Sea Song

Sea Song

There’s water in the scuppers and the sea is cutting rough
The bilge pumps are not working and if that’s not bad enough
There’s salt water in the rum lads, there will be no getting drunk
We’ll all drown stone cold sober when the fucking ship has sunk

The skipper’s drinking brandy, for he has a private store
He says he’ll go down with his ship and what can he do more?
He ordered the abandon ship, we cut the lifeboats free
Not one of them would stay afloat. They sank into the sea

The life jackets are useless. They are soggy wet kapok
We tossed them in the ocean and they went down like a rock
The first mate said to swim for it, we’ve minutes to get clear
Before the old girl founders, and drags us down with her

The bosun said there was no point for where then would we go?
Unless there is an island near and that, he did not know
So even if we swam and swam, and then we swam some more
The bloody sharks would take us all before we reached a shore

I’ll take me chances here said he, and go down quick and clean
Just then a huge wave swamped us. The biggest we had seen
The old ship groaned and foundered, then settled on a reef
The water’s really shallow here, to everyone’s relief.
.

© 2020 ARF

Another Busy Lockdown Day.

Today was pretty busy. I decided it was time to get off my chuff and get active. I did not have pain as an excuse. The leg pain is minimal. I still waddle,. My knees have not miraculously healed. But I’m getting around without too much distress -as long as it is not too far.

I really had to get active. I’m not getting enough exercise. With no swimming and limited waddling, plus all that extra time on my hands to think about food, I am regaining some of the weight I lost.

On top of all that, all this sitting around being idly locked down causes haemorrhoids. And let me tell you. That stuff they give you for piles tastes awful.

First I checked over my faithful cruiser. Tyres, water, oil, windscreen washer. Lights. Then I checked over the boat and trailer. I was going to mount the navigation light brackets but the sun decided to make an appearance. So I gave that up and did three loads of laundry instead.

I like Laundry Day. Having a shower in the evening and climbing between clean fresh scented sheets is the best part of the week.

I’ll get back to the boat in the next few days. Hopefully when it’s overcast. I want to be ready for when the restrictions ease.

And yes, the whole point of this post was that bad joke.

Lockdown Diary

Time.

As the Lockdown continues and as the seriousness of the pandemic begins to filter through to all but the thickest, I’ve had time to reflect. This is not the apocalyptic pandemic predicted in popular fiction by any means. No hordes of brain-sucking zombies, no piles of dead in the city streets, no flesh melting from bones of living corpses. Just a sniffle, Fever, a cough and respiratory distress – slow death gasping for air – and health systems struggling for resources and infrastructure. Plus a lot of people apparently unaffected except by the social restrictions being imposed. Especially the closing of the pubs and clubs. The social hubs of this part of Australia. It rankles with many. After all, it is only…..

I’ve heard the word “only” too many times. It’s only the old, the weak and sick. It’s only two percent of the population. It’s not. It’s the old, the weak and sick. It’s two percent of the population. Or more. It is sickness and death. That’s never only. I believe we haven’t yet seen the worst. It’s only a matter of time.

Rant over. Had to get that off my chest.

What I intended this post to be about was how I’m not spending my time. As I had thought, being under lockdown is little different from my ordinary days of retirement: a week or so spent not doing the laundry until a lack of clean underwear made it unavoidable; a week spent not tidying up in the caravan until I can’t even prepare a sandwich without knocking down a pile of containers and utensils that should have been put away in cupboards and drawers. At least I keep surfaces clean and dishes done. I have to. Apart from my public health training reasons, there are ants here.

But there is a difference. Now I can’t go to the pool, or even to the the beach, I’m not getting enough exercise. I walk about thirty minutes or so twice a day, I can’t go far. As far as the pharmacy or the butcher is about all I can manage. I’ve taken to strolling around the camp at around two thirty or so in the morning. It’s cool and quiet then. I nap more during the day. I eat at odd hours. I drink more.

