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Portrait of a pigeon

Did I ever tell you about Henrietta? She was my pet pigeon back in those days when my count of years hadn’t yet reached double digits. Dad bought her from a cockney pal thinking I might benefit from a winged friend, being a change from the guinea pigs he’d previously given me and whose lives seemed to revolve almost entirely around nibbling and pooping.

I quite loved Henrietta you know. She had a bright eyed way of studying you, head cocked almost as though asking a weighty question or contemplating just who this annoying creature might be, carrying in her morning seed treat. And she had such lovely feathers, blue-greys and semi-transparent emerald greens which would shimmer in the sun.

Morning noon and night I’d be there attending to her needs and stroking her fine feathers all of which actually formed important parts of the training routine we’d been given by Henrietta’s previous owner, to pander her and make her feel at home and accustomed to the new aviary – a rebuilt and extended rabbit hutch – all of which was slowly leading up to that first day of release.

And then the day arrived and I don’t know who was more nervous between Henrietta, me and my Dad looking on. Her day of flight, of freedom, of looking back down on an unfamiliar landscape for the first time. Gingerly and with both of us trembling I gave her a last pet and a cuddle and a kiss, my Henrietta

and I lifted and released her fluttering body into the air

what a beautiful moment that was, seeing her fly, circle twice then perch on the rooftop, cock her head and peer back down

and that’s when we suddenly became aware, my Dad and I of two significant errors in judgement. You see there were a lot of pigeons where we lived, hundreds of the darned blighters in fact, roosting on the rooftops and being bossy around the bird-boxes. And although Dad had wrapped a piece of coloured tape round the tag on her leg, once up on the roof with all those other very samey looking pigeons, it was quite hard to see the tape or the tag and when she flew over to the rooftops on the opposite side of our patch some two hundred yards away you would have needed binoculars to see that tag and we had none. Of course it wasn’t just my Dad’s fault because at the just-ripe age of nine I should have been old and sensible enough to have thought of this too. It’s just that I loved my Henrietta and felt sure I’d know her in a crowd.

But then there was that second factor for which my Dad was fairly and squarely to blame. You see he didn’t know very much about pigeons and this friend he’d bought Henrietta from was no more than a ‘just friend’ and not a real friend. Which might explain why he bought me a homing pigeon without realising. In itself this wouldn’t have been such a bad thing if ‘home’ hadn’t been some five hundred miles away in her original owner’s much roomier pigeon loft.

Actually I don’t entirely blame Dad because to this day I truly believe Henrietta was captured by pigeon traffickers and condemned to a life of winged slavery. Yes it’s true she had that rather condescending way of looking at you, aloof and impatient for her seed and her water bowl to be filled but she did love me back just a little, really she did, perhaps as a flighty queen might love one of her loyal subjects?
Look, it’s as plain as day. She’d never have voluntarily and cruelly flown off like that. I mean would she?

Years later I told this story to Leaf and her family, who all roared with laughter seeing only it’s funny side. And then one day while strolling around a summer city town full of street painters, Leaf arranged a surprise.
“Go and sit in that coffee shop,” she smiled, “there’s something I just have to do.”

Twenty minutes later she came back and presented me with this.

And while we both laughed, I also longed for my Henrietta. Perhaps there are some traumas you never quite recover from?

Them aliens from outer-space

Well here I am, made it at last through the door of my own blog.

There haven’t been any updates because … well, perhaps because things haven’t been going entirely well and perhaps because I’m bit crap at writing good-humoured misery posts. Miserable misery posts are much easier but no fun to write or to read.

Probably the most significant news is … that my head has stopped working.

Oh you know what it’s like, you forget your keys, your wallet, why you went to the chemist. But how would you feel if you went to visit your Dad and found you’d forgotten his name. How about forgetting your boyfriend’s name, or him forgetting yours? Seems inconceivable, doesn’t it? What’s possibly more frustrating and dangerous, is cooking your evening meal then forgetting the oven is on. This happens about four times out of five and it’s been happening that often for the past two years. The worst part is knowing but not being able to do very much about it, other than tying a cowbell to your nose.

