Posted in Christmas and New Year, Junk Shop Finds, Life and Family, Music, Technology and Software

A Ray of Old Sunshine

Last night the house was shaking under the onslaught of a rainstorm. I could hear muffled bangs and shudders and it kept me on edge, especially after I turned in for the night.

A song came into my head and refused to leave, so I played the official video on YouTube a number of times… I’m one of those who has to play the same song over and over because nothing else will do at all till I’m through with it.

Why Does It Always Rain On Me? (Travis)

I only discovered it when I bought two Travis CDs from charity shops a few months ago. Every so often I buy one randomly even if I haven’t heard of the band and don’t know what it’s like. Usually I’m glad I bought it, and these were no exception!

The annoying thing about YouTube music on my iPad is that it cuts off if I try and do something else, so tonight I turned to my old hi-fi from the 80s. I had trouble with this retro set-up before Christmas, when I discovered that the connector on the end of the turntable’s ground wire was snapped off, and the jack to one of its cables was bent! Yes, I was very careless at one point, I could have kicked myself.

I patched all these things… I needed a graspy twisty tool thing to straighten the jack, and the ground wire worked when I trapped the end under the screw. Unfortunately there was still a problem… my right-hand speaker wasn’t working. I went to all the trouble of buying new loudspeaker cable and replacing it, only to find it *still* wasn’t working. Only then did it occur to me to switch the speaker jacks from left to right at the back of the amp, and now the left speaker was dead while the right speaker worked! Obviously it wasn’t the cable then…

That was it for the duration of Christmas. I didn’t have time to try anything else, but almost as an afterthought on a webpage somewhere, someone said check the loudspeaker fuses at the back of the amp. I had no idea there was such a thing, but when I checked, yes — there they were!

After Christmas I bought a set of the right kind of fuses. I was doubtful, because they look a little smaller than the original one with the red stripes. For a long time I didn’t do anything with them, but tonight was in the mood to play Why Does It Always Rain On Me? over and over, so now was the time to try.

Oh….. it hasn’t been a good start to the year at all! Mum began a heart attack on January 5th. My sister drove her to A&E, and they got her to theatre in the nick of time. She came home again after a few days, but a couple of days ago had to go back because she was struggling to breathe. It was night, and the ambulance men came for her, bundling her out into the frosty night. I found myself wondering if you’re supposed to wave cheerily as the ambulance moves off. The three cats all glared at me accusingly… “how can you let strange men take your mother away and not do a thing to stop them??”

Er, well…

To cut a long story short, she might get out again tomorrow or might stay in hospital a little longer. My sister and I are very tired… I don’t know about her, but I didn’t get much sleep last night. A bit like the beginning of the Travis song, which kept me company.

I can’t sleep tonight
Everybody saying everything’s alright
Still I can’t close my eyes
I’m seeing a tunnel at the end of all these lights

Eventually I found myself thinking of the following Nietzsche quotation:

“Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”

I don’t pretend to know what he meant by it himself, but before I even remembered the line, I was staring at the blackness and suddenly felt I wasn’t in the least bit invisible. I was a focal point of the void and coldness out there. It was as if everything was zooming in on me.

I don’t even know where I’m going with that, but the next day I kept nodding off… I slept in the car on the way to and from hospital.

Later at night my sister had some other bad news about a friend’s elderly cat who had to be put to sleep today, and I said, “It never rains but it pours.”

Then I tried the new loudspeaker fuse. Knowing the way our luck was going, I was sure it wouldn’t have fixed things, so when both speakers kicked into gear and started working, I said “aaaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!” and pummelled the air, grinning with joy. My sister said, “thank goodness for some good news!”


And thank goodness for old things that still work.

Posted in Books

Pulling Up the Drawbridge

tired of your world?
try on another’s skin
read a book

I used to read all the time, but it’s an ability I’ve largely lost. I dip in and out of this book or that, and it can take me a long time to finish anything. Today, though, I found out that books still have their place in the world, even in mine.

I’m upset just now about a lot of different things, some of which won’t be resolved any time soon. There’s nothing I can do but wait. I couldn’t concentrate on anything I was meant to be doing, so curled up on the sofa and read.

I was previously dipping into this book for minutes at a time, worried I wouldn’t finish by its library due date, but today wrapped it round me like a blanket and read all afternoon and evening: Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey.