My daily schedule is completely awry. I may have breakfast at three in the morning after a stroll and a shower, because I was sleepless and restless. I’d then return to bed at five and sleep until eleven. Read, watch Netflix, nap again. Eat at three pm and perhaps again at eight. I’m still trying to keep to under 7,000 kJ a day, but without getting enough exercise, I’m not winning the waistline war. A slight increase in the consumption of alcoholic beverages doesn’t help.

On the plus side, the leg pain from the spondylosis is virtually a zero out of ten. Nothing more than a twinge now and then. My knees are still grating and wobbly but I’m actually getting round again without support. I can climb in and out of the Landcruiser with ease. If only it had been like this when Dave was here. This would be a great time to get out in the boat. If he could pull the starter cord for me.

I’ve pulled the stitches in my back. It was inevitable. I live alone. I found that lifting even a mug of coffee hurts. I still have to lift and carry. Shopping, laundry, rubbish bags. My left arm can’t lift more than a kilo or so above my waist, even if I could be ambidextrous, so the right arm still has to do all the work.

The newest cut got a slight infection after a stitch pulled, but I’m keeping it clean and using antiseptic cream. Clearly Mehdi was right when he quoted the stats; the scar gets only 30% of the skin’s original strength back in three weeks, and 80% after three months.

I’m not wearing a watch these days. The reason is embarrassing. Both my watches are powered by movement. The old Certina dive watch from 1977 still runs well, but stores kinetic energy in a spring to make it run. My thirteen year old Seiko Arctura stores it in a capacitor battery.

Both stop at random times because I’m not moving enough to keep them running.

As a result I lose track of the time. It doesn’t matter, because my time is completely mine anyway. I just have to remember when my next medical appointment is. My phone does that for me. Because I rely on that, I even lose track of days. Or rather dates. My pillbox tells me what day of the week it is.

So I missed my Dad’s 89th birthday. It’s in my calendar, but not with a reminder. Mea culpa. I apologised over the phone the other day, but again; Sorry Dad! Congratulations on being such a venerable age and still having a driver’s licence.

A Matter of Time

Stir-Fry Crazy

I did sort of go shopping mad in Woolworths. I only went in for coffee and coffee whitener, plus some low sugar lime cordial for my lager. But I suddenly thought of making a stir fry. So I bought some capsicum, chillies, celery, carrots, a quarter of a cabbage – a quarter! They’re selling them in quarters now! You don’t want to know the price but it was a quarter of the price of half a cauliflower. Several old pensioners were phoning their bank for permission to buy a whole one on credit. I was able to buy enough groceries for a couple of meals and plenty of coffees for just less than eighty dollars. I’m glad my Engel freezer is well stocked. For the next two weeks I shall leave home for nothing until it’s time for the stitches to come out on the 21st.

I might pop across to the off-licence sometimes though. Needs must…

It’s sad to see the old folks. I mean those older than I by ten years or more. The competitive light has gone from their eyes. There is no toilet paper left for them to fight for. It is hard to tell how they feel, their facial expressions are masked. By masks. I wonder if they are allowed into banks and service stations like that. The Muslims must find this all rather ironic.

The slice and dice went well as usual. Four deep self-dissolving stitches and six more of catgut on top. This was a bigger cut, but bigger deep rather than bigger wide. The last shoulder slice has not healed well, and Mehdi mildly reprimanded me for lifting or pushing or whatever it was I did to strain the wound. He reminded me that the scars would develop only thirty percent of the skin’s original strength in three weeks and a mere eighty percent in three months.

So it was foolish of me to ask if I could take the boat out. Apart from all the trailer pushing and shoving, lifting, nautical line tugging and anchor yo ho heaving, there is also the issue of the pull starter on the outboard. Not to mention the problems associated with pulling in a twenty kilo fish all by myself.

Not surprisingly, Mehdi’s response was a firm “no. For now”.

Then he did a great impression of my Mum. “We’ll see”.

Warning! Graphic Images Follow.

Latest (shoulder2)
Arm 1

Arm2

Shoulder 1 omitted. Too gooey. Also the photo did not come out well. You can see the edge of it at the top of the new cut.

