalez green with envy.

Despite this lightening-like dash into the desert, the small creature was slow enough that a few details stood out. Its color, for one thing, and that it was covered in fur another. It had a small head so the first thing I thought was, “Weasel?”

This was immediately followed by, “What the hell does a weasel look like?” I honestly could not remember. For all I knew, that could have been a baby coyote or some other small creature. It seemed to be around 18 to 20 inches long…maybe. One thing for certain, at night all creatures look bigger, in the desert, in the dark.

Nearing the RV while pondering the recent animals sighted around the local area I thought of how tickled I’d been in England when I spied a hedgehog (my favorite small wild creature) or a wild fox. When driving for the East Anglian Times back in the 1990s there were a huge group of foxes that ran around Colchester Park on the Essex paper run. Sadly there were always a few dead ones on the side of the road, the price paid by the group for getting too close to civilization.

Hedgehogs were also seen quite a lot and not just on the Essex run. One foggy morning, around 0200, while unloading bundles of papers at a newsagents, a packet of crisps (potato chips) was spotted floating above the ground by three or four inches.

This odd sight was not caused by wind and the packet did not appear to be blown by anything. Instead, it was jerking forward and then backward before floating forward again. The chap who was teaching me the Felixstowe run reached down and snatched at the floating crisp packet. A baby hedgehog came flying along with the plastic bag. The little creature had gotten its head stuck in the thing and was walking along while trying to dislodge it.

I was thinking of both these separate incidents and briefly remembered that one thing that was not an issue in the United Kingdom was rabies. Mainly due to the country’s strict quarantine laws there has not been an outbreak for what seems a millennia. The second I had this thought, about rabies, I broke out in goose flesh.

What in the hell was I doing marching along after dark in a country where rabies was not banished from memory? What if that streaking yellow thing had been heading towards me and not across the road in front of me? Could I have reacted in time to keep a rabid animal from nom-nomming on part of my body?

Rabid rabbit image...

Having been to the ER (emergency room) and then later the hospital for a heart attack, with the end result being two emergency surgeries, I’ve had injections in my stomach. I can personally attest to the fact that these are not fun, but better than the alternative. The fact that rabies used to be treated by receiving a shed-load of injections in the navel means the shots must be pure agony.

As I’ve mentioned before, the stars in the desert seem to be just out of arms reach. The dark desert sky is full of these celestial sparks of memory. The desert itself is  full of animals that, despite the profusion of people who have flocked to the desert for the season, call this area home. Living abroad for so long, and in a country where there are more people than open spaces, helped me to forget that America is full of wild areas where civilization is just an illusion waiting to be shattered.

22 January 2015

Remembering a Year Ago Today

3319809-coffee-and-cigarettes-isolated-on-white

My body remembered, even if I did not. While setting up my calendar for appointments next week, I forgot to set the calendar back that resides on the front of my fridge. Being naturally scatty sometimes (Sometimes? I hear you cry. Only sometimes?) I glanced at it on Thursday and decided that today, Friday, was the 27th.

I decided to do yet another blog post on my 30 August experience on the actual day. I even had a title for it. Anatomy of a Heart Attack. Catchy, no?

But even though my conscious mind had made the anniversary date two days in the future, my body did not. I actually called it an early-ish night. Stopping at around 03:30 in the morning. I finished up some projects that I was “multi-tasking,” or attempting to. I shut everything down; locked the downstairs windows; double-checked the doors and took myself, the iPad and the fan upstairs.

After checking all the windows upstairs, I then went to bed.

I was tired.  I had walked over five miles yesterday at varying paces and had written five articles. Feeling both body and brain tired, I started that pleasant drifting off feeling that usually preempts my entry into the land of Nod.

Suddenly, at around 05;45,  my stomach decided to swell and cramp with a combination of indigestion and gas. The end result was up and down to the bathroom the remainder of the early hours of the morning. I finally gave up trying to sleep and went downstairs. Turning on both laptops, I then went to make a coffee and start writing.

After the coffee had been sorted, I sat in front of my MacBookPro and signed in. The first thing I noticed was the date: 30 August 2013.

