Sunday, 29 June 2014

Mocking the Week

I was asked yesterday what I thought of the football World Cup but, being English, I didn't have much interest in the topic - well, at least not any more. It made me think, though. Has my interest in the news in general diminished since the MS came and hit me? (I almost said 'came and bit me' but that's enough reference to the Suarez nibble, no matter that it's a story you can really sink your teeth into...)

Back to the point (yes, there is one) - the answer is, I realised, that yes, my interest in the news has diminished - at least on a general level. I'm finding myself ignoring many of the supposedly newsworthy items - Mrs Rooney's luggage collection, leadership of the European union, the Golden Gate Bridge suicide net (one less place to jump from when it all gets too much), and so on. My newer news interest tends to focus only on the things that matter to me, and often to us (fellow MSers).

That's not to say that I only look at new articles on stem cell research or the latest MS-related pharmaceutical investigations. I'm also finding myself reading up on the forthcoming releases of books and music that I know will help me forget about the (expletive deleted) condition for a few minutes or hours (thank you Sir Terry Pratchett and Leah McFall, this week, respectively), and digging far deeper into such stories than I ever used to. This week has also seen me scavenging through the interweb thingy for tickets to the Radio 2 Live in Hyde Park concert later this year - no luck yet, so if anyone out there knows where I might purchase one or two... - and that sort of activity is typical of the new me.

My interests have narrowed considerably, but deepened at the same time. And you know? I rather like that. And it's saving me a small fortune in barely read newspapers and magazines.

Oddly enough it's helping me with my new, MS-tinted hopes and ambitions. I want to become a published author later this year and thanks to the new focus I have, I now just what I need to do to achieve that goal - plus, I'm all out of excuses as to why it might not happen.

The news, though, has become more and more pointless to me (not that Pointless is necessarily a bad thing - I do rather like the TV show that goes by that name). When the 'contestants' on the show Mock the Week prod light-hearted fingers at the weekly fare produced by news desks it just doesn't seem like things really are as silly as they make them sound any longer - it's more like they are simply describing all the silly, meaningless things that constitute so much of the news these days. Now if the news shows simply talked about all the things that interest me, then maybe I'd start paying more attention again Mind you to be fair, a news programme that just focused on Formula One, stem-cell research, Terry Pratchett and the Electric Light Orchestra probably wouldn't have a very wide appeal. Even among fellow MSers.

My point is, that if someone came up to me and asked me what news items took my interest last week I'd have a real job on my hands trying to come up with anything other than England's very unsurprising exit from the World Cup. Oh, and I did work out for someone that the difference in years between Fred Perry winning Wimbledon and England the World Cup - 30 years - is significantly lower than the time between Andy Murray becoming the next Wimbledon Winner and that same World Cup win - 47 years.

That probably typifies my new focus on the pointless, and it least I can still remember who the Prime Minister is - David... er, David someone, anyway. Who is probably not a member of the Whigs.

See? I'm still with it....

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Waiting for G...I mean Sir Terry (Pratchett!)

It's here!

It felt a bit like Christmas used to when I was a little bit younger (okay, a lot younger), this last week. Some might say that The Long Mars (now published) is not a wholly Pratchett novel and therefore it's not the 'real deal' but to a true TP fan there's enough of his inimitable style to make it more than just a worthwhile reading exercise. Between them, Sir Terry and Stephen Baxter have created a joyous future for us all - - and apparently even they are sometimes unsure of which author wrote which bit. In a fascinating article, Stephen reveals just what it's like to work with Terry -,

It's certainly got a lot of people talking where I work and there's a surprising depth of knowledge kicking around the place. Favourite characters from the Discworld series was a hot topic over the last few days and the name 'Weatherwax' cropped up more than once. I even saw an 'I aten't dead' screensaver on one computer I hobbled past.

The Witches were mentioned more frequently than any other set of characters with even Magrat getting a mention. Greebo featured as well, although I'm not too sure that I would name any cat of mine that way (apparently one colleague has).

I recall being likened to an oft-featured character a few years back, and how happy I was - until they made it clear that they were referring to a young Vimes. Oh well, it could have been worse I guess. At least Nobby didn't get mentioned.

And that's the joy of the monumental Discworld series. There are just so many memorable characters that everyone loves - or loves to loathe. And so many different people have their particular favourites and their particular favourite tales. There were plenty of mentions of the Witches, plenty of the Watch, lots of references to Moist (if you haven't read about him, I'm not going to explain - just buy a book), loads of praise for Gaspode, and a wealth of worship for the Nac Mac Feegle.  And how could anyone not mention Death and his trusty steed, Binky? To anyone who doesn't recognise those characters I would only say that they are missing out on one of the true literary wonders of the modern age. Or rather on several of them.

Sir Terry is justifiably one of the most read - and most stolen - authors alive. There are now forty Discworld novels to choose from and, strictly speaking, they are virtually all stories in their own right without any need to read the precursors. I wouldn't recommend that though. Start at the beginning (The Colour of Magic) and work your way through them - although 'work' is definitely not the right word. 'Enjoy you way through them' just doesn't sound right, but trust me, it should.

MS might well have wrecked my life in so many ways, but I can still read and adore Sir Terry's brilliance. So there are no prizes for guessing what I will be sitting and reading all day today. Pass the crackers and a nice glass of something warming (except Scumble...)

