Sunday, 30 July 2017

Valar Morghulis

My father passed away peacefully on Friday afternoon with my sisters at his bedside.
I got there shortly after to be with the family and to say my final goodbye, but although it felt like the right thing to do, it felt strange to be saying goodbye to a dead body. It was dad, but he wasn't there any more.
Feelings, a bizarre combination of loss, distress and relief that his suffering is over, fought for attention resulting in an overall sort of numbness.
When I got home I tried to knock the sharp corners off my inner conflict with vodka, but just ended up with heartburn - this has been happening a bit recently so maybe it's my body's way of telling me to stop for good.
Anyway, I'm not going to write about this any more in future posts, so I'll make this the last 'poor me' one for the forseeable future.

Unfortunately death is everywhere - an inescapable companion of life, no matter what form it takes when it finally comes. When you're gone, that's it as far as you are concerned, but those left behind have to deal with the bereavement.
This week Chester Bennington took his own life. Front man of Linkin Park, he was a talented, respected artist who left behind a wife, six children, bandmates, friends and millions of fans around the world.
Such a shame his creativity was fuelled by demons that became too much for him to bear.

We hear of such things all the time in the media. Of course untold numbers of people die every day without us noticing, but our reactions to the passing of well known public figures varies according to how we perceived them in life.
Over the past couple of years we've lost people like Alan Rickman, Rik Mayall, Victoria Wood, Carrie Fisher and David Bowie, and I felt a loss at each of those - people who had in some way had an impact on my life.
In contrast, I greeted the passing of Tara Palmer-Tomkinson with complete indifference.

In the face of all this I now need to get on with life.
Today I spent a few hours wandering around Cambridge University's Botanic Gardens with the camera, which was a perfect distraction from things.
Back to work tomorrow with lots of jobs to do and people to deal with as they clamour for attention and prevent me from getting on with those jobs.
Oh well.... Valar Dohaeris.






Thursday, 20 July 2017

The Wanderer

The boy returned from his holiday in Majorca yesterday, replete with tales of drunken antics, jetski riding, people's reactions to his easily recognisable luggage (white Tripp suitcase covered with yellow smiley face stickers) and the obligatory holiday romance which may or may not continue - watch this space.
I have to say I was impressed with the way he dealt with something I've never done myself.
At nineteen ("n-n-n-n-nineteen" - whatever happened to Paul Hardcastle?) the boy is grown up now, and it's interesting how every new experience shapes and moulds him as a person.

What was also interesting was that it was the wife and I's first real taste of life without him in our lives 24/7.
At first it seemed eerily quiet, with questions of how he was doing constantly lingering in the back of the mind.
This was quickly replaced with a more easy-going attitude including sleeping with the bedroom door open and wandering naked between the bathroom and bedroom without the worry of being seen by someone who would react in the same way any of us would if confronted by our parents in their birthday suits.

My father's birthday suit amazingly still contains a beating heart, and given the state he's been in for some time now, I don't understand how this is possible.
I went to see him this afternoon (an increasingly traumatic experience) and was yet again shocked at his physical state. While I have no wish to lose my father, this is fast being outweighed by my desire for his suffering to end.
How awful it is when you ask someone if there's anything you can get them, and they ask for a gun.
I sympathise entirely, but within the law I'm helpless.
He still has his faculties and if he had the opportunity of help to end it he would - I would want the same thing in his position.
The law needs to be changed and I don't give a fuck what the pro-life brigade think. Until you're in the position where such things directly affect you, you can't have a valid opinion.
Anyone who holds the belief that 'all life is sacred' needs a dose of reality.
A persons life is their own, and as long as they are of sound mind they should have the right to choose what happens to that life.