I suddenly got very tired and shut everything down again. I left the coffee and went back upstairs. It was 07:45, the exact time that I woke up last year on the 30th and went downstairs to wait for the electric chap to come fit a new meter.

I lay back down and drifted off to sleep around 08:30, waking up about one-ish. Fully awake now I went back down to make another coffee, make breakfast and remember last August when I almost died.

Twice.

As I said before, I’d set my alarm for 07:45. The electric guy was coming around between eight and a twelve to hook up the meter. I went downstairs in a pair of sweat pants and put the kettle on for a cup of coffee. While it boiled, I turned on my old laptop to check my emails and my blog. A few days previously I’d been Freshly Pressed and I wanted to see how many views my post was getting and to answer any comments.

Once I made my coffee, I lit my first cigarette of the day and stood in the back garden drinking coffee and smoking. I then went inside and sat in front of the laptop. As I reached for the keyboard I experienced pain in both of my hands. The best way to describe the pain is to liken it to how your hands, and arms, feel after doing a particularly heavy session with weights. Like when you’ve really crunched out a set of arm curls.

Your arm muscles and hands feel like they are going to explode. If you look at them after the set, they look bigger because they’re full of blood. My hands felt like that, but worse. It was incredibly painful. I sat looking at my hands as I opened and closed them. Making a fist and then releasing, like that would help the pain go away.

I stood up and walked out to the back garden and lit another cigarette.  While I pondered this pain, I finished my coffee and the second smoke and went inside to boil the kettle again. I had an earache in both ears and thought that I might be getting a sinus infection.

Second cup of coffee made and back down in front of the laptop. Reaching again for the keyboard  the pain returned, this time not just in my hands but in my forearms as well. The pain has cranked up a few notches. I went back out to the  garden, coffee in hands that felt like they were going to explode, along with my forearms. Lighting my third cigarette. I decided to “wait out” the pain.

In my mind, the entire time,  I was  thinking I had done something like pinched a nerve or  somehow strained muscles  and that this would  pass.

I finished my second coffee and checked my cell phone, I’d gotten a text from the electric guy. While going to make my third and final coffee, the pain came back. This time it is in both arms and spreading towards my chest and back.

I stand there in agony and wonder, “what the hell is going on?” I’d had my arteries and heart checked out a year or so before and everything was “normal.” So I’m thinking, “It cannot be my heart…So what the hell is it?” The earache has returned and I’m having trouble thinking.

I then realise that I must be having a heart attack, or something very close to it. The pain was now so bad that I cannot stand. I crawled up the stairs to my daughter’s bedroom and knock the door open with my forehead.

She sits up in bed, eyes wide and startled.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m, I think I’m having a heart attack. Call 999 and tell them to get here.”

She grabs her cell phone and calls. She talks to them calmly, only a slight tremor surfacing in her voice. She turns to me and asks what are your symptoms? I try to explain and offer to take the phone.

The emergency operator, says no, sit down somewhere and wait for the ambulance.

I went into my room and got dressed in my summer trousers, after putting on underwear as I had not been wearing any, (my grandmother would have been proud as they were a freshly cleaned pair)  and put on socks, shoes, and a shirt. I got my wallet and went back down the stairs by sliding my ass down over each step till I got to the bottom.

I unlocked the front door and went to  sit on an armchair.

45-0605b-ambulance

The ambulance arrived and the two paramedics came in. By that time, I was sitting   on the floor as I felt like I could pass out. I was not that lucky. The pain was increasing steadily and I have never felt pain like it. Sweat was pouring out of me like some kind of comedy skit with freshets of the stuff spurting out of my pores.

One of the paramedics asked me if I could sit in the chair. Out of breath I answered no. He stopped, confused, “Does it hurt you to sit in the chair””

I replied, “No, but it’s a lot further to the floor from the chair if I pass out.”

He nodded and  started trying to attach the sticky pads to me to get an EKG or EEG or whatever they call it. I was sweating so profusely that the pads would not stick. They could not get a reading.

