Friday, 27 August 2010

Pump and circumstance

It's a big week ahead at Big Swifty Towers. Frank's diabetes management is incessant, 24/7 attention, but we're all doing pretty well (and hopefully pride doesn't come before a fall). At his most recent quarterly check-up Frank's HbA1c test gave as good a result as one could possibly expect for a four year old with Type 1 diabetes.

Poor test results with persistent elevations in blood sugar would indicate it's more likely that the person would have increased risk for the long-term vascular complications of diabetes such as coronary disease, heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney failure, blindness, erectile dysfunction, neuropathy (loss of sensation, especially in the feet), gangrene, and gastroparesis (slowed emptying of the stomach). On the plus side you get to wear a medic alert bracelet.

At present Frank has about eight pin pricks a day in his fingers, and four insulin injections. This keeps him in good health but does little for the flesh on his fingers and bottom. Some people with diabetes wear "fingertips of steel" T-shirts. If he takes up the guitar he will have ready made callouses on his fretboard fingers.

So what happens next week? We're off to Addenbrookes Hospital at Cambridge to open discussions about the possibility of Frank wearing an insulin pump. This should help us better match his carb intake with his insulin needs, being able to put smaller doses of insulin into his body, as and when required, without the injections.

And, yes, he can eat meals like the one in the picture, which he enjoyed at a cafe in Ipswich when we saw the mammoth. Type1 diabetes is nothing to do with the current obesity epidemic, and he does not have to avoid carbs in his food. Indeed, a mixture of carbs, protein and fats is pretty good, as he avoids the blood-sugar spikes that we would all have if we had high sugar fast release foods. Don't you wish you had a "full English breakfast" diet like Frank's?!?!

And finally, the usual disclaimer, I am not a doctor, and don't take anything I say as proper medical advice. After all, I'm the guy that thought that, if he shared an active lifestyle, and fed his young son a healthy diet of mixed foods, some wholefood and organic, he would avoid getting any of these chronic conditions everyone's getting these days. Pah.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Unhappy Meal at McDonald's

The beef is safe. I have a confession. I have been responsible for the destruction of the rain forest, I have destoyed the sustainable lifestyles of tribes of indigenous people, and I have punched a big hole in the ozone layer.

I have been a McDonald's customer since 1975 when I visited their Woolwich restaurant, their first in the UK. I know it's wrong in so many ways, but I love McDonald's.

But, from now on I'm not going to their restaurants ever again. On 2 August I dropped off some friends at Stansted airport, and at 05:45 I dropped in at McD's for a breakfast. I had a relaxed breakfast, with extra drinks, did some stuff on my laptop, and left at 07:56. And on 10 August I was issued with a parking charge notice, demanding £50 for exceeding the sixty minute free parking limit.

I'm sure there were signs up, but I didn't see them. I fully accept I'm responsible for where I park, but it never occurred to me that I should be looking. So my happy meal breakfast, has become a very Unhappy Meal.

I've got a message for McDonald's. The Campbells are coming. But Big Swifty's not, anymore. Unable to get a clan together to massacre my hosts, I can only resort to the internet. I've complained on their website, and expect to hear nothing, except maybe a bland computer generated reply (much like their food). A plague on all their houses.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Fred Slattern, Colchester's slum poet

FRED SLATTERN - Colchester's SLUM POET is expected to appear on the busk-stop stage at the Colchester Free Festival on 18 September. He will present his show “love, hate and prettygate”.

Fred is Colchester’s “x for no publicity” slum poet, and has been talked into appearing in public for the first time. His short pithy poems reflect Colchester life from the vantage point of anonymous suburbia. Listen to his tales, and spot yourself in his writing. He’s been watching you.

I have written some fairly upbeat pieces, mostly mercifully short, celebrating Colchester. I would suggest the material's more in the "amusing observations" bracket rather than proper poetry. Every now and then I like to challenge myself to do something different. This could all be a terrible mistake.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Statler and Waldorf Unschool now open

How would you like to be herded into a room, and kept against your will for six hours, and told by your guards that you've got to come back 170 times a year, for the next 14 years? And all you have in common with your fellow inmates is that you were born in the same year, and live in a similar area?

I don't know about you reader, but my friends and colleagues are a wide range of ages, and live all over the place. That's what makes them so interesting. If I could only spend time with my neighbours of my age, what would we talk about after we'd discussed favourite albums of the mid 70s?

We were wavering about sending our Frank to school as we're not in love with the state education system. Stir in diabetes management to the mix, and our decision's made. We're going for homeschooling, specifically "Unschooling". And we're not the only ones. Steiner and Waldorf are on everybody's lips - not Statler and Waldorf the grumpy guys on the balcony from The Muppets Show. Steiner and Waldorf are educationalists, and alternative schools applying their methods are in every posh town in the UK (not yet in Colchester).

What with the www, and local networks of homeschoolers, we've already got hundreds of ideas about how we can make a go of alternative education, and dozens of new friends. Many people assume one has to send their child to school, but this isn't the case. Indeed the new government are encouraging alternatives as part of the Big Society debate. Apparently, we need to find thirty others, and we can call ourselves a school and get state help.

Cameron's not got the monopoly on the Big Society debate. We've had our household Big Swifty debate, and have decided we'll take more control of how we run our lives. No good expecting the system to do everything for us. Meanwhile, we wonder how much of the pension I paid into for over thirty years will actually be available for when I reach retirement age. I don't think Frank concerns himself too much about this, he's busy at Big Swifty Unschool building wooden trainsets. Not that a career in Transport Planning beckons for another Big Swifty generation...........