Then the other day I was having a shower. You don’t have to think about having a shower, do you? No of course not it’s just a routine, something you do automatically. But half way through this shower I had to stop because suddenly I’d lost track of which bits had been washed and which bits hadn’t and the whole thing became a quite frustrating puzzle which turned into a panic, and that lovely automatic routine that you don’t ever need to think about? Well it went mysteriously missing and perhaps now because I know it’s missing, it doesn’t seem to want to come back.

But there are ways to fight failing memory, at least where everyday life is concerned. You can write names down and make lists. If you habitually leave the oven on you can stop the house from blowing up by reminding yourself with a network of alarm clocks – I now have four – and forget-me-knots and of course, smoke alarms come in useful although the ordinary kind don’t seem very good at detecting gas, just burnt soup. If you regularly leave your rucksack behind in the coffee shop you can make a habit of always putting your leg through both shoulder straps, so it trips you over when you try and leave without it. I’m still working on something for umbrellas though – can’t remember how many I’ve lost, even forgetting the day and which town I might have lost them.

I know what you’re thinking, all this forgetfulness must be quite impetitive, but actually it’s a terribly selective thing. It doesn’t affect shopping (as long there’s a list), or going to the loo, or working (although if I told them, I’d get the chop), or climbing mountains. I have an internal compass that works flawlessly and I can still remember obscure things that others might forget, like ridiculously long and cryptic passwords, or how to spell supercalifragalisticexpialidocious (no I didn’t just go look it up) or the face of that waitress from café Corsica eight years ago.

But even given all that, well it is only forgetting isn’t it? And everyone forgets when they get older. (What’s that, you aren’t old yet? Well I’m real sorry to have to break the bad news like this).

What really annoying is trying to learn new things, which I’m doing not so much with work but for me, to keep myself sane. Things about Art – photography and painting, and reading too. Memory tricks aren’t so helpful when it comes to having to remember new facts, and they aren’t at all useful when your attention wanders.

Which brings me on to the much more serious part – blanking out or as I call it, watching the wallpaper although really it should be called kidnapped-by-aliens. You stop to think about something, the book you were just reading, an email you were about to write … and your head goes mysteriously blank, blank as in completely void. Actually it would be quite the most serene state of bliss if it wasn’t for a distant, almost imperceptible sense of someone … screaming. And it doesn’t seem to last long, no more than a minute but somehow the hour hand on the clock has moved all the way from 8 to 11. Which is why I think it must be the aliens, don’t you? I mean how else can one minute turn into three unexplained hours?

Oh and did I mention the mindless repetition? That’s what happens when you mix the forgetting with the extended wallpaper analysis. You fancy a cup of tea so you go through to the kitchen, but when you get there; well it’s really quite a puzzle because, hmm, “what on earth did I come in here for?”
So you go back through to artroom – internet-control-centre – library – and – missile-launchpad, er I mean comfy chair (I don’t tend to watch much TV these days), and watch the wallpaper for a while.
Then you fancy a cuppa, so you go through to the kitchen …

Now I want you to imagine, okay? Imagine being inside a time-warp, you know like being forced to watch an endless cycle of Star Trek episodes with that smiling James T. Kirk, or like Susan Sarendon being repeatedly Frank-N-Furter’d in The Rocky Horror Picture Show; and just imagine going into the kitchen like I said … then coming out … then going in … then coming out … then …

Suddenly it’s dark you look at the clock and gosh, it’s 2 a.m. You were supposed to go spend the evening with Flu Jab tonight and you haven’t even had one cup of tea! So you fret, and don’t sleep and go back to doing the time-warp again, and again.

So if you imagined all that, just like I asked and spent your whole evening on my hypothetical hamster-wheel, just how frustrated do you think you’d be by the end?

