Saturday, 15 February 2014

What I learnt when I broke my foot

When you break a bone in your foot the hospital tends to put you in a cast and let you get on with it so I thought I'd list the things I learnt from the experience.

1     If you turn your ankle over it is possible to put all your weight on one point on the side of your foot.  If you are carrying something heavy, such as a grandson in a car seat, this may be enough to break the bone. As my bone density had recently been checked, because of my steroid intake, and found to be OK this could happen to anyone.

2     It is possible to move around for a couple of weeks with a broken foot before you go to hospital to have it checked.

3    You can learn a lot from books.  There's a passage in the book Touching the Void where one of the climbers tells the other he has probably broken his ankle (as well as his leg) as there were red streaks coming out from round the bruise; when I saw that on my foot that may have been the time to get it checked out.

4     When your foot and ankle are held rigid in plaster cramp in the calf muscle is agony.  You can't stretch the cramp away so just have to keep massaging the muscle until it returns to the right shape.

5    When you have a cast you can walk on you may not be able to use it outside as well as indoors without serious damage to your health.  My wife would have killed me if I'd trodden dirt into the new carpets.

6     When you walk with one foot in a cast it means you have one leg about 2" longer than the other. This twists your pelvis into a different position which can give you pain in both hips and your lower back for a couple of weeks.

7     How far you can 'walk' on crutches may be limited by pain in the hip of your good leg.

8     When you are finally free of the cast your pelvis will twist back to its normal position causing more aches and pains.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Am I an Alcoholic?

I recently read a good article on the BBC News site which asked whether the word 'alcoholic' was so contaminated by association with down and outs that perhaps we needed another word for those who still have some control over their life but have a drink problem. (full article here:

This made me think of my late step-mother who died from alcoholism but who felt so out of place at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting that she only went once.  If she had fitted in it might have saved her life but she felt excluded for not depending on crime to feed her habit.

I also remembered a psychologist friend telling me that the person who drank a sherry 5 nights a week when they got home from work was more likely to be an alcoholic than someone who went out and got drunk 2 nights a week.  This is where the problem really starts because the person who is medically an alcoholic may not have a drink problem whilst the one who isn't addicted may have the problem.

This is personal for me as for the last few years I have been trying to work out if I was an alcoholic or not.  I had got as far as saying I couldn't say I wasn't but, at the same time, I didn't feel comfortable saying I was an alcoholic.  That I had a serious drink problem was beyond doubt but was I an alcoholic in the way the word is defined medically?  In a way the answer is irrelevant as I have to live as if I am an alcoholic but life is always easier if we can put a label on things.

The two occasions I have allowed myself a little alcohol are Communion services and family meals, particularly over Christmas.  This Christmas I allowed myself to have more that a small glass of red to see how I managed; with mixed results.  Outwardly it was successful as I didn't over drink and I really enjoyed the wines but inwardly it wasn't so straight forward.  I didn't serve the wine so I don't know if I'd be OK pouring it myself and I could feel myself getting tense inside - one of the feelings that made want to drink too much.

So I still don't know whether I fit either the medical or common usage definitions of an alcoholic but I have to assume I am or the alternative is just too bad.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Why I haven't been blogging much

This is my first post for 6 months so I thought I'd better explain why.

Put simply another part of my body has stopped working and I've found doing anything a bit of a struggle; be it physical or mental activity.  This all started around Easter 2012 when my wife and I both caught a virus that laid us low for several weeks.  I eventually got over the virus but I was left feeling tired and drained so I did less and less, put on weight and did even less.  My GP was puzzled so in April 2013 referred me to the chest consultant - who I saw in July!

The good news is that he quickly found out what's gone wrong - the bad news is they can't do anything about it.  The virus has damaged the nerve to the right side of my diaphragm so that side no longer responds.  This has cut my lung capacity by about 10-15% but, sadly, it has done this to my healthier lung - both have asthma but my left lung also has dead patches (bronchiectasis.)  Apparently there is an operation that may repair the nerve but it kills 10% of the patients any way so is rarely used.

The consultants instructions were to lose weight (excess weight pushes the lung up higher) and to exercise more and while I have managed to loose about a stone in weight (that's 14lb to any readers in the USA) I have yet to get the exercise going as I still feel very tired.

If you have managed to read this far you may be wondering what this has to do with my lack of blogging.  The simple answer is the brain is fuelled by oxygen so any time my lungs misbehave my mind goes all fuzzy and stops working correctly.  As a result I have found it hard to think and, sadly, even harder to read anything more than a newspaper.  The good news is the weight loss seems to be working and my mind is beginning to get back to normal; hence this post and, I hope, a few more in the coming weeks.

Thursday, 4 April 2013


Do you ever mishear something and think it made more sense than what was actually said? Well this happened to me when I was listening to the radio in the car and they were talking about the undergraduate students at Jesus College Oxford paying £3.90 a term to enable a young woman from Gaza to attend their college. (full story here:

My initial reaction was that it was good to have a story about Oxbridge (collective for Oxford and Cambridge for those outside the UK) students which wasn't about drunkenness and bad behaviour.  As both my children went to Cambridge I know they play hard but that is only one side of the story - they work exceedingly hard at the same time.

