Uncomfortably Numb

For some time I’ve had a strange condition that even my doctor has not been able to explain. Nor has he suggested any tests that might put light on the matter.

Is it neurological or circulation? Or something else.

The tip of the ring finger on my right hand is numb. Sometimes it is itchy, as if bitten by a mosquito. I feel pressure if I touch it but it seems to have no operational pain receptors, as I can poke it with a pin without sensation other than a hint of pressure.

I have no explanation. But it seems ironic that the Romans and other old societies believed this finger is connected directly to the heart, which explains why it is the ring finger

It is difficult to photograph ones right hand with a cellphone, using ones left hand.


Within minutes of publishing my last post the phone rang. It was my mate David in New Zealand. Concerned about my mental wellbeing. A call I really appreciated.

Not that I’m any more depressed than usual. I have developed a philosophy of off-handed acceptance in the vein of “shit happens”. I’m not going to worry about anything over which I have no control. I’m certainly not going to worry about unconfirmed possibilities.

When shit happens I remind myself that it doesn’t matter. In fact, “it doesn’t matter” has pretty much become my mantra whenever something happens that I cannot do anything about. Quite a lot falls into that category. It’s part of growing old.

Dave’s call reminds me I have a mate. That matters.


I self-isolated first.

Late last year I deleted, or thought I deleted, my Facebook page. With that act, I cut myself off from over 90% of my daily social interaction. I had not realised at the time how significant this was.

I kept my Eric TDuck page, and my blogs, but they do not involve any conversations with others. That’s just me talking. I really don’t think many are listening. There is very little feedback, or indeed much indication that anyone reads my blog. Most of the ‘likes’ I get are from self interested bloggers pushing a product and farming followers.

It was not until a visit from my best and oldest friend, followed pretty quickly by the Coronavirus issue, that I realised how much my sanity depended on social interaction. Chatting, joking and exchanging views. And it was appalling to realise how much of the social interaction in my life was now virtual, with friends scattered across several countries, and very few physically nearby. That is, less than a week’s drive away.

Social distancing as a result of COVID19 did not change my life one iota.

If I plotted the location of all the friends with whom I stay in touch on a map of the world using blue dots for all those I have at some time actually met and interacted with, and green for those I’ve met through Facebook and never seen in person, by far the greatest number would be green, and the greatest concentration of blue would be around the great southern area of Western Australia. How did that happen?

Even so, it was through Facebook and Messenger that I had stayed in contact with most of these friends. I speak on the phone to only a few. I don’t write letters, and only a few emails. So. By deleting my Facebook page I had cut myself off from almost all of my friends, as well as the sexist, racist, fascist, ignorant twats who had driven me to despair.

The old nose and face conundrum.

I was surprised when, after following a news link which led to a Facebook post, I was offered the chance to log in as Eric TDuck (expected) or as myself (not expected).

So I got my page back. It seems I hadn’t deleted it. And with the return to sharing my thoughts, jokes, photos and political opinions came immediate conviviality and good wishes plus a little bit of the sanity I hadn’t realised I was losing.

The C Word

We talk about melanoma and avoid the C word. When I was first diagnosed, my GP advised me to let my family know that I have joined the 66% of Australians who have, or shall have, skin cancer. They are, he said, genetically predisposed to have it too. Hopefully not the ones with melanin. I do so hope that.

I’m a cancer patient. A few of my friends, but not one of my family except my Dad, have asked how I’m dealing with that. Well enough, I thought, thanks for asking.

Until now. I’m beginning to have reservations. The latest melanomas are deeper, and spreading faster. Therefore the cutting is deeper and wider. For the first time today I had internal stitches. My frigate bird lost half a wing. The two we biopsied on my back will be excised next Friday. The biopsy results were not good. They will be the biggest yet.

So far, Mehdi has done the cutting and stitching of two melanomas at a time in half an hour give or take. Today took longer. The next two will take at least an hour.

Considering this latest batch of seven were not even detectable three months ago, even by the sharp-eyed and very careful Mehdi, I have to consider the future implications.

I stayed with my friend Jeff for the last months of his life, because he did not want to go into a hospice, nor burden his mother with the supervision of his death. He had a cancer which metastasised and became terminal. I don’t want to go through what he went through, nor inflict it on anyone else, particularly anyone I love.

So I must use the C word.

Contingency plan.

In Case.

I need a plan.

I’m rambling. It’s the Jameson’s. And the Guinness. I’ll have a Dubliner in coffee to follow. Finishing off Alcoholic Leftovers from St Patrick’s Day.

Because my arm hurts. Because it’s there, and increases the effect of the meds. And I don’t have to be anywhere tomorrow.

I have to have a plan. For when the outlook is dire.

Yeah. I’ll probably delete this post when I sober up. It is hard to keep the vow I made to tell it like it is.


To die

Is to forget.

To be forgotten

Is Death.

And that, simply put

Is the meaning of life.

A chance to do something

That won’t be forgotten


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.


I was not so foolish as to believe the first two melanomas Mehdi removed would be the last. But I am surprised at how quickly the next ones showed up. In less than three months I’ve grown more than half a dozen lesions that were either innocuous at the first inspection, or weren’t there at all. Plus a suspected carcinoma. And that is just on my arms and shoulders. We did not complete the full body check as we ran out of time.

I was already becoming paranoid, regularly noticing what I suspected may be new, or changing, lesions that I should keep an eye on, but now some of my suspicions seem to be confirmed, I’m even more so. Particularly about those itchy spots on my back that I cannot see and which won’t go away.

I’m not worried, yet, because I believe I’m in the hands of someone who knows what’s what. If I had not been attending this particular doctor, however, who knows how things may have gone? He is the one who instigated the checks, not I.

The estimated five-year survival rate for patients whose melanoma is detected early is about 99 percent. That’s encouraging. The survival rate falls to 65 percent when the disease reaches the lymph nodes and 25 percent when the disease metastasizes to distant organs.

So my advice to family and friends and anyone else reading my blog is to get checked.

At least learn how to check yourself. Especially if you live in Australia or New Zealand, which have the highest exposure to UV and as a result the highest skin cancer rates.

This has been a public service announcement.

For more information

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.


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.

Verse: Bad and Worse

No One Likes My Poems.

No one likes my poems at all.
That didn’t worry McGonagall
Nor should it me, though I’ll aver
I know whose I more prefer
Although he always found a rhyme
I do not bother much of the time
But whether rhymed, or blank, my verse
Compared to his, is not the worse


Even so, I have to say
I love his ode to the bridge of Tay
I once aspired to write that way
It’s harder than it looks, and may
Tax even great poets all the day

And then when I fell deep in love with a miss
I finally managed to come up with this:

Ode to the Missus

Beautiful woman! Beside whom I lay
I love you in every possible way
To list all your virtues would take me all day
But I’ll make an attempt at it, anyway

Your hair is so fragrant, and curly dark brown
I like very much the way it hangs down
Your eyes, too, I love. And they too, are brown
I love when they laugh, and fear when they frown

And then there’s your smile, that gives me delight
With inviting soft lips, and teeth shining white
When you smile at me, well. I know all is right
My heart skips a beat and I hold your hand tight
I just want to frolic with you all the night

Your legs are not long, but they get you around
They start at your buttocks and reach to the ground
Your neck is as graceful as that of a swan
Though not quite as feathery and not quite as long
And perhaps this is where I should finish this song.
For I won’t share my thoughts here for others to see
On those particular charms that endear you to me.

That poem brought me joy, you know it. I knew at last I was a poet.
Crying in the Wilderness.