Everything became a blur. My world had shrunk to just me and the pain and the sweat. I concentrated on trying to make the pain go away. At no time did I not believe that they wouldn’t  have something in their ambulance that would give me relief.

They did not.

On the way to the local hospital, they give me shots of morphine and “spritz” nitro-glycerine under my tongue. Nothing helps. My daughter watches me with eyes the size of Texas.

We get to the hospital with sirens wailing, that to me, sound very far away. We get there and I’m carried quickly into the emergency room. A lady doctor comes over and after what seems like hours, the sweat drys sufficiently to get the pads to stick. I’m asked to “breathe normally.” I want to laugh at that, but I’m in too much pain to do more than snort.

They get their reading and ask if I’d rather go to Papworth Hospital at Cambridge, an hour and a half away, or Basildon. I don’t care either way and the decision comes down to lack of bed spaces at Cambridge; so it’s off to Basildon.

I find out later that the drive should have taken over an hour and twenty minutes. We got there in 45 minutes. Meg, my daughter, told me that they drove through the thunderstorm from hell. Sirens screaming as they swerved around traffic. On the way, they gave me some sort of gas.

It was magic. Unlike the morphine or the nitro-glycerine, this stuff makes the pain bearable. So bearable that I am able to breathe somewhat normally and the sweat begins to dry up. When we arrive at the hospital, I ask everyone if I can have some more of that magic gas.

The rest you already know. How close I was to dying. The emergency stents and then stopping everything bringing me back to consciousness and the emergency aortic dissection aka bi-pass.

My sleepless night in the wee hours of the day I had my heart attack a year ago, because of  my “stomach ailment” must have been some sort of “carry-over” from that event. Even though, in my mind, I thought Sunday was the 30th.

Funny how the mind and the body remember things that we’ve chosen to forget, or have forgotten to remember. I hold my hand over my heart (pun intended) and promise that this is the last time, for a very long time, that I’ll be writing about my “life changing” experience.

I decided to chronicle the day’s events as I remembered them. I will point out that I  did relate it in time slots. The time I got up and the time I got the text are imprinted in my memory. I do know that by the time we got to the first local hospital, it was almost four  hours, if not  more, from when I first started having my symptoms.  I also believe that I’ve left a cigarette out…Like I said, it was sort of a blur.

I’ve written the account in both past and present tenses. It seemed appropriate to help get the confusion across that I felt on the day.  I would also like to point out that, at no time did I think of the possibility of dying.  It never entered my head. There were no moments of praying for God, or whoever, to make it all stop or to “spare” me. I just “knew” that the doctors would help me.

And they did.

Michael SmithPhoto on 30-08-2013 at 13.50 #2

United Kingdom

30 August 2013

Living Alone after a Lifetime Living with Others

most-beautiful-small-islands

Writing the other day of my thoughts on mortality and the avoidance of becoming consumed by the fear of death in the wee hours of the morning, I got a comment from my good friend Tash over at Films and Things. She mentioned that when she was younger she had the irrational fear that she would die old and alone. I could relate.

For years I suffered the same fear. In fact it was this fear that lead me to leap into my second marriage; an act similar to jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Despite the fact that I was drawn to the young lady in question, and she was young at a staggering seven years my junior, I should not have been thinking in matrimonial terms at all. I’d only just met her.

But in those days, it was unusual for me to not be thinking with my smaller more hormonally driven brain and the fact that I wanted to just talk to the girl put her in a special ranking. I thought, in my infinite wisdom, that this meant she was special. Special enough to marry. Which I did.

Now many years later, I am living my younger self’s nightmare. I am old-er and living alone. Well and truly the master of all I survey and answerable to no-one except my creditors and the taxman. Amazingly, I am happier than ever before in my life. The young me’s fear of being all alone and dying alone never rears its ugly head. Except in wee hours as I mentioned in my last post.  We all die alone, whether surrounded by loved ones or not. Death is meant to be lonely, it is our own journey that has to be taken in solo status. We can invite no one else to accompany us on this final trip. Hence, we die alone.