The words that caught my attention were said by the young lady from Jesus College who had set up this scheme and I thought I heard her say "We all know He is Risen" which I thought was sensible given the name of the college.  It took me a moment to realise that she said "We all know fees have risen"  which made more sense in the conversation about students giving money to help someone who wouldn't otherwise be able to join them.

However as I thought about it my initial mishearing started to make sense as well.  Jesus, when announced his ministry quoted Isaiah when he said "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor." and what is this but an example of good news to the poor?  So, in a way probably not recognised by most of the students involved, I think it is quite right to say "We all know He is Risen." for this is indeed the work of His Kingdom.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Does the Church Need Defending?

This morning this headline caught my attention and made me stop and think:

Los Angeles archdiocese pays $10m to settle abuse cases 

(Read more here

A church rightly ends up paying $10m to victims of abuse when so much good could have been done with that money?   I have no reason to doubt that  Cardinal Roger Mahony is a reasonable God fearing man who has acted out of the best of intentions so what had gone wrong?

It appears that in this case, and others, the Roman Catholic Church has put the defence of itself and its institutions before the needs of the abused and downtrodden.  At that point it would be easy to write this off as a problem with that church, to tut, and to carry on but I think there is a lesson here for all Christians.

The Church has, over the centuries, developed many organisations forms to help administer and direct its work.  Whether this is right or not is irrelevant because that is where we all are be we Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican or even Baptist.  The problem arises when we react to defend the institution over the individual and in doing so we lose sight of our original objective to bring about the Kingdom of God on earth.  We do this by discouraging troublemakers and try to maintain unity at all costs in order to protect 'the church.'  An example of this is the efforts made in the Anglican church to keep everyone in the fold over the issue of women bishops; the church has got so caught up in trying not to upset some people that it is prepared to disadvantage women over a matter of justice.

Churches are, generally, good places full of people trying to do God's work but we need to be careful that it remains the way to God's Kingdom and not the Kingdom itself.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

How Prayer Works

A Thought Prompted by the Book of Tobit

Fairly recently someone asked me if I read the Bible and to my answer of 'Yes' they replied 'Including the Apocrypha?'  Now they were teasing me but it did make me think about why I hadn't read it.  For those of you who don't know the Apocrypha is the bit of the Bible written between the Jewish exile and birth of Jesus which isn't in the Jewish scriptures and was removed from the Bible by the protestant reformers because it appeared have been written in Greek and not Hebrew - although they may have just disagreed with its theology.  I had owned a copy of the Bible with the Apocrypha since the early 1960's when my grandparents bought us all a copy of the brand new translation - The New English Bible - although I suspect this has had something to do with my not reading the Apocrypha as I find the NEB even harder to read than the KJV.

Having armed myself with a more readable translation and an introduction to the Apocrypha I started reading it with no clue to what I would make of it.  So far I have read Tobit and for a story about a devout man blinded by sleeping under a nest of sparrows, a woman who is haunted by a devil that has killed 7 men who married her as soon as they got into the wedding bedroom and the angel Raphael I found at least one thing that made it worth reading.  Raphael has been acting in disguise and towards the end of the story he reveals who is and says:

So now when you (Tobit) and Sarah prayed, it was I who brought and read the record of your prayer before the glory of the Lord, ... God sent me to heal you and Sarah your daughter-in-law. I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand ready and enter before the glory of the Lord.
(I've left part out or I'd have to include most of the preceding 11 Chapters)

What I want you to notice is that when Raphael brings their prayers before God the only thing God does is to tell Raphael to go and sort it out.  This made me wonder about how often we pray to God about situations when what we should be doing is sorting it out.  I know this isn't always the case, e.g. when praying for a sick friend, but I suspect it is true more than we would like to admit.

So there you have it, a lesson from the Apocrypha.

Monday, 18 February 2013

The Dancing Gorilla

When you go to a service in a church with a very different background to your own do you see the dancing gorilla?  Yes I know that sounds mad but let me explain.  In an experiment radiologists were asked to look for cancer cells in lung scans that had the added bonus of a picture of a dancing gorilla but 80% of radiologists and 100% of unskilled observers failed to see it. (see here for more details

This got me thinking how often do we only see things the way we expect them to be and how often when faced with something strange do we look at it through the lens of our experience and fail to see what is really there?  If, like me, you were brought up in a church that had plain walls you may find a church that is highly decorated with statues rather discordant and possibly idolatrous.  However to someone used to that church it helps them see God's Glory and they would wonder what type of God you worshipped if they came to your plain church. Similarly someone used to a worship band style of worship may find a liturgical service over organised and stifling whilst the person who is used to a liturgical service may find a modern service chaotic.  In both these cases instead of not liking it why not ask the people who go there why things are done that way.  The liturgical service may help remind people of God's constancy whilst the freer style of service may give room for the Holy Spirit to work. No matter what the service you may just find your preconceptions being stripped away until you see the dancing gorilla that you missed at first sight.  Of course the answer may be "I don't know, we've always done it like that." which could be the spark that church needs to start looking at itself.
So next time you go to a strange place of worship just stop and ask yourself "Where is the dancing gorilla?" you may be surprised at what is right in front of you.