One year ago today…

At exactly this time (13.07) I was in Queens Medical Centre, Nottingham, A&E.

I was being told that I’d had (and was still having) a heart attack.

It was a Friday.

I knew I didn’t feel very well when I woke up, but put the relatively mild symptoms down to a cold, or manflu.

All my joints ached, I felt a bit vomitty, and I was heavily sweating.

Sam and I had had a row the night before, there was still an air of awkwardness in the house, so I went off to work.

By 9.30am my symptoms were unchanged, but I felt so much worse.

I did nothing about it because I had a big meeting at 10.30 with my team and my Director.

Around 10.15 I experienced an extra symptom. I felt as if someone was pushing with all their weight against my chest.

I figured out what was wrong.

I texted Sam that I thought I was having a heart attack and went in to my meeting.

The meeting ended at noon.

Sam had called every phone I have, and emailed every account.

I took my Director aside and said I was very unwell and going home.

I drove home.

Sam met me at the house, and drove me to hospital breaking every speed limit, and driving like she was auditioning for a part in The Sweeney.

At QMC I was hustled through A&E and underwent tests which quickly confirmed my self-diagnosis.

After a four day stay in hospital, an angiogram revealed I had a torn artery – the main artery that feeds blood in to my heart.

This was repaired on the spot through the fitting of a stent, and I went home later that afternoon.

The moral of this story is fourfold:

  1. Don’t be stupid about your job. It’s only a job. Life goes on without it, and the job goes on without you
  2. Look after those who love you, no matter how prickly or how big a pain in the arse they might sometimes be, they might help save your life one day and be a tremendous comfort to you
  3. Look after yourself. The buck stops with you
  4. The NHS saved my life. Please buy a nurse, a doctor, a porter, a surgeon a drink from me

We’re going out this evening to celebrate my Not Deadaversary.

Sam even had a card made up:

Not Deadaversary

Not Deadaversary

The BMW 120d is a sack of crap

For the last week I have been driving a BMW 120d.

That’s one of these:

BMW 120d, a sack of crap

BMW 120d, a sack of crap

In the not too distant past BMW used the phrase ‘The Ultimate Driving Machine’ to describe their cars.

That’s certainly not a description I’d be happy using, if I worked for BMW, else the Trade Description enforcers would be all over me.

The driver’s ergonomics are awful (if the driver is over 5′ 10″). Apart from this point, the cabin is comfortable, fore and aft.

The engine is quiet which, frankly, it should be, given that it has the output of an arthritic hamster.

The gearbox is so vague that key components seem to have been manufactured from jelly.

The media centre developed a mind of its own, and had to be shut down.

And the hatch-boot space could barely accommodate a medium-sized ham sandwich.

But on the positive side, fuel consumption was good.

And the mirrors worked.

Another positive thing about driving the BMW 120d was that it really made me miss my car.

How I yearned for the beautifully-engineered, precision-manufactured (German designed and German built) gearbox.

And the (German) gearing ratio that just worked, and didn’t have to be fought against.

And the cavernous hatch-boot, which could take one very large suitcase, one medium suitcase, one small suitcase, two rucksacks, a handbag, AND a medium-sized ham sandwich.

Seriously, BMW, I don’t know who the target market is for your 120d, but as sure as hell isn’t anyone who you could call ‘a driver’.

Four legs good!

The vet came out for Prem’s second scan today.

Backstory: the injury to his near-fore Superficial Flexor Tendon occurred in March. Since then he’s been on box rest, with in-hand exercise on an increasing scale. For the last few weeks I’ve been splitting up his in-hand: half of the day’s exercise in the morning, half in the evening.

The first thing the vet commented on was that the leg looks much reduced, and had lost its ‘banana’ appearance.

The second thing the vet said, as I was towed, at great speed, down the trot-up, was that Prem is sound.

The re-scan showed major improvements in all areas.

Comparison photos and measurements showed how much Prem has improved. And it’s a lot.

