What do a “Pentagon latrine”, “Paris” and “French Consulate In Stranraer” have in common?
They’re all wrong answers, that’s what.
Yup, there are prizes and there are even more prizes.
I visited with my sister before she starts a round the world trip. First stop Tucson. What a gift, a schmooze with my wee sister. That led to this competition.
Okay, okay I found myself in a little space where people may like to go after a long trip. After that there was a moment of aloneness and a wee idea. Why not have a competition. So, I tweeted as follows:
Guess where I took this photo just now. First correct, or most entertaining reply gets a signed book. Second gets two #angelscut 😜.
Easy, right? So here’s the picture challenge More info below:
Clue: the person who tweeted “That odd place they built in China to represent the rest of the world,” is somewhat wide of the mark.
The answer will appear in two days.
Please enter and share your thoughts. There is a magnificent third prize which will be available later in the year – especially if you like food and Scotch. Please:
Share this with your friends
Share it on twitter (follow me if you like – @maclogan_writes)
My story begins a few weeks back. A guest speaker invitation arrived from Elie women’s group. The topic? My writing – Fiction, Non-fiction and Poetry.
What do you see when you speak to an audience? Curious eyes, that’s what. Confidence helps.
What a lovely welcome. With an interested and interactive audience, I had a lot of fun. The time flew by with humour, pathos and repartee… not forgetting a murder or two. Killings seemed to go down quite well in this genteel company … as did a smidgin of lovemaking.
One I’d sung for my supper it was coffee and treats. The warmth of my second reception was great and I found myself talking to interested readers. Several of my conversations started with a person telling me she had purchased and was reading, or had read, one of my books. Oh be silent, my inflating ego! There’s nothing like a spot of egoic inflation to lift feet from the safe anchor of the ground.
My audience didn’t know about my secondary mission.
Some weeks before I enjoyed a meeting with a movie expert. He gave me a couple of hours of pointers on script writing. An insightful remark got me thinking of how beneficial it would be if I could actually get a couple of actors to work with me and for me to hear my draft work read aloud.
Lo and behold I found a thespian on the night. And she, in turn, enlisted another performer to work with me.
Barely a week later we met and accomplished two readings of the script over coffee and cake. (Way to go!)
As a writer, I’m at least creative if not exactly an artist. Listening as two fine people read my words … both caring enough to invest energy and meaning into them, is a gratifying experience. I learned a lot, but that’s another story.
We read so much about the horrors of our world, and not enough of the gentle and helpful kindness of our fellow human beings … even for scribblers.
The sky is an infinite movie to me. I never get tired of looking at what’s happening up there.K D Lang
The Sky, me oh my
One glance squeezed my brakes, hard. Imagine, a single glimpse and the world ceased for a wee chunk of time—no slow motion—straight to stasis.
I don’t know if my jaw dropped. A sense of peace oozed into me. Awareness coalesced in a instant. No more: thinking, ruminating, chattering synapses … nada. My consciousness melded with my unusual sky, and … bedang!
For an eternal moment something akin to awe, every bit as powerful, but less overwhelming, gripped me. I enjoyed a brief and paradoxically timeless sense of connection to something wonderful.
Somewhere inside a a tiny voice urged: get it! get it! I picked up my phone and snapped the view from my study window. The phone wires were in the way, blast.
Not good enough. I charged down the stairs, dashed out through the french windows, sprinted over the patio and leapt bare-foot into our autumnal garden … and snapped again.
There, feet on damp grass, the landscape and light had an awesome scale, yet I belonged: a tiny speck of humanity experiencing womb-like comfort in a vast panorama of earth, sea and sky.
Can a picture truly represent and amazing moment in one’s life? I’m not sure. I’m certain of one thing – I want to share it. Here you go …
When Dad died, I went to see him one last time. This is what happened.
Our dead are never dead to us until we have forgotten them. George Eliot Fond memories are an antidote to the hurt of loss. Malky L
A bright red-orange sunset fades to black
‘Your brother told us nobody wanted to view him.’ I saw discomfort and a fear of the angry-bereaved in her eyes.
‘He didn’t think, he reacted.’
‘When you called, your father was already in the mortuary. He’s not presented as we’d like… you know… in a bed, that sort of thing.’
‘I understand. I’d still like to see him.’
‘I’ll have someone take you.’ Was she displeased? Stern faced, she turned on her heel. A citrus odour of polish wafted round as she left.
A puddled path
‘He’s just down here.’ We walked around the building, a Victorian Cottage Hospital, and followed a sloping path past walls of strong dressed granite. Misty drizzle kissed my face and hands. Peat smoke from nearby houses scented the damp air.
‘Sorry about the puddle.’ The trainee nurse’s edginess seeped into my awareness.
‘That sort of day.’
‘The mortuary is small.’
