Wax on.. wax off.. wax out!

I don’t think this really merits a blog post but since it’s been a while and I’m feeling good about something I suppose it will just have to do.

Today I went to have my ears syringed after three weeks of blockedness and frustration – and it is just so damn good to be able to hear properly again, and realise the extent to which it had become a problem.

I have pretty narrow ear canals and as such am prone to this – in the past I’ve been able to kick start any issues by administering olive oil based drops which – and this is lovely – softens the ear wax and lets your ear do its thang naturally in clearing away surplus waxy build up.  Sadly this wasn’t enough this time and I found that around three weeks ago I was pretty much deaf in one ear.

After trying the usual olive oil based treatment and convincing myself it must be some kind of swelling so hammering the ibuprofen too, I relented and went to the doctor after I saw no improvement who confirmed it was impacted earwax causing the problem, and that my ‘good’ ear was in pretty bad shape too.  Deep joy!  He prescribed some sodium bicarbonate based drops which I was to use for a couple of weeks to soften it up in preparation for a revisit to see a nurse to get them syringed.

It’s something that can come with horror stories attached – directing a reasonably powerful stream of water at something as fragile as your eardrum does have inherent risks but frankly I was in so much discomfort I was about ready to take a drill to my tabs to get some relief, so really the only concern I had was the two week wait before I could get some relief.

When still finding your feet in a new job and getting to know people not being able to hear properly is quite a hindrance, I found too that because it distorts how you hear yourself speak it means you end up speaking more quietly yourself, so not only was I having difficulty hearing others, they couldn’t hear me either and probably even now are thinking “Who’s that really quiet dude who joined the business recently?” – so I’m looking forward to being able to unleash my inner gobshite in the office tomorrow!

Anyway, the drops did their job and the consequence of that was both ears ending up blocked presumably due to the now more pliable gloop in my lug holes – lovely!  The stingy prescription allowance of 10ml ran out with a few days to go so I picked up some Otex, a Hydrogen Peroxide based pharmacy ear drop, from Boots just to keep the momentum for the last couple of days.

Then today, blessed relief, a trip to see the nurse who checked me over before blasting away into my ears by turn and giving me my hearing back – such a relief, and for your own relief you’ll be glad to know I resisted the fairly strong urge to take a photo of the surprising amount of detritus she was able to extract from each of my ears.

I dread to think how long this has been building up into the final problem I ended up with – so I’ve decided to be a bit smarter and use the olive oil based drops I already have more proactively to stop such a build up occurring in the first place – enjoyable though the process was, the reality is that this was only the case because it gave relief from such a frustratingly debilitating situation, one I’d rather avoid in the future.

Gosh, health care tips on the blog that no bugger reads and to think I left Boots nearly three months ago!

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Taking sides

It’s normally the case when Apple release some new tech. As an unashamed fan of their products there’s normally a queue of people waiting gleefully to try to derail whatever modicum of excitement or interest folk such as me may show. Who knew aluminium would bend under sustained pressure? Did you know that a Samsung something or other could perform that new feature x years ago? Yawn.

None of this really bothers me (although sometimes I bite on Facebook ;) ) but it’s interesting and got me thinking more widely about such motivations, and how people still readily jump to polarities with little provocation or need.

It seems to me as a species we seem very prone to irrational polarities. Which has always sat rather uncomfortably with me, I’m a creature of comfort when people are in harmony. If someone especially loves whatever flavour of Android phone they have then I’m pleased for them – indeed, as a selfish consumer of shiny things the more the competition up their game then the pressure remains on Apple to keep improving too – and vice versa, of course.

At secondary school people were divided into liking Rock or Rave – before the needless subsubsubgenrefication of music took sway, I secretly liked a bit of both. On the tech front you either liked Commodore Amigas (naturally!) or Atari ST’s (urgh!). The meagre differences in their merits built up to gigantic gulfs during bolshy playground debates (I was pretty entrenched in camp Amiga on this one – although when networked up together the ST always seemed to win on Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge 2!).

In the sixth form we were told we must either like Blur or Oasis by an overexcited Britpop obsessed media, I liked both with a slight preference for Blur, although Pulp were and are better than both. It’d be around this time that I’d begin an enduring affair with the Levellers of course which quickly resolved that ‘debate’ for me in a different direction – but even then (and still now amazingly) rather than focus on the frankly amazing music they produced (and indeed, continue to produce) instead people make snide tabloid-inspired remarks about dogs on bits of string or being a crusty.

