Tuesday, January 29, 2008

After The Feasting Is Over

A friend sent this to me the other day.
It's worth reading and it's worth passing on.
Speaks volumes.

In the beginning God covered the earth with broccoli, cauliflower and spinach, with green, yellow and red vegetables of all kinds so Man and  Woman would live long and healthy lives.
Then using God's bountiful gifts, Satan created Dairy Ice Cream and Magnums. And Satan said, 'You want hot fudge with that? And Man said,  'Yes!' And Woman said, 'I'll have one too with chocolate chips'. And lo they gained 10 pounds.
And God created the healthy yoghurt that woman might keep the figure that man found so fair. And Satan brought forth white flour from the wheat and sugar from the cane and combined them. And Woman went from size 12 to size 14.

So God said, 'Try my fresh green salad'. And Satan presented Blue Cheese dressing and garlic croutons on the side. And Man and Woman unfastened their belts following the repast.
God then said 'I have sent you healthy vegetables and olive oil in which to cook them'.  And Satan brought forth deep fried coconut king prawns, butter-dipped lobster chunks and chicken fried steak, so big it needed its own platter, and Man's cholesterol went through the roof. 
Then God brought forth the potato; naturally low in fat and brimming with potassium and good nutrition.  Then Satan peeled off the healthy skin and sliced the starchy centre into chips and deep-fried them in animal fats adding copious quantities of salt. And Man put on more pounds. God then brought forth running shoes so that his Children might lose those extra pounds.  And Satan came forth with a cable TV with remote control so Man would not have to toil changing the channels. And Man and Woman laughed and cried before the flickering light and started wearing stretch jogging suits. 
Then God gave lean beef so that Man might consume fewer calories and still satisfy his appetite.  And Satan created McDonalds and the 99p double cheeseburger. Then Satan said 'You want fries with that?' and Man replied, 'Yes, and super size 'em'. And Satan said, 'It is good.' And Man and Woman went into cardiac arrest.
 God sighed ......... and created quadruple by-pass surgery.
And then ............ Satan chuckled and created our Health Service and the HSE.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Workplace is Still Tough for the Sick

IT is only right that the world has moved on so that discrimination against people on the basis of their sex, their sexual orientation, their colour, their creed, their nationality or their physical ability, is becoming more and more rare.
It ‘s not gone, of course.
There are plenty of people who treat women badly, who are homophobic, who are racist, who despise religion of any or all sorts, who hate other nationalities, their neighbours in particular and who would never dream of hiring someone who is in a wheelchair or who is deaf or blind.

I am less than convinced that there is not rampant discrimination against the sick.
By ‘sick’ I mean those with chronic illnesses.
I would include those with epilepsy, asthma, diabetes and suchlike.
I would include those with bi-polar disorder or manic depression as we used to call it.
In fact, I would include anyone with a psychiatric illness.
And I would certainly include those who, like me, have cancer.
There is something in the psyche of many people, which tells them that the chronically ill are not worthy of important roles in the workplace.
They are not to be promoted to too high a level.
While my current employers are decent and considerate, I do have experience of losing a senior position in which case one of the reasons given for demotion was “we want someone who’s here all the time, not someone who is sick.”
I was, at the time, in hospital.
But that’s only a small example.
Those who are lucky enough to be more or less constantly in the full of the health, often don’t realise that being chronically ill doesn’t mean being ill all the time. It doesn’t even mean being ill much of the time if you’re lucky and if you have the right treatment.
But there are many, sadly in positions of authority, who look on the chronically ill in the same sad way they look at women.
You see, women can become pregnant. And pregnancy more often than not (I’m glad to say) leads to the birth of a child.
And of course, childbirth has the inevitable result of maternal leave or, in civilised countries, parental leave.
And that’s costly and annoying for bosses. Damned women. Nerve of them. You’d think they’d be more career conscious and give consideration to not having children, something the parents of those who think like that should have done.
Cancer is often a chronic rather than a terminal illness.
Many people suffering from cancer are well for the vast majority of their working lives.
That’s true of most people who have chronic illnesses.
It’s frustrating when you come up against someone too thick to realise that, though a person has a chronic illness, they have a major contribution to make.
If there is to be discrimination in the workplace, let it be against those bozos.
But may they never suffer from a chronic illness.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Why We Are Forced To Elect Fools

They have set out on the long road of electing a new president for the United States of America.
By this time next year, the new man, or woman, will be in place.
But what kind of choice does the American electorate have?
Are they choosing between McCain and Obama and Huckabee and Romney and Clinton and Edwards and Guilliani to find the best person to run their country?
Of course they're not.
What they are doing, is choosing between a bunch of people all of whom found it possible to raise millions, nay, tens of millions of dollars in their bids to reach the White house.
The best person to run the United States - whoever it may be - isn't in the race.
Indeed, of the seven mentioned above, it's likely that not one would be in the top ten thousand of those capable of running the US, let alone the top seven.