It was brilliant and I would recommend it whole-heartedly. It upset me a lot. 😀

I know that doesn’t sound so good, but I don’t regret reading it. It gives me a different understanding of what it must be for people to go through memory loss.

The main character talks about being treated like she’s back in school… I could relate to that, as the same thought flashed through my head during a meeting with a nurse. Being talked to like I was six was a very big reason I rebelled and refused to have anything more to do with her proposed anxiety treatment.

Yet anxiety is a horrible thing… I wonder why it should hit me so hard that I needed to pull up the drawbridge and hide inside a novel. I don’t think anything will change me, and maybe it’s not out of the ordinary… we all get overwhelmed at times. I wonder what life would be like if no one ever felt fear?

Whatever… I was surprised how quickly I went from only being able to concentrate for a few minutes to spending hours reading. People talk about how the internet and ‘information overload’ has changed the way we read, think and engage. Perhaps, but I don’t believe it’s a permanent change. If for any reason you mentally disengage yourself from your internet habit, you can still take up a book as though nothing else exists.

Have now begun Dark Eden by Chris Beckett.

‘Hmmph, hmmph, hmmph, went the trees all around us, pumping and pumping hot sap from under the ground.’

See you when I get back. 🙂

Posted in Life and Family, Music

Swing Swing

Emotions, they stir
The sun is gone
The nights are long
And I am left while the tears fall

It sounds like Chinese poetry! But Swing Swing is by The All-American Rejects. There’s a picture of a go-kart on the front of the CD, though I originally thought it was a petrol mower.

I hadn’t heard of it, but it cost next to nothing as the charity shop was trying to get rid of scruffy CDs no one wanted. (The case was scraped at the corners, but both CD and case were in remarkable condition). I had a few minutes to myself, with nobody breathing disapprovingly down my neck, so I could buy whatever I fancied. I wanted new music to try, and here was this CD looking for a new owner.

At first I didn’t like it as it has quite a heavy ‘head-banging’ sound. My musical taste is mostly mellow… UB40, Gabrielle, Johnny Nash and so on, though I like rock as well.

Being unwilling to concede defeat, I played it several times, and there are bits I now enjoy… in particular the track mentioned above.

Swing, swing from the tangles of
My heart is crushed by a former love
Can you help me find a way
To carry on again?

When something like that gets in my head, I’m more likely to write a blog post than if all is quiet, peaceful and normal. My soul hums with sadness, hope and inspiration.

From what I’ve heard, inebriated people become ’emotional’, embarrassing their friends with heart-felt sentiments. I wish to point out that I’m such an occasional drinker I’m almost teetotal, and don’t need to have been drinking anything to do that! All that’s required is that I be under the influence of a song.

All of you out there in the blogging world… I love that you are there. (Hangs adoringly round people’s necks). I don’t post as much as I used to, but there’s that feeling of random connectedness with others. We are not necessarily like-minded, except that we’re prone to sitting down and writing out our thoughts. Some of you, like Rabbit or Christopher Robin, dash off something practical and to the point. Others, like Winnie the Pooh or Tigger, know how to entertain and make people laugh. Then there are the anxious, slightly annoying ones like Piglet. Still others (like me) wait self-pityingly in the rain and ponder gloomy Eeyoreish thoughts.

Well… today we were having an informal family get-together. It seemed bright enough at the beginning, but the day wore on and things weren’t going as well as I hoped. People were subdued, and there were tired silences. I made a self-deprecating joke about the robohoover attacking my TV soundbar, and was told somewhat waspishly that if I wanted to watch the Eurovision, I’d have to do it upstairs anyway… I’m on my own with that.

With ‘Swing Swing’ in my head and my emotions slowly boiling up, our day was already a failure. I received a kindly, disturbing letter which I read somewhere around tea-time. There might be a smidgeon of misjudgement in the missive, but not by much.

Today was someone else’s day and I had to stay pleasant and positive, but the effect the letter had on me was shocking. I shut down quite slowly, peeling off from the others around me, my eyesight gradually blurring. When it came to supper time, I couldn’t face food. My mother had poached egg and toast while I fell asleep.

Perhaps this kind of reaction is a way of escaping for a while. Dozing off helps you ‘find a way to carry on again’. You wake up feeling half-dazed, but your appetite is stealing back.