I borrowed the wife's Smart to go and see him as my Beemer is in the garage for a new clutch and flywheel plus a couple of other bits. I would have had it back by now, but BMW sent the wrong crank position sensor so I have to wait until tomorrow to get my baby back.
After that I just have the weekend left before I'm back to work, ready to hit the ground running.
It has been so nice to have a break from the relentless parade of demands, but as I'm still at least nine years away from early retirement, I'd better not get too used to a life of leisure. I just have to brace myself and get on with it.
The question of having another motorcycle still dances around my head, and I've been sorely tempted several times while looking around. However, if I wait until spring 2019 before doing anything, when the insurance company asks if I've had any accidents in the last five years, I can just say "No", which will be much simpler than reliving the events of November 2013 and all the subsequent pain and surgeries.
The time up to then could be spent building or modifying a bike myself, which would give me something fun to occupy my mind and hands.
I have this idea of building a cafe racer based on a BMW flat twin. I've seen lots of photos of those done by other people and some of them (like the one below) look absolutely epic.
Food for thought....






Sunday, 16 July 2017

Doing it with Claas

Hanging on the wall just inside the front door is a little plaque bearing the phrase "This is our happy place".
Whenever we've been out in the big wide world, we come back and see it as we walk in the door and think "Yeah, it is - because it sure as hell doesn't exist out there".
Time has made us both incredibly world-weary, but we still force ourselves to go out and get involved for fear that otherwise we'd end up complete hermits.
We worry that we've made the boy the same as us, but as he's currently on holiday in Majorca with friends, he's still more adventurous than I am. For now at least.

I take anything on social media websites with a pinch of salt, because we all know they're full to bursting with people trying desperately to make their own lives sound full of fun and excitement, and generally showing off, but even so my own little life is (by most people's measure) incredibly dull and boring.
It does seem though, that whenever I make the effort to go to an event or to some attraction or other, I'm invariably disappointed. You turn up to something that sounds promising, you pay your money, and within half an hour you're thinking "Is this it then?" or "Why am I here?".
I want to believe that it's important to be out in there doing stuff, to be part of the big picture, but whenever I try it becomes obvious that the big picture was in fact drawn with crayons by a five year-old with ADHD.

This evening I'm going out for a meal with the family. It's very rare that we all get together, but anything involving a large group of people (even if they are family) puts me on edge, and frankly I'd rather not go at all. However, sometimes there are things you're obliged to take part in unless you have a staggeringly good excuse.
Given that I'm half way through my fortnight off work and haven't really done much, I'm beginning to feel under a certain amount of (self-imposed) pressure to make something more of my time off than playing Farming Simulator 17 on the PlayStation and going for the occasional walk with the camera.
I don't necessarily see this as wasting time - after all, I needed this time off to have a rest and it's hard to feel rested if you're running around like a headless chicken.
Anyway, living within spitting distance of open farmland means that occasionally I get to combine both of those interests, like the other day when I heard the harvest being gathered in the fields, so I picked up the camera and went for a walk to watch the rapeseed being harvested.
I may have trouble dealing with the world at large and the huge number of self-important idiots it contains, but provided I stick with my little corner of it I'm basically content with life's simple pleasures, and sitting in a field with a camera watching a field of crops being devoured by a large Claas combine and taken away in trailers pulled by Case tractors is infinitely preferable to being anywhere that involves being surrounded by people.


Update: The family get together turned out to be quite enjoyable in the end. I guess it goes to show that you need to have an open mind rather than preconceived ideas of how something will be.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Release the pressure

Chicken chow mein, special fried rice, hot and spicy squid, deep fried chilli beef, seaweed and a bottle of beer. Gone in record time. Now I'm sitting here clean and showered, feeling the tension of the past few weeks slowly ebb away as I come to terms with the fact I now have a fortnight off work.

Thursday and Friday were our annual open days at work, where prospective students get to have a look at what we do.
It couldn't have come at a worse time, given how much proper work is going on right now, but I suppose it's good PR.
On the plus side, I've managed to finish making the new high pressure particle seeder for laser doppler anemometry in the supersonic tunnel, which is a weight off my mind.
There's going to be loads to do when I get back and not having to finish that job as well is a relief.

 

We also managed to lighten the mood by putting a model of Starbug from Red Dwarf in the tunnel, and running it at Mach 2.5 while filming the schlieren image with a high speed camera.....



