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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in shaved_ape's LiveJournal:

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Tuesday, September 1st, 2015
1:08 am
I met my friend and colleague Christina today for a trip to the Travel Photographer Of The Year exhibition at the Royal Geographical Society. I discovered the exhibition last year by chance and this year made a point of seeking it out and taking a friend. The entries were brilliant once again. The exhibition itself takes place partially inside a building and partially outdoors in their walled garden. Consequently we had the unusual gallery experience of seeing most of the exhibition from under our umbrellas! There are worse ways to spend a bank holiday.

Current Mood: awake
Monday, August 31st, 2015
11:58 pm
One of the things I have been doing lately (especially since I have been on sick leave) is watching dvds. Aside from the usual pile of movies I have also been filling the time with old tv series - especially as within a short time after their release dvd's of tv shows are really cheap to pick up. Earlier this year I obtained and then waded my way through about 5 full series of family guy, stopping with the later series when they stopped being as funny. (Similarly with several series of The Simpsons). I was introduced to and then pigged out on the complete set of 30-Rock. I am currently working my way through the complete set of Dexter - of which I was a big fan but I had to stop watching midway through series 5 when it was broadcast because I no longer had access to the cable tv channel which carried it. (I have just finished series 6, only two more to go!).
Just before I went into hospital I bought on a whim the complete 4 series of 'Heroes' which was cheap enough at bargain bin prices and was a firm favourite of mine back in the day. I happily watched all four series in the first weeks after I was discharged and found they really held up well. There must have been a problem with the ratings as a 5th season was set up by the writers but was not commissioned by the broadscasters (NBC). This brings me to the main reason why I am rambling on about what I am watching on tv: I saw a trailer online tonight for what looks like an upcoming NEW series of Heroes! TOTAL BONUS!


Current Mood: geeky
Saturday, August 29th, 2015
1:13 am
Dead Rising: Watchtower and Dead Inside
I managed a zombie double bill today:

When I watched this today I didn't know why this film has a colon and then a subtitle. I assumed they were planning on this being a franchise with other films to follow in the 'Dead Rising' series, maybe? It turns out that there is a zombie game franchise and this movie comes out of that world. (I'm not really a gamer so I was not at all aware of that). There is some potential here, but I wouldn't describe it as one of the greats. The production values are pretty good, I guess with the backing of the game franchise they didn't have to scrape along with the barely minimum budgets. There are a few good set pieces with the zombies, fairly good make up effects and so on. What lets the film down is that it does not appear to know what tone it wants to set. There is some dark humour throughout, but this is particularly brought to life when the scenes cut back to the tv studio where comic actor, Rob Riggle plays a very broad comedic character. These scenes were some of my favourites in the film and were at times so absurdly satirical that they reminded me of the tv ads used between scenes in the original Robocop movie. Unfortunately while some of the comedy was pretty good it undercut the scenes where the action/horror was actually happening. Most of these other scenes (the main part of the film) were mostly not played for comedy but because of the mixed tones of the film it was fairly difficult to take them entirely seriously when you were supposed to.
Considering the plethora of zombie films which have flooded the genre in recent years this scores marginally better than most and is quite watchable (especially the delightfully named Rob Riggle!) but no new trails are blazed here and the film is ultimately quite forgettable.

I have this film under its original title, The Dead Inside but apparently it has also been released under the title 'Infected.' It is a British zombie movie made on a tiny budget but for the most part it is very effective. It is set in a small anonymous British town and when the zombie outbreak hits the country a disparate group of survivors converge on a rescue center (a high school, in this case) only to find that there is no rescue to be had. The film reminds me a little bit of Dawn Of The Dead (The survivors camp in the school for a while, rather like the shopping mall in 'Dawn') but it also reminds me a little bit of '28 Days Later' for its fast zombies and sheer Britishness. Apart from some of the acting (I assume at least part of the cast was filled by enthusiastic amateurs as some of the smaller roles were quite poorly played) the rest of the film holds up pretty well and is a better than decent effort.

