Pain

I can’t stand the pain
Spondylosis
Pinching back vertebrae
I can’t stand the pain
Knee arthritis
‘Cause I’m not who I used to be
Hey bloody knees
Tell me, do you remember
How sweet it used to be
When I could walk for miles
Everything was groovy
Now my joints are grating
And that’s one sound
That I just can’t stand
I can’t stand the pain
Of spondylosis
Aching thighs, aching knees
I can’t stand the pain
Of gravity on me
‘Cause I’m not who I used to be
When I was a young man
Everything was so grand
Now that I’ve grown old
There’s just one thing
That I just can’t stand
Can’t stand the pain
I can’t stand the pain
Of my leg muscles
Taunting me with memories
Of when I could walk free
I can’t stand the pain
And I can’t walk far
Unless my walking stick’s with with me
When we are together
I can make it round the shops
Like Woolworths. Oh sweet memories
But it’s just so wrong
That I just can’t stand
I can’t walk alone
Without a trolley to lean on
I can’t stand the pain
The spondylitic pain
That just keeps on haunting me
Hey hey pain
Get off of my back, please
‘Cause I can’t stand the pain
I’ll jump out a window
‘Cause I can’t stand the pain.

.38 Special

In the very early 70s when I was working as a leading hand at the Ceracrete Panel co. In Keeling Ave. one of my workmates invited me to his home for a meal one weekend. He got me terribly drunk, and I think he slipped me a Mickey in my drinks, because I don’t remember much after dinner. Apparently he drove me home. I assume his wife drove my car. My dad says I was really rude when they brought me home, and I went straight to bed, I remember nothing of the event after dinner.

However, I discovered next day I was the owner of a Smith & Wesson model 14 .38 Police Special with a four inch barrel, that I had apparently bought for $50. I knew nothing of its provenance, or how it came to be in the possession of the person from whom I apparently bought it. I don’t know how it was smuggled into New Zealand or whether it had been used in a crime.

All I know is I had in my hands a very illegal double action revolver with eight rounds of ammunition. I recall now that as a person in his early twenties, I thought, at first, this was pretty cool, though I did not ever carry it round tucked into the back of my pants. Not that cool, not that stupid. Even then.

Yes. I thought it was cool. Until the day I took it to the pine forest at Muriwai and tried it out, firing it at a tree. One shot. It scared the shit out of me. It was accurate, it was powerful, and it was fucking loud. The noise astounded me. The recoil shocked me. This was before I bought my (legal) .303 rifle. Until then I had only ever fired an air gun.

I did not know what to do. The enormity if what I had in my hand suddenly dawned on me. An illegal, lethal weapon that could send me to jail. And I had just discharged it for anyone to hear. I quickly skedaddled.

I took it home and hid it. Sorry Dad.

Fortunately, I had a friend who had a friend who was a legitimate gun collector. He took me to meet him, and that person agreed to take the revolver off my hands for the price I’d paid for it. Apparently it’s a classic. Collectible. How he accounted for it in his collection I know not, and care not. It was off my hands. That was all I cared about.

That is my pistol story. I’m drunk right now, or I wouldn’t be telling it.

New Knees, Neddy

It looks as if I am finally starting on the long road to new knees. I know it will take time, but I am hopeful I shall get equipped eventually.

Which reminds me of a story.

When I was a Health Protection Officer in Auckland, New Zealand, part of my role was to inspect mortuaries, crematoria and cemeteries. Also to approve disinterments on behalf of the Minister, and supervise them.

Which reminds me of another story. But I’ll tell that one later.

And another. But maybe I won’t tell that one at all.

But I digress.

To continue. I got to know the cemetery staff and local morticians quite well. One day the sexton of a large cemetery asked me if I could advise him on how to get into the medical appliance market.

It’s actually quite complicated and involves a lot of red tape. I was curious about what he had in mind. He took me to a shed in which was stored all the stainless steel knees, hip joints, pins, skull plates and what-have-you from all the folk who had passed through his furnaces.

He had lovingly cleaned and polished them all until they were good as new. Refurbished. Sort of. They were on shelves, and benches, hanging on hooks and all smaller parts were carefully sorted into labelled boxes.

I’d never before really thought about what happened to these things after a cremation. I knew that some electronic implants must be removed by the mortician, as they tend to explode. But surgical steel survives the fires virtually unharmed.

Of course they can’t go through the grinder that reduces the remains to a sandy powder to be put in an urn and lovingly thrown away somewhere, or stored on the mantelpiece.