Except it’s not the end. Imagine repeating this exercise over and over while the calendar mysteriously flips, 2007 … 2008. Are you ready to jump out the eighth-floor window yet? Well actually we’re on the ground floor here but look there’s a climbing rope I could noose up, or the Gas oven’s just been neatly scrubbed.

Let’s analyse this rationally after all there must be a good reason for this forgetting and blanking. Here are the possible causes I’ve thought through so far:

actually kidnapped by brain-sucking aliens, for real;
– unexpectedly whacked on the head by a fridge falling from the sky;
– afflicted by one of countless attention deficit disorders;
– surgically lobotomised in a Bunny testing lab;
– Alzeimers. Ouch!
– Some other colourful moniker for clinical dementia;
– nervous breakdown thingie;
– or the scariest of all – this is completely normal and no-one told me about it?

Actually I discounted the last, leaving seven possibilities six of which fall within known science and four of those being at least likely but not much fun. After all where’s the romance and mystique in attention deficit or dementia? There is at least some mystery and suspense in one of those explanations; are you coming round to my way of thinking? As plain as the nose on your face, it’s them aliens from outer-space.

Actually it would be such a relief to really be aliens, pale pink men from Pluto. But the reality is that depression sets in because you think through those other possibilities then begin doubting yourself, that you could ever think in the first place, mainly because you can’t remember ever having thought anything. And this downward spiral gives birth to other worries, like whether your friendships will survive intact through all of it. I know that’s irrational because if they are friendships, there’s no reason they shouldn’t but you don’t stop worrying nevertheless.

So perhaps that’s when some folks are prescribed anti-depressants and maybe there’s some good in that at a chemical level but I’ve never been convinced by drugs, especially with the risk of drugs-for-life gnawing away in the background, a path others around me have become trapped in.

No it’s time to face the simple truth, sober and with … with … (um okay, let’s forget the bit about all my faculties being intact shall we?). My head really has stopped working and perhaps it’s one of those four, at least likely reasons or perhaps it’s some other type of unexplained stress related overload, like when you get cramp in your leg after a run.
I should add that there’s no pain in the normal sense, no blacking out and fainting, no lying on the ground and twitching. This brain cramp is more like what happens when you switch on an electric fan, then stick your knitting needle through to stop the blades turning; the motor hums a bit, stutters, hums a bit more then just burns out.

So dear reader, you made it this far and now you’re looking down at my bent and blackened knitting needle, nervously humming Talking Heads Psycho Killer and staggering backwards feeling blindly for the door handle. Well before you go, aren’t you going to at least compliment me on those fascinating Wikipedia links?
Look, I’m used to people walking out, happens all the time, but … what, you didn’t appreciate my Wikipedia links?!! Really? [Holds up knitting needle] do you have any idea how mad that makes me feel?
  :twisted: [Eeeek, Eeeek]

Actually Wikipedia is a very useful online encyclopedia for forgetful people, and anyway I couldn’t find any public domain pictures that I could snitch to illustrate my point.

You might wonder, in amongst all this whether there’s any good news at all? Well actually yes, there is. I still have my sense of humour for one and it may have taken a while but after thinking long and hard (and intermittently), I finally decided to open up and write this post.

Something that has been a help is an article I read. A newspaper article ripped out over six months ago and which has been sitting on my desk, busy not being read for each of the intervening one hundred and eighty odd days, until I finally remembered it under its little pile of dust. The article talks about chronic memory loss, blank spots, depression, attention deficit and brain decay, but then it’s author cheerily says “you can fight back”, which at least is something positive, isn’t it?
Actually it seems this is bollocks because you have to buy her book, and even then she sneakily tries to tell you in that way you won’t notice, that she actually doesn’t have any answers.
But just the fact that someone said “you can fight back”, it’s enough to give you hope even if it is bollocks.

So I’ve decided to try and be more positive and to find out what I need to do to ‘fight back’, and although I can’t say for certain whether this struggling optimism will produce any future posts, I’m hopeful. At least you know I’m here all snuggled up in my padded straitjacket.

