I make no apology for admitting that I have nothing but complete contempt for both the sainted Tony Blair and the slightly less sainted Sir Alex Ferguson. However, it's difficult not to admire the manner in which both of them had their fingers on the pulse to such an extent that they were able to select the absolutely best moment to retire - and, in so doing, plunge their successors into deep, deep, do-do.
Whilst grateful for recent comments about - or links which involve buses, I have to confess to being somewhat of a fraud for adopting Omnibusologist as my username on the internet; because, although interested in buses (see left) and have made a living driving them - it would be wrong to assume that I'm an avid enthusiast or (as they are known in the industry) a bus-nut.
How I came to choose the username, by the way, is quite interesting and is explained on my Home page; and how I came to become a bus driver is equally - if not more - interesting...............
It happened a couple of years after I completed my National Service and at a time when being self-employed seemed attractive; so, having been quite well-qualified in the army, I reckoned that becoming a driving instructor might be a sensible option. However, after a few rejections, one of the driving school proprietors - as a gentle put-down, in my opinion - suggested that, had I possessed some sort of a civilian qualification (such as a HGV drivers license) he might have offered me a position.
In the event, a local bus company was looking for drivers and offering Public Service Vehicle driving instruction at no expense to the trainees. So, taking advantage of the situation - and in a Leyland double-decker bus (see model right) - I quite quickly became the proud holder of a PSV license and was offered a job by the company.
Nowadays, drivers who have been trained at the expense of the bus operators are required to remain with the company for a certain length of time and if they leave within that period, they must repay the instruction costs. In 1961, however, that was not the case; so, after six months - or so - I returned to the aforementioned driving school proprietor, proudly showed him my PSV licence, and invited him to employ me; which he did!
I remained a driving instructor for seven years and have since tried my hand at various occupations before (having had the good sense to keep renewing my license) returning to public transport in 1989 and, after retiring, continued to be involved with buses in a part-time capacity.
Reading about someone else's medical problems might not be to everybody's taste. However, having suffered from chronic neck pain for almost a quarter of a century, I hope that others might learn from my experience.
Although (with varying - usually temporary - degrees of success) I have tried a variety of treatments to combat the problem, more often than not, I would end up taking a pain-killer to ease the pain and this sometimes affected my ability to work. What's more, as time went by, the side-effects became almost as much of a problem as the pain itself; so, I was referred to a pain management clinic about six months ago.
In the meantime, quite a lot has happened.
Firstly, being issued with a TENS device almost halved the number of painkillers I take; which was very encouraging. Secondly, an MRI scan revealed the extent of the damage to my neck and my consultant recommended a pain-killing injection and, if that failed (it offered a 50% chance of success), surgery would be the next option. I had received a successful cortisone injection for a shoulder problem about twelve years previously; so, when I presented myself at the hospital, towards the end of last week, I was quite enthusiastic with the prospect of a similar outcome.
Unfortunately, however, the procedure wasn't quite what I had anticipated.
On the previous occasion (which was 'done' privately), I arrived at the clinic, went into the consultant's office, took off my shirt, received the injection, got dressed again, paid my money, and drove home.
On this occasion, having presented myself at 0745 am (as instructed) - along with maybe half-a-dozen other men - I was escorted into a room very similar to an A & E reception area; where each patient had a, curtained-off, mini-ward to themselves. Not long afterwards, a nurse (dressed in scrubs - and, at that point alarm bells should have rung) came and asked me a series of questions and told me to put on the back-to-front dressing gown which was lying on the bed. Soon afterwards, the consultant who had been dealing with me arrived to check that I was OK and she asked me to sign a consent document.
Later, some of the other chaps were being interviewed and I heard words like 'tumour' and 'postate' being mentioned. Clearly, my little jab would be a piece of cake compared to what they had in store; and it may have been the fact that my own needs were so trivial (or, so I imagined) that I seemed to be the last to be dealt with and I settled down in 'my' armchair to read my newspaper and do the crossword.
I had dozed off when 'my' nurse returned and I may have been a little confused when she instructed me to lie on the bed. "I'm fine." I assured her, "Walking's no problem." "No." she replied, "It's quite a long way to the operating theatre. So. it will be better if you lie on the bed."
"Operating theatre." I thought to myself, "When did that come into the equation?" - and, from then on, much of what happened was a bit of a blur.
Suffice to say, it was nothing like I had been expecting.
Lying face down and being covered by some sort of plastic sheeting (something to do with the x-ray procedure) was the first of many surprises. Thereafter, rather than a single injection, I received at least eight - some to my neck and some to another point lower down my spine; two of which went directly into the root of my pain and, as the first one didn't go deep enough, another longer needle was used prior to me receiving two epidurals - which came as something of a surprise; not least because I had understood pregnancy was a requirement for such a procedure.
