Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Minor Proceedure: Major Stress (for the parents)

Young Norris' is back from surgery, having had grommetts inserted into both ears and all the "glue" that prevented him from hearing, sucked out. At the last minute the removal of his adenoids was cancelled, on the grounds that his last head cold had cleared OK, and that they probably weren't blocking the eustachian tube (please amend spelling if required).

The surgeon gave us three options, (i) do nothing and hope its OK, (ii) just do grommetts and not adenoidectomy (iii) do both grommett insertion and adenoidectomy. He said it was a matter of personal choice not medical science because, which you will have recommended, depends on which doctor you speak to. So the decision lands with the parents.

Fortunately the wife is a doctor herself and was able to enable us to make an informed choice. She recommended option two, to which I readily agreed. In fact she was proved to be absolutely right as (a) there was a lot of "glue" still in the ear, which would only have got worse as the winter cold season set in and (b) examination while under general anaesthetic showed that the adenoids are now not swollen too badly.

The staff at Ninewells Hospital at the children's suregery department were absolutely brilliant, and prepared and helped young Norris through every step of the proceedure. They were so good that he wan't remotely stressed or bothered about the whole thing. Unlike myself of course! I will never forget the wee-man's face as the anaesthetic reached his brain, a twitch of surprised recognition that something was afoot, and then his eyes closed and his head rolled.

I'll get over it eventually!

Monday, August 28, 2006

To Op or Not To Op? That Is The Question

We won't know until tomorrow if Norris will be having surgery or not. So we'll go the hospital and find out, chat to the consultant and make a decision. The choice is not clear cut, with significant benefits and risks associated with either option.

Monday Returns


The wife has a new mug. Nice!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Book Note: The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein

Young Boris has become intrigued by "The Hobbit". Every evening, before bed, I read him a chapter of J.R.R. Tolkein's classic children's tale, of the adventure-shy creature who ends up doing battle with a dragon!

It's by far and away the longest and most complicated story that he's been exposed to, and I am happily surprised that he's not just sticking with it, but seems to be taking it in too. There have been a few occasions where I have had to update the language and simply a few phrases as I have gone along, but that's only to be expected with a book this old.

Boris seems hugely entertained with Gandalf the wizard, the messy, noisy and boisterous dwarves, and in tonights episode the savage (and plain bad-mannered) trolls, whose attempts to enjoy roasted dwarf were thwarted when they were petrified by the rising sun. He was also taken with the tale of Smaug the dragon, whose malign conquest of the dwarves city was the cause of the whole adventure in the first place.

One of the reasons I am so delighted that he is so delighted with this, is that one of my most delightful childhood memories is of being delighted as my Dad read this story to me, and him doing so as I recall, with some delight!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Sister and Kinnoull

That Hideous Man's little sister bravely fought her way out of the smog and grime of the great city that is London, for a few days of therapetic relaxation (being beaten around the head by Boris, Norris and Doris mostly). During her stay here, we managed to wander up Kinnoull Hill and inspect the now familiar view from the summit. We're pleased to report that both view, and summit, are still intact and most pleasant indeed.

The first picture is the view NW over the river Tay, the second is Perth from the summit. It looks alright from up there!


Now the doctors seem to have changed their minds. They might be postponing Norris' operation after all, with a hearing review in a month or so?
If his hearing fails in the winter and all the associated bahavioural problems recur, then we'll be most unhappy if he ends up at the very end of the waiting list again. He's in his pre-school year now, when his social and academic development becomes increasinngly more important.
I wish they'd make their minds up!