This is a band who’ve endured 25 years of being, have a veritable string of hits so are even validated somewhat by the facile trappings of the music industry, and continue to tour to thousands of people every year and run their own festival as well as appearing at countless others. They must be doing something right! If you doubt me, grab their recently released Greatest Hits album and decide for yourself.

People who like similar music even fall into the division trap – I always imagine a continuum of folky-indie style music (now who is subgenreing?!) starting (this won’t be an exhaustive list!) with bands like The Wonder Stuff and 3 Daft Monkeys – plenty to say, but with a sense of fun and not taking themselves too seriously through to say, New Model Army who I’ve always found more serious and sometimes bleak (that’s not a critique, I really like NMA too!) – the Levs sit somewhere in the middle with aficionados of the former group finding them too serious, those of the latter too frivolous.

I guess being a football fan is the ultimate expression of our tendency to polarise things that are fundamentally very similar – being a staunch Forest fan obviously the city of Derby is the worst place in the world, and its fans are remorselessly moronic. Which is palpably absurd – I’ve had some great nights out in Derby and count a number of ‘sheepshaggers’ as my dearest friends. Obviously that all goes out the window for 180 minutes or so per season, but normally I can be pretty rational even on this most divisive of topics.

Politics of course is like football fandom taken up a notch – although because I don’t really feel much affinity for any of them – and vote generally tactically to try to thwart the one I like the least – but I see staunch supporters of either red or blue passionately debating what to me seem like minuscule differences between the policies, performance and conduct of their respective parties – whereas I’m left thinking they’re both a bit pants really.

I’m not sure what conclusion I was leading to here really – I’m sat in a hotel room having been on a course for the last few days and I’m bored blogging on my phone! But wouldn’t it be nice if – certainly for trivial differences such as these – people didn’t leap to create division and conflict?

Okay, maybe not for the football, as that’s fun (so long as it doesn’t lead to genuine abuse or violence). In truth though, even the footy ‘banter’ (god I hate how that word has been misappropriated!) is probably symptomatic of a fairly fundamental flaw in our collective nature which leads to cataclysmic consequences particularly in the political and religious spheres.

This is all probably a residual tendency from our more tribal past. Or something. It’s worrying though because it’s precisely these motivations that organisations like Britain First or even UKIP leap upon to exploit – fortunately for me my Facebook feed is relatively clear of such bilious content but I see plenty of folk complaining about theirs.

So what started as a covetous piece about my desire for shiny capitalistic consumerism has started to make me reminisce about manipulation of needs and other university time heavily left-leaning learning – goddammit, maybe I’d be less of a schizophrenic paradox if I had more of a proclivity to just irrationally pick a side and stick with it!

Categories: blog, iPhone / iPad / Mac, levellers, music | Leave a comment

Flowers don’t grow up as one, each finds its own way to the sun..

Infrequent updates on here make it quite easy to gloss over things that might have happened over a matter of months let alone days, such is the lot of the infrequent blogger.

However, 2014 has been a pretty seismic year for me so far – it kicked off (almost) in a clinic undergoing a bone marrow donation and leads to here – and it was picking up a letter from Anthony Nolan last week that prompted the prose really.  It was the best letter I’ve ever had, I think – it was short, it was quite impersonal and it was non-specific – but the gist of it was that the young boy who was recipient of my stem cells is still alive.

There’s no more detail than that to report – but it’s amazing news nonetheless and hopefully my chosen inference that he continues to battle and recover from either Leukaemia or Lymphoma is an accurate surmise on my part.  Whatever extra time that procedure has granted him is a blessing, but of course I dearly hope for a full recovery.  I’m looking forward to hopefully further positive updates which are likely to arrive over probably years rather than months.

Thinking back to January is a bit strange – I was living in a home I part-owned (admittedly Leeds Building Society owned most of it, but still), in a long-term relationship and worked at the same company for getting on for a dozen years.  What a difference a few months makes as I now find myself temporarily ensconced with my ever-dependable parents on the verge of selling the house, no longer in a relationship at all and a week and a bit into working for a new company.