Dear Diary

I am not Samuel Pepys. My blog is nowhere near as interesting as his was. I am not John Aubrey. I have dropped a few names, and could drop a few more, but I’ve never really got into it as he did.

There are days, when I wonder if my blog will survive somewhere to be electronically excavated at some far distant future time and be considered as a vivid picture of the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries. The Pepys or Aubrey of my generation.

Then I realise, no. It won’t. Even if I print it all out, it will be tossed out by my executor.

In any case, millions of people are blogging. So many are they, there aren’t enough readers to go round. Certainly not enough who like my posts. That is hardly surprising. All the adventure is gone from my life. This lock down has accentuated just how different my life has become.

These days I cannot leave home except for the purpose of obtaining food and supplies (but not toilet paper, ‘cos there isn’t any) or for medical reasons. This is because of the COVID19 pandemic. Whereas before it was because I’m a lazy bugger.

I wonder if taking the boat out is essential for exercise, or perhaps for gathering food.

But seriously, I miss my swimming. As soon as these cuts heal I shall swim in the sea, as long as the pool is not open. As walking becomes more of a strain, I’m exercising less and must watch my diet even more than ever.

These are the thoughts that flit through my mind as I lay on my bunk, listening to my Celtic playlist on Spotify, bored with Netflix.

I’m due for another slice on my shoulder next Tuesday. It will be bigger than the last one, and I can’t believe how big that was. I can’t see it, but I can feel it. It is wider than my hand with my fingers splayed. I did catch a glimpse of it in the mirror when I had a shower. It’s pretty awesome. I’m half hoping to get another on my chest so I can tell people I was run through with a cutlass.

Another ten days to heal and I should be able to swim and go fishing. And catch some of those mangrove crabs. It’s a solitary pursuit and won’t infringe any social distancing laws.

My morning coffee omens have not been good lately. I see a dragon devouring everything I hold dear in one cup, and in another, an asteroid spiralling in to destroy the world . Consistent coffee. Literal and metaphorical Armageddon. In the midst of a pandemic.

It’s rather fortunate that we Capricorn’s don’t really believe in that sort of thing, though this optimism is counteracted by the guilt that makes us ex-Catholics secretly believe we deserve every bad thing that happens to us.

Optimistic bald person expecting disaster.

Fuelled

I filled up both tanks of the Landcruiser on Saturday morning. That’s the first time the old girl has been full since the trip from Halls Creek. It cost me almost $160. That included about $8.50 to top up the fuel tank of the boat, and a bottle of no sugar coke.

I’m going to need the cruiser to be full. I have at least four days of doing the two- hourly commute to the doc’s surgery and back. Even so, I don’t regret sticking with Mehdi. Without him, these melanomas would still be festering away undetected.

Running the outboard is not going to be too costly. Less than $4 an hour.

I had hoped to get the boat out Sunday or Monday, but wind and rain put me off. I’m comfortable out on the water in weather, but launching and retrieving alone in wind and rough water will have to wait a bit. The wind was coming right up the passage from the SE. I’ll get her out as soon as I can. There are fish and crabs out there to catch.

In any case I should rig the navigation lights first. There is a sandbank not far out in the passage where the whiting are said to be good fishing when the moon and tide are right.

If you can’t fish, prepare to fish.

Drunken Boat

The wind was whipping shingle through the windows in the town

A hail of stones across the roof, the slates came raining down

A blade of light upon the spit came sweeping through the roar

With me head inside a barrel and me leg screwed in the floor

Mother pack me bags because I’m off to foreign parts

Don’t ask me where I’m going ’cause I’m sure it’s off the charts

I’ll pin your likeness on the wall right by my sleeping head

I’ll send you cards and letters so you’ll know that I’m not dead

By this time in a week I should be far away from home

Trailing fingers through the phospor or asleep in flowers of foam

From Macao to Acapulco from Havana to Seville

We’ll see monoliths and bridges and the Christ up on the hill

An aria with the Russians at the piano in the bar

With ice floes through the window we raised glasses to the Czar

We squared off on a dockside with a couple a hundred Finns

We dallied in the ‘dilly and we soaked ourselves in gin

Now the only deck that I’d want to walk

Are the stalks of corn beneath my feet

And the only sea I want to sail

Is the darkened pond in the scented dusk

Where a kid grow’s full of sadness

Let’s all go drifting out into the evening sun

We sailed through constellations and were rutted by the storm

I crumpled under cudgel blows and finally came ashore

I spent the next two years or more just staring at the wall

We went to sea to see the world and what d’you ,think we saw?

