Thursday, March 22, 2018

Billy Liar (1973-74)

Having, over the past few weeks, a lot of time to fill, but unable to do anything too stressful or demanding, I found myself catching up with a number of sitcoms of my youth.  Most recently, I've been reacquainting myself with what nowadays seems to be a little remembered show produced by London Weekend Television (LWT): Billy Liar.  Having already successfully adapted his 1958 novel into a stage play, film and even stage musical, using it as a premise for a sitcom must have seemed the next logical step for Keith Waterhouse.  Co-written with Willis Hall, the TV series updates the central character and action to the early seventies, but leaves the central premise intact: under achieving small town boy Billy Fisher routinely escapes his mundane existence - he lives with his conservative parents and is stuck in a dead end job (literally, he works for an undertaker) - through his fantasies.  Whenever faced with problems, he retreats into a dream world where he is always heroic and triumphant over his foes (personified by his parents, boss, on/off fiance Barbara and various other authority figures).  The main difference here is that, whereas in the book/film/play most of his fantasies centre around the imaginary country of Ambrosia, in the TV series, they are, more often than not, inspired by then current pop culture, (there's a second series episode I remember from its first broadcast in which Billy's fantasies centre around the Kung Fu TV series, for instance).

The Billy Liar TV series ran for two long series in 1973-74 (twenty six episodes in total), showing on Friday nights.  The first series was notable for containing a surprising amount of swearing for its era (mainly Billy's father uttering the word 'bloody' when describing his son, when that was the worst swear word you could hear on TV), and some mild (by today's TV standards) nudity, (mainly some bare behinds and the odd flash of 'side boob').  The second series, shown in an earlier slot, toned these elements down.  Despite being reasonably popular, Billy Liar has never been repeated on UK TV since its first transmission and only secured a DVD release a few years ago.  This seems surprising as, watching some of the episodes again, it hasn't aged as badly as some of its contemporary sitcoms.  Sure, the fashions seem shocking by today's standards, but much of the humour, particularly the fantasy sequences, still raise a smile.  The seventies pop culture references are still comprehensible (they often reference TV series and films which are still remembered and shown today).  With scripts by Waterhouse and Hall, it perhaps should not be surprising that the writing holds up well, the dialogue and gags still feeling relatively sharp.  Moreover, production values are generally above average for the era.

The most problematic element of the show for me, has been the title character himself.  I'm not entirely sure that even nowadays we'd see such a maladjusted character presented as the hero of a sitcom.  It isn't just that Billy is a fantasist, he is, as the title implies, an outright liar, lying with ease and frequently for no reason at all.  While the lies he tells to make himself seem more interesting, or the elaborate fantasies he weaves about his family history, (at various points he claims his father is a Mafia don or a convict, his grandmother a famous artist and his mother is dead), are understandable and amusing, other of his lies seem pointless, needlessly complicating situations. (I know that the writers' intent here was undoubtedly to reinforce the idea that Billy is a pathological liar who has lost the ability to distinguish between fact and his fantasies, but all too often these minor lies seem to be plot contrivances designed solely to move the story along).  Furthermore, the lies that he tells his sometime fiance Barbara and his various other girlfriends frequently seem downright cruel.  Indeed, his treatment of women in general is abominable, stringing them along, often playing them off against each other and generally deceiving them, regardless of how much they like him or their acts of kindness toward him.  On top of all that, he's a petty thief, forever stealing from his employer for no apparent reason.

Which isn't to say that the character is badly written, poorly conceived or badly acted.  It seems clear to me that the writers deliberately make Billy an enigmatic character, true to the book and its other adaptations.  It's just that while this works well in the context of, say, the sixties film adaptation, which plays out as a comedy drama, in the context of a half hour ITV seventies sitcom, it seems slightly jarring.  While on one level Billy Liar is played as a fairly conventional sitcom - lightweight and cheery, where nobody ever really gets hurt and there never seem to be long-term consequences to people's actions - thanks to the main character, it does have an underlying dark edge.  We're never quite sure whether Billy's father is right or not when he despairingly speculates that his son needs locking up.  But, like the book and film, the sitcom relies on a degree of audience identification to make Billy a more sympathetic character.  Who of us hasn't whiled away the hours in some unfulfilling job by fantasising about a different life, a better life?  Moreover, when we hear some of Billy's father's criticisms of his son - reading library books, having ambitions beyond small town life, having an imagination - it's even harder not to sympathise with Billy's attempts to escape the straight jacket of small town life.