This Week I have been mostly reading: Please Mr Postman by Alan Johnson

Current Mood: awake
Tuesday, August 25th, 2015
1:53 am
Richard Herring - Oh Fuck I'm 40!
My friend Kate was staying with me over the weekend so we went to see Richard Herring at the Leicester Square Theatre. This came about more by luck than judgment as I had been wanting to introduce Kate to Herring's work and it just happened that he was playing a gig that weekend which I was able to get bargain priced tickets for (the show wasn't selling that well).
'Oh Fuck I'm 40!' was one of twelve stand up routines Herring is currently reviving from his previous career - as much to see if he can, I expect. I have already seen his 'Hitler's mustache routine a few years ago and was very impressed. He is playing the 12 revived shows over consecutive weekends at the Leicester Square Theatre. This one just happened to fall on the weekend Kate had planned to visit and as we have both in recent years hit our 40th birthdays it seemed too good to miss.
The show itself was very funny though as Herring said himself, the material for this show is now 8 years old. Plenty of jokes still hit the mark (some things are fairly universal) but at other times the contrast in Herring's own life now shone through, showing the material in a slightly different light. Since writing and performing this show the first time he has married and had a child among other things, so jokes about playing with his games console and the problematic sexuality of a 40 year old singleton landed differently than they might have done when the show was originally performed eight years ago. It was still a really funny show though, I'm glad we managed to catch it.

This week I have been mostly re-reading: Stripped by Susan Faludi

Current Mood: awake
Monday, August 17th, 2015
1:17 am
Barbara Hepworth & Fighting History
I managed another day out today with Christina, another friend and colleague. We managed to see both of the main exhibitions currently running at Tate Britain. Barbara Hepworth was the main attraction as this was quite a major retrospective of her work. I would normally say that I am not that into sculpture but her work is often quite appealing, especially when you get to see it in the actual setting it was designed for - and part of the exhibition managed to do exactly that with both a film about her work and a recreation of a pavillion she specifically designed pieces for.
The second exhibition called 'Fighting History' looked at the 'History painting' genre of art (which I never really thought of as a specific genre) - particularly in relation to depicting war and conflict. This still left quite a wide range of work to be included, some of it quite historical but some pieces being right up to date. There was some work by Jeremy Deller which I recognised from his exhibition at the Hayward Gallery a few years ago and a photo by Steve McQueen called 'The Lynching Tree' which he later used as a location in his film '12 Years A Slave'. I was pleasantly surprised at how broad and entertaining this exhibition was.
Rounding off the day with a Sunday roast in a nearby pub didn't hurt in rounding off the day either.

Current Mood: awake
Saturday, August 15th, 2015
11:54 pm
Joseph Cornell & Jean Cocteau
I had a day out of the house with Mark one of my colleagues and friends this week. We started off at the Cornell exhibition at the Royal Academy. I had originally planned to see this when I went to see the Summer exhibition a few weeks ago but we came out of that needing coffee much more than we needed more art. I liked the Cornell stuff a lot (some beautiful pieces and fascinating stuff) but weirdly the atmosphere/setting of the exhibition itself diminished the experience for me. Cornell makes beautiful often intricate and finely detailed objects, usually as strange as they are beautiful. Looking at the collection of his objects felt like looking at the work of some eccentric Victorian inventor - something that would have been enhanced if the setting had been something more akin to an inventor's study or the artist's studio - the sterility of the gallery seemed to work against the presentation of the collection.
Having said that, the main gallery lift was out of order and I wasn't feeling particularly confident of taking the stairs to the third floor to see the exhibition so we made our way there (with a staff escort) via the service lift which isn't usually used by the general public and takes us through some parts of the building (like the Academy library) which most people usually don't get to see. The library looked fantastic! Huge shelves piled from floor to high ceiling with books on (I assume) art and art history. Beautiful desks and chairs in heavy woods and leather, wonderfully lit and fantastically atmospheric. I cant remember the last time I felt like I had fallen in love with a room but I think it happened here! THIS would have been the perfect setting to set the Cornell exhibition!
After grabbing a quick cup of tea we made our way to the French Catholic church near Leicester Square where they have on display some murals by Jean Cocteau. I knew even less about Cocteau than I knew about Cornell but my friend was a fan and I'm always game to try something new. The murals were nice enough (but not particularly interesting to me personally). The church itself struck me as being quite beautiful. I have walked past it many times (it is in the same row as The Leicester Square Theatre and the Prince Charles cinema) and I had no idea that it was so bright, light and spacious inside. I found the design of the church itself to be far more impressive than the murals but it was nice to see both.
The final part of the day had intended to be a trip to see a special screening of Killing Zoe at the PCC but this had been cancelled at the last minute as the cinema had not quite managed to arrange the rights to actually show the film. Instead we met up with Mark's wife (the first time I had met her and the first time she had met any of his colleagues, so a fairly big deal for the three of us) and went for a very pleasant meal nearby. Not a bad day out!