....and I've put the resulting video on YouTube:


So for now I can sit back and enjoy not having to endure the daily commute for a while.
I can remind myself what peace and quiet feels like.
I can take myself off somewhere picturesque with the camera.
And I think I'll book the car in at the garage to have that bloody clutch and flywheel changed.
Last weekend I spent a couple of hours in a car dealership psyching myself up to buy a brand new car. We discussed the options, looked at the figures and went for a test drive.
The car seemed perfectly accomplished, it did everything you want a car to do and it did it well, although it felt like there was something missing.
I walked away slightly disappointed with the pushy attitude of the sales manager (and greatly insulted by his part-exchange offer) saying I wanted to check out the competition before committing to anything.

When I got back in my own car and drove away, I realised what was missing from the one I'd just test driven.
Soul. That indefinable feeling a good car gives you when you drive it.
That car may have been brand new, but like most cars out there it's the sort of thing you'd choose in the same way you'd choose a washing machine. It was four-wheeled white goods. You didn't drive it and think "I've got to get me one of these!". Instead I just felt sort of .... well.... "Meh".
My Beemer might be ten years old and have suffered neglect by its previous owner resulting in a number of sometimes expensive issues, but it looks great and every time I get behind the wheel it comes to life and makes me feel good.
So I decided to just keep it and sort out the problems rather than pour thousands of pounds down the drain changing it for something I don't really want anyway.
Besides, my inner biker is starting to itch.....

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Premature winter blues

Outside it's sunny and warm, with a pleasant light breeze wafting through the numerous flowering perennials in the back garden while bees, hoverflies and countless other insects busy themselves around them.
Meanwhile, I'm sitting on the sofa desperately trying to summon the enthusiasm to write this post.
Truth be told, I can't really be arsed but if I don't make an effort I'll just sit here sinking into one of those inexplicable pits of despair that are so hard to climb out of.
That's the thing when you have issues with depression - those who've never suffered with it really don't understand.
They say unhelpful things like "just pull yourself together" or "you have nothing to be depressed about", but it's not that simple.
After all these years I can usually sense when the darkness is closing in and do the right things to combat it, with varying degrees of success. I've so far managed to avoid medication, but been very close to it at times.

It gets worse in the winter when you find yourself going to work in the dark, coming home in the dark, and only grabbing a few hours of daylight at the weekend.
Many people suffer with seasonal affective disorder, popularly know as 'the winter blues', and this can be helped with light therapy or vitamin D supplements.
However, for someone who has a tendency towards depression, SAD just exacerbates the problems they face all year round.
Of course, if there really is something bad lurking at the back of the mind, constantly nagging at you, then it gets a whole lot harder to prevent yourself sliding into the black abyss.

My father is pretty much at death's door now. He decided to go into a nursing home because he could no longer cope, and his health has declined dramatically.
There's nothing of him but skin and bone - because he can't face eating he's wasted away to the point where he currently weighs just six stone with a BMI of 17. At 15 BMI the organs are shutting down, which means he'll die of malnutrition before the cancer finishes him off.
At least this way it should be less painful. He signed a DNR (understandably) and I don't think it will be long before it's over.

I guess having this situation preying on my mind isn't helping my own issues, which would explain the recent surges of despair. I'll be in the middle of a job at work, when I'll be overtaken by sudden urge to hide in the corner and cry.
It has been pretty busy at work of late and I think I'm due a break, so it's just as well I only have a week to go before I'm off for a fortnight.
I've got our department open days to deal with on Thursday and Friday, then I'm going to walk away and remain incommunicado, hopefully with sufficient time to get back on an even keel.
Lots of countryside walks with the camera are in order, because when I'm doing that I usually manage to find some inner peace.
Anything that prevents my mind thinking too deeply and over-analysing things is always welcome.

Apologies to the reader, but getting it out is a helpful part of dealing with things.
With luck I'll get my shit together and ensure my next post is more upbeat.


Taken this morning - the hoverflies certainly love the clematis in the back garden.