Jeff Rawle (nowadays probably best known for playing a serial killer on the soap Hollyoaks), gives a hugely assured performance in the title role.  His Billy is deceptively sophisticated in his fantasies and when weaving his stories to family and strangers alike, yet child like and naive when left to his own devices.  He is more than ably supported by the rest of the cast, which includes Colin Jeavons as his unctuous boss and Pamela Vezey as his mother.  May Warden gives a star turn as Billy's Grandma whose ramblings about her misremembered past rival her Grandson's fantasies.  Best of all is George A Cooper's apoplectic performance as Billy's dad (a role he had previously played on stage, opposite Tom Courteney), forever raging at his son's non-conformity and the damage to his social standing he imagines it is causing. Ironically, Mr Fisher is a TV repair man - the very device his livelihood relies upon is one of main engines driving Billy's fantasies.

On the basis of the half dozen, or so, episodes I've watched so far, I can't help but feel that Billy Liar deserves to be better remembered.  It's definitely somewhat more sophisticated than many of its better remembered contemporaries.  Certainly, it presents viewers with a far more challenging anti-hero than most sitcoms. 

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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Up and Running Again (Part Two)

Up and Running Again from Doc Sleaze on Vimeo.

Back to model railway business.  I thought I'd post a very brief video of my recently assembled and repaired Hornby Merchant Navy class locomotive in motion.  In addition to proving that it actually does run, it is also a way of testing whether Blogger's native video uploading system has improved in the many years since I last used it.  (Well, the answer to that is 'no', in that it doesn't seem to work at all - another crock of shit courtesy of Google.  I've used Vimeo instead - it actually works).  Anyway, as well as showing the Merchant Navy hauling five BR Mk1 coaches in a fair facsimile of the 'Royal Wessex', the front end of an unrebuilt light pacific and the whole of my old Hornby King Arthur can be seen in the background.

As previously noted, I'm well aware that the Merchant Navy's tender is the wrong colour - it will be repainted and relined in due course, but right now this isn't a priority.  As I've earlier posted, the loco is effectively a 'bitzer' assembled from parts I bought on eBay, then put to one side for some years.  (It was non-operational and a static exhibit on a shelf for a long time).  I currently have at least four other similar projects at various stages of completion - I'm hopeful of finishing at least two in the foreseeable future.  Keep watching this space.


Monday, March 19, 2018

Undiplomatic Incident

I still can't get used to seeing my old home town splashed across the media on a daily basis.  Even weirder is to constantly see it at the centre of a major diplomatic incident triggered by a chemical attack on a retired Russian spy.  The repercussions of the Salisbury incident seem to be spiraling out of control as the UK and Russia engage in tit for tat diplomatic expulsions and insults are exchanged.  It doesn't help that the UK authorities only seem to have belatedly launch any kind of investigation into the actual events of the incident in order to establish the facts.  Ordinarily you would do that before you start flinging accusations around and threatening punitive measures.  But hey, what do facts matter when we have a Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary who both seem to believe that diplomacy should be conducted at the level of the school playground, shouting 'Yah, boo, sucks' at the Russians before thumbing their noses at the Kremlin.  I bet the newly re-elected Putin (in a surprise victory) is quaking in his boots.  All it's done, in reality, is annoy him enough to deploy his weather machine against us, bringing snow and chaos back to our shores.

Mind you, whilst pleased that some kind of investigation into the incident seems finally to have started, I've been left confused by the police appeal for more information on the movements of the victim's car.  I mean, surely it would have been wherever he was, or in close vicinity?  Unless they are trying tell us that it was able to drive itself around, like KITT from Knight Rider.  And if it was like KITT, surely it would have been able to warn him about an imminent attack:  'Sergei, I detect a nerve agent, novochek, according to my sensors, in the vicinity - evacuate the area immediately.'  I was hoping that last week's revelation that yet another retired Russian spy living in the UK had not, as at first thought, died of natural causes but instead had been strangled to death (an easy mistake to make), might draw the attention away from Salisbury.  Sadly, it just hasn't caught the public imagination in the way that a city centre nerve agent poisoning seemingly has.  Perhaps if it had been revealed that he had been strangled with a cord that his assassin pulled out of a watch - as in From Russia, With Love - or maybe strangled between the thighs of a female Russian agent called something like Vulva Fellatio, it would have grabbed the public's attention more. 