Number two son, aka Norris, was checked out in hospital yesterday prior to his operation next week. The report was a mixed picture; although his ears are working better than before (and his behaviour equally much improved) his adenoids are still too big. Also, with such a bad history of glue-ear alongside the adenoid problem, there is every chance that the winter will see his hearing ability once again decline significantly. So, despite passing a hearing test, he's off for surgery next Tuesday in Ninewells hospital in Dundee - the same place from which I emerged several years ago minus tonsils!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Book Notes: The Marriage Book (N&S Lee) Sex, Romance & The Glory of God (Mahaney), Lovers for Life (Wolf), The Good Marriage (Wallerstein/Blakeslee)

Having just clocked up our first decade of marriage, the church wants us to host a 'marriage course' in our home! The Marriage Course is really a set of videos to encourage couples to think seriously about how to develop their relationship, with sessions on such diverse matters as comunication, sex and in-laws! The sessions are informal and there's chat and food as well as the videos. First though we have to do some training in order to be able to run the thing successfully. Hopefully it will be up and running sometime in the New Year.

The Marriage Book, which accompanies the course is a really useful resource. I have to admit that reading it caused me a lot of serious (if not occasionaly painful) self-reflection and repentance. The difficulty with reading a book like this is to remain self-critical not become spouse-critical! It would be too easy to go through it with a pen underlining the bits I think SHE should read. That however would be to miss the point almost entirely. I've read a few books about marriage recently (10th anniversary and all that) and this is the one I have recommended to a few folks and bought for a few more. Theological, it ain't - but sensible and practical it is. If there's a fault with it, its probably that the autobiographial bits are a bit long; but this doesn't stop it being a really useful starting place to think about this wonderful, bizarre, amazing, strange, painful, joyful, perplexing, and inspiring thing called marriage.
A rather different book on marriage is this little hardback written for husbands by C.J. and Carolyn Mahaney. Unlike "The Marriage Book" this book is specifically about the place of sex in marriage, and its relationship to all other aspects. Using the biblical "Song of Solomon" as a starting point it is a celebration of God's purpose in creating sex and marriage and is full of advice and encouragement to see it flourish.
Again, it's the autobiographical stuff that gets in the way. "Those bonking Mahaney's" are at it all the time, it seems. By the end of the book you wonder how they had time (or indeed the strength) to sit down and write it, before dragging each other back to the bedroom. The 'poetry of seduction' section is the funniest and cheesiest thing I have ever read, so bad its worth buying the book for alone! Having said that, it is refreshing to see a Christian book which addresses the reality of who we are, rather than prudishly hedging issues. The Bible isn't remotely embarrased in it frank discussions of sex, certainly historically Christians have been.
This book on marriage however, is less useful. Advertised as being written by a marriage counsellor for several decades, it should have been really useful and insightful - but it dissapointed.
It's not that it wasn't helpful at all, just that her starting point in every issue seemed to be stereotypes. Men are like X, women like Y therefore........ So when her stereotype fitted us and our marriage, the ensuing wisdom was OK; but when the stereotype was misplaced the result was irrelevant advice. This becomes rather weary reading. The rather explicit sexual advice will also be a bit much for the staid reader! Personally I found it rather amusing.
An altogether much better secular book on marriage is this one by Wallerstein and Blakerslee. The authors, psycholgists by trade had done some research on divorce, analysing its causes and effects. Following that work they then then did an extensive study on long-lasting marriages, by way of comparison, examining the factors that made them survive and thrive. The results are a book which is less didactic and more analytical.
Of particular importance is their identification of nine 'tasks' or accomplishments which characterised most of the life-long marriages they studied and which were absent in the ones which broke down. These include such things as "separating successfully from family of origin" to "sharing laughter and keeping interests alive" to "making a safe place for conflict". This was the first book on marriage I ever read and the relevance of its findings actually grows with time. After 'The Marriage Book' this is probably the next best read mentioned here.
We're not going to host the Marriage Course under the illusion that we have anything to teach anyone else, simply the knowledge that the more you are prepared to work at it the better it gets. That, and the commitment to keep working at it as a lifelong excercise, because it is so completely worthwhile.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Gloomy Monday

Book Notes: As Use on the Famous Nelson Mandela by Mark Thomas

The UK is a country which, although involved in the arms trade, does so within strictly controlled limits which prevent anything we make, license, trade, advertise or broker being used by repressive regimes; right?

Wrong, dead wrong.