But this post is not about dying, sorry to have strayed off the path there. I am back now and moving on to less morbid musings. The post is about living alone after a lifetime of living with others and just how much my life has changed.

The realisation came to me yesterday as I struggled to find enough clothes to make it worth my while to wash one of my summer uniforms (said uniform, donned  the second the sun comes out consists of my speedo shorts and what ever shirt I first grab in the morning); after wandering through the house and realising that all I could add was the two kitchen towels, I realised that this was another symptom of living alone.

On the same day  (busy day yesterday) I filled the kitchen sink with about nine small bits of dishes and cutlery to do the washing up. Another “symptom” of being a loner at home. Probably a bit wasteful of water, but I really cannot stand seeing washing up staggering about the otherwise clean kitchen. One of the things that my long second marriage instilled in me.

Image created by Sarah Danaher with a Canon EOS 5D MkII

But those two similar acts got me thinking. I am now truly alone. I have no one to work around, move around, stumble around. My daughter moved out earlier in the year to share a flat with her boyfriend, a lovely chap that I keep referring to as my “almost son-in-law,” and I have, since that time grown accustomed to being a solo act.

It has been a learning experience this living alone. I have learned how to “downsize” my weekly shop for groceries. That particular task took ages. The amount of times that I had to throw out food that had gone off makes me cringe. Learning to schedule my house cleaning chores by levels. *Said levels are made up of dust accumulation and floors of the house.*  Struggling to make the time to cook my meals so that I do not live on the unhealthy option of constant take-a-way.  That one is the most difficult.

I said to my boss just the other day that I wanted to earn enough money at the paper to pay for a cook and housekeeper…oh and to pay all my outstanding bills of course. I could stand someone coming in occasionally to clean the house and to cook me my healthy heart meals. Even, perhaps, to buy me the groceries needed to set up my meals. I add this last part as I consume my late breakfast of strawberries with unrefined sugar that I threw together since the fruit was  due to go off today.

I love living alone. The freedom it gives me is heady. If I want to walk through my house all day in my birthday suit I can – sorry if that dredges up unwelcome images, if it makes you feel any better, I have not succumbed to that particular temptation just yet.  If I want to hoover (vacuum for those of you in America) my house at nine o’clock at night I can.  These two examples of my freedom are not indicative of everything I love about being gloriously selfish for the first time in my life, but they’ll do for right now.

I am not yearning for physical contact with anyone, be they of the opposite or same sex. I don’t miss hugs or caresses or the other messier types of physical demonstrations of affection/love.  A fact that I was shocked to discover.  I have always been a very tactile person. Sex, to me, was the most fun I’d ever had that did not cost me huge amounts of money. It was also the way I could show, in a physical sense, just how much I cared for the person I was with.

When I was younger, sex was a very important part of my “big game plan” it was something that I knew with utmost certainty that I could not live without.

Right.

Turns out that, like so many things I thought I knew when I was younger, I was wrong. I have written about my feelings about “grown up” love and attraction before. I think the reason that I do not miss the physical act is because the age of my potential playmates match my own. My girlfriends, wives, lovers were always much younger than me, not indecently so, but around the three to seven year mark. There were two exceptions to that rule and both were wonderful experiences.

My circumstances may change in that area, but I do not think so. I have no time for the intrusiveness of a proper relationship and all its incumbent baggage. I write full time for the paper and on my blog whenever I can.  I do my healthy heart walks daily, if at all possible, and write. It is difficult to find the time to clean the blooming house! I certainly do not have the time required to “cultivate” a relationship and like I’ve said before, I may have wrinkles but I don’t find them attractive in potential “mates,” And yes I am aware of how shallow that makes me sound.

But I can say with  certainty that I do love living alone after a lifetime of living with others. I am comfortable with my own company and do not feel the need to find another person to make me complete. I have come to the realisation that, in terms of living space, I am happier flying solo. Besides as my list of friends and colleagues continues to grow, I am never truly lonely.

Michael Smith

Cheers!
Cheers!