This week I have been mostly reading: Lost At Sea by Jon Ronson

Current Mood: awake
Wednesday, August 12th, 2015
1:34 am
More Time At Home
I saw my GP today for a routine, follow up appointment for a blood test I recently had. I brought up the subject of my sick-note which has been covering my absence from work but is due to expire next week. Without hesitation my doctor extended my sick leave by giving me a new note which covers me until mid-October!
His main reason for this is that I am due to return to hospital in September to see a lung specialist - to make sure no lasting damage has been done and to ensure that all the blood clots are clear. That's all pretty reasonable and I really am enjoying not being in work (sleeping for eight hours every night for a month is something I haven't managed since 2007!) but this means I am going to have to take a bit of a financial hit over the next couple of months. I am going to be getting full sick pay for this period but obviously not any of the overtime and additional payments I usually earn. I can offset most of this loss by not paying to travel into central London everyday (a monthly travel card from where I live costs in excess of £200). Sadly, economising on travel means I am pretty much stuck with places I can walk to from my flat, or just my flat.
For my own sanity I do need to get out and about sometimes - none of my friends live nearby and most of the fun stuff is at least a tube ride away. I had never previously thought about traveling out of borough as being a 'treat' before, but I will need to balance the occasional 'treat' against the new restrictions of my diminished budget.It almost makes me want to return to work - except that any overtime/additional payments are always paid a month in arrears so even if I return to work in October, I wont get back to anything like normal finances until the end of November - at which point I am looking down the barrel of Christmas! Joy!
Still, on the bright side I'm not dead yet, my health is improving and I am having a more relaxed time than I have had in many years. That's all good.

Current Mood: indescribable
Wednesday, August 5th, 2015
11:09 pm
Recovering At Home
It has been exactly two weeks today since I was discharged from hospital. I have been recovering at home, attending medical appointments at my GP surgery when necessary. The first thing I should say is how nice it is to be home. The staff at the hospital were brilliant but to sleep in my own bed, shower in my own shower, to have privacy again and to live by my own timescales and agenda - that is a wonderful thing that you only really appreciate after you have lost it for a while.
My GP gave me a sick-note which runs up to the 19th August, though I will see him again before that date to see if he wants to extend that for a further period or not. So I havent had to go into my main job since I was admitted to hospital last month. I'm getting full sick pay but without the additional overtime and sleep in payments etc it does mean cash is going to be a little tight. That wont hit until next month as additional payments get paid a month in arrears in my firm. I've been tightening my belt a little to balance this in anticipation. Not having to pay for a monthly travel card is going to save me quite a bit and I hope that will mostly balance out my loss - but it also means that every single journey I make has to be paid for separately. To keep my budget down this means that I mostly only travel to places I can walk to from my flat. This is still much better than being in hospital but it is still a bit confining.
The clot on my lungs seems to be healing nicely. The GP seems happy with the results of the ongoing medical tests and after the first few days I started to find it much easier to get about and breathe like a normal person again. I am still getting a trickle of visitors but I am much less accessible now than I was when I was in a central London hospital, but friends still drop by, phone and text to keep an eye on me.
I did return to work in my second job almost straight away, but as that involves very little effort on my part - the guy I visit is now in a nursing home and requires little of me apart from a newspaper from the shop and some company. This at least keeps that part of my income active as without it I would be in real financial trouble.
Most of the rest of the time I have just spent chilling at home. I get a full nights sleep now, just about every single night. I haven't done that for years. I've been reading a little and getting out of the house to build up my strength again. Apart from that I have spent a large amount of time 'resting' and working my way through dvds - a big pile of movies and weirdly enough Series 1-4 of Heroes. I haven't seen any of those since they were first on tv and they hold up really well. Luckily I had just bought them (very cheaply) before I went into hospital. It turns out to have been a sound investment!
So that's it really. I have two more weeks (at least) before I am back in my main job. All I have to do now is build my strength back up and try to stay relatively sane. It's all groovy.

Current Mood: awake
Sunday, August 2nd, 2015
2:59 am
Reflecting On The Hospital Experience
Just for the record (and the tiny number of people who actually read this thing) here is the more detailed account of my recent hospital stay:

I had been having increasing difficulties with my breathing in the days and weeks leading up to the 15th July but I was chalking this up to all kinds of factors -Im asthmatic, overweight, overworked and the hot weather was doing me no favours during the day and even less so when it came to sleeping at night. I was pretty convinced that a few days away from work (and a few full nights of sleep) would pretty much put me back on track. I limped through the last few days of scheduled work before relaxing into one of the quietest and laziest weekends of my life on the 13th/14th July. While I was sat still I felt perfectly well. It was only when I exerted myself (anything more than a slow walk counted as exertion at this point) that I struggled with my breathing. That weekend I did so little that I didn't challenge my breathing at all, I just thoroughly rested.
On the Monday (15th) I got myself ready for work. By the time I was ready to leave my home I was already feeling quite unwell but I did not want to phone in sick at this point as with so little notice given, my colleagues would probably struggle to get cover for my shift. I resolved to see how my journey to work progressed. If I was still having problems I would declare myself sick on arrival, arrange shift cover for myself and then take myself off to the nearby A&E - this being preferable than waiting possibly days for an appointment from my GP. As it happened I was so unwell that I was unable to complete my journey to work. I had to stop and rest several times on my way to catching the tube and when I came out of the station at the other end I was having such difficulty breathing that I knew I could not complete the remaining part of my journey to work. I phoned an ambulance for myself and because at this point even talking was causing me problems I texted work to explain the situation.
The paramedics arrived in short order and spent the next 30-40 minutes treating me at the side of the road. They alternated between giving me oxygen and putting me on a nebulizer. The neb made little impact on my condition as it wasn't actually my asthma that was causing the problem at this time, so they took me to the local A&E. The rest of that day was a bit of a blur. I was put on oxygen and subjected to a variety of tests as various theories were suggested as to the cause of my difficulties. Details were hazy for me at this point as I was mostly waiting and concentrating on my breathing while the hospital staff worked around me. The only other thing I had to do was allay the fears of my colleagues as word spread among them that I had been taken to hospital in an ambulance. (None of my current colleagues had even seen me take a sick day in the past four years).
At around 10pm that night I was moved from A&E to the acute medical ward. On arrival a nurse asked me if I had eaten that evening. I told her that I had not had anything since breakfast that morning but wasn't hungry. I was however quite thirsty so I asked her for some water which she promptly supplied. For the next half an hour I sat quietly breathing my oxygen and sipping on the water. A different (male) nurse then arrived and wanted to attach me to an I.V. drip. I asked him if this was medically necessary as I am conscious and hydrating myself. He replied "It's nice" and proceeded to attach the drip. I was pretty fed up with needles at this point (not to mention being attached to various bits of medical kit) but didn't have the energy to argue at this point.
Several more hours passed and the rest of my ward fell into something like sleep. Machines were beeping insanely all around me, not the least of which were the ones which I was attached to. The single worst was my drip which shrieked annoyingly every time my arm moved as this affected the flow of the fluid. At about 2am they came and asked me if I was going to bed that night or whether I was going to sit up all night. I told them that I would love to go to bed but feared for a frustrating night if the stupid bloody drip kept squealing at my slightest movement. The same nurse that attached it against my will agreed to remove it while I slept but threatened to replace it 'as soon as my eyes opened' in the morning.
A few hours of restless sleep followed before we were all dragged back to consciousness at around 6.30am for our routine blood pressure tests etc. Shortly after that the male nurse tried to re-attach the IV drip to my arm but this time I told him very clearly that if it wasn't medically necessary then I did not want it and would not have it. This time I won. When the doctors did their rounds later that morning he mentioned it to them but they agreed that if I didnt want it then that was fine.
The next few days fell into a regular pattern. I was still attached to various machines and fed oxygen through a mask. Various tests and scans proved the prevailing theory that it was blood clots on my lungs. Treatment began with a daily series of injections that would eventually (on my release) be replaced by pills. The various blood tests also revealed that I have type 2 diabetes but given both my physical condition and family history that wouldnt even have surprised me ten years ago, much less now. I was however beginning to wilt in hospital. My overall condition wasn't improving particularly quickly but just as before my admission I felt totally fine while I was sat still.
Sleep was in very limited supply due to the general ongoing noise and chaos so I was pretty desperate to go home. If all I needed was to sit still, breathe oxygen and receive injections (I argued) I could just as easily do that at home with either a community nurse or as an outpatient and I would be less stressed and get more sleep. Sadly, few people agreed.
In the four days I was on that ward I saw four different doctors each of whom gave me a different impression of when I could be released. I'm paraphrasing slightly, but the most lenient basically said, "Yeah, you might be able to go home this afternoon." The harshest basically said, "You might die! These meds should help you, but the side effects can be serious. If you take them you might die!" or words to that effect. Each day I was convinced that I would probably be going home the next day, only to be thwarted by the doctors. Taking the counsel of the fierce doctor to heart I decided to let some friends and family in on what was going on. I reasoned that if there were any complications/bad news that this would be a terrible way for people to hear about it all. It would be better to start breaking the news now, especially to friends and family in Wales and outside London. I also reasoned that if a close friend or famiiy member had gone into hospital with something this serious and they didn't tell me then I would pretty much want to kick their arse. This opened up another epic bout of text conversations as people wanted to find out more and offer help and support.
