Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Not Just Any Cake

During our foray to the pub on Friday (see last post), Bob and I made a tentative arrangement to go to the cinema this Monday. I remembered this on Monday morning and checked with Polly that this would okay and that she hadn't organized anything exciting, like the weekly food shop, and would need the car. Rather to my surprise she was delighted that I was going out and assured me she could manage, briefly, in my absence. Just as I was checking the listings and choosing between Saw VI and Zombieland she added that the boys would enjoy a trip out with their dad as well. I tried to explain that I thought Sam was a little young for the fiendish puzzles of Jigsaw, but if she was sure. . .

Which is how I ended up seeing Up in 3d with Bob, his wife Antoinette and Matty and Sam. Despite a severe lack of the undead and a complete absence of grotesque killer puzzles Up is a brilliant film and neither Matty or Sam bemoaned the shortage of blood. Instead we all sat entranced, enjoying a rare thing in the two a penny world of CGI animated output, a good story, well drawn characters who ooze humour, charm and warmth, and a whole series of comic set pieces that are both funny and visually pleasing, especially in 3d. I defy anybody not to love Dug, the Golden Retriever.

When I got home with two burger-stuffed boys, way past their bedtime, I found a sightly fractious wife. Polly had been baking a cake. Now it must be said that Polly is an excellent cook and has baked countless cakes over the years. This cake, however, is a cake with baggage, a cake with history. This is the Deal family Christmas cake, a recipe handed down the generations. This is the cake that until this year my mother has made every year for as many Christmases as I can remember. A cake that is so complicated and takes so long to prepare that my mother can no longer stand to bake it. I mean that literally, mum has arthritis. The mantle has now passed to Polly. It had taken her over three and a half hours to mix and prepare. Muttering grimly about 'your family' she told me she would have to set the alarm to go off at 1:30am to take it out of the oven after its five and a half hour baking time. She swears that next year she will make a chocolate log but I'm sure she will have calmed down by next October.

At 1:30am the alarm went off and Polly staggered into the kitchen. I was asleep before she crawled back to bed. I learned in the morning that the cake needed to cool a further 40 minutes before it could be removed from the tin.

All I can say is that it is a VERY nice cake. It has to be decorated in a certain way too, but I'll mention that next time I go to the cinema.

Until next time...

Saturday, 24 October 2009

In A Glass Box

Last night Polly, the light of my life, had been invited to perform a couple of pieces at a local arts centre as part of an evening of monologues called A Moment To Mutter. Being a thoroughly supportive husband, and appreciative of the high quality of cake served at this establishment, I agreed to accompany my beloved to the show. And since we hadn't organised a babysitter we gave the boys a late pass and took them with us. We even remembered, at the last minute, to cancel the carers.

The Lantern Arts Centre is located within part of the building that is the monolithic Raynes Park Methodist Church in south London. Over the years it has evolved from an enthusiastically amateur underfunded enterprise into a slickly professional underfunded enterprise. On Friday nights they put on, or invite artists to perform, shows in their Café Studio, a smallish theatre on the 3rd floor. After much fund-raising and lobbying for grants, a few years ago they installed a lift (elevator) which finally made the centre fully accessible to all. The management at the Lantern Arts Centre are committed to inclusivity as is testified to by the huge range of shows and services they put on and provide in and around the local community.

I have ridden the lift to the Café Studio many times in the past, both as a performer and as a member of the audience, I don't have a particular fear of lifts, and this one is essentially a glass box with minimal claustrophobic potential, but even so, my heart rate goes up a little as the surprisingly fragile seeming glass door closes behind me and an electric motor starts to whine. We had sent the boys haring up the flights of stairs that created the stairwell through which the lift rose and Polly and I had entered the lift and closed the glass door behind us. Polly pushed down on the large UP button and held it down and the electric motor engaged. The tone of the electric motor was not that of a contented piece of machinery going about it's business of perpendicularly raising passengers forty or more feet into the air in a safe, reliable manner, but was rather that of a straining put-upon cantankerous piece of groaning mechanical misery. Some eighteen inches into our alarmingly juddery assent Polly removed her hand from the aforementioned UP button and we came to a halt.

People peered over banisters at the new exhibits and I wondered if they were expecting some kind of show. Then it came to me, I could be a mime trapped in a glass box! Polly pushed hopefully at the UP and DOWN buttons but to no avail. Matty and Sam looked down from on high and asked if we were stuck. We assured them it was only for a minute and their angelic little faces turned from mild anxiety to one of sensing an opportunity of freedom, so they headed for the cakes to bat their eyelashes at whoever had the misfortune to be in charge.