“It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.”
~ John Steinbeck

Sometimes falling asleep on the sofa for an hour or two is all it takes. You eat a pan of noodles and check the soundbar is working upstairs. After a period of rest and thought, there will be friends to talk to and things to look up online. Ideas; plans; humour. Rethinking and reorganization.

Something good will come of this. Yes, I’m determined.

– – – – –

The above post was written a few days ago. Eurovision 2017 is over now; political spats, witty one-liners, streakers et al!

Posted in Music

Soley Soley

I wrote this post at the end of March 2017 and never published it. I came across it again just recently, and now that that time is a little way behind, I thought “why not? I’ll just clear it off the deck and move on.”


When a song gets into your head and spins around relentlessly, there’s usually a reason why it got there in the first place. Sometimes it’s just a passing word that attracts it, or a phrase, or possibly an experience. A lot of the time you never figure out what that was.

What’s disconcerting is when a song gets in your head and you are not even sure of the words, but when you look them up online, they perfectly suit your mood or circumstances. It’s even stranger when it’s a song you’ve not thought about in a long time.

In my head now is Soley Soley by Middle of the Road, and it’s been there three days and three nights.

I suspect the ‘inspiration’ is that the Hairy Bikers were cooking on TV and mentioned sole in passing! All it takes is one word, and suddenly you have a hoary old song camping in your head.

Earlier, I was saying it usually suits your mood, but at times it could be that your mood adjusts to suit the song… you can feel a little dip sometimes as the song kicks in.

In my journal I often make a note of whatever song is bothering me — when I reread an entry years later, I get bothered by it all over again, ha ha. Just a little joke I play on myself.

Lately, I don’t know what the point of the journal is… it’s like information overload. It used to matter, but now I don’t feel like writing in it any more. My old hobbies don’t interest me. Nothing really matters.

I’m in a sleepy mood, though. Perhaps when the weather gets better, so will I.

Posted in Lost in Thought, Music

Mouldy Old Mood Chart

I wrote the following last night, then slept on it. No mind-mapping on this occasion (perhaps it shows). Today the sun is out, news is good and the mood chart heading for lighter values.

I took it into my head to keep a mood chart, for no particular reason, and just now my mood is going up and down like a yo yo. You have no idea the number of different plates we are spinning — each one of us has issues and hopes, ranging from the minuscule (what to do with home-grown chillis) to the mind-blowingly gargantuan (the miraculous Brexit). It’s an interesting time to start the project, but poorly chosen! Writing a blog post when you’re in the depths of despair is never a good idea either.

Half the time I suspect my sole aim in life is keeping myself from thinking too much. Letting your brain get fogged up with useless data or keeping it busy with insignificant projects like mood charts, mind-mapping digital art, databasing your CD collection and writing letters to the world (blog posts)… they’re all just ways of anaesthetizing yourself for a while.

Music makes you happy at times; it’s like your own private cocoon of good beats. Then you go away and get ready for bed, and and it turns on you… wails in your head like a Greek chorus of restless ghosts, and your mood gets very blue. Some songs I’ve learned to avoid because they are black holes of melodious depression.

One I conjured up just now is the opposite of that. Somehow it refuses to be turned into anything quite as miserable, though it’s old, therefore dripping with nostalgia… I relate it to places we don’t live in any more, and to family members long since gone. And yet…

Mouldy Old Dough

I will keep it in my head for the rest of the night; it’s a tonic! You can have it when I’m done, but not till then.

Sleep is another good way of passing the time — you forget your cares for a while, even if your dreams introduce you to a distorted group of new ones. The best part is just after you turn off the light, when you curl up in the warm with your arm over Little Witness, feeling nobody can get at you till dawn pries at your blinds.

In the period before you fall asleep, you line up your most pleasant thoughts and count them. “These things I shall do tomorrow… beginning with deleting that mood chart or changing it to something different. Then I’ll re-read my latest blog post and see if it’s improved at all during the night.” Sometimes they do. Other times they turn into twisted heaps of rage and and angst, and the best thing you can do with them is put them out of their misery before anybody else spots them.

One thing that’s pretty bad, though, is if you’re reading old posts in your blog and you discover such a sea-change happened when you weren’t looking, and most of your posts have turned into grotesque, windblown skeletons you would rather not know about. As a result, I either avoid reading anything I’ve written that’s older than six months, or I delete these horrors when I trip over any.

