In Recovery

I cried not for the physical pain …


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I cried today; I cried today; I cried.
Not for the physical pain
Or the emotional scars
From weeks in bed,
Or the mental trauma of knowing
What the surgeons had done
(With my consent)
Or the daily prodding and measuring by routine hands,
Or the critical attempts to suck blood
From swollen limbs and terrified veins;
Not for the tubes, or stitches, or suppositories,
Or the heat and sweat,
Or leaking wounds,
Or the constant, proximate reminder of ill bodies,
Or the future cloud hanging nearby –
Its menace temporarily curtailed but not destroyed;
Nor for the breathless stumbles,
Or the endless lonely nights.


No, today I cried
From weariness.
I cried from weariness and waiting,
From wanting to feel whole again,
From needing to sit down without having to adjust my seat,
To walk without having to consciously move my legs,
To move quickly without gasping for breath,
To stand for a while without feeling faint.
I cried today; I cried today; I cried.

My Five Problems With Prayer

If prayer really works, why does god never heal amputees?

426799067_55027d4244_zI used to pray, but I don’t any more.  For nearly 40 years I prayed in the mornings and evenings; I sometimes prayed when driving alone;  I prayed privately and in public;  I prayed silently and out loud.  Now, I no longer pray.

For an account of how I lost my faith see Jesus Didn’t Work For Me.  But I want to focus in this post specifically on prayer.  After many, many hours spent doing it (I think I have some credibility in this area, and over a lifetime have perhaps spent more hours doing it than many of my readers and objectors), I have now five problems with it.

The beneficence failure

If prayer is, in part, at least, about asking good things for people from a good, all-powerful and all-knowing god, why doesn’t the good, all-powerful and all-knowing god just grant the requests before they are asked for the benefit of everybody concerned?  Why do I have to ask a good god to make good things happen?

If prayer really works, what kind of deity denies good things happening to others on the basis of my inadequate prayers or my inability to pray?   What kind of parent would say, “I’m not feeding your young sister because you failed to ask me to give her food, or you asked for the wrong things, or you were a naughty boy when you asked”?

Why should an imperfect me have to persuade a god to do good?   Continue reading “My Five Problems With Prayer”

Free Trip For Well-Being

There were people in town – much more interesting to watch than day-time TV – and coffee shops, and tuna melts, and teacakes, and biscuits.

“Why don’t you get on the bus and go into town?” she suggested.510750075_eeee488cd6_z

“Brilliant idea!” I thought.

Two hours later I had printed off the timetable and was standing in a line of ‘seniors’ awaiting the arrival of the North Wootton 3.

I hadn’t been on a bus for years, partly because I hadn’t needed to, and partly because they were so small and, as I was so big (6’6″) it had become awkward and embarrassing.

So why, at the age of 63, was I waiting at a bus stop?  Quite simply I was going stir-fry crazy from being bored and confined.  I had recently had major heart surgery and had spent three weeks in hospital and four weeks at home.  I wasn’t fit enough to work, I was temporarily banned from driving until my body healed, and I could only manage to walk for up to 30 minutes at a time.  The superficial attraction of day-time TV soon waned.  With my wife at work, I was alone all day with no means of escape.  Continue reading “Free Trip For Well-Being”

The Americans Don’t Come Out Of This Too Well

For me, the genius of the book – the moment where I stopped reading and thought, “Wow, that’s clever! Why didn’t I think of that?” happens about two-thirds of the way through.

18635080I read thrillers on holiday for the same reason that people watch Soap Operas at lunchtime or of an evening.  I want to be entertained and temporarily drawn away from the demanding routine of my life into another world.  If I vaguely care about the people in that world, that’s a bonus.  If I learn something in the process, either about life or myself – well, that’s a double bonus.

The is book is the second in Jonathan Holt’s Carnivia trilogy and I bought it on the strength of really enjoying The Boatman (the first in the series).  It shared many of the qualities that brought me enjoyment of the first novel.

The reader is drawn into the book by a very skilful abduction of a teenager, and the attempts of the police to find her.  Straight away there is tension to be resolved.  The kidnappers keep ratcheting up the suffering they are imposing on their victim.  Two of the main police protagonists are at odds with their superiors about how to proceed, and also at odds with each other, making any successful resolution look difficult.  Finally, the straightforward kidnap starts to look less than straightforward.  In a sense we think we know who did it, but then that certainty also starts to unravel.  Continue reading “The Americans Don’t Come Out Of This Too Well”

I’m Angry About What Happened

I am left admiring the originality of the plot and the skill with which it was handled. But reading it was more than an intellectually satisfying experience. I am also left with anger at what happened …

24824392This is one of the most interesting books I have read for a long time. Several writers have used the device of portraying a single event from the perspective of different characters. (You could argue that it has almost been a compulsory ruse of writers from at least Henry James onwards.) For me, what sets this book apart from some of the rest is the way time is used to create an almost unbearable tension as at least two versions of reality slowly emerge and are finally brought together and tested.

The main protagonist, a female TV documentary maker, has a secret from the past that she has managed to keep well buried and away from her partner and son. The author also hides it from us for most of the book, allowing us to guess from clues what it might be. Someone discovers a past involving the woman and writes a novel about the events which he then makes sure that the woman and her son get a copy of. Continue reading “I’m Angry About What Happened”

Conquer Anger Problems With Four Simple Truths

Contrary to what we may want to think, there is no law written into the fabric of the universe that says I must be treated fairly, kindly, and considerately and it is completely intolerable if this doesn’t happen.

425429326_88027aaa21_zContrary to popular opinion, anger isn’t really a problem.  Anger is just a normal emotion.  It is as much a part of being a sentient human being as love or grief or anxiety.  When we are angry is shows that something we care about is being frustrated or threatened in some way.  The problem isn’t anger.

However, the problem might be: the extent of the anger, the frequency of the anger, the duration of the anger, how we choose to express the anger.

Being overtaken on a dangerous road didn’t perhaps merit that level of rage that happens a lot and goes on for ages and can result in me wanting to catch up with the driver and hit him/her.  But being temporarily angered that a reckless driver may have put my life in danger is a reasonable human response.  Continue reading “Conquer Anger Problems With Four Simple Truths”

Don’t Put The Ceiling Back!

If the re-introduction of Grammar Schools is to happen (and I genuinely hope it won’t) there needs to be much more attention paid to the blunted legacy it will leave for the majority who will “fail”.

426799067_55027d4244_zAt the age of 11 my parents received a letter saying that I was “borderline”.  I didn’t quite understand what it meant, but I vaguely realised that I hadn’t passed the 11-plus examination.  On the other hand, I hadn’t failed it either.  I had fallen into the band of normal statistical error which meant that I could have passed or failed, and so to be sure, I needed to take another examination.

Weeks of cramming verbal reasoning, arithmetic, and spelling with my teacher aunt followed.  Then I sat another examination, and eventually learned that I had passed.  I would be going to the local Grammar School with four others from my class of 30.

Normally no-one from my primary school on a Council Estate passed, so 1964 was a record year!  Continue reading “Don’t Put The Ceiling Back!”