If we turned the table upside down and sailed around the bed

Clamped knives between our teeth and tied bandannas round our heads

With the wainscot our horizon and the ceiling as the sky

You’d not expect that anyone would go and fuckin’ die

Now the only deck that I’d want to walk

Are the stalks of corn beneath my feet

And the only sea I want to sail

Is the darkened pond in the scented dusk

Where a kid grow’s full of sadness

Let us all go drifting out into the evening sun

At nights we passed the bottle round and drank to our lost friends

We lay alone upon our bunks and prayed that this would end

A wall of moving shadows with rows of swinging keys

We dreamed that whole Leviathans lay rotting in the weeds

There’s a sound that comes from miles away if you lean your head to hear

A ship’s bell rings on board a wreck when the air is still and clear

And up above that means another angel’s got his wings

But all below it signifies is a ship’s gone in the drink

Now the only deck that I’d want to walk

Are the stalks of corn beneath my feet

And the only sea I want to sail

Is the darkened pond in the scented dusk

Where a kid grow’s full of sadness

Let us all go drifting out into the evening sun

James Thirkhill Fearnley.

The Might of Chondroitin

I’ve just dropped David off at Brisbane Airport. Then I drove to the Apple store at Chermside. There my iPhone six, which has been playing up badly, was diagnosed in need of a new battery. I asked for it to be done. An eighty dollar battery is cheaper by far than a new iPhone. I had to wait a couple of hours until they could fix it, so I killed time by having a chicken and rocket wrap for brunch with a good coffee. Opposite the coffee kiosk was a discount pharmacy. 60% off selected stock.

David had told me about Chondroitin and the benefits he had derived from it. He also cited some fairly scientific sounding backup data. It sounded as if it might be beneficial to one in my situation. David is a practical person. A real Taurean, though we Capricorns don’t believe in that rubbish. In any case, I’ve never had bad advice from Dave, and in many cases, including this week, his thoughtful and insightful way of looking at things has given me new inspiration and determination. So I bought some Chondroitin and glucosamine tablets. Enough for a few months. That should be a good trial period.

Aside from the delight and pleasure of Dave’s company, and the practical things that he helped me with – and there was a good deal of that – last week did not go entirely well. We got the Bimini on the boat and sorted out everything to make her shipshape and Bristol shanky. We took her out on a maiden voyage with no disasters. I had some concerns about how I would manage handling her alone, mainly at the launching and retrieving stages. I shall have to work on that. I may have to go out with a companion if I can’t improve my mobility. Some things are just too hard. Fortunately there is no shortage of offers from my fellow inmates. I already have two. I’m not giving up.

Night trips were not even to be considered until I knew my way around the passage better, and in any case, the weather crapped out, all rain storms and wind. Finally, on the last day before Dave had to go home the sea seemed calm enough despite the rain squalls. We took her out from Banksia Beach, and fished off White Patch. Of course it poured with rain. But we didn’t get sunburnt. The Bimini was up.

I threw in a whiting rig. I used squid for bait. Within minutes I caught my first fish. It was a Yellowfin Tripodfish, Tripodichthys angustifrons (Hollard 1854). I’d never seen one before. It was not on my fish identification chart. I had to look it up when I got home.

It did not look very palatable, and it was not so big, so I threw it back.

Then, to my surprise and delight, I caught a snapper (Pagrus auratus). A fish I know well from New Zealand. The first I have caught in over thirty years of trying. It looked perfect for pan frying. However, David, ever practical, pointed out it could be undersized. Not knowing for sure what the size limit is, we concluded that too should be released.