I'm still tending to the idea that it wasn't the Russians at all behind the attack.  The local Chamber of Commerce is still my prime suspect.  Although their plan to attract more tourists with the publicity generated by a false flag chemical attack seems to have badly backfired, as, apart from reporters and soldiers in NBC suits, the city's streets have been largely deserted since the incident.  Obviously, we can't discount SPECTRE - let's not forget those reports of a bald man stroking a long haired white cat outside the Zizzi restaurant in Salisbury - which has form for trying to create tension between Russia and the west in the hope of triggering a nuclear exchange which will leave their Chinese clients masters of the smouldering radioactive cinder left in the wake of such an outcome.  Ordinarily, of course, the next stage would involve SPECTRE launching that rocket from its Japanese volcano base to hijack US and Russian satellites in an  attempt to ramp up the tension.  Unfortunately though, said volcano recently erupted.  I say erupted, but I think we all know that was simply the result of a pre-emptive strike by MI6, whose top agent infiltrated the facility and forced Blofeld to pull the self destruct lever.  Even now, SPECTRE are probably negotiating with Karl Stromberg to loan them his super tanker which can swallow nuclear submarines whole...

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Sunday, March 18, 2018

Beta Blocking the Nerves

About an hour ago I finally got home after what, not so long ago, would have been a nightmarish drive back from seeing my mother, through a blizzard.  Now, you might well ask why I was so reckless to have driven down there in the first place, bearing in mind the prevailing weather conditions.  Well, the fact is that  I had considered taking the  train after yesterday's heavy snowfalls but, when I got up today, I found that he roads in and around Crapchester had been cleared and gritted.  Moreover, the council had also cleared the car park where my car lives, meaning that (once I'd dug it out from under a layer of snow) I could get it out of the car park and, more importantly, get it back in again.  (There is a slight ramp at the entrance/exit of the car park which, if covered in sufficient snow or ice, is impossible to scale when turning in from the main road).  So, I decided to take the car (especially as, at that point, no further snowfall was forecast).  It was a good journey down there: cleared roads and little traffic.  Coming back this evening was a different story altogether.

Of course, it did start snowing again and this time it seemed that there was little or no attempts being made to keep the roads clear.  It was only when I got onto the dual carriageway of the A303 that the road surface started to clear properly.  But when I came off, down the Crapchester exit, things got much worse as it became obvious that no attempt to keep the road surfaces clear since the morning.  Obviously, though, I got home safely.  But to return to the original point of this post, not so very long ago such a perilous journey would have left me tense and nervous.  But this time, thanks largely to the beta blockers I'm now taking for my blood pressure, I remained preternaturally calm, I didn't feel any nerves while driving and wasn't tense or tired when I was finally able to park the car up in its space.  As I've mentioned before, the beta blocker slows the heart rate in order to lower blood pressure and to do this, it reduces the amount of adrenaline you body produces.  Which, in turn, means that you suddenly don't find yourself suffering 'nerves' when stressed.  It doesn't make you fearless, but I certainly find the effect calming. Of Course, it also suppresses the 'fight or flight' reflex to a large degree, so it is a double edged sword: the reflex is there for a purpose - self preservation.  Still, I won't deny that, tonight, I was grateful for the beta blockers steadying my nerves.


Friday, March 16, 2018

Under the Table You Must Go (1969)

From the same stable as Naked London and London in the Raw, this short film (it runs around fifty minutes and was presumably originally released as a supporting feature), is less sensational, but certainly no less interesting as a time capsule of 'Swinging London'.  Directed by Arnold Miller and photographed by Stanley Long, both stalwarts of British exploitation cinema, Under the Table You Must Go is a Mondo-style tour of various London pubs and clubs, emphasising the rich variety of drinking establishments and hostelries which still existed n the British capital in 1969.  A rather haphazard tour which makes little sense either thematically nor geographically.  The various segments are presented by a bewildering selection of celebrities, (including the film's two narrators, Murray Kash and Gordon Davis, both of whom also appear on screen individually presenting segments), and also feature several famous aces of the era.  One minute celebrated jazz musician and writer Benny Green is asking young drinkers in 'The Boathouse' what they think of live jazz being played there, the next Reg Gutteridge is visiting a series of sports-themed pubs and interviewing various retire sportsmen, before we can draw breath, Richard 'Stinker' Murdoch is visiting the 'Escape' club and talking to various former PoWs about their wartime experiences and escape attempts.