Ancient key, ancient door
She produced an ancient brown key from a pocket. The bits were shiny with use. She rolled it from hand to hand working out how to avoid wetting her feet in the puddle in front of the door. In the end she tip-toed through the water and, perched on doorstep, opened the morgue/storeroom.
‘He’s over here.’ Beckoned forward, I leapt the flood and entered the room, feet dry. She found the light switch. ‘In the corner.’
In the left rear of the room was a refrigeration unit, a rack, three metal drawers tall. The walls were strong grey Scottish stone. The air chill. ‘We store the deceased here, your father’s in the top.’
‘Right.’ I said. Any humour about the old-man being “top-drawer” escaped me at the time.
Not too long a goodbye
This was it, the final goodbye.
On the Isle of Arran, as a boy, an old man placed a gnarled hand on my shoulder. He told me how touching the forehead of a dead person meant I’d know they were gone, and, never fear death again … Such was my mission, held in my heart for forty years.
With a click, the nurse opened the cold metal door at the topmost level. I could see the top of Dad’s head wrapped in white cloth. Next she wheeled over a large hydraulic trolley which, once lined up, she pumped to the correct height for my father’s shelf. Standing beside her I could see another corpse on the shelf below.
‘How much of him would you like to view?’
‘His head’ll be fine.’
Dance of death
She tugged his stretcher on to the trolley using both hands. Her strained grunt signalled problems. Lost in thought it took me a moment to tune in. Oh boy, here was a catastrophe in the making. She hadn’t turned the switch to lock the hydraulics in position.
Dad and his tray started to topple.
‘Unnn … uuh … uh.’ She moaned as the trolley the trolley drifted away, beyond her control. I put my arm over Dad and tucked him into my armpit.
‘… got him!’
Her chalk-white face said it all. ‘I’ve only done this once before.’
Dad was getting heavy. ‘Sort the trolley.’
‘Oh … oh yes … sorry …’ She pumped the hydraulics.
My teeth gritted, as hard as bulging veins must and a (probable) puce face would allow.
I grabbed for the trolley and half-placed Dad on it. A gentle hiss informed me the platform was on the way down again. She’d forgotten the sodding switch.
The tray teetered on the frame and swung round from the edge of the door.
Dad, stiff, as a board, lay half under my arm and half in the unit.
‘Pump it back up.’ Pump. Pump. Pump. She turned to me. ‘Now turn the switch.’ Her movements jerked, imprecise with panic. ‘The switch, there on the right.’ She did. ‘Turn it to twelve o’clock.’ Click! ‘Please fix the shelf.’ She moved with new-found assurance and moved the empty stretcher into its place on the trolley.
At last I could position Dad on his chilly bier. We both sighed. She started to apologise, eyes going teary. I put my hands up and shrugged. ‘Let’s move on.’
One tear escaped and started down her cheek. She wiped it away with her arm. ‘His head you say.’ She pulled at a piece of securing tape and, with gentleness and respect, unwrapped that well-known face. His teeth had been replaced after rigor mortis set in, but I loved him all the same.
‘Please give me five minutes.’
She went out and left me to it. I put my hand on Dad’s forehead … forty years of advice awaiting action … I muttered farewell and sobbed for a moment. I don’t remember my words, but they felt right.
When the nurse returned I helped her pump the trolley back up to the right height. Once aligned, we pushed Dad into his chilly residence. We wheeled the trolley back to close the door. Below, I saw the name on the next place down, I knew him too.
An echo of laughter
On the drive back north I heard Dad laughing at the comedy in the morgue.
Sitting at the keyboard I smile, even as wistful sadness and remembered loss touches me. I love my father and in those few minutes of our final dance I lost any fear of death I might have had. The Highlanders were right.
When the front wheels hit a gutter at the entrance, I nearly catapulted my daughter onto the flagstones in front of the restaurant.
I swore. My girl laughed. A smoker nearby rushed over to help. We made it in.
“Hello, sir. Thirty minutes.” The Duty Manager looked harassed, polite and none too enthusiastic about our arrival – succinct welcome, for sure.
“Okay. Where do we wait?”
“There’s a few small tables down there.” She was gone. We slalomed round some people. I went to the bar and ordered drinks. I found a spare stool to support the injured leg. We waited.
Recovery, liberty and parenting?
Some shin … ouch
If you break your leg you’ll soon discover … wheelchairs aren’t fun. Yet they are essential tools for mobility and independence. They teach people like me lessons wheelchair users and other people with disability have known forever.
My daughter broke her leg, badly, around four weeks ago. I came down just after the injury and later returned home sure she was on the mend.
Three weeks later it was diagnosed she needed the full surgical treatment, you know: pins, plates and such. Now she’s definitely on the mend, victim of a truly painful starting over. But there are benefits.
I drove down from Scotland the other day complete with supplies of Chocolate Brownies and Tuna Mousse – gotta do my bit.