In this appalling book, Mark Thomas goes undercover and shows just how easy it is to become an arms trader. As soon as he gained the trust of the dealers he was able to set up deals between UK companies and ghastly governments with lamentable human rights records. He discovers the tricks the trade uses to circumvent all the official paperwork, and the amazing extent to which the government are aware of this - but do not prevent it.

Just as depressing is the fact that posing as a go-between for a dodgy government, he was offered torture equipment at a highly regulated London arms show.

Mark Thomas (OK, let's be realistic and call him Mark "effin" Thomas) will appall the only-slightly-sensitive with his repeated volley's of expletives which he hurls at the reader; however he will shock the genuinely sensitive reader with his revelations of the money-making barbarity in which our country is involved. Then read his chapter on the 'export credit guarantee department', the mechanism through which our taxes pay for much of this; and get very very angry.


Friday, August 18, 2006

Monday, August 14, 2006

Don't Stand in Silence

There is more persecution of Christians, both in scale and severity, than ever before. Wherever Christians are a minority and present a alternative to ideologies like Communism, religions like militant Islam, or corruption such as drug trafficking they suffer.
The "Don't Stand in Silence" roadshow is visiting eight UK cities shortly, highlighting the plight of the persecuted church and helping Christians here to pray and campaign effectively on their behalf. The speakers at the events will be both UK campaigners and exiled church leaders from other parts of the world.
Full details of the events are here http://www.dontstandinsilence.info/Roadshows.htm
Don’t Stand in Silence is a campaign run by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a human rights organisation which specialises in religious freedom, works on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs and promotes religious liberty for all.


Smoke in the hills this morning.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Book Notes: The Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh

This book is a very moving, profoundly disturbing and brilliantly written story.

Bao Ninh's story is billed as the first Vietnam War novel, published in the west, from the North Vietnamese perspective. However - this is to misrepresent the book as it leads the reader to anticipate that the authors purpose would be to castigate the decadent capitalist pig-dogs and their colonialist aggression and to honour the valiant workers of the North. This is not the case at all.
In fact the book is a solemn lament over the suffering caused by war. Although the main character (a thinly disguised autobiographical figure it seems) survives the conflict; his mind, his youth, his love and his family are all ripped apart.
The narrative repeatedly cuts between idyllic scenes of pre-war youth, post-war body recovery work, the horrors of conflict and the post-war turmoil in which the battered survivors struggle to piece together a meaningful existence in the conflict's wake.
This book is as appalling as it is beautiful, evocative as it is poignant. The obvious point about the awful futility and tragedy of war needs to be made repeatedly, imaginatively and powerfully today. Here it is.


Has anyone seen my glasses?

Over in N. Ireland last week we were introduced to the joys of Sea Kayaking by the family. It appears to have gained the status of being their current activity of choice (although their critics might say obsession). Their many adventures in the field are well documented here.

Needless to say, we had to have a go, and it's brilliant. Just when you think you are really getting the hang of it, a larger, stronger or just different type of wave springs up to capsize boat, person and ego with equal vigour. I emerged from one such glorious inversion of base and apex, laughingly grabbing the boat and paddle - only to realise that I was without glasses! Much searching and hoping didn't reveal said spectacles which to this day lie somewhere off Castlerock beach, as elusive as the proverbial needle in haystack.

In a state of much blurredness I managed to get through the next couple of days by borrowing the wife's glasses (not my prescription) and a very old pair of my glasses. When I finally got the opticians he took great delight in asking me if the things I was wearing on my nose merely assisted my vision or also were useful for viewing Sky televsion. sadly they did neither very well.

Sadly no pictures of me capsizing were taken that day. This is more than made up for by the fact that several of the wife were. Enjoy.

PS If you see any glasses on Catlerock beach......

Friday, August 11, 2006

Spot the Dolphin

At Broughty Ferry near Dundee, yesterday the wife started pointing at the water in a most excitable manner. Her attention had been caught by several dolphins swimming just off the shore, rolling, jumping and splashing in the Tay Estuary. Their attention was caught by the ship in the photo which they then followed out to sea. Simon managed to catch one with the camera.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Ten Years

That Hideous Man and his Mrs Hideous, are celebrating ten hideous years of marriage!