Here they were. A fortune in indestructible body parts, useless to anyone but a scrap metal merchant. He was so disappointed when I told him not even third world – Sorry, developing – countries could have them. Even though there was probably a great kneed.

Observations, Dining at the Pub

A couple, middle aged, on holiday
He orders the parmigiana,
She the shrimp salad with pink dressing
They always order that, away

Another couple with a noisy child
The most interesting person in the room
Who does not want the mashed potato
Because it contains something strange

They order the same things they eat at home
And marvel that the vegetables include broccolini
And artichoke in the Pommes Purée
Who would have thought of that?

An old couple, he taciturn and grim, she loquacious,
Eat in respective misery and chatter
A complacent lifetime in their pockets
Neither connecting with each other or the food


A young man and the girl to impress
“We’ll have the escallop de veau”
He’s disappointed when it comes
“Where are the scallops?”
She’s trying not to smile.
I’m not.

At the corner tables sit the regulars,
talking loudly into each other’s hearing aid
Old men from the camp, who cannot cook
And even now, alone, won’t take the time to learn
They order steaks well done, with chips and salad
And apple crumble with whipped cream.


The waiter, young and earnest, recites the specials
They don’t seem that, so much

And I, I realise I’d rather be at the Punjabi
Where smiling Sikhs serve fragrant food

But I order chilli and nachos
And a Coronita
They put lemon in the bottle neck, not lime.
And very little chilli in the chilli

I smile at the noisy youngster
Demanding ice cream
though he hasn’t eaten his mash.

ARF

Returning Alone – Haiku 2

I go to the bush

With my black dog on a leash

I return alone.

ARF

The other day in the changing room at the pool I met Julius. Fit, firm, muscular and tanned with a shock of grey hair that rivalled mine before I cut it, he looked much like I aspire to. My casual “How are you going?” unleashed an expletive – laden account of depression and unhappiness that caused a conversation of over half an hour. His life had no purpose. His family no longer needed him, he had no job satisfaction. He was getting nowhere. He’d lost a lot in a property settlement. He wanted to be dead. Whenever he saw a report of someone being killed he wished it had been him. And so on.

,A lot of what he said resonated with me. I told him I had an inkling of how he felt and that I shared some of his experience. I was very concerned not to enable his suicidal thoughts and looked for ways to talk through them. I asked if he had sought medical help. I told him I had found a lot of help with Prozac. It might not be for everyone, but there was undoubtedly something similar that might help in his case. He was dismissive. He did not want to put that stuff in his body. I asked if he preferred to have sadness and sorrow. There was an alternative. I have been on medication for ten year’s over. It helps.

He asked how old I was, I told him.

“Christ, you’ve had eight years of this shit more than I have”.

I could only tell him that it wasn’t all bad, and though I had been right where he was not so long ago, there is another side. I urged him to get help. We talked on for a while. In the end he shook my hand, told me his name and asked mine, then bid me goodbye, saying he was pleased to have met me.

I don’t quite know what to make of that encounter. On the way home I pondered whether there was ever a time when it was ok to decide one had endured enough and there was nothing left in life to give it purpose and meaning. What circumstances would make it a reasonable decision?

From his physical appearance, Julius has no reason for such despair unless he has been diagnosed with something as yet invisible but terminal. From a social and mental health perspective it is harder to comment. There are creative and intellectual considerations. There could be matters of conscience.

Though I have been where Julius seems to be, I don’t think it was ever more than a passing moment of self-pity and self-doubt that was easily managed by an appropriate dose of fluoxetine and a jolly good talking-to.

“On the other hand, there are plausible circumstances that I can envisage. Perhaps, should there come a time when the pain is too much, the prognosis too bleak, and the point has been so completely lost, I may need to think along those lines. If so I’d like to think I shall make the decision rationally, deliberately, and without despair. At such a time it would be wrong to dissuade me. I would not have “so much to live for” any longer. There would be something unpleasant to avoid and nothing still left I’d care to do. Particularly if the cost of doing it was too great. Then the inevitable end should be embraced and welcomed in a manner of my own choosing, rather than slowly, fearfully and painfully. At such a time I would prefer to go gentle into that good night. Joyfully, even, knowing I have done, and had, enough.

This could have been a very depressing encounter. Oddly, in the end I concluded I was ok. I worry about whether I shall see Julius again, and what I should do if we meet. Should I invite him out for a drink and a chat?