And so it goes on: Tommy Trinder performs in a music hall themed pub, Pete Murray visits the Playboy Club, then Radio One DJ Stuart Henry gets down and groovy at 'The Bird's Nest', a pub with a disco feel, Fred Emney samples the cuisine at an Italian restaurant-cum-pub and, for no reason at all, Jon Pertwee puts on a Prussian helmet and Teutonic accent to sing songs in German beer keiller themed pub.  Even a bizarrely bearded Jonathan King, long before he did bird for having relations with underage boys, turns up in a pop pub.  But, although haphazard, it is all quite charming and hugely entertaining.  What's most fascinating, though, is the fact that, despite this being 1969, there's little evidence of the 'swinging', counter culture London which supposedly dominated the UK's popular culture at the time.  Indeed, other than the Stuart Henry, Jonathan King and, to a lesser extent, the Pete Murray Playboy sequences, most of what is on display here is pretty traditional working class leisure activities.  It is a quaint world where people put on a collar and tie to visit the pub, which was still the social heart of local communities.  Conversation, sing-a-longs and live entertainment from professional pub performers was the order of the day.  The closest thing to a 'gastro pub' (that unholy bight upon the very concept of the British public house) is that bar incorporating a Trattoria and 'themeing' a pub meant filling it with sports memorabilia, having live jazz or pop acts and/or a DJ, rather than some plastic mock 'Oirish' bar. 

The media might like, in retrospect, to portray late sixties Britain as being full of promiscuous hippies having sex and shooting up drugs everywhere, but films like this emphasise the fact that, in reality, the so called permissive society wasn't that widespread.  In truth, as in any era, the past,in the form of traditional pubs and entertainment, persisted and continued to serve the majority of the population.  The process of social change was relatively slow, rather than the revolution the media likes to portray.  The popular view of the past is always highly selective, focusing on the most sensational and attractive aspects.  That's the value of films like Under the Table You Must Go, which provide contemporary snapshots of popular culture. If the film lacks the determined sensationalism and obvious staging of some scenes for shock value, it does employ a suitably bizarre narrative device to link its apparently random segments together: talking cars.  Yes, that's right, the film is narrated by a pair of cars, a Triumph Stag and a Bentley, which, initially parked in central London, are bored waiting for their owners to return, so decide to compete to see if they can get around London, via the various pubs and clubs frequented by their absent drivers, and back to their parking places before their owners return.

Incredibly obscure, I was able to view Under the Table You Must Go as part of a BFI DVD collection, Roll Out the Barrel, which brings together a number of short films chronicling the British pun and its associated culture from the 1940s to the 1980s.  It's an excellent compilation and well worth investing in if you have any interest in this aspect of British culture.  Under the Table You Must Go is just one of many highlights contained on the two DVDs, with others including a charming Guinness promotional film drama from the sixties and a fascinating German documentary about a British Working Men's club.  Great stuff!

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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Up and Running Again

OK, having been feeling down a couple of days ago, I decided to take my own advice and give myself a kick up the arse by actually doing something.  That something turned out to be repairing a model railway locomotive that has been sitting, static, on a shelf for years.  I say 'repaired', but the fact is that it has never actually run on any layout I've owned.  I assembled it from parts I bought online, with the chassis being the last item.  When I received it, I found that the cylinder block was broken.  (According to the vendor, this 'must' have happened in transit).  But a quick test confirmed it was a runner and I thought that it should be an easy repair.  So, I put it to one side, where it remained, along with several other unfinished projects, for years.