Sometimes I have to pinch myself a bit to make me realise quite what a shift in circumstance I’ve undergone – and whilst of course such decisions aren’t made lightly, with particular pleasure or indeed easily I do think the big picture is positive albeit deeply unsettling for someone who generally takes comfort in stability and predictability.  Oh, I became tattooed as well, which was also a special moment as I had the honour of being inked by the lead singer of one of my favourite bands (a band who continue to go from strength to strength, having just smashed the twelfth Beautiful Days festival!)

IMG_8390Most seismic of all was that I became an Uncle!  Emma gave birth to Arlo who has already packed more into his first few months than many children will in years – including a trip to Ibiza!  He’s naturally been to the Parrot Zoo already as well!  I’ve never really paid much attention to babies before but it’s definitely different when the baby in question is such a close relative – I’m really looking forward to seeing him grow up – he’s already got a Forest season ticket despite being too young to take advantage of it (or should that be be punished by it?!).

IMG_8254There was profoundly sad news in that time too – in June my (our, really) three birds became two as Phoebe succumbed to suspected kidney failure – despite picking this up quite early unfortunately the vet wasn’t able to do anything for her and she passed away having spent the night with the vet ready for further examination in the morning.  I won’t lie, it was pretty devastating not least for Cat who was estranged from her (but mercifully did get to see her shortly before the end) and Frankie who was very much her partner in crime.

So, once the house is sold and sorted and I’ve settled into my new professional life which involves trekking out to the West Midlands (and indeed, oop North quite a bit) I’ll be in a position to make a better call about what to do more permanently about my living situation.  I’m reticent to move my personal life away from the comfort of Nottingham but I’m also mindful that I’m already looking at an hour commute (with a fair wind – and the schools are off) here in Hathern, Nottingham would add half an hour or more to that potentially.

Decisions, decisions!  But in the meantime I need to get to grips with a new industry – I’ve inherited a great team which I’m really thankful for so the ‘new kid at school’ feeling has been minimised as much as possible, but obviously I need to get up to speed and settled before deciding how to settle other matters – so that’s the plan, get the house sale finished, then take the opportunity to save like buggery to try to make whatever next move I make as easy as possible and preferably with as small a mortgage as possible.

Coupled with that of course there’s a new wave of football optimism with Stuart Pearce taking the helm at Forest.  Not unplaced “we’re going to win the league” type optimism (although we might!), more a relief that the club seems to be on more of an even keel on the professionalism stakes – I find myself daring to hope we might enjoy a bit of stability and long-term planning rather than the series of knee-jerk tactical misjudgements we’ve been subjected to over recent years.

Having the chance to witness Psycho’s return to the City Ground against Blackpool was a special moment that I’m sure all Forest fans relished, especially those of us of a certain age who idolised the man as a player for both Forest and England.  He’d have to do a lot wrong to lose the backing of the fans, so let’s hope that Fawaz takes our lead and gives him time to build a sustainable and hopefully successful future for the club.

So all in all, a pretty eventful few months in most areas of my life that are important – but apparently change can be good, and I’ve been surprised at how well I’ve been able to adapt to some quite significant differences.  If you’d asked the Alan of a year ago of the likelihood of all this happening then he’d have probably laughed a bit then run away to hide in terror – but in truth as with most things I guess the thought of change can be a lot more scary than the act.

I have absolutely no idea why I’ve decided to chronicle all this beyond perhaps hammering home quite how much has happened recently for my own indulgence.  So if you’ve read this far, yes, this is a very self-centred post!

Categories: blog, ferocious dog, footy | Leave a comment

Shameless begging..

parrotsRich and I have a couple of charity escapades coming up in the next few weeks which of course we’d welcome your support for.

First up we are donning our trusty parrot costumes again to raise money for the Parrot Zoo.  Whilst wearing these we’ll endure an overnight stay in one of the country’s reportedly most haunted buildings.  Yes, come 9th August we’ll go to Nottingham’s ‘Galleries of Justice’ (formerly a prison, courtroom and site of execution) and spend 7 hours or so hunting for ghosts.

You can sponsor us by visiting our JustGiving Page, or by texting GHOS73 and an amount (£1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10) to 70070.  All the cash we raise goes straight to the zoo and helps the thousands of birds they take into their care who’ve been victims of either abandonment or circumstance and now are lucky enough to enjoy a happy and healthy life amongst their feathered brethren.