United Kingdom

27 August 2013

Happy Heart Attack Anniversary…Almost

English: Skull and crossbones
English: Skull and crossbones (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As it gets closer to the one year anniversary of my heart attack and near-death experience, I find myself  in that state of cautious anticipation at night before sleep. The one where any little twinge in the chest or forearms – it was agonising pain in my forearms and hands that presaged my heart attack – and I will lie awake for hours waiting to see if I am going to have a revisitation to the most pain I’ve ever felt in my life.

Another anniversary date is also approaching, it has almost been a year since my blog was Freshly Pressed. An event that occurred just four days before my heart attack. Interestingly enough, that anniversary has none of the wariness and fear that the other one has.

I was lucky in a sense that after my two emergency surgeries – that for the record, kicked my ass – I was in such an exhausted and doped up state that I had no problem sleeping. I was so messed up that I found that one night I had squashed a good sized spider to death by apparently rolling over it. When I found the poor critter’s carcass the next morning my only reaction was to dispose of its body.

The first few months of my recuperation are a blur of pain from a lower back injury sustained at my previous job as a prison officer and the subsequent steroidal injections just a week before the heart attack that made the pain worse instead of alleviating it.  Shambling to the bus stop that is only a 20 second walk from my front door, stopping no less than seven times, heart pounding and head swimming from the pain.

The slow process of increasing my walking distance each day and feeling like I had a sign on my back that said,  “Mug Me I am Helpless.”  During that time period I was given an early retirement from my job with Her Majesty’s Prison Service and was in financial dire straits. It was not a great time, but apart from the stresses from my life changing event, I was shocked to find out just how close to death I’d actually been.

I had come to grips with that a little while back. I was sleeping like a baby at night and had increased my “usual” sleeping time from four hours a night to eight and over. It is only recently that I have had problems dropping off and fighting the panic that these unknown twinges evoke.

In my old job, the mental health folks who dealt with the prisoners (aka psychiatric types) used to talk about triggers and anniversary dates as being a normal thing for people to experience and in-turn, these two things affected how people reacted to things. While not a prisoner, I’m finding myself back to the time when the terror of an unknown pain could keep me up for hours.

This trigger will pass, just as surely as the anniversary of my heart attack will come and then go.  While time rushes on in the greater scheme of things, the minutiae of our lives trudges along with all the intensity of a turtle trudging resolutely against that fast footed rabbit that is our life. I, like many others have to fight against that irrational fear of the grim reaper calling again so soon.

For as resilient as the human body is, like the old Timex adverts it can take a licking and keep on ticking, we all have a limited warranty in the area of the body’s  almost magical ability to heal itself. As we get older, besides the obligatory aches and pains that increased age brings about, the parts of our machine get worn, old defects that we never noticed before suddenly leap to the forefront screaming, “Look at me!”

As we all reach that age where our mortality is shoved, sometimes brutally, in our face we have to accept that, like everyone else in the world, we owe a death. It is a debt that we all must pay, as Katherine Hepburn used to say, “Of course life is hard, it kills you.” But I have not yet reached the age where I can look back over my life and say, “I’m okay with dying right now, I’ve lead a good life and won’t complain when it is time to pay my dues for a life lived.”

I do not think that such an age exists for the average person. I believe that none of us are ready to shuffle off this mortal coil. Most people fight the grim reaper with whatever strength they have left. Some, who have been in pain for so long that they welcome it, are of a different ilk. Suffering for any amount of time is tiring and soul destroying. I thank God, or whoever is in charge, that I have not had unbelievable pain for longer than the 5 hours  or so that I was conscious before my heart surgery.

I admit that it is only at night, in the quiet hours, that I’ve had a revisitation of the alarm that came once I’d gotten out of my exhausted stage of post surgery. The daytime is full of more things to do than I have time for and that is a blessing. This anniversary heart attack trigger, my almost one year anniversary, will pass soon enough. Until then, I’ll lay in bed at night listening to my body and sweating every time something feels “wrong” in the areas that my body remembers from the heart attack.   During the day, I’ll keep writing the articles for the paper, doing posts for my blog and trying to fit everything else in around the two.