Even while we distract ourselves from looking at life too closely, we distract ourselves from our own past distractions. It’s easy to live only in the moment… just sing Mouldy Old Dough to yourself and fall asleep.

Posted in Hearing Loss, Life and Family, Lost in Thought

This is the No Huggy No Kissy Box

Funny how you can start the day in a sunny mood, and end it under a cloud… due to nothing more than a few dashed expectations. Someone I knew (the one who called me ‘rebel without a cause’) said people always have ‘expectations’ of each other, which were the rocks upon which many a relationship foundered.

Isn’t that a bit like saying, “people have a tendency to breathe (and it’s the oxygen that ages them?)” Actually, he probably said ‘high expectations’, but some expectations are perfectly reasonable, and we founder upon them anyway.

A bit of advice I picked up from somewhere is that we should not attempt to change people. We shouldn’t say “I’m going to tell him/her not to do that… it’s for his/her own good.” Just leave it alone. What was meant by that was that we shouldn’t nag, or complain about the little things.

That’s hard when you wish people were more aware, and more chatty when you would like a chat… not sort of dashing off saying “yes, very interesting,” (or, worse), “that’s not very good.” It’s hard to write about this without sounding like a moaner, which is probably why we’re advised to keep quiet and not nag. It doesn’t come across well – but it still has a lot to do with why people end the day under a cloud.

I’m from quite an undemonstrative family. No gushing, no hugging, no kissing. I never understood cousins who wanted to kiss me after not having seen me for months or years, and I never knew how to react. They didn’t kiss me as children, so why did they start when they were in their late teens? The boys were the worst! I was embarrassed having to kiss one cousin’s little boy goodnight when he toddled round all the adults at bedtime… I hadn’t been brought up that way. Trouble is, I think being undemonstrative can be taken too far… it can get a little cold, a little supercilious.

When I was nineteen, I thought people had to keep their emotions in a little box… whether anger, sadness, or great enthusiasm. It would be awful to let anyone know you were actually feeling something! When I discovered that the world didn’t stop spinning if you expressed how you actually felt, it was a huge relief in a way… but it still wasn’t something that came naturally. I think growing up deaf (at any rate, deaf in a mainstream community) also does a lot to destroy natural expressiveness (but not the emotions). But that’s a whole other ballgame and not what I meant to discuss here.

I got all excited when I read over that last paragraph and realized I had written about boxes! Oh, boxes! Last night I was appreciating another blogger’s post, which was about people themselves being put in boxes. Other people put us in boxes, such as ‘Rebel Without a Cause‘. We either accept them or kick them away and climb into other boxes of our own. I’m not sure I ever labelled any of mine? Oh, I suppose I do… ‘agoraphobic’, ‘dreamer’, as well as others that I’m not sure I want to talk about — sad, grey boxes; large, black angry boxes; furry talking boxes; damp, cold cardboard boxes tucked in the draughty bit behind the shed. (I was wondering why ‘draughty’ had a red line under it, and looked it up, and it said ‘British spelling of ‘drafty’. Also ‘labelled’ is British way of saying labeled. Sigh).

When I read that post, I thought, “why don’t I blog about stuff like that? Instead I ramble about mundanities.”

Well, I did blog about boxes, and I didn’t have to think about it… it just happened!


Aren’t you proud of me?

Anyway, I remember a friend who understood that I came from a ‘no huggy, no kissy’ family, unlike hers. One day she was seeing me off on a train… she helped me settle in with my bags, gave me a note to read when the train was on the move, then suddenly gave me a squeeze, and a peck on the cheek. While she grinned at me from the platform, I read the note… it said “I know you don’t like emotional goodbyes, so I thought I would give you a hug at the last minute before getting off the train.”

Funny, I had no objection to that one at all.

Posted in Books, Lost in Thought, My Cats

Involuntary Betrayal

Yesterday I was an unsettling mixture of cheerful and miserable. Cheerful because I was finally getting on with things, and glimpsed Big Sister for about six seconds (I was starting to wonder when I last saw anybody I knew). Miserable because my PC’s hard drive finally failed and I have to buy a new one. Now is definitely not the time. Also miserable because of a book I dipped into at lunch time.