Let me say here, I don't know of a system better than democracy. But, regardless, democracy is flawed. At least, it's flawed in the way it is practised in virtually every country in which it is employed.
In the United States, and to a degree in other wealthy democracies, it is only those who have enormous financial backing, who can go forward for election.
In other countries, such as Britain or Ireland - indeed, most European democracies - it is generally only those who have the backing of large political parties who can put themselves forward for election.
The result, in Ireland at least, is a very, very narrow choice.
If it were not for the fact that Irish politicians are litigious in the extreme, I would name those that only a fool would elect.
There are plenty of them.
Our parliament if full of sons and daughters of politicians. It is populated by the widows of politicians, by their nieces and nephews, cousins and in-laws.
It is full of dynasties.
And they are people unafraid to pay themselves large amounts of our money. They collect, in expenses, seven and eight times the sums pensioners are awarded - by them - to live on for a year.
They take inordinately long holidays.
And they preside over - in Ireland - a shambolic health system, organised crime running rampant, an insufficient number of schools, a road system chronically bad because it has been built to facilitate the opening of land for development rather than for the convenience of commuters, a social welfare system that sees tens of thousands living in poverty and a climate of greed and "I'm all right Jack" that has seen the rich become considerably richer in recent years and the poor left to fend for themselves on the crumbs.
We are, at election time, presented with a list of fools from which we are asked to choose our representatives.
We are not asked to vote for those whom we wish to elect, but those whom the political parties which us to elect.
And so we try to choose the least foolish who may nonetheless be a fool.
And tragically, the only ones who can change the system, are the fools we elect.
We should, for example, not permit the relatives of deceased TDs to take the seats of their departed family members.
We should allow a choice of "none of the above" for voters on election day. And those reject should be barred for ten year from presenting themselves for election again.
But is as likely as pigs voting on whether rashers should be smoked or maple. It is as likely as a sheep suggesting that it may as well be hung, as a lamb.
We are stuck with fools, often dishonest fools, often lazy fools, but certainly fools.
Are we are stuck with countries badly run by people who couldn't run them well even if they wanted to. Which they don't.
That's why they have dictators here and there.
And it's why the prospect isn't all that appalling.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Off To Beijing In Our Blinkers

Tiananmen Square massacre: If murder was an Olympic sport, China would take the gold.

It's Olympic year.
All over the world, hopefuls are training hard, hoping that, when the big day comes, they'll put in their best performance ever and win a medal.
The world will be there. There will be a team, of sorts, from Iraq. Sudan will proudly fly its flag. Israel will be there. Pakistan will have their athletes competing.
In fact, regardless of whether a country is governed by a benign regime or an odious on, its citizens will proudly march under the national flag at the Olympic Games.
And, on balance, that's the way it should be.
According to the Olympic Charter, established by Pierre de Coubertin, the goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practised without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.

The problem arises, this year in particular, due to the location chosen for the Games.
Beijing is the capital of a country, which denies basic human rights to its citizens, which is encouraging dissent, and disruption in Africa and which - despite or maybe because of the proximity of the Games - is clamping down hard on opponents of the unelected government.
Recently, I heard one of Ireland's most respected, most successful and most famous athletes say that issues other than sport had nothing to do with the competitors at the Games. He said they would turn a blind eye.
How disgusting is that?
Athletes will turn a blind eye, it seems, to the imprisonment of those who merely criticise the government. They will turn a blind eye to brutality and, perhaps to summary executions.
They will turn a blind eye to the eviction of thousands and thousands of people from their land in the name of progress.
It will be hard for them to turn a blind eye to the pollution spewed out by Chinese industry.
They will turn a blind eye to the jailing of Catholic priests purely for being Catholic priests.
They will probably not turn a blind eye to Tiananmen Square but rather pose there for pictures. They will certainly turn a blind eye to the events there some years ago when unarmed students were massacred.
Still, Beijing is one of Bertie Ahern's favourite places. He admires the mayor. He likes the way they do things. Whether or not he'd like to send out armed troops to massacre his critics in Ireland, I don't know. But I have my suspicions.
The fact is that athletes competing in Beijing are endorsing all that the Chinese government is doing.
They are endorsing the Tiananmen Square massacre.
Fifty or sixty years ago, it mightn't have mattered so much.
Back then, athletes competed purely for the honour of representing their countries and winning medals.
Now, they're competing for money. Now they're competing to make careers for themselves. Now, they even cheat to achieve their greedy goals.
This is nothing to do with Pierre de Coubertin.
His ideals were honourable and had nothing to do with money.
Athletes will go to Beijing this summer, of course they will.
Television stations, including RTE in Ireland, are already boasting about the coverage they will provide.
Sport and politics shouldn't mix, people say.
That may have been true in the amateur era.
Now, when the aim of the athletes is to pocket as much money as possible, it is no longer true.
They can turn their eyes away if they wish.
They will be nonetheless, guilty.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Ah, The Joys Of The Countryside