Happy heart attack ‘almost’ anniversary to me.

Thumbs up!
Still here and damned glad! Self-photo

Michael Smith

United kingdom

22 August, 2013

1000 Posts! Blimey, That Was Quick

The Muppet Christmas Carol
The Muppet Christmas Carol (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was literally a few days ago that I looked down and saw that I was at least thirty some odd posts from hitting a 1000, I look down this morning and I see that I’ve now hit 1002! Of course it looks more impressive than it really is. But the first thought that jumped  immediately into my head was, ‘Blimey, that was quick.”

There will be those of you who read that last sentence and think, where does an American pick up the word blimey from and why would it be his first thought? Sure he lives in England, but he’s just being cute, or thinks he is.

Muppet.

Well, I have my late mother-in-law to thank for that. She didn’t use the word a lot, but enough for my magpie mind to grasp hold of and  still not let go. Even years after her death and the end of my marriage to her “step-daughter” when anything surprises me, it is the first word out of my mouth, or in this case brain.

I guess I should explain the ‘muppet.’

For over ten years, I workd in Her Majesty’s Prison Service. Working in the volatile environment that was the Juvenile prison estate. I started as an OSG, which stands for operational support grade, I only had contact with the “little darlings” via the library where I worked as one of my OSG duties. [the little darlings, were murderers, rapists, and other  creatures from the ages of 15 to 18, one day when I’m allowed, I will write about my time “behind bars.”]

The pay for OSG was, and still is, Draconian in its meanness. In order to pay off all your bills and feed your family, overtime was a fact of life. I made the switch over to Prison Officer as quickly as possible. The pay was better and, if anything, the job more interesting and definitely adrenaline inducing.

Although, future Governor’s of the prison that I worked in would change it, the vernacular of a juvenile prison officer was sprinkled with sayings and “nicknames” for the criminal youngsters we dealt with. All of these were incredibly funny and never meant maliciously. The lads we watched over usually used these same terms that someone had invented on or to each other.

I loved it.

It allowed the staff and the lads to have a chuckle and although I’ve only mentioned a few of the terms, they were a part of everyday life inside. But to explain the terms I’ll start with muppet.

A “muppet” was a lad who just didn’t get it. Not a fuzzy cute puppet with a hand up his/her backside. Someone who was a tad, thick and who had  no common sense.

You would often hear a lad being told off for breaking a rule, followed by the phrase, “Ya Muppet!”

Another favourite was, Fraggle. For those of you too old, or conversely, too young to remember them, Fraggle’s lived in Fraggle Rock and they were idiotic and, in our opinion, slightly mad creatures who just did not have a clue, worse than a muppet by far. The main characteristic of the prison Fraggle was their propensity to hover around one, or sometimes more, prison officer rather than mingle with the other lads.

When a prison officer found himself surrounded by a small group of Fraggles, he was known as the Fraggle Magnet for that day.

There were other words used to signify a lack of smarts or common sense, Numpty was another one. “Ya Numpty'” still erupts out of my mouth unbidden, much like blimey, because it’s another word that I fell in love with and my brain immediately latched onto. I have no idea where that particular word originated. But it too was a favourite.

Blimey! I’ve just noticed that I’ve written well over 500 words and only a few of them are actually about the 1000 posts and how quickly it got here!

What a muppet!

I do have to say that having that many blog posts isn’t all that impressive. Of late, I’ve been providing a lot of links to articles I’ve written for the paper I work for, which is about the laziest thing I can think of. But I am proud of what I’ve written for my guys and gals over at the Guardian Express and I want to share.

It is still writing, which is what blogging is all about and I hope you’ve all enjoyed the links that I’ve posted. I know this little act has driven a lot more views of my little ramblings. Sure it’s a little disheartening to realise that the most popular link post so far seems to be the one dealing with Kate Upton‘s nudity, but hey, you have to share.

I do try to share all my links with you, the lovely folks who follow, like, comment and, most importantly, make no demands of me or my little blog. So I have to say, I’m pleased that I’ve managed to hit over a 1000 posts, even if it was by re-blogging and linking a lot the last couple of months.