Fast-forward to September and we’ll both be joined by four like-minded loons in a mission to abseil down the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury.  Dressed as punks.  Obviously some time after the festival itself has disbursed!  This is an event to raise money for SOS Africa, a fantastic organisation geared up to provide education to impoverished children in southern Africa.

You can sponsor the group for this even too by JustGiving too, or alternatively you can text PUNK76 and an amount (£1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10) to 70070.

If you’re in a position to support either – or even both – of these events then we’d be eternally grateful as would both the charities to help them carry on their fantastic work.  Thanks all!

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Wake up and find the stars, you don’t know how lucky you are..

I’ve not written owt on here for ages, and I’m not really sure why I feel compelled to now aside from some insomnia-easing listening to 3 Daft Monkeys gave me the headline which seems to have triggered a lunchtime stream of consciousness heading in no particular direction.

Home-based upheavals aside it’s been a reasonably busy time – work’s got plenty on, and as the football season came to a climactic end at Wembley last weekend we’ve got the World Cup to look forward to.  Prior to the play-off final I actually confessed to the numerous Derby supporting friends and colleagues that I have that I did have a part of me that actually wanted the Rams to succeed.  What? I hear you say. It does feel dirty – but putting the obvious parochial disdain aside the way that they have gone about their season has been a good model to aspire to aside from the final game of course.  Young players, attractive football, not spending a fortune – contrast that with QPR who have operated beyond their means for time immemorial – part of the very problem that blights football.  I won’t deny though that come the day and come the end, Zamora finishing off a beautiful lay-off from Richard Keogh after Jake ‘Bucko’ Buxton was turned inside out was actually pretty damn funny and I think the ferocity of my enjoyment perhaps betrays my true feelings.

Plus it’s nice to have the chance to play ‘em again next year rather than either looking enviously upwards as they hone in on the reaching-12-points party.

photophotoBefore that I went to a wedding at a zoo – how awesome is that?  Jen, who I work with, married Ade – it was a lovely ceremony in the manor house in the grounds of Chester Zoo, so I got to enjoy the usual celebrations that go with a wedding with the added bonus of getting to see a load of animals too!  I have been probably rightly criticised by fellow colleagues upon returning to work that I maybe took too many pictures of animals and not enough of the wedding, but I know some more of my team were being suitably snap-happy with proper cameras so I think between us we have it covered.  Aside from the obviously awesome wedding shenanigans the two highlights outside of that of note were one of tour guides pointing out her colleague was ‘attempting to force their way in from behind’ (fnar) and a clumsy male Jaguar going from lurking mysteriously in a tree to ending up on the floor under the branch that just snapped. On top of his very unimpressed looking female Jaguar companion.

The photo to the right probably doesn’t do it justice, much as the photo on the left taken zoomed in certainly doesn’t do justice to the happy couple and their awesome wedding cake made by Jen’s aunty.  It was delicious.

Then on to next weekend through a series of fortunate events I find myself with a ticket to go and see Carl Froch hopefully smash George Groves into the next millennium at Wembley Stadium, which will hopefully still be damp from Derby County tears.  I’m not big into boxing, but ‘the Cobra’ is not only from Nottingham, he’s from my bit of Nottingham so it’s good to support him.  After the controversial stoppage of their previous fight (which is a shame really, as Froch was clearly about to take him out).  So fingers crossed for a favourable outcome there.

On a penultimate note, check out this awesome video that aired on Notts TV the other day.  Alas I’ve yet to check out the channel as I don’t have Freeview at the moment, plus being just north of Loughborough I might not be able to access it as we’re likely to point at the wrong transmitter.  Anyway, a tribute to Torvill and Dean from the good people of Nottingham.  Dancing on Ice certainly isn’t something that generally floats my boat, but their performance of Bolero was pretty special even for this immovable object, and the tribute from regular folk from Nottingham is charming:

Finally the news we had hoped wouldn’t happen was the result in the search for Elaine, she was found and sadly was no longer with us.  Her funeral was beautiful and moving, her family and friends brave and courageous – and Andy in particular deserves your support for an epic challenge that he’s undertaking to raise money for the charity ‘Missing People’ who helped him through the process of undertaking the search while it was still live.  To do that he’s cycling from Edinburgh to London – if you would like to support him, then do it by clicking here and sponsoring him: http://www.justgiving.com/findelaine

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Hey bro, take it slow..