The vet has said that we should continue the walking exercise, but there’s no need to stay in-hand; we can progress to being ridden in walk.

Prem's near fore being ultrasound scanned

Prem’s near fore being ultrasound scanned

Yay!

For the last two weeks I’ve been walking Prem out in-hand, but tacked up, so that when I do put a saddle on him, it isn’t going to trip his mind out.

So the next time I tack him up, I’m going to try to sit on (if Prem will let me!).

I’ve put together a bridle from Beech’s tack which fits Prem as if it had been measured for him.

When we reach 45 minutes of walk, we can introduce five minutes of trot.

And in four weeks Prem can have an hour of turnout a day.

This is all such positive news, the vet said I was to keep on doing what we’ve been doing.

So we shall.

Horsing about (a bit)

It’s been two months since Prem/Bob arrived at his new home in sunny Leicestershire, and his character is really showing through now.

From the gentle little wicker I get in the mornings, to the full-blown YES!’ of a wicker I get at tea-time, he’s proving he has a sense of occasion.

And a sense of humour.

Like when I’m skipping out and he clamps his teeth on the shavings fork and tries to carry it around the box for me.

And the way he won’t let me top up his water bucket without taking a good long pull at the water before I put it in.

And let’s also mention the way he won’t take water from the automatic drinker in the first place.

Such a character.

🙂

Prem/Bob is up to 15-minutes of in-hand walking per day.

The vet said he would rather that we didn’t use the walker, so for 15-minutes a day Prem/Bob and I walk purposefully around the arena.

After just ambling about, leaving random tracks in the equirubber/sand surface, I hit on a cunning plan to raise the boredom threshold.

We are walking almost every dressage test I’ve ever ridden (and a couple that I’ve only judged, not ridden).

We had a few sticky moments with Medium 71 the other day, but that was partly down to a young horse pratting about in a nearby paddock, and Prem’s/Bob’s natural inclination to run through the bridle (we almost didn’t stay at walk).

As well as following these patterns in walk, we are also working on our halt to walk, and walk to halt transitions.

They’re not exactly snappy yet, but at least these transitions are becoming established.

His halts are now usually square in front, but he trails his hind legs as if they were stuck on with Bluetack as an afterthought.

Bless.

Prem’s/Bob’s second leg-scan is due mid-to-late September.

I’m hoping that the Vet will say we can consider saddling up, even if we do need to keep the work at low-level, zero-impact.

In the meantime, we’re just going to keep working our way through British Dressage and British Eventing dressage tests.

An unexpected bonus of mucking Prem/Bob out twice a day is that I have shed 3/4 of a stone, and I’m nearly back at my riding competition weight.

Revolution!

Sam is away on business.

She’s supposed to be in Myanmar, before heading on to Vietnam, but Dubai airport was too busy to dock her arriving aircraft, so she missed her connecting flight.

Frankly, Emirates, it’s not much of a connection if the outbound flight won’t wait for passengers who are booked on it, when they’re sitting on another of your flights waiting to dock.

Anyway.

As a result of the Emirates/Dubai airport screw up, Sam has had to spend 24 hours in a Dubai hotel, at Emirates expense, and lose a working day of her itinerary.

Awesome.

Not.

But as you might expect, while the cat’s away the mice will play!

And oh boy has this mouse been playing?

Has he?

*sigh*

No.

This mouse is too diseased to do any playing.

Apart from a brief couple of laps around the village this evening, I haven’t even been up to taking the Ninja out this weekend.

Seriously.

It’s that bad.

There is the possibility that, tomorrow, after doing Prem (who is still called Prem and not yet named Bob), I shall pay a visit to the excellent chippy in the next village.

For some delicious potato-based foodstuff.

And perhaps some vomit Vimto.

If I’m well enough, obv.

But it is the Law of Sod that sayeth that a fine-weathered weekend with a free pass will be frittered away on illness.

Amen.

Anyway, what is this revolution of which you speak, I hear you ask?

It is me, my friends.

I am revolting.