The book (which I don’t want to name for fear of spoiling someone else’s experience when they reach for it – but I can tell you if you want to know) told a true story of a little boy who befriended a wild animal. It waited for him every day at the same spot in order to be fed. One day it approached some strangers and was killed. The little boy, of course, was devastated. His father said “that was your mistake – you took away his fear of humans.”

It’s one of those stories you wish you’d never been told, but because you know these things happen, you file it in the box in your mind labelled animals killed for being too trusting. Having put the story away, I got on with the rest of the day without thinking about it. But later at night, as I was about to go to bed, I pushed the window open and stared out at the moon, which was very bright but not quite full. How do people know whether it’s waxing or waning? It must be waxing, surely, because I’ve been such a bundle of apathetic uselessness recently, and it’s only in the last couple of days that I’ve pulled myself together and got things done.

I found myself thinking about the little boy’s friend who came and waited for him every evening. I tried to imagine refusing such a friendship, or weaning the animal off it gradually by failing to turn up every so often; letting the times you didn’t feed it stretch out longer and longer, till finally it stopped coming. But I also imagined staying in the house knowing it was out there waiting for you, searching for you with shiny hopeful eyes. How could one go through with that, even for fear of what other humans might do?

A paw patted my bare foot softly. Surprised, I turned back into the room. Sharky’s tabby form was lying stretched out by my feet as he winked and twinkled at me. The light tap of his paw on my foot had been no accident. I felt he had deliberately drawn me back from my voyage to the moon so I would stop thinking about an animal who died far away and long ago.

Sharky dozing

Edit Feb 2008: Comments to this post when it was on Blogigo:

1. Pacian wrote at Sep 10, 2006 at 16:09:
I was in a sad mood the other day after reading a book with a slightly nasty ending. I hate stories that try and pretend that life isn’t hard, but a little *too much* honesty can be difficult to cope with.

2. Diddums wrote at Sep 11, 2006 at 00:23:

As my old pappy used to say, “a trouble shared is a trouble doubled.”

Actually it wasn’t my old pappy, it was a friend who sometimes reads this blog, so I better not be caught out in a lie!

3. kaz wrote at Sep 11, 2006 at 20:55:
D is for declining, but a D moon is the opposite. I loved the story, funny how things like that can affect our mood

4. Diddums wrote at Sep 12, 2006 at 01:41:

Thanks, Kaz – and the thing about having blogged about it is that I now remember it every time I visit my page. Maybe I should blog about something different now, and get it out of my head…

5. kateblogs wrote at Sep 12, 2006 at 11:20:
That sounds like the Yearling – it has a similar theme, but events take place a little differently. I know what you mean, we all know about the harsh realities of life, but don’t always want to be reminded of them quite so graphically.

“I’ve been such a bundle of apathetic uselessness recently”

Same here – I’m a little like Worzel Gummidge when he hasn’t got his thinking head on at the moment.

6. Diddums wrote at Sep 12, 2006 at 13:35:

I don’t think I read or watched Worzel Gummidge – he reminded me of Catweasel, and the whole scarecrow/old man thing depressed me when I was little. 🙂

7. Kim Ayres wrote at Sep 12, 2006 at 15:41:
To answer your waxing/waning bit – if the full curve of the moon is on the right, it’s waxing, and if it’s on the left, it’s waning.

8. Diddums wrote at Sep 12, 2006 at 16:08:

Ah – now I understands what Kaz means by saying a declining moon is the opposite of a D – I didn’t realize. That’s interesting to know – thanks! I looked at it again last night and there was even less of it than before, so Kaz is right about it being on the wane.

Posted in Music, Pet-Minding

Hey Mr Doom Doom

Had to go out in the bucketing rain to feed some guinea pigs! Got completely soaked, and my umbrella blew inside out. Why is it always windy as well as wet? Not fair!

There’s a song in my head, and I don’t know why – Mr Bassman, as sung by the Muppets. It’s a cheerful little ditty but makes me very sad for some reason. The main singer is permanently on the edge of fading out, and you don’t want him to – you want him to sing it forever in that beautiful voice, and so it goes round and round in your head… “hey Mr Bassman, you’ve got that certain something, hey Mr Boom Boom, di di di di di di…” Woke up in the dark feeling as though it was the end of the world. I bet it’s really just the rain.