On the Thursday I was told by a doctor that they would need to scan my heart. If that was clear of clots then I probably could go home. All day I waited to be collected for my scan but nobody came. As the afternoon progressed I tried to ask the nurses but nobody seemed to know anything about it. I eventually had a conversation with one nurse who I had to direct specifically to try to find out more information (rather than just shrug). At round 4.50pm I was told that the department which does the scans will be closing in ten minutes so there would be no scan (or trip home) for me that day.
On the Thursday evening I was transferred to a specialist ward for treating respiratory conditions. The ward was cleaner, quieter and calmer than the A.M.U. I had been moved from and was full of quite sociable characters. After a much less disturbed nights sleep on the new ward I made a shocking discovery. NOTHING happens in a hospital on a Friday. I don't know whether the doctors want to leave early for the golf course or whatever but chances of a scan were zero and so were my chances of being discharged before the weekend.
The other patients on my ward were pretty interesting but the composition seemed to change on a daily basis as one patient would leave to be replaced by a somebody new. There were only four of us on the ward at any one time but during my stay that included me, two men with deeply serious breathing problems who were nearing the end of their lives, a man in the early stages of the same condition who was also dealing with an opiate addiction, an aging Trotskyist who seemed to be in the early stages of dementia, an old guy from Jamaica who seemed to make it his mission to flirt with every female in uniform he could see and finally an Indian man in his 90's who had previously suffered a stroke and resolutely reused almost every meal and medical procedure that was offered to him. I described the final composition of my ward in a text to one of my colleagues as, "10% mobile, 90% deaf, 25% continent, 60% English Speaking and 40% suffering from dementia."
One of the things that massively speeded my recovery was that on arrival on the respiratory ward one of the nurses declared that she was going to change the type of oxygen mask I had. I wasn't that bothered by her idea but the effect of the change was instant and marked. The flow through the new mask was so much more efficient that even on a lower concentration I was able to take in MUCH more O2. The saturation levels in my blood went from the worrying 80%s into the target range of mid 90&s in about an hour. The nurse later explained that because the flow is better Im not only getting more O2 but the older mask I had was actually working against me by trapping the CO2 that I was breathing out. I'm glad it only took a week to sort that out!
I was already feeling better before the weekend started but a restful weekend combined with a proper mount of O2 meant I was getting pretty much back up to speed. I was able to help out with some of the older guys on my ward (the nurses were always pretty stretched). Sometimes this was helping them with simple tasks like buttering their toast in the morning (which is tricky when you suffer from massive hand tremours). We also re-branded the hospital toast as "Edible Crash-mats" due to its barely edible consistency. Sometimes I had to lead clandestine raids on the tea trolley which at weekends only made an appearance twice per day, but when unused was parked just outside my ward. The older guys in particular loved this minor rebellion. They would have liked it even more if I had found the biscuits.
The old Trotskyite in the bed next to mine lacked company during the day but would spill anecdote after anecdote to anyone who would stand within earshot of his bed - so I tried to do this from time to time so he had some company. Sadly he was very softly spoken (and not helped by his breathing difficulties) so much of what he said was indecipherable. Certain key words were audible but these were rarely enough to catch the actual flow of whatever story he was telling. Phrases like "Chinese communist party" and "delegation to Turin" would emerge from a sea of quiet muttering, not unlike the character from The Fast Show who would end his largely indecipherable stories with the phrase, "We were very, very drunk." This guys stories always seemed to start of with politics and end quite sexually but it was genuinely hard to tell if I had heard him correctly. The most coherent story he told me started off very clearly about a time when he had heard Paul Robeson sing in London, but most of his story was lost to mumbling apart from something about singing with his school choir in St Pauls and being paid a little bit extra because he had to do a brief solo - then something that may have included the word 'paedophile' - then something which might have included the phrase 'sex strike!' It might have actually been a single coherent story he was telling but its impossible for me to say.
Anyway, the final few days progressed and each day I lobbied to be allowed home. At this point my oxygen levels were so good I no longer needed the O2. All talk of the heart scan had been dropped. The last single obstacle to my release was the daily blood test I was required to take. This measured the levels of the new medication in my blood. Once a certain threshold was met the injections could stop and I would be given a bunch of pills and released to the ongoing supervision of my GP. On both the Monday and the Tuesday I narrowly failed to meet this threshold but on the Wednesday I finally satisfied the doctors enough to secure my freedom.
I'm aware that this has been a bit of an epic post. I may post again to describe what I have been doing with myself since my release from hospital, but what I have just written pretty much covers my stay on the wards...