In her absence I am shunning Sam’s instruction to use the dishwasher.

I AM WASHING THE DISHES BY HAND!

Revolution and rebellion are rife in this house.

Er.

Until she gets back,obv.

Film Blogathon 00/17: round-up

Strictly from a personal point of view, this has been an interesting challenge.

And ‘challenge’ has certainly been the right word.

In the writing, I have enjoyed experimenting with the narrative ‘voice’, and using cross-styles.

Reviewing films that were unwatchable rubbish alongside films that would be on the Top Hundred list of most people, has been interesting.

Finding the time, and originality needed, to make a review worth reading has been another part of the challenge.

And poor old Barry Norman dying, part-way through, almost seemed like an omen.

No, not Barry Cryer, as the Daily Fail put it:

Daily Mail getting it wrong again

Daily Mail getting it wrong again

This one. The real one:

Barry Norman

Barry Norman

I got a couple of tips from Young Masher, that have been added to my ‘watchlist’.

And Kennamatic gave us his view of the view of a couple of films worth looking at.

But it was a challenge.

And no, I wouldn’t do it again.

Thank you to my two co-conspirators for their support along the way.

But I’m out.

Truly madly deeply busily

It’s been a mad weekend.

Friday (though not the weekend) was mad.

Saturday was mad.

Sunday was mad-ish.

I feel that I went to work on Monday just to get away from the mad.

I am closing down a storage unit where most of my furniture, some clothing, and the majority of my ‘other’ belongings have been for the last two years.

The idea is that as the work on the house completes, space will become available, and I can bring my things in to the home.

Obviously there won’t be room in the house for absolutely everything, some things will stay in their boxes, and will shift to storage in the garage, or in the loft.

And some things will just get binned, after many years of loyal service *sniff*.

But the majority of things should be OK.

I had the trusty Man With A Van service booked for between 09.30 – 10.00 on Saturday.

I’d spent a few days beforehand making space at the house, tidying, and at the storage unit, starting to filter what I might be able to throw away.

On Saturday 09.30 came. And went.

So too did 10.00.

By 10.15 I had started phoning the Man With A Van company (straight to voicemail), and texting their mobile numbers (I have two).

By 10.30 there was a solid and consistent lack of response to (now) two voicemails and two texts.

By 10.45 the clock was fast approaching the point of no return, as I had to be out of the unit before Monday.

Sam made calls and found a van hire place in Long Eaton.

I knew I couldn’t move all that stuff myself, so started texting people who I thought might help out as paid labour.

I also asked Mark, off of Marks Munchies, the on-site café where the storage unit is.

Mark said he knew of someone who could probably step in. I offered a price. Mark said he’d get back to me.

I drove home to get my licence and the usual paperwork, and drove to Long Eaton to pick up a large van with a tail-lift.

As I was completing the paperwork for the van hire, Mark’s friend rang to say he was ready, willing and able, and was waiting for me at the storage unit.

I was just about to set off in the van when I got a text from an unrecognised number that said:

Hi just to let you know the driver is running late it will be about 2-2.30 when he gets to you thanks

I called the number. It was the wife of the Man With A Van.

I told Mrs Man With A Van that she was too late, that I was going to do this job by myself, and that I’d left various messages on Mr Man With A Van’s phone/voicemail throughout the morning, and a final message telling him he was off the job.

Mrs Man With A Van said Mr Man With A Van hadn’t told him any of this.

By 12.30 I was back at the storage unit, and we had prioritised the loading. Because I’m a planner. It’s what I do.

We grafted. We grafted hard.

At 15.30 we had filled the van, leaving only a few items behind that could be taken care of the next day.

That cup of tea we had, as soon as we got to the house, was most welcome.

We unloaded.

We grafted hard. Again.

By 16.45 all of the heavy items had been put away.

We left the smaller, lighter items in the back of the van overnight, and I took my helping pair of hands home.

I was back at the house by 17.15, but unfortunately this meant that we had missed the viewing of Despicable Me 3 that I had booked tickets for.