It was a beautiful weekend.
And so, after months of my been unable to walk long distances, we took advantage of the cold, clear weather, and headed off to the Dublin Mountains, Connie, Charlotte, Eric the mutt and I.
We stopped at Cruagh Woods, between Rathfarnham and Glencree.
Delighted to say, the car park was full.
But the extent of the wood, coupled with the fact that they have allowed the undergrowth to flourish, meant that we only occasionally met others on our walk.
Eric had a ball. He gets walked every day. But an adventure in a forest is something he's not used to. Mind you, he found the undergrowth a little scary.
After the walk, when we returned to the car, I found one abandoned Coke bottle in the car park. It was the only litter I saw. And I took it with me.
It was a different matter on the boglands further towards Glencree, I am sorry to say.

There we found burned out cars in what has, sadly, become their natural habitat. I can't remember driving that road in recent years, without seeing a burned out car or two along the wayAnd alongside the winter heather, beer cans were flourishing. Broken beer bottles, vodka bottles and whatever kind of detritus you can imagine dumped by the side of the road.
I suspect that at least some of those doing the dumping arrived in stolen cars which they later burned out.
But it would be wrong to blame just yobbos, young drinkers or hooligans in general. Because as you drive along the side roads, through the bogs, you will find fridges, televisions and all sorts of electrical goods. Why I don't know. All such items can now be dumped for recycling, free of charge. Some people seem to prefer ruining the landscape.
I have seen settees, mattresses, bags of household rubbish and builders' rubble.
Are these the same people who throw litter on the streets of Dublin and our other filthy (but apparently improving) towns and cities? Are they the phanthom chewing gum chuckers?
I presume so. Clearly, they don't recognise what they themselves are: the detritus of society.
The problem is easily solved. And was it not for the fact that the country is run by idiots more concerned about their own welfare, their own salaries, their own perks and their own jobs, it would be solved.
It only requires the will to solve it.
Ah, but if we were run by people with the will to solve problems, we wouldn't be miles above our Kyoto targets, we wouldn't have a shambolic health service, we would have roads, rail lines, schools, a sufficient numbers of policemen and prison places and judges and courts and doctors and nurses and teachers and special needs teachers and places for children with intellectual disability and places for adults with intellectual disability and...
You get the picture.
The only thing we have too many of, is ministers, members of the Dail and civil servants.
So maybe, after all, the rubbish dumped on that beautiful bogland, reflects us accurately after all.

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Friday, January 4, 2008

We're Going To Have To Move

Dammit, it's happened again.
Snow, two feet deep in Drogheda, we're told. Roads blocked in Donegal, they said on the radio. Pictures on television of kids making snowmen in Galway.
It's not fair.
Dublin didn't get a flake. Not one. Not a single flippin' flake.
I know, I know. You think we're lucky.
But I like snow. Connie like's snow. Eric - I mean, he's a Samoyed after all - must like snow. And I'll bet anything that Charlotte would absolutely love it.
But nothing.
We sit enviously watching the pictures on the news. We turn green listening to the warnings from AA Roadwatch on the radio.
We can't bear to watch the weather forecast, because when it comes to snow, Dublin isn't on the map.

It's worse for Connie. She's getting phone calls from Drogheda, her home town, telling her all about the snow there.
I can't remember the last time Dublin had decent snow.
Actually, I can. The trains stopped. The roads were blocked. The buses were off. People got trapped in the city centre.
The country stopped that time, back in the early eighties.
So bad was it, that the Coalition government of the day appointed a Minister for Snow, not that that's what they called it.
The late Michael O'Leary got the job.
And I remember photographs of him launching, if that's the word, two snowmobiles outside Heuston Station.
Two snowmobiles. And hundreds of thousands of people trying to get to work.
Anyway, he launched the snowmowbiles.
And then it rained.
And the temperatures rose.
And the snow melted.
And that was that.
Today, the snow is starting to melt in those parts of the country that had it.
But at least they had it.
I can imagine the giggles of Charlotte if I built a snowman.
I can imagine Eric almost vanishing in the whiteness.
I know you're probably thinking cold, icy, wind, traffic, skidding, power cuts and what not.
I'm thinking snowmen, snowballs, sliding, skating and the pure beauty of the Dublin mountains in the snow, not to mention the beauty of the garden.
But snow is a no-no in Dublin.
But for some reason, Dublin just gets wet.
And it's not fair.