With the programme …
Her old man helped her get on her zimmer/hopper/walker—thingy this morning. How exhausting for a physical action that seems simple to an (almost) able-body like me. My hardest part is standing by while a person you love works hard to strengthen and set herself free.
And so to lunch
We looked up an accessible restaurant. Getting in the car with my daughter is now a piece of work. Maybe fifteen minutes where, normally, it would take a minute. We arrived just like anyone else.
The disabled parking spaces were full. We parked a fair distance away from the entrance. Pushing up a slope added another lesson about access.
The events reported above happened and, with drinks in hand, we sat for our half-hour. They gave us a lovely table, were solicitous and other diners were respectful and moved to make our passage easy. Lunch was excellent (if you like British Roast Beef).
We made it home without much fuss. People, mostly, aware and okay. I had to ask one guy to move away. Getting from the car to the house took time. My lassie was tired when we got in – that’s recover for you. She slept for a while.
And the moral?
We both agreed just how lucky she is. You might say a bad break and a major piece of orthopaedic surgery isn’t lucky. However … we’re both agreed that: all things being equal, My daughter will be on her feet, fully fit in six month’s time. Many wheelchair users are users for life.
I’ll always remember this experience. My view of wheelchair users changed today: from slightly patronising sympathy, to the beginnings of awareness and empathy.
I don’t know about you, but over the past few months I’ve heard polarising rhetoric instead of the language of unity. The political party conferences have come and gone. Right wing politicians have uttered jingoistic statements about immigrants and refugees. The left are accused of anti-semitism.
My experience is of at Disunited Kingdom. What a shame. No guarantees of security for immigrants, even if they’re doctors and NHS staff. Good old LiFo strikes again.
Unity? Whats that?
Theresa May pleaded for unity barely a couple of months ago. Now we hear divisive bombast between Brexiteers and Bremainiacs. Immigrant doctors are threatened along with a young Arab in Durham. Hatred stirs in the shires.
Some long term friends and I agreed to differ about their position on immigrants and the UK. They don’t know the facts, but they do know that immigration and, paradoxically, greedy bankers are at the root of the UK’s troubles.
And right in the middle of escalating anger …
This is a full transcript [names changed]:
I was very sorry to hear from Lizzie McTear the sad news about your son-in-law. Let us hope that the appeal will give all of you a better outcome.
Over the years I’ve read of similar cases, but when a friend is involved the story is different.
With best wishes and good luck to you all.
Marti attends a Christian prayer group every week. This was from another Christian who, by her prayers, supports a Muslim Arab, who prays five times every day without fail. The prayer group prays for him and his wife (a British Christian).
We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. Winston Churchill
Save an Unknown Life?
Imagine someone you love is dying. You watch them fade and weaken.
After a time you’d do anything to save them … anything. But there’s nothing you can do.
There is someone who can help, an anonymous person you may never know, an Organ Donor.
As Alf Ward told me:
… it was National Transplant Week, something which I have a personal interest in. My friend has undergone a kidney transplant. She is in intensive care in Edinburgh. We’re still on tenterhooks, to see if the kidney will be accepted.
A Stoic Queue
“Almost 49,000 people in the UK have endured the wait for an organ transplant in the last 10 years and over 6,000, including 270 children, have died before receiving the transplant they desperately needed, statistics reveal.”
On the donor side, the statistics show a wide gap between those providing organs and those requiring them with a recipient to donor gap of nearly 3 to 1… some shortage.
Recently the Welsh Assembly were the first in the UK to change the policy from opt in (carry a donors card) to a principle of opt out. That means it is assumed donors’ organs are available for transplant, in the event of their death, unless they have opted out.
With such an imbalance between supply and demand, this positive option of opt out should help increase the number of recipients, and reduce the number of deaths due to organ failure.
Me? I’ve opted in and carry a donor card.
Quality of Life
The quality of life of those awaiting transplant will surely improve with a more even availability of organs. Imagine the benefit to people attending dialysis regularly with all the stress and energy loss such a regime entails.
There is a problem in the Black & Asian communities, with a shortage of donors, which means this community may have to wait 3 times as long. Please read about 5 paragraphs down the link for more information. If you are a member of these communities, over to you …
The BBC offers a wide range of information about organ donation. Interesting links include:
Decide to donate. That’s the biggie. If you’re willing and settled that you’d be happy to help another person live after you’re gone… let it be known. I decided and I’ve shared my wish with my family and I carry a donor card.
Tell your loved ones. Problems arise when the wishes of the deceased have not been properly communicated to their family. Hurting people often can’t bear the thought of a loved one being a donor. Having made your wishes clear makes it so much easier for those left behind.
Register as a donor. It’s simple in the UK. Check out the details in your own neck of the woods. Are you going to let the Scots stay in the lead?
I know this is more serious than usual. Alf, eloquent man that he is, hooked me. I hope this assists him in his quest to raise awareness. Please pass it on.