But I was probably too knackered to sit in the cinema and not fall asleep.

On Sunday I finished unloading the van and ruthlessly tore in to the task of sorting stuff in to the categories of:

  • Keep (use)
  • Keep (store)
  • Car boot
  • Skip

Then I took the van back to the hire place, drove back to the storage unit where I met Sam, where we filled the two cars with the left-overs, and went home.

More ruthless categorising took place.

And as a result of all that, I have a number of items on eBay, a large pile of stuff for a car boot sale, and a need for a skip.

Again.

I’m also very knackered.

That joke about going to work for a rest?

True words.

Film Blogathon 10/17: Leon

Because we are going to see Despicable Me 3 tomorrow, I felt I needed to step away from the cartoon genre…

Synopsis: A hit man befriends, and takes in to his life, a 12-year old orphan, and trains her as his apprentice

Leon is, essentially, a French art-house film that successfully muscles in on Hollywood turf.

A couple of the components for this Luc Besson vehicle are, in themselves, quite excellent.

The outstanding Eric Serra score, coupled with very contrasting performances from Besson regulars, Gary Oldman and Jean Reno, are just two components that lift this film above the average.

The characterisation is juxtapositional.

Reno, as the plant-obsessed, Gene Kelly-fan hitman is an interesting study.

Gary Oldman chews the scenery up as the drug-taking gangster who has nothing else to give us.

Nothing else to give us, apart from being a pivotal mechanism of wryness in the way the film is fashioned.

The script is a deft construction painted in humour, with a light finish of wit and irony.

Leon has the potential to shun style and go straight for the softer parts of the human audience, and yet it doesn’t.

The film plays on the burgeoning relationship between Jean Reno and the young Natalie Portman, whilst at the same time surprising the audience, through a couple of deft misdirections.

Leon is a clever film, but because of the genre, and the art-house feel, I wonder if it will ever get the audience it truly deserves.

Film Blogathon 09/17: バトル・ロワイアル (Battle Royale)

A long time ago (in film terms), and let’s be honest, seventeen years is a long time ago, Kenta Fukasaku wrote a screenplay based on Koushun Takami’s novel, and the film Battle Royale was born.

The irony that this independent Japanese film indirectly gave birth to the sprawling 2008 monstrosity that was The Hunger Games trilogy is not lost on me.

However, setting corporate greed, together with the need for the US film industry to ‘own’/invent everything, including stories that have actually been developed elsewhere aside, let’s look at the film.

Synopsis: In the near future, Japan institutes a programme to cope with rising youth crime. The solution is to make the youth of Japan toe the line of behaviour, by selecting a random class of 14 and 15 year-old children and packing them off to an island, where they are given weapons and three days to eliminate each other until a sole survivor remains. Look at what could happen to you if you don’t behave, kids.

So that’s totally The Hunger Games, yes?

Anyway.

The saddest thing about this very good film is that the certification, because of the violence depicted onscreen, restricts the viewing audience.

The brutal horror of man’s inhumanity to man is a lesson that should be widely taught, not shunned.

And this film could be a vehicle to convey that lesson.

For three days, 42 children are isolated on a remote island.

Their numbers steadily dwindle as they are killed in sometimes brief scenes that often ring uncomfortably true.

By the time you could have worked out who the children are, and how much you liked them, most of them have died.

And died in a succession of surprising, disturbing, touching, horribly funny or deeply upsetting ways.

It’s impossible to guess which of these neatly-uniformed youngsters is secretly a serial killer, a self-sacrificing hero, a born victim or simply another body count statistic.

Battle Royale is a film that never lets you settle down.

It sidesteps so rapidly between satire and splatter, and it offers the screen moments that will make the most hardened viewer cringe, as well as showing snatches of quiet melancholy that will haunt you for a long time.

And if you’re a hardened cynic, Battle Royale is worth watching because it gives you a real glimpse of what The Hunger Games could have been, if it hadn’t pandered to the massively superficial US audience.