Anyway I hope everyone is well, or at least as well as can be, or at least not as poorly as they could be.

Mr Beep-Beep

The trouble with going on holiday is having to come back, and the trouble with coming back is that you forget you ever went away!

What little free time there was this week has all been used up trying to get my new laptop working. The peeps who make computers certainly don’t go out of their way to help those whose operating system of choice isn’t Micromuddle, but finally everything is now sorted thanks entirely to Opensource. The Vista-saur behemoth that accompanied my poor laptop has been completely deleted and replaced with super-sleek and shiny Ubuntu Linux.

And I’m dead chuffed because it’s all working a treat, with no viruses or nasty software or browser bugs, and no monstrous corporation looking over my shoulder and vetting my data!

In fact I’m so chuffed that Mr Laptop has been christened. You may hitherto address him as Beep-beep, after the Looney Tunes Road Runner character. We’ll both be celebrating tomorrow – I splashed out on some champagne especially; oh, and some cheese and biscuits seeing as mealtimes have been spent downloading and installing and fiddling. It’s just so easy to forget about trivialities like feeding when you’re busy!

Oh and in case you wondered, it seems I did go to Paris. At least there’s a scrumpled up air ticket here that says so although right now my head has gone blank and I’m having trouble remembering my name. There might be some photos too so I will post about it as soon as I can.

Meanwhile everything has gone a bit whoozy and the room is spinning slightly. Perhaps I’d better have some sugar and vitamin B and maybe even break into those cheese and biccies already?

Manic March

Things seem to have been a bit crazy of late.

First, two cases of having to deal with legal stuff – lawyers and the like. Not my legal stuff but other people’s. Actually the second hasn’t quite run it’s course yet.

Then Winifred needed substantial work doing ahead of her annual MOT certificate involving four different garages, hours of phone calls and a number of days given up to slow and erratic public transport. My eyes nearly popped when I saw the bill!

Then at the hairdresser’s on Tuesday she asked which setting I had before, but of course I couldn’t remember, after all it’s been about four months.
“Perhaps it was a five” she said, and proceeded to shave off huge curls of thick hair.
I looked in the mirror and screamed! – a hazelnut has more hair than this.

The 12 week French course hasn’t gotten past its first lesson and my flight to Paris is next Thursday night. It’s only a four day break but I do so hate going abroad and not being able to mingle with the locals. And now Leaf has decided she’s coming too so things are going to be fraught.

Then yesterday I came down with the flu. Now the tissues are all used and I’m on my third loo roll.

And if all that weren’t enough I bought a hideously expensive lens thingie for my camera which arrived damaged. Luckily that’s all been sorted out but then I forked out for a super-expensive new notebook PC as well.
Sadly Skippy the ageing laptop really isn’t up to the job any more and her battery’s dud, and I’ve been travelling too much to blog from Marvin at home.

So you see, all this expenditure is entirely your fault! I mean the laptop is only to help me blog and the lens is just for blog piccies; none of it is for me at all, well not really.

Unfortunately the laptop won’t arrive until the middle of next week and it’s going to take a few days of messing to install and to move over all my work ‘n habits ‘n stuff, so sadly it won’t be ready for Paris.

And I would like to write more, and properly but I’m all over the place visiting this weekend, being Easter and what there is of next week will be manic; and then I’ll be in the city of lovers and lights.

It’s a mad, mad world!

Hello from the pile

This is going to have to be one of those short ‘still here’ posts. Life has suddenly become chocked up with a small pile of busyness and it’s a struggle to find the space to write. Lots to tell but the words have eloped with the energy needed to produce them.

Other than the pile, all is well and I miss my blog and blogfriends.

Oh, and just a small thing – I may have discovered Buddhism. Not the kind where you have to read all horribly those long-winded Canons and Sutras, more a kind of miniature variety that I’ve penned Bunny Buddhism.

Sadly, Bunny Buddhism is on hold this week because it’s far too busy for peaceful relaxing types of thoughts.