Sunday, 15 June 2014

It's Good To Talk... (and txt)

With apologies to all those who aren't UK-based - or under the age of about 25 - as Bob Hoskins used to say when advertising for BT, it's good to talk. And if you extend that to communicating in general, then there are very few sentiments more true (excluding communicating with weapons when a simple 'I don't agree' would suffice).

This is a a blog, but really a weblog - we like to make things simpler, and one syllable is obviously easier than two. Although that doesn't really explain why we say 'www' rather than 'world wide web' (nine syllables beating three in this case).

txt speak has become the norm these days and very few people still believe that lol stands for 'lot's of love' (which is just as well given the confusions that could cause), and many of us have been subjected to such things as 'trolling' - even I've been trolled (some say to the point of looking like one...).

Language evolves with time, and ever since the rhyming slang of the nineteenth century we enter gloriously colourful phrases derived from the current modern popular culture into common (and less common) usage - I have to have some of then explained to me, but that doesn't dilute their value. For example, when I was told that a thoroughly broken motorcycle was a 'real Kenny' and had it explained that I needed to know about South Park to fully appreciate it, well that was a real rofl moment.

Of course evolution is the only way forward and language must evolve alongside everything else. Our mother tongue, English, is a bastard language in the real sense of the word (especially if you have to learn it or took the old O-level in the language), and so very many of our words are 'borrowed' - okay, stolen - from other tongues. We anglify them - which makes schadenfreude rather unusual in a very schadenfreude sort of way. Just think about that when you're sitting on your bungalow's veranda, sipping a nice cup of cha, or maybe a uisge beatha (anglified neatly and tastefully into whisky).

I rather like the concept of language as a living thing. English has a vast dictionary - almost 700,000 words, excluding all the extensions and base variations - which makes Scrabble an endless (almost literally) pleasure, but the difference between the written and spoken word is gigantic.When writing down something we need to adhere to certain rules or meaning can be easily lost - not everything can be translated from spoken to written that easily - especially shortened combinations of word, innit?

It's been almost ten years since I took my English 'O' level.... okay twenty... okay, okay forty, and I would love to see the look of horror that 'just' four decades of language evolution would have wrought on the features of my then English teacher. I might just about get away with describing the look of horror on his 'boat' but if I called his awful wife as a 'minger' he would just look at me as if I was mad.

Until he looked up the real meaning in some modern language dictionary. He might even just agree with me then...

Sunday, 8 June 2014

You've got what???

These days, thanks to the many types of publications available to us - including this interweb thingy - people are much more aware of things in general, and the population seems to have a fascination with all things even vaguely medicinal. Long gone are the days when 'brollies' were 'umbrellas', 'prams' were 'perambulators' or where we 'took' our daily newspaper in the 'withdrawing' room rather than simply the 'drawing' room (although I think even that sort of room is now a 'reception').

Given this modern abundance of information, it came as something of a surprise, after my diagnosis, to find out just how little many people know about the condition. And to be fair, that included myself. One person even commented, when I mentioned my MS, that he really liked their ready-made desserts. 

The big surprise for me was just how varied the symptoms are, so I guess I shouldn't be too shocked at how inaccurate non-sufferers' impressions of MS can be. 

My tolerance limits were, however, severely stretched when a particularly 'concerned' acquaintance took me to one side to ask very reverentially how long I thought I had left - the implication being it was either 'weeks' or 'months' at best (to judge by their seeming relish, 'hours' might been their personal favourite). They were left in serious doubt when I said that I would survive for many years as long as I didn't have the type that meant my head would fall off unexpectedly if I heard a sudden loud noise. I don't even feel particularly guilty about following up that last sentence with a loud, fake, sneeze.

Symptoms are, head-loss aside, widely varied, of course, and I don't find any of them remotely amusing - although I do like to laugh about them. Perhaps that's one of the symptoms? Acute oxymoronism. 

In my case, as the proud owner of the letters SPMS, my own effects are centered around loss of sensation. This is especially true of my lower limbs,so balance and muscle fatigue are my biggest bug-bears, but I consider myself more fortunate than anyone who suffers visual or mental impairment. (Although I grant you that 'small mercies' might apply to that statement - and probably not for anyone who really does suffer from visual or mental impairment).

The progressive nature of the condition means that we have time to adjust, no matter that the adjustments are constant, and it's worth reminding ourselves from time to time that if the condition afflicted us just as it is today, all of a sudden, we probably wouldn't be able to cope.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying MS is a benign and kindly condition - neither adjective apply to such a bastard ailment - but it could be worse. I suppose. Maybe/

Anyway, my point is that people in general don't realise how MS affects us. Let's face it, we have to ask fellow sufferers about the specifics of how we suffer, so why should anyone who doesn't have it and has never faced it before be able to understand our specific weaknesses? Quite often, people are overly sensitive as a result of their own lack of knowledge and they may even over-compensate. We should never take advantage of that sort of ignorance (although I would say that comments about unexpected head-loss are acceptable, of course), and as much as we want to smile about things and pretend that life is still wonderful, I strongly believe that we have a duty to them - and to ourselves - to be fair and honest.

Come to think of it, that's pretty much how we should all behave anyway.

By the way, has anyone seen a rogue cranium rolling around?