Both Dave and I caught another tripodfish, which we released. After that we thought we’d change location. No more fish. But a good day on the water.

The boat and outboard performed well. The weakest link is me. I need to work on getting in and out of it, and on the logistics of doing some tasks alone. But it is not yet time to despair and sell it.

By yesterday, my knees and legs were burning pain. As I limped and waddled up to the ablution block last night one of my neighbours came out, saw my condition, and told me I needed a walker. He brought one out, one of several he had collected, and gave it to me. It has a seat for when I can’t go on. It really does help. Better than the trolleys I lean so heavily on when I’m shopping. At first I was mortified I had progressed from walking stick to walker so soon in my life, but the advantage is undeniable. Once again a random act of kindness just as I needed it. It almost makes one superstitious.

I Do Confess the Vices of my Blood

Dr. Mehdi was not happy with the results of my blood test last week. He frowned as he discussed their significance. He gave me a form, told me to go and drink a litre of water and try again. He was hopeful the poor results were caused by me being dehydrated last time. I have my doubts but dutifully did as bid. I popped around to Woolworths and bought 750 mls of water, and 250 mls of sugar-free lime flavoured sparkling mineral water. I downed them as I sat in the shade outside the mall. I then waited for the path lab nurse to return from lunch.

In the pathology lab the nurse greeted me and said “Back so soon?”

“Yep. Mehdi was not happy with your results last time. He wants you to do it again, and get it right this time”. I could see her umbrage begin for just a tiny fraction of a second before she caught on that I was pulling her leg. This is the sort of humour that gets me into trouble sometimes, when I’ve overestimated the ability of someone to see the joke. This nurse and I have been exchanging banter, and family stories for well over a year now. I knew she would get it. But for just a tic I thought I’d done it again.

She asked if I had tried the food at the Bongaree Bowling Club yet. She had recommended it to me last visit. I said no, I was waiting for my mate to come with me. He arrives tomorrow.

She drew the blood expertly and painlessly. As usual.

Then I went back to the surgery (same building) to see one of the practice nurses for a pneumonia vaccine. Mehdi thought I should have one. Given my age and generally decrepit condition. I’d had to wait for the practice nurse to have lunch also.

She too is one of the ladies I enjoy chatting with. Visiting the doc and all the nurses is the peak of my whirlwind social life. She took my blood pressure. 101/69 she was not happy with that and took it again. I held my breath to raise it a little for her. I told her Mehdi had already noted that my bp was dropping, and was going to review my meds after the next blood tests results come in. I have learned that lower blood pressure is necessary for patients with kidney disease, but my meds were now working too well. Too low is not good either Though lower BP helps the kidneys deal with the proteins, too low disrupts the function of filtering out salt.

She swabbed my shoulder and I felt the gentlest touch of pressure for a second. “Oh God, the pain” I said. She was aghast. “Did that hurt? Oh no I’m s so sorry, are you alright?”

“I didn’t feel a thing. Just kidding. You have a gentle touch.”

“You got me. I’ll get you back next time”.She put a little round plaster on the site. “This might swell a bit and it might be sore for a while. If you have any other reaction, or your arm drops off, call the hospital”. I told her I had worse things to worry about than losing another arm.. I’d adapted to having only two, I could adjust to losing one more. I left her pondering that.

I drove out of Woodford with some new data to think about. My blood chemistry is not good, haemoglobin count down, iron still low, salts out of balance and kidney function has deteriorated another 3%. At this rate dialysis looms and the caravan decision must be reconsidered. To dwell, or not to dwell. On the plus side, lipids, cholesterol and blood sugars are not as badly out of whack as they might be, although they will never be right in the green again.

Next, off to the ships chandlers in search of stainless steel screws and a deck plate for one of the legs of the second hand Bimini I bought for the boat. It’s called a deck plate even though it is fitted to the gunwales. BCF didn’t have any, but I saw the Bimini I bought for sale. .New it is $230 so mine was a bargain at $75, even if I do need to buy bits for it.