Fast forward to the present, when I finally decided to get it running.  Which turned out to be trickier than I had anticipated.  The cylinder block wasn't easily repairable, as I'd thought. Whilst I managed to glue it back together, it seemed clear to me that it just wouldn't be strong enough to withstand normal running of the locomotive.  So, I decided to replace it.  Fortuitously, around the same time I'd obtained this chassis, I'd also obtained a similar one which I knew had problems - the wrong valve gear fitted and a snapped off screw - and had the idea of eventually repairing for another project.  The wrong valve gear it carried was actually correct for the original chassis - so the cylinder block was swapped over.  I now had a running chassis which, when united with a body and tender, gave me a functional Hornby rebuilt Merchant Navy.  Or so I thought.  It ran, it even happily hauled five coaches around the layout, but it kept derailing.  After close observation of it in motion, I realised that the bogie wheels weren't moving, they were locked solid.  Thinking lubrication was all that was required, I took a closer look and found that the bogie itself was broken, (no doubt that also happened 'in transit', although it looks to me as if someone dropped the chassis before dispatch, but the original vendor is long since out of business, so there's little I can do about it), and literally fell apart as I removed it.  So, it was back to that other chassis which, luckily, had an intact bogie in pristine condition.

With the replacement bogie in place, the Merchant Navy was suddenly a great runner - even over my poorly laid trackwork.  But, as you can doubtless tell from the photo, it still needs work - the glaring difference in colour between loco and tender being the most obvious thing that needs rectifying.  The tender needs to be repainted into the same green livery as the engine.  (Technically, it isn't correct for the loco as named and numbered, 'Bibby Line' was usually coupled to a higher capacity tender of similar design.  So, a change of name and number might be in order as well: I believe that the combination of tender and loco would be correct for 35017 'Belgian Marine' for the period I (roughly) model, the early to mid sixties).  There is also some damage to the loco body moulding side, most notably that some of the pipework from under the cab is missing, I knew about that before I bought it).  Nevertheless, I do have another locomotive up and running.  The Merchant Navy makes an interesting contrast with my other locomotives, most of which date back twenty or thirty years (at least) and feature old-style Triang/Hornby and Hornby Dublo mechanisms.  While these are incredibly reliable, the Merchant Navy's newer (the design goes back less than twenty years), Chinese manufactured, mechanism is far smoother running, more responsive and much quieter.  While the older locos need to be driven 'full throttle' a lot of the time, the Merchant Navy happily produces the same sorts of performances with the controller barely on half speed.

But what of that other chassis?  Well, I still have hopes of eventually repairing it, although the correct valve gear is now difficult to obtain.  It might well be that eventually I'll come across another chassis with parts missing and combine the two to create a running chassis.  Which would then enable me to complete another long term project, as I have a spare body and tender awaiting a chassis.  The restoration of the Merchant Navy inspired me to get some other locomotives out of storage and up and running today - in the end I had a very enjoyable operating session.  I even managed to get my old tender drive Hornby 9F freight loco running.  Something it wasn't doing before it went into storage.  Amazingly, it happily negotiated all of my dodgy trackwork and curves without any of its ten driving wheels derailing. 


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Making the Effort

You'd think that I'd be ecstatically happy, still being signed off from work sick and, consequently, having lots of time on my hands.  Surprisingly, though, I find myself feeling somewhat down.  In part, this is undoubtedly due to the side effects to the drugs I'm taking that I'm still suffering.  In particular, those stomach upsets which, whilst gradually diminishing in strength, seem to recur on a weekly basis.  Their effects can still be debilitating, resulting in at least one sleepless night a week and temporary losses of appetite and general discomfort.  On top of that, I now have to contend with the fatigue caused by the beta blockers I've started taking: by slowing the heart rate, they also prevent it from responding normally to exercise or exertion, leaving me feeling that I'm running out of steam too easily.  All of which leaves me feeling tired and spending too much time in bed - to the extent that I end up feeling disgusted with myself for not using my time more productively.

But, as I've noted before, being off work sick is like being in limbo: I never know how long my absence is going to last, making it difficult to plan ahead.  I'm reluctant to try and schedule any activities more than a few days in advance, in case I'm suddenly not free to pursue them any more.  Subsequently, my whole life feels like it lacks purpose right now, with nothing concrete to look forward to.  Sure, my ultimate aim is to get well and recover my health, but most of that process is, in practical terms, being taken care of by the medications I've been prescribed.  Unfortunately, in order to allow them to act effectively, I'm having to do things like drastically cut back my alcohol intake (which was pretty low to start with), cut down my sugar intake, which means giving up all sorts of things I enjoy.  Along with the stomach upsets, this has left me feeling that eating and drinking are no longer things I can derive any pleasure from.