Chance clickings on a friend’s Facebook feed found this rendering of Dolly Parton singing Jolene, but played at 33 rather than 45rpm.  It’s ace.

My favourite one along these lines though was finding out what happens to The Osmonds ‘Crazy Horses’ when it’s slowed down – it turns into some kind of grungy metal anthem!  The themed dancers are, um, interesting too.

Reminds me of a ye olde blog post I did about hyper-slowing down a Justin Bieber song which turned it into some kind of mesmerisingly beautiful ambient soundscape.  Alas the sound files I linked to back in 2010 don’t seem to be online any more :(

Categories: blog, music | Leave a comment

I thought at first there’d been a mistake..

.. when a caller dropped me off a cake.

cake

These happen to be a words from a song I’m pretty fond of (see video link below), but also what actually happened to me on Sunday.

My Ma had arranged to pop around for some technical support related stuff which, whilst it turned out to be pretty genuine, was a front for a sneaky arrangement she’d been making.  Because she’d been clandestinely arranging for me to in so that a visitor could drop off a surprise for me.

Margaret, who runs a company called Maggie’s Marvellous Cakes has pledged to make one cake every week for somebody, and opened up nominations via Facebook which is where Ma continued the recent theme people seem to have taken up with a zeal which is making me feel awkward about the whole bone marrow donation thing.  Indeed, it was even mentioned during our company’s last balcony briefing (although mercifully the senior dude in question clearly didn’t have his notes so didn’t know my name!).

Anyway, residual awkwardness aside Ma popped off to ‘pick up her hat’ from the car and came back with Margaret who was bearing a big cake box.  I was ensconced on the settee with a laptop on my knee sorting out Ma’s iTunes and was a little bit confused even as she explained why she was there.  As she was on the way to walk her dogs there was no time for tea and a lengthy chat so the long term impression I’ll have formed will have been as a slightly shell-shocked mute.

However, the New York style cheesecake festooned with strawberries and blueberries was a visual and literal feast enjoyed by all of us.  So if you’re in the market for some rather splendid cake then you should certainly give Maggie’s page on Facebook a look, or maybe nominations are still open if you know somebody deserving of a surprise tasty treat?

Unlike in the song below by Miles and Erica, I didn’t take a slice and wrap up the rest – although I did share with Ma, Dad, Cat, Rich and Em – and we still have enough left for small slice each tonight.

Categories: blog, music, videos | Leave a comment

Bone marrow donation video diary #3

Post-surgery update – it was a success on all levels, the necessary amount of bone marrow has gone winging its’ way to the recipient, and whilst a bit tired and bruised I feel pretty good!

Learning that my recipient is a young boy feels really fitting, as I joined the scheme as part of Joel’s campaign – and it’s especially heartening as a child has a better chance of recovery too.

Not that I ever thought I would, but I genuinely have no regrets at all and feel very pleased to have been able to help somebody like this.

In that vein, please consider registering if you are eligible at Anthony Nolan or, if over 30, Delete Blood Cancer

I discovered today that we have a little over 500k registered in the UK. Germany have more than 4 million, and a high proportion of UK sufferers of blood cancer owe thanks to that given the genetic similarities between us and the Germans leading to more matches.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could follow their lead and achieve that kind of number of would-be donors?

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Bone marrow donation video diary #2

Just a short update this time, fear not! I’ve arrived safe and sound at the London Clinic and am currently sipping orange juice watching Deal or No Deal!

Tomorrow morning is the operation, then the deed is done!

As before, if you’re 30 or under please consider joining the register at Anthony Nolan. If you’re aged 31-55 then you can register at Delete Blood Cancer.

Thanks! And see you on the other side!

Categories: blog, videos | Leave a comment

Bone marrow donation video diary #1

Probably for the first and last time I elected to do a video blog in the run-up to my operation tomorrow to donate stem cells to somebody suffering from Leukaemia or Lymphoma.  Somehow the more human touch of talking felt nicer than trying to write stuff down, which I’ve done before anyway.

It was a one-take job so excuse the fumbling for words and errant cockatiel, but hopefully it gets the point across I wanted to.

Should you feel inspired, please visit Anthony Nolan online and get yourself registered.  Thanks!

If you fall outside of their fairly stringent age range (which I now do!) then you can also register for bone marrow donation at Delete Blood Cancer online and get yourself registered if you are 55 or under.

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