The chandler at Sandstone Point marina had what I needed. Only $2.50. I bought two, to have a spare. I also picked up a laminated chart of the area of pumicestone passage from Moreton Bay to Caloundra. That is the area I want to be poking about in. For fishing, yes, but also crabbing and spotting wildlife in the mangroves. I love the mangroves.

Bimini

On the way home it occurred to me I should have bought three deck plates (the Bimini still has one, needs two).Then I could set the Bimini up to be moveable fore and aft, to shade either the bow or stern depending on where I wanted to sit. I wouldn’t need to if the Bimini was bigger but I bought the smallest. Known as a two bow Bimini. Because it was available and I couldn’t afford it a lot less than I couldn’t afford any of the others.

I now have everything I need to be a jolly sailor, except a pirate hat and a cutlass.

No, Really.

True story.

I was in the economy shop to buy a device for picking things up, and a lumbar support, I knew I’d find them there at a fraction of the price at a pharmacy. I was not wrong.

I found the picky uppy thingy, which I usually refer to as a gotcha. As I took it from the shelf, I dropped it. I said aloud to myself. “Great. Now I’ll have to buy two”.

A woman standing behind me broke into a fit of giggles as she bent down to pick it up for me. The giggles redoubled when she saw I had already selected another one, and then I tucked both that, and the one she handed me, under my arm.

I thanked her sincerely for the assistance, and for the amusement, which brightened what was threatening to be a bleak day in more ways than the weather.

I had just come from a visit to, of all people, a podiatrist. My health care planner had thought maybe one could help me with my back/leg problem, seeing that I could no longer wear shoes with heels.

I met with him at 08:45. I apprised him of my current condition, and told him it seems to be getting worse lately, despite the walking, cycling and swimming. He listened. He asked a few pertinent questions, mostly about when the pain was worse, what activities made it flare up. He examined my posture.

At last he told me he did not believe that as a podiatrist, there was much he could do for me except provide a little arch support, which he promptly affixed to the jandals (thongs, flip-flops) I was wearing, after I told him they were what I wore most of the time. It may or may not help. He was not hopeful.

However, speaking not in his professional capacity, but as a person still recovering from a broken back, he felt he should pass on the information he had received from the surgeons and spinal specialists who had treated him.

What it amounted to was that riding a bicycle is not a good thing to be doing. Swimming and exercising in water is. So is losing weight. The first I had already begun to suspect. The latter two I already knew. When I mentioned having recently bought a boat, his look of dismay told me all I needed to know. He advised me to get a seat with suspension fitted. He also told me to get a lumbar support for when I sit, and gotchas for picking things up.

So I headed out into the rainy weather with an outlook bleak indeed. The bike had not been a good idea at all. Maybe the boat also. Though that yet remains to be seen. However, no matter how I looked at it i thought perhaps I had not been making sensible decisions lately. Most of my not-good ideas were costly. Either financially or in other ways. For example, my decision to work in the Kimberley had broken my heart, and my spirit, for a time , and did no good to the rest of me.

I tried to think back to the last time I could say I had chosen to do something that had really worked out well.

By the time I got to the economy shop I had progressively thought all the way back to 2009, and my decision to take that well-paid job in Fiji, without having identified anything positive at all. The black dog was circling me, ready to lunge.

Then I dropped the gotchas, talked to myself, and made someone laugh. That made me smile. I headed for the pool and swam in the rain. Swimming is Good.

I swam an extra half hour to make up for the cycling I’m not doing. I also solved the problem of water infiltrating my earplugs as I swam. The rubber bits that go into my ear canal are left and right handed. Somehow I had transposed them after washing them. Something I could have sworn I had taken great care not to do each time. I should have realised straight away.

Dave. My mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it.

I shall continue to use the bike, for short trips to the local shops and for transporting my washing to and from the laundry, but I’ll not be pedalling so much.

FOOTNOTE

By shear coincidence, just after writing about how I talk to myself, I came upon this article.

Which led me to this one. Until now I thought I was in the minority, on the spectrum of schizophrenia.