That’s all sorry, but back soon with news and nonsense. Promise.

Hyvää Ystävänpäivä

I read somewhere that in Finland, they celebrate Valentine’s Day as “Friend’s day”.

Well I’m going to put on a display of Finnishness for a day and wish you all a very Hyvää Ystävänpäivä, that is if there’s room in amongst all those cards and flowers and chocolates and romancing for some simple ystävyys?

And talking of flowers, I brought tulips to brighten the place up. Do you like them?

February Tulips

Now I don’t expect a cuddle, but did you save me any? Chocolates I mean?
What, not even one?!?

Frozen Fingers

I went to the big smoke (Auld Reekie as it’s known here) on Sunday and what a delight to be on the road in daylight. Winters here are spent under a constant blanket of grey cloud, turning colours into shades of grey and sealing us off from the world of light.

The trees are still bare although gorse is beginning to bloom yellow. Not surprising I guess that few shoots are out as we’re not yet half way through February. But I have a hankering after Spring and this time for a change I’d like to be prepared for it.

In the afternoon Leaf and I cycled down to Cramond and along the waterfront. There’s a steamy tea shop there where the proprietress serves scones with a scowl, except she was all out of scones and could only offer scowl and tea. I took tea and Leaf ordered Cappuccino, and it seems the scowl was free. But really, it’s a pleasant enough place and after tinkling a coin or two in her tip tray she perked up with a smile.

Outside, the weather took its turn to scowl. Sea mists had been rolling in – Winter, reminding us who was in charge. Cycling back was a battle against the wind and the spray with frozen fingers and dripping brows, but I stopped at a bookshop and browsed the travel guides, choosing Paris; possibly not quite at random … possibly … perhaps even for a visit.

Paris in springtime anyone?

Crammond mist

Listening to: Oops, I Did It Again by Britn…Brit… (turns green) ehh the Richard Thompson version (turns healthy pink again).

Flu Jab and Frankenstein

During the past two months health centres and hospitals have become familiar places. Not since Leaf had a string of operations back in the nineties have I sat in so many surgeries and waiting rooms.

I took Flu Jab in last week so they could photograph the inside of his head. Flu Jab is one of those souls who believes the NHS Flu immunisation for the over 65’s to be a cure for pretty much every known medical ailment, doing away with the need to ever see a doctor again, at least until the inconvenience of next year’s flu jab anyway. Small problems like hearing loss, regular bouts of dizziness and double vision leading to more frequent falls and now leg wounds, are topics that don’t usually come out in general conversation let alone reach the doctors ears.

Flu Jab was a friend of my father’s and doesn’t have any surviving family so I try to make a point of visiting every other week or so just to say Hi. Luckily there’s usually a first aid kit in my rucksack so after his fall a few weeks back we removed the blood soaked dishtowel he tied round his leg, cleaned and dressed the wound then carted him off to the emergency surgery. Since then a nurse has turned up twice a week to make sure the wound is dressed and healing.

Anyway, that led to some questioning which is when his other unreported symptoms came to light. A pronounced aversion to doctors makes it hard going for them get anything out of him, so over the past weeks I’ve coaxed and accompanied him on six visits for his hearing and dizzy spells, but at least there is progress – a hearing aid ordered and scan test results he’s awaiting.

Head scans really are quite scary things, you know. In Flu Jab’s case his arms were strapped across his body then what can only be described as a vice was used to raise his head, clamping it in position and forcing his chin onto his chest, apparently to prevent movement that would blur the imaging equipment. This ordeal lasted almost three quarters of an hour because of some problem or other and for that time the contorted position of his windpipe meant he couldn’t swallow or talk.

Afterwards in the car, I asked why it had taken so long.
“Cause Doctor f****** Frankenstein hadnae wound up enough power fir his f****** laboratory machine tae f****** work, that’s f****** what!”
Poor thing, he’s normally such a polite little feller.