Later, whilst being wheeled back to the 'reception' ward, although I seemed to have taken everything in my stride - notwithstanding my surprise - I suffered from what was described as a panic attack. For some reason or another, I couldn't stop trembling; so, the nurses wouldn't discharge me until the consultant had come to see me.
By then, they had worked out that I hadn't been expecting such a complicated procedure and, when she arrived, the consultant gave me a big hug; saying, "You poor dear. You weren't ready for that. Were you?"
Clearly, there had been a misunderstanding; from the doctor's point of view because I did say that I had a pain-killing injection in the past; and from my point of view, in thinking it would be the same as the earlier injection.
In the meantime, although there has been some tenderness where the injections had taken place, I haven't suffered anything like the level of pain to which I had become accustomed. In fact, it seems that the greatest problem has been tension in my neck; almost as though I'm subconsciously waiting for the pain to return.
Hopefully, it never will.
This evening, having (at quite short notice) been invited to the launch of an art exhibition being held in aid of The British Nuclear Test Veterans' Association, I met up with a former tent-mate from Christmas Island and we made our way to Oxford Street in central London where we spent a pleasant hour-and-a-half viewing the works - whilst being entertained and informed by some of the artists along with officials of the association.
No photos, I'm afraid, but here's an idea of some of what we saw.
Elsewhere, I've mentioned the antics the local squirrel population get up to in order to steal food intended for birds; so, in contrast to the rather poor quality of the photo I took through the kitchen window, here are a couple of much better pictures son #2 took (click to enlarge). Evidently, they have become quite bold and stand their ground when anyone goes out to scatter seeds for the birds............
The area where the feral cat used to sit and wait for us to feed it - and where it is now buried - has been cleaned-up in readiness for some new flowers to be planted.
Interestingly, our 'resident' cat (itself a former stray which we gave to neighbours because the prospect of a cat and a parrot living together didn't seem a good one) has been nosing around this area quite a lot recently; almost as though it was missing what I had imagined was perceived as a rival.
Although I knew that Adam had grown very fond of our recently departed feral friend, I hadn't realised that he had managed to get close enough to take a rather nice photograph of it. Having said that, the cat still wouldn't allow him (or anyone else) to get any closer.
Interestingly, this is exactly the pose it adopted when waiting to be fed.
Compared with my wife, for example, I don't dream very often - or, at any rate - I don't recall doing so. So, referring back to the previous blog, it came as a bit of a surprise to me to realise that I had dreamt about the cat on the night it died; and I have to admit that the cynic in me has struggled to ignore the possibility that this occurred at exactly the time Pussy Cat took its last breath.
I've always considered myself to be a 'dog-person'; so, whilst my wife and #2 son have been upset (although he's attempting to conceal it, Adam will have been particularly upset because he had become extremely fond of the cat) I hadn't expected to be quite so affected myself. The fact remains, however, that I have; and as a consequence, have spent a lot of time thinking about it today.
The thought which has been foremost in my mind is the fact that, although it remained feral and quite independent, over the past nine months, the cat had spent most nights in a cellar area underneath our flat. Furthermore, whilst most owners pick their pets, we were actually chosen by the cat and, to some extent, that has been a privilege as well as a comfort.
Two or three years ago, I may have mentioned that we had been 'adopted' by a feral cat which first came to our attention when we discovered that it had been taking advantage of some of the food we put out for local wildlife during a particularly bad winter.
In time, it became obvious that it was visiting almost every day; sitting directly outside our kitchen window in an attempt to attract our attention. So we started to buy cat food and provided a dish for it (see below).
During the first couple of years - or so, although it seemed to recognise us, it would never approach us; in fact, more often than not, it would shy away from us - even if we were putting food out for it.
Clearly - or, so it would seem - it had been subjected to something awful at the hands of an (in)human being. More recently, although it still wouldn't come to us, there were signs that it was becoming slightly less wary; and I would go so far as to say that it looked forward to seeing us.
Sadly, over the past two or three weeks, we began to notice it was suffering from some form of mange. Despite that, however, it continued to turn up for its daily (sometimes twice daily) meal; but, it was sufficiently worrying for son #2, Adam, to invest in some antibiotics from the local vet and crushing the tablets and secreting the powder in the food seemed to be helping and there were encouraging signs that the wound was healing.
Unfortunately, however, our next-door neighbour had the misfortune to discover that our feline friend had died underneath their parked car, last night. There was no question (or evidence) that it had been run over and it was well-known that it often sought out the warmth of a recently used car engine.
Hardly surprisingly, we're all extremely upset; Adam in particular - not least because he had grown very fond of it and had to dig the resting place (little more than a yard from where the cat is shown in the photo) and my wife because of the cruel irony in the fact that it took the death of the cat for her to be able to hold it in her arms.
RIP Pussy Cat.
You will be sadly missed.