LJ 2008-03-15 18:15:00
It’s been an interesting week, and one that I probably ought to write about..
On Tuesday, I went up to London for work type stuff, training on a new e-mail broadcast system, etc.. It actually creates a number of interesting challenges, because the way in which the system works is not actually the way we’d want it to – just about everything we do with it is going to be a workaround.. But this is kind of where I really enjoy my job – taking two systems, conceptualising what they’re actually doing, and then making them work together. It should be good fun..
But it’s not that much fun to write about here, so I shan’t.. Instead, I’ll talk about afterwards – I came back on the train to my grandparents’ house for a while, and spent a couple of hours chatting to them about various things. One such thing was my grandfather’s military service during World War 2, since I’d never actually asked him about it before, and I was curious. I had this lingering memory of him being a Major, and serving in India, but hindsight slowly damaged that memory because I knew he hadn’t been in the army prior to the war, and Major seemed like an awfully long way to go in just a few years..
So the story goes that after he was called up, he went through his training with the rest of his unit, as a private. They were to be posted to Singapore, but he came down with chicken pox and was held back for three weeks while the others went on ahead. He then followed once he was better, but obviously he was three weeks behind them. In that three week window after his unit had arrived but while he was still at sea, Singapore fell to the Japanese, and the people he’d trained with were either killed or captured, and spent the rest of the war in POW camps.
Since there was little point in him continuing on to Singapore, his boat was diverted to Bombay, and he spent the rest of the war in India. Because of the mechanics of the whole British Empire thing at the time, upon arrival in Bombay he was immediately promoted to Sergeant, presumably because the lower ranks were reserved for the natives. We didn’t get into the specifics of his job, except that he was involved in the supply lines to the far east, and similar.. In any case, it’s worth noting that he did not at any point kill anybody, which is I feel a far more civilised way to wage war.
From there, he rose up through the ranks rather rapidly, though he gets very modest about it.. He went from Sergeant to Second Lieutenant, then on to Captain. This was variously through training courses, job interviews, the sort of thing one might expect of any other career path – I suppose I’ve spent too much time watching films in which people are promoted based on direct field experience and stuff.. From there he then became Staff Captain, and subsequently Major, all within the space of about three years or so. Impressive stuff – while I may have inherited some amount of his brains, I doubt I would have been anything like as capable in the army..
It was just really interesting to hear him talking about it.. He has quite a lot of stories about how India used to be under the Raj, which I shan’t bore anybody with now, but I really did enjoy hearing about it. I strongly recommend similar fact-finding conversations to anybody else who might have relatives in such positions. All in all, given his near miss with Singapore, and his impressive success with promotion, I’d say he didn’t have that bad a war, and it’s always interesting to hear those stories, because they contrast so strongly with the more “popular” war stories.
Anyway, after all this, I then went back to my parents’ house for a few days. Dad went into hospital on Wednesday for an angioplasty, after suffering from angina and an angiogram revealing that a couple of his arteries had rather narrowed. There are a lot of words begining with “angi” in that sentence..
So he went into hospital on Wednesday morning, so it was good to be able to wave him off and stuff.. As far as I know, it took quite a while for him to actually go in for the operation, so I don’t expect the wait was much fun. Still, in the meantime he managed to make himself a new friend (a member of the aristocracy no less), though I won’t go in for naming names, since it’s not my place to reveal the hospital habits of public figures.. Still, they had a couple of things in common to talk about, which is nice :o)
Anyway, by late afternoon he was under the knife (so to speak, there was no real cutting open involved except on his wrists), and by early evening he was out again. I spoke to him on the phone a bit, but he seemed quite tired, so.. Anyway, what with going in privately he had his nice room to himself, with cable TV and stuff, so he could watch the football, which I’m sure was exactly what his heart needed ;o)
In-keeping with the almost hotel-like nature of private hospitals, he had to be out the next day by 10:30am, so we jumped in the car at about 6:20am to go collect him.. The hospital itself was next door to Wormwood Scrubs, so seeing that was quite the adventure.. The hospital was a bit maze-like, but eventually we got to his room at about 7:30am or thereabouts.. I have to say, seeing him there, with a tube sticking out of his arm, it wasn’t the best experience of my life.. It’s odd, it felt very different to similar experiences (mum’s cancer, for example), just because of the degree to which it relates to me. I know it’s very self centred to view things in that way, but as a human, it’s hard not to – there is no reason right now why that shouldn’t be me in thirty years. And that’s worrying..
I think what bothered me the most was just seeing him looking so weak, lying there.. It was a very unfamiliar way for him to come across, and it came as quite a shock. It’s worth pointing out that a couple of hours later, once he was dressed and up and about, there was a huge contrast, and it made me feel a good deal better. But still, at first he looked absolutely floored, and given that he’d just had heart surgery the previous day, I can see why..