Just-boiled Bunny

I was about to relax with a cup of lovely hot black coffee and some nice blogs, when Richard Thompson’s “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” lulled out from the Kitchen radio. I’m a big Thompson fan and this ballad in particular sings like a poetic short story.
Curiously enough I once knew a red-blooded girl who rode to Boxhill on a 1950’s twin-cylindered mechanical monster, have I ever told you that?

I was about to relax with a cup of lovely hot black coffee and some nice blogs, when I plunged that wobbly cafetière, splattering just-boiled water all over my hand.
“Um, ouch,” I blasphemed and whisked it under the freezing cold tap long enough that the pain of freezing was almost as searing as the pain of burning, making it almost pleasantly numb for several minutes.

It isn’t numb now though.

I stumbled through those blogs trying to ignore the red blotches and managed a whole hour of reading and web-wandering before deciding on a nice hot milky nightcap, suggested as a sleep remedy by several good readers. So up I got and boiled some milk to make hot chocolate, half-milk, half-water.

And pouring out my nice hot milky nightcap it seemed only sensible to empty the rest of the just-boiled water into the milk-pan, grab a sponge and give it a good clean.
“Um, ouch” I shrieked.
Yes, I know, I know, I know, but I wasn’t thinking that the water was just-boiled, was I!

Now my double-blotched red-raw hand is humming away like Val Doonican* on a hangover, and I’m not reading blogs anymore, and it’s quite hard to relax when there’s a glowing red sun-lamp hanging from your arm.


*hopefully no-one is old enough to remember just what torture that can be.


Listening to “Bittersweet me” – REM.

Don’t panic or I’ll chime

“I’m not long for this world, Bunny!”

Leaf isn’t so much a hypochondriac as someone who releases the lifeboats early when things don’t feel quite right. She’s been complaining of a tingling sensation in her fingers, and arms that hang like lead weights and she hasn’t been sleeping at all well. The magazines she reads carry personal health articles almost as often as diets and she’s been scouring them all. The weak spot where her shattered ankle had been pinned years ago is causing problems again, so she’s ticked off weak ankle bones; then there’s that ache up her right side, the continuously blocked nose, the watery eyes that must mean an allergy, the deepening lines on her forehead, the way her neck is sinking into her body, the breathlessness, the always being too hot (apart from those times when it’s so frigidly cold), the sore back …

Things are serious enough though – the latest in a long line of confirmed conditions has a life threatening edge to it. She’s a step away from specialist treatment for high blood pressure and although there’s no evidence yet of her family’s history of heart problems, I’ve often noticed an accelerated heartbeat pumping away in that fierce little chest.

So given the range of symptoms she reports and her inability to rationalise those which surface at any given moment, diagnosis is proving difficult. Doctors are losing interest and even her mother and sister — both practising professionals in the health industry — are beginning to struggle.

Anyway, I popped over to see her last weekend and we discussed whether the tingling might be RSI, hyper/hypo-thyroidism or Carpal tunnel. There’s no actual pain but the sensation is irritating and stops her sleeping. Where the panic arises (and we are talking violent, uncontrollable panic) is that since she doesn’t know the cause, she imagines the worst possible outcome.
Good news since my visit though, blood test results have ruled out Carpal and her Doctor has discounted the other two conditions although he is now seeking a specialist referral.

You know, while writing this it strikes me that her symptoms do very closely mirror the side effects for one particular blood pressure steroid she’s on. I must mention that tomorrow.

Leaf is a worrier and considering some of the things that have actually happened to her she is someone you have to worry about. Our relationship travelled through hell and didn’t survive and much of the pain I am so bad at releasing comes from that failure. But? I really don’t know what I’d do if she left this life.

She’s kept me on the straight and narrow, and continues to be my only tenuous link to ‘normal’ society. I’m odd now but without her? I’d sprout wings and chime.


Wikipedia: “A cuckoo bunny is a furry clock accessory, typically frantic in nature, who passes the time whimpering and strutting up and down in the manner of the Common Cuckoo in addition to striking himself often against a wire gong.”


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