Meanwhile the inestimable Georgie Talbot and her husband John, joint artistic directors of the arts centre, leapt into action. John opened a panel high above us and he and colleagues turned some ratchety thing that very slowly lowered us back down to the ground floor.

Various people fiddled with the lift mechanism, trying to reset the wretched thing, but to no avail. Much to Georgie's consternation nothing worked and defeat was admitted. Her fury was heightened by the fact that the centre spends a fortune maintaining the thing and that it had been inspected only days previously. The show, however, had to go on. Fortunately, at that moment, my friend Bob arrived, and within seconds had come up with an action plan. He and I would retire to a local tavern for the duration.

By now the audience was arriving so Bob and I hung around to chat with those we knew, many of whom nodded sagely at the lift and regaled me with stories of the times it had broken down with them in it. Bob, who hates lifts and only ever goes in one with me when we go to the cinema because I can't reach buttons (and even then sort of clings spread to the wall with apparent nonchalance in case the floor drops away) swore he'd never set foot in the thing.

It was also a chance to catch up briefly with Susie, who among her many responsibilities at LAC was tonight manning the box office. Susie, a talented writer, who co-ordinates the centre's children's and youth Theatre Clubs, endures the agonizing condition Lupus, and we have worked together occasionally over the last decade or so, with Susie in particular refusing to compromise because of disability. She had written and was performing two monologues and so, eventually, left Bob and me in charge of the box office while she went to prepare. I later learned that Matty thought her 'growing up' monologue was wonderful.

Once Bob and I had escaped box office duty we made off around the corner for a drink and chat. It occurred to me Polly might want to escape during the interval and get the boys home and to bed so we didn't stay long. As it turned out her second piece was still to come so Bob nipped upstairs to video her performance for me.

Not exactly the evening I was anticipating, but not bad.

Until next time...

Thursday, 22 October 2009

A Matter Of Faith

As a consequence of going Israeli dancing last weekend Polly and I found ourselves addressing the congregation of Holy Trinity, Wallington, this Sunday. We had been chatting to Stephen, the vicar, between expositions on dance in Leviticus, and had inadvertently reminded him of our existence. He asked us if we would be prepared to be interviewed during the service about our faith. Polly said yes, totally ignoring the little strangling noises issuing from me and the frantic shaking of my head that was going on behind the vicar's back. With malicious glee she committed us. Only later did she realise that she too would have to speak.

Sunday arrived and we arrived at the church as a family only a few minutes late. Before I had even had time to warm myself next to one of the iron radiators we were being invited to the front to address the congregation.

I have been in this situation many times in the past but not for a few years. A hundred or more faces watched me expectantly. I flicked the controller on my wheelchair and levitated into the air. That was better, I could now see and be seen. It also killed a few seconds. Polly took the microphone and spoke with her usual wit and assurance about her faith and how it enabled her to cope with some of the extremely harrowing situations she faces with her work as a clown doctor. All well and good but it was upping the bar and I was acutely aware that anything I said was going to sound trite or glib or worse, hypocritical.

All to soon Polly finished her bit and Stephen turned his vicarly attention to me. After giving the congregation a brief run down on my writing and theatre background and doing a great job plugging this blog he asked me what my faith meant to me. Good question. It was one of those situations when you open your mouth to talk and haven't got a clue what's going to come out.

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time you will be aware that if Jesus wants me for a sunbeam then he has grossly misjudged the weather. I admitted that I had 'issues' with God, which seemed to strike a chord with a significant number of those listening judging from the wry chuckle that followed. I went on to talk a little about the many good things in my life and left it to them to decide whether I attributed those to my faith or not. I did say that my faith has formed the backdrop to my life for the last 35 years or so, which however I feel about that sometimes, is absolutely true.

As ever when I raise matters of faith on this blog I am acutely aware that I am disappointing or disillusioning many of my readers, especially my many Christian friends who would, no doubt, prefer something more unequivocal from me. Equally I know for a fact that a huge number of my readers are atheist and hold no truck whatsoever with anything pertaining to faith. They say you can't please all of the people all of the time, but it would be nice to please a few people some of the time. So, for the tiny number of readers who lack certainty in matters of personal faith, this post is for you. As you dangle over the precipice of uncertainty you can at least be comforted by the knowledge that somewhere nearby I am hanging on grimly with you. Not a great deal of comfort, I realise, but at least we're not alone.