... apart from one thing. My friends and family were brilliant. I received more warm wishes than I knew what do do with. Friends and family in Wales offered all kinds of support but I managed to convince them that a trip to London was totally unnecessary. I was never short of visitors from London based friends and colleagues. There was only one day where I had only one visitor, most days I had two and there was one day when I had four! One friend even traveled from across country (bringing one of my god-daughters in tow). Everyone was incredibly kind with their cards, gifts and sympathies. I am as grateful for all of this as I am to the hospital staff who supported me medically. I really have been humbled.

This week I have been mostly re-reading: Make Love! The Bruce Campbell Way by Bruce Campbell

Current Mood: grateful
Friday, July 24th, 2015
12:37 am
Books This Week
I don't normally do this as a separate post but in terms of mental housekeeping after a difficult week, this will make things more simple for me.

This week I have been mostly reading:

Ways Of Seeing by John Berger (re-read)
Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee
I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells

I've been a big reader since I was a small kid but my relationship with books was tested while I was in hospital. For the first few days I did not feel up to reading as my attention span just wasn't up to it. As days went past without me reading anything at all I worried that this was becoming a habit. Once I forced myself to read for a little bit I devoured three books in three days, followed by four entire magazines in the next day and a half plus various newspapers. I also realised that my habits had changed. It used to be that reading was for ma a primary activity in itself. Now I tend to pick up a book while I am multi-tasking on some level. I read when I commute, I read in the bath, I read while I am waiting for someone or something in stolen moments, etc.

Current Mood: awake
Thursday, July 23rd, 2015
12:52 am
In Hospital
Im not going to make this a big entry, I just wanted to lay down a marker. I may return to it later to expand on my experiences, maybe not.

On Monday of last week I tried to make it to work and I failed. The health symptoms I had been steadfastly ignoring for the past couple of weeks/months caught up with me. When I got off the tube on the way to work I called an ambulance for myself and was taken to A&E at St Marys hospital where I was admitted and that is where I stayed for 9 days until I returned home earlier tonight. After trying out several different theories the doctors at the hospital eventually stumbled upon 'blood clots on my lungs' as being responsible for my dire condition. Treatment has been given (and will continue for months). My return to work remains uncertain. Im hoping to make a pretty full recovery but having danced with lung problems before I know this stuff can take a while. The immediate future involves me relaxing a lot at home and trying to get well fairly quickly. There might not be too many posts here for a while, unless I start to document my health issues/recovery and I need to consider whether I want to do that here. Film reviews in the movie community I'm in may come thick and fast though as I expect to be doing some time in front of the tv.

What I will say before I close is the staff at the hospital and the treatment I received from them was incredible and the support I have received from friends and family however far away has been truly humbling, so my heartfelt thanks go out to everyone involved.

Current Mood: grateful
Thursday, July 9th, 2015
11:43 pm
July Tube Strike Thoughts
So I battled my way home today against the tune strike chaos. The journey home by alternate route was much smoother that I had expected - the only tricky part was crossing a section of London on foot when I was already dog tired and the weather was too hot for my comfort level at the best of times. Once I hit Marylebone station though it was all plain sailing.
A few thoughts ran though my mind while I was sat on the train though. The first is that tube/transport strikes tend to be very devisive. Even among my colleagues there is usually a mix of sympathy and annoyance. I dont know how general this feeling is but this time the general feeling is total sympathy. The tube bosses are introducing a 24 hour service on some lines starting in December but are doing so on the backs of the working conditions of its staff. Everyone I have spoken to seems to see the situation as massively unfair and something that should be resisted. There is still a lot of annoyance with the chaos and disruption but the people I have spoken to are not blaming the strikers.
The second though I had was just how glad I am that the strike happened today and not last week in the crushing, record breaking heat. It was a tough enough journey in today's heat but this would have been unbearable in last weeks heat, for everyone. I wouldn't have missed those fantastic lightning storms that followed the heat wave but that heat was seriously oppressive, especially in the city.
The third and final thought I had was the memory of the July 2005 bombings. It was the 10th anniversary this week, but crossing London on foot today reminded me very much of that day when I had to walk from central London to Golders Green in the suburbs before I could find any working public transport to take me home. Obviously, the mood today was very different from that July day ten years ago - but the events were still on my mind.