And what do I have to look forward to when my condition improves?  Returning to a job I despise and don't want to do?  Is it any wonder that I'm feeling unmotivated!  At least the job situation can be resolved in a relatively straightforward way by resigning once I'm no longer signed off.  That said, I really need to properly explore other potential options before I burn my bridges completely.  Except that my current lethargy and listlessness has so far undermined any efforts in that direction.  I really need to start doing things again.  I tried last week but, with the tiredness caused by the beta blockers kicking in, I just ran out of steam as the weekend progressed.  Still, I did make some progress today: I actually bought the glue I need to try and repair and return to service another model railway locomotive.  All I need to do now is actually carry out the repair.  But that's the trouble - right now everything seems to require so much bloody effort.


Monday, March 12, 2018

Inside the Danger Zone

Well, I've survived a trip to the NBC hazard zone formerly known as Salisbury.  I was more than slightly disappointed not to have found myself being stopped by gas-mask wearing soldiers at armed checkpoints on my way in or out nut, to be fair, I was visiting my mother who lives on the opposite side of the city to where the recent nerve agent incident  took place.  Not that I didn't see any evidence of the increased police presence: I did have to pass the cemetery where the stricken spy's wife and son are buried - half of the town's police force seemed to be deployed outside.  Actually, word has it that, having excavated those two graves and finding that they contain bodies, Wiltshire Constabulary decided to investigate some of the other graves there, discovering they also contain bodies.  Working on the hypothesis that the cemetery might contain hundreds of bodies, they have launched an investigation into the possible serial killer who has been dumping their victims there.  

Look, I know that you probably think that I'm being unnecessarily harsh on Wiltshire police - but, when I lived in Salisbury, I once had one of their CID's finest as a neighbour.  It wasn't a reassuring experience.  Local legend has it that this particular Detective Sergeant once crashed his car while returning from a drinking spree in a nearby village, while accompanied by the landlord of a local pub whose leg was in plaster.  After the car left the road and crashed into a tree, the Sergeant allegedly shouted to his passenger (both of whom were, miraculously, unhurt), 'Quick, let's get out of here before the filth arrive!'  After running - hobbling in the case of the landlord - away from the scene, the sergeant allegedly reported the car as stolen to his colleagues.   Not that anyone believed him, but he still got away with it.  Thankfully, he's long since retired (last heard of running a bar in Spain) so the force at least has a fighting chance of actually solving this one.

The TV coverage of my former home town is still fascinating me - it is amazing how different familiar places can look when you seem on the telly.  I particularly impressed by the angle from which they filmed The Mill pub: it made it look both classy and rural.  Believe me, it is neither of those things.  It's a been a boon for the BBC's local news programme, South Today - this a story with international significance which will run for months and it is on their doorstep, meaning that they don't have to waste time every day trying to find stories of unemptied dustbins in Eastleigh or a dog fouling the pavement in Waterlooville to fill out their main half hour evening bulletin.  Mind you, I think that they are still confused by the fact that major local news stories sometimes happen somewhere other than Reading, Southampton or Portsmouth, coverage of which three cities seems to take up most of their output.  I was confused today by their reporter who claimed to be outside Salisbury police station.  There is no such place.  In their infinite wisdom, the Tory council decided that  a city of 44,000 people didn't need a police station and closed it, transferring the custody facilities to Melksham.  Because, hey, nothing ever happens in Salisbury, does it?  What is effectively just an office in the local council buildings now constitutes Salisbury's police presence.  Ironically, the nerve attack victim's house is actually a former police house situated near the former cop shop...