Until next time.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Dancing And Dimensions

On Sunday it was Polly's birthday. For some reason she decided to spend it at an Israeli dance afternoon, held in the church hall. As it turned out, the session was led by a group of messianic Jews called the New Jerusalem Dancers, and although there were quite a lot of dances there was also an awful lot of exposition of “the bible says this and so it must be true” kind. Leviticus seemed to feature prominently. The dances were fun and there were lots of opportunities for audience participation and even a buffet of typical Israeli food. I do feel I now know everything I will ever need to know about the festival of Simchat Torah though.

At one point a demonstration of the blowing of a Shofar (a rams horn) brought about my favourite comment of the afternoon. “Bring me the anti-bacterial wipes!“ Such is a time of the times.

Oh, and in case you are wondering, the boys and I gave Polly perfume (Flower by Kenzo), some books, including a replacement copy of Delia's Complete Cooking Course, a pair of boots (not wellies), and a set of allen keys.

This morning we had a visit from a number of people from the housing department who came to look at our flat with a view to extending it. It took them less than thirty seconds to conclude that unless we open a portal to another dimension our home is as big as it will ever be. They've all gone away now to see if they can think of anything else.

Interestingly, on the corner of our street a new housing development is to be built. To mollify the local planning department the developers promised to build a disabled accessible house on the site. Perfect! But then, you will be astonished to hear, they had to make some changes to the plans and the house morphed into a small flat once the contract was signed and sealed. Almost like magic.

And finally, Matty was regaling Polly at breakfast with details of a dream he had had about slipping into another dimension and having to live dressed as a teddy bear. Sam, not to be out done, announced that he too had dreamed. He had been stung by a bumble bee and slipped into another Dalmatian.

Until next time. . .

Friday, 9 October 2009

Polly Ate The Table Leg

As this blog cruises past entry number 200 (at How To Be An Inspiration anyway) I have news. My new rinky-dink, super-duper wheelchair is back and working. What's more, they have removed the inhibitor that stopped me going fast when the chair is tilted back. This means I can whiz a long at speed and in comfort, which is exactly what I did last night when I careened down to the village to buy some chips for supper. There was a small sensation in the chip shop when I raised the chair up and up to the high counter and handed over the money.

Having my chair back is a relief in many ways. Almost instantly several areas of pain that I'm so used to are gone with such suddenness I am caught by surprise. Simply being able to adjust my position in a near infinite number of ways keeps me both comfortable and entertained.

Of course, life being life, and my life in particular, not everything goes completely smoothly. For example, Polly ate the table leg. (I'm so tempted to leave that sentence hanging.)

The new wheelchair, what with all its multi-function bits and bobs, is a little higher than the old one. This is not a problem, except that it wouldn't fit under our dining table. This meant that the already difficult task of having a meal was further complicated by me not being able to get close enough to the table to eat. The solution? Raise the table. You can buy 'table-risers' from various disability inclined outlets but we were uncertain exactly how high the table needed to go so decided to experiment using household objects. Eventually we discovered the ideal height the table needed to go up was that of a 220g tin of Heinz baked beans. Fortunately we had a 4 pack of these little tins and the table problem was sorted.

Until, that is, the wheelchair was taken away for repair and we had to lower the table once more because now it was too high.

The new wheelchair, now repaired and restored to us, means we needed to re-raise the table. “Fetch the baked beans,” I cried. 3 tins of beans were produced. “Er. . . Where's tin number four?" Polly looked me straight in the eye, daring me to complain. “I ate them for my supper last night when I got in from work. I hadn't eaten since 7:30 that morning and it was gone 9: 00 at night and I was too tired to knock up a non-baked bean orientated meal. Any problem with that?” None whatsoever. You soon learn not to argue with a tired, hungry clown. The table, even on 3 legs, is more stable.

Until next time.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Still No Wheelchair

Okay, where were we? My super-duper new wheelchair is still AWOL. Obviously it was never going to be simple to fix what with it literally having more computing power than the Apollo 11 moon landing mission. Apparently the controller has a fault. I'm told it should be sorted sometime next week. If I had any breath I'd hold it.

Talking of breath – neat segue, hey? - I'm making progress with the lung infection again. I was doing very well but on Thursday took a few steps backward when my temperature went up again. Dr Toosy has switched me to Ciprofloxacin and given me some Budesonide nebulisers. The main problem is that the whole process is so exhausting. It's not been helped by having my comfy wheelchair whipped away. My posture is not so good in the old one and the base of my right lung gets compressed. On Friday the community physiotherapist came to beat me and shake me. If she wasn't so nice I could really go off her.

That's all for now. Until next time.