But I’ll still say thanks to you guys and gals for reading and putting up with my diminished in the area of  “purposefully” written input and my horrid lack of visiting anyone else’s blog’s at the moment. I’m still working on a schedule of my day that allows it. I won’t go into all the things that one has to do when living alone, I’m sure most of you don’t need me to point out all the things that a couple or a family take care of get done by one lone chap.

But I do appreciate you all and I will continue to share my links and re-blogs. I am also still attempting to increase my written output and to visit you guys more often, and I will get there. I know I will.

Hey! I’m no Fraggle, ya know!

Cheers,

July 21, 2013

United Kingdom

Fraggles!
Fraggles! (Photo credit: arbyreed)

Healthy Heart Tip: Change Your Eating Habits

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As part of my daily exercise regimen, I walk around my neighbourhood. Generally I walk to my local shop and have a browse in the Charity shop next to it. Now I’ve been getting faster and faster at these walks and my back is slowly but surely getting used to them.

Today, however, my walk did not go quite the way I envisioned it.

I’ll explain.

For years now, I have not eaten breakfast when I wake up in the morning. I don’t as a rule eat “brunch” either if I’ve overslept. As I am not a cheerful early riser nor am I what could be called a “morning person” I cannot stand the idea of eating after I’ve just awakened from a deep sleep.

Which means that I usually subsist on two meals a day and the odd snack. This has always suited me right down to the ground.

Until after the heart attack.

Because my body is still “healing” itself, it’s obviously using a lot of energy to do so. This extra calorie burn is great, I’m actually thinner than I’ve been in years.  But because of this “constant” energy usage by my bodies self-generation of cells and so on, my energy level is lower than what I’ve always assumed was normal.

*And yes, I do know the saying about assume, thank you.*

This morning when I got up, after a fascinating dream about meeting Ernest Borgnine in Hot Springs Arkansas, I had my usual two cups of coffee with milk and sugar. I then did pretty much what I do every morning; I read my mail, checked my e-mail and because it’s Friday today, I did my Twitter shout-outs.

English: Ernest Borgnine at the Creative Arts ...

I then decided to have my walk early today. I threw on my “outside” clothes, got my boots and hat and went striding out the door at a fairly moderate pace.

I felt great until I reached my local shop. I had detoured by the Charity Shop (and still felt fine) and then went in to get a few things. By this time I started feeling a bit shaky. My energy level dropped below basement level and it was a struggle to collect, purchase, and bag my few items.

As i walked shakily out of the shop, I realised that I’d not had anything to eat. Obviously, the two coffees I’d gulped down earlier were not sufficient to keep me going. With a sigh of defeat, I took the bus back to my house.

After having a lovely repast of two granary rolls with ham, cucumber and coleslaw (light coleslaw I might add) and a multivitamin, my energy level began to climb back up.

While cleaning up my dishes, I realised that I was going to have to change the eating habit of a lifetime and start having three meals a day. Earlier in the week, I’d been having two crumpets in the morning and then two other small meals later in the day. At no time during the first days of the week did I feel week or shaky.

I’d already changed my diet after leaving the hospital. Cutting way back on my meat consumption, cutting out most saturated fats, eating  foods high in antioxidants, et al. But I did not change the number of times during the day that I stoke up the old energy engine.

As I’ve always managed to cope quite well with the amount of meals I’d eaten most of my adult life, I saw no need to change this particular habit. But obviously I should have.

Sitting here writing this post out, I’m still a bit tired and will probably take a short nap to allow my body to re-charge itself after my quick energy draining walk this morning.

It’s hard to remember to play by the “new” rules after you’ve had a “life changing” event. But I like to think I’m smart enough to learn from my mistakes. At least I hope I am.

I’m sure that most of you out there are smart enough to not be so “unaware” of what you need to do to keep your self healthy and well, but just in case you are, like me, a bit slow on the uptake, remember to change not just what you eat, but when and how much.

It might not make you live any longer, but it may save you the internal embarrassment of having to take the bus back on your healthy heart walk.

energy
energy (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)