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Friday, March 09, 2018

Provincial Terror

It is a very odd feeling to see events with international repercussions unfold in somewhere you know well.  For the past week I've watched my home town become the centre of a major international incident as what was originally reported by the local paper as two addicts suffering from an overdose being whisked to hospital, develop into an apparent assassination attempt on a retired Soviet double agent, using nerve agents.  Having been born and grown up in Salisbury, it all seemed incredibly surreal to see footage of people clad in NBC suits hosing down park benches in the Maltings shopping centre.  Salisbury has always been a quiet provincial market town famous for its cathederal spire and proximity to Stonehenge.  It wasn't a bad place to grow up, but nothing ever happens there.  The closest thing to a terror incident to occur was that time a 'device; was found on that horrible piece of modern sculpture in the Cathederal Close, following an anonymous phone threat to blow it up, back in the seventies.  The 'bomb' turned out to be an old custard tin with wires sticking out of it, containing some women's underwear.  Oh, and there was that time someone stuck a potato up the exhaust pipe of a police car in an attempt to disable it in a blow against 'the man'.  (The end result was lots of revving when the cop car was started, followed by a huge bang and the car flying in one direction, the potato in the other).

Back in the days of the first Gulf War, one my brothers and I tried to simulate a Scud missile attack using fireworks in order to liven things up but, sadly, no mass panic ensued.  So, I was understandably perplexed to see this spy poisoning incident suddenly develop into a major crisis.  I mean, the closest thing to chemical warfare ever experienced in the city when I lived there was when someone sent some dog shit in a box through the post to headmaster of my school.  (They never did trace the typewriter the address label was typed on).  Indeed, having read the initial report on the Salisbury Journal website (as just featured on Channel Four's The Last Leg), I thought nothing of it until the next morning, when I wondered why Salisbury was trending on Twitter.  Naturally, I decided to follow the story on the Journal website, to get the local perspective and read all those comments by the local knee jerk reactionary whack jobs.  (To be fair, the ones on the Journal website aren't as rabidly moronic as those on the Crapchester equivalent).  Ultimately, the whole affair has left me suspecting that it has all been staged by the local Chamber of Commerce to make Salisbury seem a more interesting place and give it some international exposure.  It's no crazier than ramping up international tension by accusing the Russian government of orchestrating it all, despite having no evidence whatsoever.

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Thursday, March 08, 2018

Nine a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

Well, I'm up to nine tablets, pills and capsules a day.  I've jut been prescribed a beta blocker, (Atenolol, yo be precise), for my blood pressure.  I must admit to having mixed feelings about the addition of this fourth pill in the battle against my blood pressure. While it will undoubtedly reduce my blood pressure quicker than the other medications, it comes with possible side effects I'd rather avoid.  Like the Metformin I take for the diabetes, it can cause severe stomach upsets.  With the effects of the former in this respect beginning to subside, I really don't want it flaring up again thanks to another medication.  Then again, Atenolol can also cause constipation - so maybe it and the Metformin will cancel each other out.  The beta blocker also means that I have to be even more careful about my alcohol consumption, which I've already cut significantly.  What with reducing my sugar intake as well, it is getting to the stage that I won't have any pleasures left - bearing in mind that beta blockers can (very rarely) cause erectile disfunction, I'll be having to take up crochet, or something, for pleasure. 

To be fair, though, the only side effect from any of the blood pressure medications I've suffered so far is the odd bout of light headedness when standing up too quickly.  The Metformin-related stomach upsets, however, continue.  After a couple of weeks of near normality, they have flared up again.  Nowhere near as bad as they were a few weeks ago, but, nonetheless, it has really been getting me down, disrupting my sleep patterns, leaving me feeling dehydrated and exhausted.  Yesterday, in particular, I felt so bad after a broken night's sleep and another doctor's appointment, i ended up going back to bed in the afternoon, to catch a couple of hours of much needed sleep.  The end result of all this disruption to my metabolism is that my body clock is all over the place and I just seem never to get anything done, as I'm out of synch with the rest of the world.  So, I've determined that, starting from tomorrow (which, I think, is a Friday, it is easy to lose touch of such things when you are away from the routines things like work impose upon us), I'm going to make an effort get my body clock back to normal and start imposing a new daily schedule on myself.  As I'm signed off work for more or less the rest of the month, I've got time to get into new routine.  So, I'm determined to actually do something constructive tomorrow - even if it is only finally getting around to cleaning the track on the model railway and resuming restoration work on that Wrenn locomotive I bought over a year ago.