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Thursday, January 3, 2008

So Much To look Forward To

The splendid village of St Guilhem le desert

I’m not going to bore you, day after day, talking about my impending Bone Marrow Transplant.
Oh no.
I’m saving that for when I actually have it.
But has done one thing already that I’m not mad about, that is, in one way, bad.
It has made me wish a bit of my life away.
I wish it was over.
But it’s also good in a way.
Because I think I have an awful lot to look forward to when it’s all over.
I’m looking forward to going back to France again, for example.

There is a division in the house right now. And it’s understandable.
I’m in love with the Languedoc area of France, not least because of it’s wonderful wines. We’ve been buying Languedoc wines for years, not expensive ones mind, but wines we like.
And we’ve watched the price ratchet up as their popularity has risen.
But Languedoc is a fabulous area. It’s not as touristy as other areas though, clearly, if we’re there, tourists are there.
But you don’t tend to get mass tourism. Or caravans.
Last time we went, it was to a modern house in a village that didn’t even have a shop. Personally, I thought it bliss.
But the reason there’s division in the house now is, that when I’m well, Connie thinks we should head for Italy because of the Italian love of children.
Well, I have to agree that a house in a village containing nothing probably isn’t a bad idea with a toddler.
But the French aren’t bad with children either.
And I love the area around Gignac so much, that I am determined, one day, to bring Charlotte there.
There is, for example, the wonderful village of St Guilhem le desert.
It’s medieval wonder with a magnificent church containing an organ which sounds like it was made hundreds of years ago. Because it was.
The church, allegedly, contains a piece of the true cross. I’m always sceptical about such claims, but I gave it due reverence last time I was there, just in case.
The entire area is a scenic wonderland. The people are fantastic - especially if you speak a little French, or try to.
On one visit, the local shopkeeper even tried to teach me a few words of French every day.
Italy or France then?
Well, it’s something to ponder over the coming months, especially those which will be spent in hospital.
Before we go anywhere, though, there’s next Christmas to look forward to.
Sorry. I know.
But the middle part of my year is likely to be blank.
And Christmas 2088 with Charlotte and Connie is, as much as anything else, the kind of thing that will keep me going.

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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

It's Going To Be Some Year....

2008 has arrived at last.
I was waiting for it with some excitement and not a little fear.
Because, one way or the other, it's going to be a big, big year for me.
Sometime in the next 12 months, hopefully in the next three or four, I will have a Bone Marrow Transplant.
If it works, I will have the chance to resume a normal life.
If it doesn't, well, if it doesn't it could mean no change.
Or no life.
Obviously, I've asked a lot of questions about this treatment. It's astonishing, really, that medical science has actually come up with a blunderbus to fight certain cancers. As one of my doctors said; 'We have very few golden bullets."
So they kill all the cells. Good and bad.
And that makes the transplantee very, very sick. It means living in an isolation room for weeks. It means not seeing my little daughter Charlotte for six to eight weeks. That will be one of the hardest parts of all.
It means six to twelve months of not feeling very well.
But it could mean a new life.

I hate hospitals. i don't if it's because I have spent so much time in them or if it's just a kind of phobia.
So deciding to do this hasn't been easy.
But one thing made the decision easy.
Anything that will allow me to spend more time with her, is worth it.
There is, of course, a problem with finding out as much as you can about something like this.
All of what you discover, isn't good.
There are sad stories, stories about people suffering a great deal. There are tragedies.
But I try as hard as I can to concentrate on the stories of hope and the stories of people given back their lives.
Next week, I see my doc and tell her to start making the arrangements.
Although they harvested healthy bone marrow from me some years ago, they will, in the first instance, see if they can find a donor.
That raises the possibility of Graft versus Host disease which can be bad.
But if it all goes to plan, the results could and should be excellent.
Eight weeks without holding my daughter. Eight weeks without a kiss from her.
And even when I see Connie, she will be wearing a surgical mask.
They tell me'll I'll be too sick to care, which, in a perverse kind of way, is good news I suppose.
I hope to keep up the blog while I undergo the transplant and in the subsequent months.
So if you have a mind which is interested in things medical, this is the place for you.
I'm going to need some courage.
And your prayers please.

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