This week I have been mostly re-reading: The Clash Of Fundamentalisms by Tariq Ali

Current Mood: hot
Wednesday, July 8th, 2015
5:36 pm
RA Summer Show 2015
On the way to see the movie on Monday I met my friend Mark from work and we took in the annual Summer show at the Royal Academy. We have both been to previous shows but as we were both going to see the movie and both coming from work we made a day of it and took in the exhibition too. As always it was fantastically varied, some great pieces some that did nothing for me at all. It was fun going with somebody new too as you can learn a lot about someone's artistic tastes as there is so much to see and react to. I will try for another visit or too before it ends next month because there is just so much to take in you can't really do it on a single visit.

Current Mood: awake
Tuesday, July 7th, 2015
2:18 am
Once Upon A Time In America
For the third time in recent months I have been to see one of my favourite films in the cinema. This screening of Once Upon A Time In America was a bit special as it was the 'extended directors cut'. Im not sure what that label means in terms of Sergio Leone's actual involvement but it did take the running time from around three hours to well over four!
Some of the additional scenes had been graded to the same standard as the main film, others clearly needed some restoration work to bring them up to standard. Some of the added scenes didnt significantly change the movie, but some of them did in a big way. There is an entire other strand of plot which has been edited out of the version that is on general release - a plot line which entirely changes the end of the movie! This four hour plus version is massively different from the one on general release!
There were some points in the original release which leave some unanswered questions and some ambiguities. To be honest, I had just accepted them as part of the movies charm as life, like the movies also leaves unanswered questions and ambiguities. This four hour version provides answers because many of the ambiguities result from one or more plot lines being cut out of the released version.
I have to be honest, at this stage I am glad that I had the chance to see this version of the film but I'm really not sure how I feel now about the film I have loved for years. Even if it hadnt been an extended cut seeing the film and hearing Morricone's amazing score as it should be seen and heard would have been a total treat in itself. Now I have to contend with getting my head around a very different movie. I need to see the original version again really soon!

This week I have been mostly reading: Life Moves Pretty Fast - The lessons we learned from 80's movies (& why we don't learn them from movies anymore) by Hadley Freeman

Current Mood: awake
Monday, July 6th, 2015
12:20 am
Kites From Kabul
I was looking for a different idea for something entertaining to do with one of my service users so I took her to see the 'Kites From Kabul' exhibition at the Museum Of Childhood in Bethnal Green. This was something I had wanted to see anyway but it also seemed like a good fit for work.
The exhibition is one of the smaller ones the museum runs so it is far from extensive. It is also aimed at children. Im all in favour of this - I think it would be a great thing for kids to study. Not only would it provide a useful look at what children from other cultures do (which is different from watching Sponge Bob or playing Grand Theft Auto - or whatever it is small children in Britain do with themselves nowadays. It would also be a chance to learn the practical skills of making a kite - or at least the artistic skills to design/decorate one. Kids from Afghanistan now living here may be able to relate to the subject in a different way.
What was lacking was something for adults to sink their teeth into. A little history perhaps or maybe some further details on why the activity was banned under the Taliban regime and what has happened since. Obviously that would need to be on a platform larger than the Museum Of Childhood can provide, but it would be an exhibition I would be interested in seeing.
As it was, the exhibition wasnt a bad afternoon out for both my self and my service user.

Current Mood: awake
Sunday, July 5th, 2015
2:01 am
The Lost Collection.
I already have a great deal of sympathy for the guy I work with on my second job. All of his life he has had to deal with his (fairly mild) learning disability and his (fairly strong) anxiety issues. He has also had to deal with decades of relative social isolation and declining health & mobility/increasing pain in recent years.
This year he has faced going into hospital, needing major surgery while he was there, moving to a temporary respite unit once he had recovered and finally in the past fortnight into a nursing home which is likely to be where he stays now for the rest of his life. On top of all of this I had to break the news to him this week that he will lose the vast collection of VHS movies and vinyl records he has been collecting for decades. There is simply nowhere he can store them. The numbers aren't huge - about 1.700 videos and 300 albums, but these have been his prized possessions for many years. They have played a massive part in his life as he lived alone, rarely went out and were by a large margin his biggest hobbies.
I really feel for him on this. I dont have the social isolation that he has experienced so I am by no means dependent on my collections but I have spent a couple of decades building them with some pride - and in many ways my books movies and music are a reflection of who I am. To lose them would be a terrible blow.
I have managed to soften the impact of this a little. The guy has a cassette walkman and a large supply of cassette tapes. In recent years he has used this more than his actual record collection so it helps that he still has this. Soon I will buy him a portable cd player and I will copy cds for him so he wil still have access to quite a lot of music if not actually the record collection. His favourites are mostly country music and I think my father left quite a lot of that behind when he passed a little while ago.
When I visited him today I took him a new notebook and a pen and we began making a list of films he might want to buy on dvd. He already has a collection of around 50 dvds with him but he never really bought into this new format. This cheered him up more than I expected! To be honest I dont think for him its even about watching the movies. Many of the films on his new list are ones I own and would happily let him borrow or would take in to watch with him. For him the biggest thing is just knowing that these things are around him.
Sometime in the near future I will have to meet with this chaps social worker and among the things we will discuss is whether or not I continue to work with him now that he has moved into the nursing home. I plan to fight hard to be kept on as the man has no other family or contact with the outside world. I wont declare it up front but even if they did want me to stop in a professional capacity I will still continue to visit him, but its pretty grim that we are even having to consider that.