Friday, 6 August 2010

Joel "mystery man" Thomas - Col U legend

Mystery man, Joel Thomas, has last year been seen at Colchester United's stadium, but has never played a whole game. Joel was signed from Hamilton Academicals for £125,000 in July 2009, by Colchester manager Paul Lambert. His record at the Accies was ten games started, nineteen sub appearances, and one goal. Obviously the guy had hidden talents. (And no jokes about Scottish goalkeepers on here.)

In the first game of the season Colchester beat Norwich 7-1, a result so impressive that Norwich sacked their manger, and appointed ours soon after. Striker Thomas never played a whole game for Lambert, despite him having paid a fortune by Col U standards.

The next manager Aidy Boothroyd also never selected Joel, althoug he kept the bench warm for some matches, and actually made seven substitute appearances for the U's during 2009/10.

Boothroyd left Colchester this summer, so Thomas's third manager in one year, John Ward might have given him a run, especially as we're low on strikers? No, Thomas doesn't want to play for Colchester any more, and he's been released for a free transfer, not that anyone's signed him yet.

Well, for Thomas's year's salary (of say £30,000?) he made seven brief appearances, totalling maybe an hour in a Colchester shirt? He scored no goals, but the soccernet website suggests he had three shots, one of which was on target. He made no assists, got fouled six times, fouled others eight times and got a yellow card for his efforts. I was fortunate to catch a couple of his substitute performances and can confirm that he ran about a bit, possibly as he was cold sitting on the bench for the previous eighty minutes.

Frenchman Thomas (23) has played for several clubs in France, Germany and Scotland, but never much, or for long. So why did Lambert sign him last summer, and make Colchester United £155,000 lighter, one year on?

Meanwhile, a new season starts tomorrow, as the U's travel to Exeter for their first game. As always I'm optimistic, but know that by the end of August we'll be out of the League Cup, and it will mathematically almost impossible for the U's to be League 1 Champions, and that a play-off place might be the best hope. There's always the possibility of a decent cup run, before being knocked out by some team from the North Circular Road Relegation League, to a hat trick from their star striker, Joel Thomas. Being a football fan is such fun, and being mainly an armchair fan, I'm not funding this folly.

Monday, 2 August 2010

The Mind is out of the window

The home clear out continues as we try to carve out more space. And with the internet, do we need all the old reference books? We have "The Oxford Companion to The Mind", published in 1987. Flicking through, I check out "autism" and am told "Autism is a very rare condition... and occurs in four out of every 10,000 live births...."

My, how thinking has changed since the 80s, about the autism spectrum. Nowadays there's a person with autism in almost any classroom, despite the Oxford's advice that "such children are unlikely to attend a normal school". One thing that I would agree with is their view that there are four times as many boys compared with girls with autism.

Sorry OCTM, you've got to go. And that's another 30mm space on the bookshelf.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Silver Apples

I don't know much about music, but I love the noise it makes, paraphrasing an original quotation from Thomas Beecham, talking about the English. And on Thursday night I heard some wonderful noise.

First up was Dan Merrill, with "avant garde electronics from the King Dead Rat", playing a looped piece he wrote ten years ago. I've seen Dan a few times, and always enjoy his ideas and his violin playing. Next were Eat Lights Become Lights "celestial krautrock drone", a three-piece in the vein of Can, Faust, Amon Duul and Kraftwerk.

And the headliners were Silver Apples, or maybe it should be "was", as hereby hangs a tale. Silver Apples "legendary 60s psychedelic synth project from New York", Simeon and Danny Taylor were active in New York around 1967-69, and reformed in the 1990s. In 1999 their tour van was forced off the road, seriously injuring the band. Simeon broke his neck, had to learn to walk again, is unable to play his instruments as before, and is still partly paralysed. Danny died in 2005, of complications linked with the crash.

So there's just Simeon on the road, but he uses samples of Danny's drumming, so he's kind of still there. And what do we see? A kitchen table with a heap of old electronic equipment (called The Simeone), oscillators, valves, and tones of wire spaghetti out of the back, and a big brass handle making classic Doctor Who sounds - who needs a lead guitarist when you've got one of these? The instruments and the music would have brought a smile to Harry Partch's face.

And here comes Simeon himself, a dapper old guy with a foppish leather hat, and a charming smile. Little bits of chat, but mainly getting on with the music. I won't attempt to describe it; I'll just say he was doing his thing. Uplifting and accessible, repetitive vocal lines, a steady beat, and smoke and lights. I could almost have been in a New York club in 1968, except that I had just become a teenager at the time, didn't have a passport, and thought Chelmsford was a fair distance. Simeone looked like a mad scientist in a 50s horror movie lab, wrestling with his array of instruments.

Our evening's entertainment was at Colchester Arts Centre, and a great time was had by all. A good mix in the crowd, not just the weird beard and sandals brigade that are my contemporaries, but also lots of much younger people who had a super night out. How satisfying it must be for 70-year old (?) Simeon to be on the road, with his trunks full of gadgets, playing at small venues and having loads of young people dancing and grooving to his psychedlic tunes. It's all very well being a landmark in the history of electronic music, but can you still get out there and do it for a crowd, and communicate with people fifty years younger? For Simeon we can say an emphatic "yes". A magical night out for all who were there.


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