Monday, October 29, 2007

When in Rome

Got back from 3 and a bit days in Rome late last night, or very early this morning depending on your point of view / body clock (mine went forwards and back several times over the past few days, thanks to coinciding the trip to Europe with the clocks changing for end of summertime). Things I learned while in Rome were:

  • I know nothing about multi-tasking compared with a Rome taxi-driver. Hats off to the individual who got us from the airport to our apartment whilst negotiating Rome in rush-hour at break neck speed, answering 3 mobile phones that were ringing continually and giving us a running commentary on the sights.

  • Michaelangelo didn't paint the Sistine Chapel lying on his back, he invented an arched stepped scaffold that allowed him to stand up on the job.

  • The Pope's bedroom looks out over the security checking queue for St Peter's.

  • The 'secret' policemen that stand in a mob outside the antimafia office (just up the road from our appartment) all look like they're part of the Mafia.

  • When in Rome, Richard suddenly starts speaking French.

  • Italians really understand chocolate icecream. It tastes of chocolate, not chocolatish.

  • 'Scrubs' dubbed in Italian is an improvement on the original.

  • There are so many ancient ruins in Rome that some have been put to pretty odd uses: we especially loved the sacred temple-come-cat sanctuary.

  • The Capuchin monks have made three rooms in their crypt entirely decorated with the bones of former monks, all arranged in beautiful patterns, and even making light fittings out of them. It's good to have a hobby.

  • Pope Julius II scandalised the Catholic world by growing a beard. Apparently someone had worked out that St Peter was clean shaven. Also there was the anxiety that the Blood of Christ might catch in facial hair during the Mass, leading to all sorts of theological hurdles.
  • Cheap Italian wine tasted much better oncc you get to the second half of the bottle.

Italy loves Halloween, hence the pumpkins here. But it seems a bit weird in hot sun.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Well it's another long night for me as the insomnia is taking over my life again. So what better way to while away the wee small hours that write drivel for your personal edification? But not just my own drivel: this is overheard drivel.

I'm not a fan of mobile phones. A Luddite at heart, I object to this constant need to be talking to someone who's not in front of you. When I'm sat on the bus I want to hear the screech of bicycle tyres as they go under the front wheels, not the inane conversations of 30 people all telling someone who's not on the bus a) what they will eat for tea, and b) how long the bus is taking, particularly now it's going to have to stop and clean the cyclist off its wheels.

Still, this particular overheard conversation was a gem, and I have tried to reproduce it here for your enjoyment. For maximum effect please try to read it in its original South Wales accent.

The speaker is a young male, early twenties. Quite good-looking (I don't want you to stereotype him in your head). Let's call him Gareth. We pick up the action after 10 minutes of discussion, mainly about what Gareth will have for tea ('Chicken Kiev tonight. I eat chicken most nights. No, I'm not really a casserole person') and how long the bus is taking ('no, it's not too bad at this time, as long as I leave work at quarter to five it's OK, otherwise I may as well just leave it till 6). He is talking to a female, probably his mother or his girlfriend. Lucky woman.

'So I'm coming home at the weekend, and what I really need is some, I've got plenty of pants, it's socks I, socks...I said I've got lots of pants. Pants. PANTS. I've got PLENTY of PANTS. No, PANTS. What happens is, we all put our washing in together, and somehow all the socks, the pants come back. I've got pants. PANTS. Can you hear (he says 'yer')...can you yer me? Sorry, we're going up the Gloucester Road and I'm on T mobile, the reception's not very good...PANTS. Look, do you want me to ring you back? (There is a pause, presumably while the call's recipient considers whether this information really warrants another feat of modern technology). Oh, is that better? Yes, pants. I've got enough pants, I've got plenty of pants. It's socks I need. Well, actually I've got lots of socks, new socks, only they're not mine see? I put my socks into the wash, they disappear, and I get someone else's back. No, not the pants. I've got my own pants'.
And so on, and so on until I got off before him leaving Gareth and friend to consider two of life's great mysteries (where do all the socks go, and why do some women promote male underwear dependancy issues?)
And after all of that, you just know that Gareth's going to go home to South Wales Friday night and find a multi-pack of M&S's finest pants on his pillow.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Just keep swimming...

One of my favourite kids films is the wonderfully animated and deeply wise 'Finding Nemo'. If you haven't seen it you're in for a treat; if you have, I recommend repeat viewings. There's quotes in there for every situation: parenting, loss, love, fear, hope, and finding your way back to the ocean (all drains lead to the sea). I particularly love Dory, the little fish with short-term memory issues and all sorts of hang-ups who still manages to be the most hopeful of all the characters. She's also the one who thinks she can speak whale... anyway,Dory's motto in life is 'just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming swimming swimming...' and it's at times when things are crashing round my ears like last week that I find myself chanting that under my breath. Stopping to think about the mechanics of it all would probably result in drowning. Better to just keep swimming.
This week kicked off pretty well, with Cafe Church yesterday on 'Hospitality'. I had chance to use a quote that stayed with me from this year's Greenbelt: 'What most people are looking for in life is a safe space where they can tell their story' (Mark Yaconelli). Of course we were thinking of this in the context of church, but I've also found myself thinking about its relevance within the context of my work life. I run a nurse advice clinic for patients with long-term complex psoriasis and eczema, with all the attendant physical and psychological problems, and have the luxury of spending an hour intially with each patient. When I've had a bit of a holiday, I think I'll spend a bit of time thinking about how to create a 'safe space' that encourages these people to tell their stories. A bit less advice from me, and a bit more from them...

Friday, October 19, 2007

I don't like to moan, but...

Actually I would like to moan.
Actually I think I'm entitled.
Actually I think that, right now, after the week we've had, moaning is the only sensible thing to do - or the only thing that doesn't pose a risk to my health, at any rate.
The bad week really started three weeks ago, when my body rejected the notion that coming off long-term steroids was a good thing to do, and went into a lupus flare. Cue extreme fatigue, aching joints and muscles, a fuzzy brain and - most worryingly, since this is what put me in hospital before - reduced circulation.
Still, I kept smiling, and kept going, barring one day off to catch up with daytime telly. The steroids went up again, and the symptoms reduced a little to a manageable level. Unfortunately my waistline is going up correspondingly.
The staffing levels at work are at an all time low, I'm currently doing 2 other peoples' jobs as well as my own.
Still, I kept smiling, and I kept going.
Then I caught a bug and spent last Friday in bed - irritatingly on the day we were supposed to be going to Cornwall for a 40th birthday party weekend.
I resurrected myself on Saturday, we drove there, back again on Sunday, exhausting but lovely to see some old friends and at a fab spot at a youth hostel right on the coast.
Then things really went pear-shaped.
Tuesday Richard went down with flu.
Wednesday Jordan broke her wrist and was admitted to hospital.
Thursday Richard had to get into the hospital, despite running a high temperature, to consent Jordan for manipulation under anaesthetic, because I had a clinic I couldn't get out of. I ended up nearly crying over a computer that lost all my afternoon's work, really crying because I was so tired and so wanting to be with my family not stuck slave labouring for the NHS.
By Thursday night we were all home again, some of us tanked up on drugs, all of us taking comfort from our crutch of choice - chocolate, alcohol and rubbish TV.
Richard went back to work today, still looking a little corpse-like, and I have a headache for the 8th consecutive day. Jordan meanwhile is having to come to terms with life in a plaster cast, and Annie is just fed up of everyone else being such a misery!
I'm still smiling. But only cos I've now let myself have a good moan.