This week I have been mostly reading: Down And Out In Paris & London by George Orwell

Current Mood: sympathetic
Saturday, July 4th, 2015
12:07 am
Carsten Holler: Decision
After leaving the exhibition at Somerset House I strolled across Waterloo Bridge to visit The Hayward Gallery. In the past the gallery's unusual exhibitions have provided some of the most memorable and enjoyable exhibitions I have seen but lately their hit rate hasn't been that great. Their current exhibition, Carsten Holler: Decision is a return to their best form.


The theme of the exhibition is perception and decision making. This starts as soon as you enter the exhibition space as you can either enter through a regular door or walk in through a winding darkened tunnel full of optical illusions (which you pretty much have to feel your way through). Once inside there are a number of though provoking pieces (some better than others. On two of the roof spaces there are interactive experiences. The first is a hang-glider simulator (which I chose not to try) and a space where you can try on special 'upside down' goggles which uses mirrors to reverse your normal up/down vision (which I did try - it was weird).
The headline instalation for the show features a pair of slides which take you (if you chhose out of the gallery entirely and deposits you in the space on the floor below. (I didn't try that either for fear of both heights and that my arse would become stuck). This is a great show and I plan to share this with a buch of people over the Summer. Thats when you KNOW that an exhibition has been fun!

Current Mood: hot
Friday, July 3rd, 2015
11:39 pm
Ben Uri At Somerset House
One of the current free exhibitions at Somerset House is 'Out Of Chaos: Ben Uri - 100 years In London.The exhibition looks at 100 years of work from an organisation that was set up to promote art and cretivity in London's shifting immigrant populations. After I finished work yesterday I went to check this out and left with fairly mixed feelings. I like the idea that this organisation exists. I like the opportunity to look at the immigration issue from a different angle and believe wholeheartedly that this should be widely promoted. What I didnt see was much art that I actually liked - or made any impression at all. For a selection that encompasses work from a wide variety of artists from the pat 100 years there was plenty of different things to see but very little of it moved me in any way. Some of the more contemporary pieces were very strong but its not a great deal to brag about. That's a shame - it was a great idea but I wish the selection chosen had been better.

This week I have been mostly re-reading: Festival Of The Oppressed by Colin Barker

Current Mood: hot
Thursday, July 2nd, 2015
1:08 am
Portrait Prize 2015
Yesterday I tripped along to the National Portrait Gallery hoping to catch two exhibitions. Sadly, the Audrey Hepburn exhibition doesn't open until tomorrow. On the plus side the 2015 Portrait Prize was not only open but entry is free. This is one of several annual exhibitions I try to catch every year but unlike some of the others I have seen lately there is no 'not as good as last year' diminishing return. The exhibition this year seemed to be as good or better that any of the previous years I have seen. Many of this years exhibits were interesting and emotionally engaging and the 'hit rate' in this regard seemed higher than normal. This is a particularly good show this year.

Current Mood: hot
Wednesday, July 1st, 2015
11:51 pm
Brian Wildsmith
Today I made my second journey in a month to The Illustration cupboard and for the second time in a month I managed to make it to see their current showcase on its final day. The collection this month has been the work of Brian Wildsmith - another children's book illustrator whose impressive work has managed to slip past me until now. Friends of mine who are the parents of small children may expect to see these artists too either around Christmas of birthdays sometime in the near future.

This week I have been mostly reading: Howl, Kaddish And Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg.

Current Mood: hot
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