I guess there are two sides to the whole impact of the thing.. On the one hand, I worry about him quite a lot. I mean, it’s quite a serious thing. Having said that, my gramps had a heart attack or two like twenty years ago, and is doing fairly well now at 91 years of age, so it’s not like Dad is doomed to live the rest of his life in constant fear or anything.. The operation was to prevent problems in the future, so one can sort of infer from that that it would be silly to spend too much time worrying.
It sort of puts me in mind of getting a filling in my tooth, though obviously it’s an entirely different league.. What I mean is, it’s one of those things where once it happens, you just kind of have to live with it forever thereafter. In my case, it was that feeling of “Crap, I fail at teeth” – I’d imagine something similar would be true of failure at maintaining a healthy heart. I don’t know, I’m just rambling now, but it sort of helps to make sense of it in my own head at least.
Anyway, then on the other hand, I worry about myself too. Most of the excess weight that I do have is well and truly stored in my belly – I still have thin arms, thin legs, only one chin, etc… And recent studies have shown that weight carried around one’s middle is more damaging in the long run than a more even distribution. Failure to take corrective measures will invariably lead to diabetes, coronary heart disease, and all sorts of other badness. For this reason, I am going to make bloody certain that I get back into exercising. I have a gym over the road from my office, and I’m starting to feel like I’m running out of good excuses not to be there.
Back to the overall chronological narrative, anyway.. Yesterday (Friday) was Dad’s birthday, and he seemed a lot more mobile and active and stuff, so that was a reasonably good present for all concerned. It was also Mum and Dad’s 31st wedding anniversary, on account of them getting married on his 25th birthday. I’m falling increasingly far behind that, alas – I had hoped when I was younger to be able to keep up, but apparently not :o)
So we had a nice relaxing day yesterday.. Edward had a job interview, and it looks like he’s got it (though we’ll have to stay tuned for specifics), so that’s quite good.. Then in the evening we had takeaway curry, where I slightly misjudged my capacity for mind-numbing heat. That’s not to say I didn’t like it – I loved it. However, between a super-hot chicken vindaloo, and a naan bread that was made using chopped green chillis, it was quite possibly the hottest thing I’ve ever eaten in my life (and given how hot I make my own food, that’s quite something!). I do rather hope that I don’t suffer too badly for it..
And that pretty much brings us to today, where I’m currently on a train back to Bristol.. Due to engineering works, we’re talking a funny route, via Midgham, Thatcham, Newbury Racecourse, Kintbury(?), Hungerford, Bedwyn, Bradford-on-Avon etc. I need to look it all up on Google Maps so I can work out where we’ve actually gone. It’s a bit of a longer route than usual, but I quite appreciate the variety.
It’s been a good week though.. Ed and I went on many many walks around the village over the last few days, exploring a few new places, and going down roads and paths we hadn’t been down in years.. Bonus points for nostalgia.. Saw many Red Kites too, though that’s long since lost its appeal. You’d think that birds with six foot wingspans that are considered rare would be exciting, but when you can look up into the sky and see three at any given time, it starts to lose any feeling of specialness.. Now when I see them, I just consider the photo opportunities, since that’s all they’re really any good for..
I mean, I do still think they’re cool, but only in the way that I think loads of stuff is cool – I can generate enthusiasm for just about anything I want to, but it’s not new enthusiasm.. At one point, we saw eight of them circling around overhead, talking to each other, with another couple sitting in a nearby tree (the sight of which just further demonstrates their immense size). But as I said, these days they’re just a photo op, because people who aren’t me probably consider them to be more special :o)
Also played a reasonable amount of GTA2, which is still the best multiplayer game ever devised.. And in between that, we watched Hotel Chevalier and The Darjeeling Limited, both of which are excellent. I’m not entirely sure what it is about Wes Anderson films that appeals quite so much.. I think it’s partly that all the characters behave like children, which taps into that feeling that we’re all faking it as adults, and deep down we’re all the same kids that we used to be, with the same sense of not knowing what the hell we’re actually doing. The whole thing was just very touching :o)
So yes, that’s my week.. I’m now on the train back to Bristol, as I mentioned about four paragraphs back, which should get me into the city in time to pick Naomi up from work and get home again.. Of course, by the time I have an opportunity to post this, the events I am describing in the future tense now will have already happened – confusing. It’s odd, because it feels very much like a Sunday, on account of having had so much time off work already, and travelling back home and stuff.. I keep having to remind myself that Sunday is still to come, and it will be a glorious day of rest for the both of us.. :o)