Tuesday, 23 December 2008


Sometimes I get frustrated by peoples attitudes.......rarely do I get truly angry.

Today just at the moment, I am really angry. I know it will blow over, but before it does, I thought you would like to share the cause of it!

Thanks a bunch Pope and a happy Christmas to you too.

Right - that's it for now.

But as 'er Indoors says "It's all very well - but we need 'straight' people to speak out against this."

Know any?

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Rattus Flattus......Mus Musculus!

I am just so excited!
From my sick bed I write.....

Just read Chris Quigleys Rat post......of course, we all know Americans like to 'do it big' so I don't mind - Chris has Rats in her collection and so, of course, in little Britain, I have a small version..a flat mummified mouse.......Framed, I might add, in a red velvet victorian frame.

I found my mouse under the carpet at the bottom of the stairs, when I sneaked 1/2 an hour in this house before I bought it.

Having found the mouse, I named him Cedric and promised to rescue him if he was still there when the deal went through.....he was and I did! (The carpets were all chucked in a skip...and the many mouse nests sorted. Cedrics friends have not been back to see him - to my knowledge).

Yo ho ho Chris! Meet Cedric...I did contemplate sending him to you for Christmas - but I just couldn't part with him!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008


Harrods was bombed when in 1983 the IRA planted explosives in a car outside. The blast blew heavy parts up onto the roof of the building opposite... and it abruptly ended several unsuspecting lives.

Having spent an uncomfortable couple of days re-living my past, I thought I would share this with you - and I promise, I won't delete it!

I worked in Harrods myself for five years, doing all sorts of things - which I will tell you if you want - I was there from 1980. But then,.....on that particular day, I had taken time off, because my husband (yep!) had taken it into his head to have a concert at our home, starring all his piano pupils. My job he declared, was to feed them....In all we expected about 28 people to turn up and participate in the 'grand' production. The studio had been re-organised - chairs set up in the (thankfully) long room - a piano at each end and...(I have to say, this was not an unusual happening at the time; however, - I wonder if wife 2 has to do such impromptu event catering? I doubt it, I've tasted her cooking!!!!! (honest, it's truly awful).

when the bomb went off at work, I was in the kitchen, making soup for the masses...in Brentford - thankfully not in Knightsbridge.

Had I been at work, I might very well have been one of the unfortunate people, leaving or entering the staff entrance - and ka-boom, you wouldn't be reading this blog now.

However, I was at work when the IRA bombed Hyde-Park-Corner.

This was the lead up.....

I was standing by a big trestle table in the toy department idly chatting - it was covered in sheets of brown wrapping paper as we were using it as a temporary 'packing' area for parceling up anything that the customers cared to buy.....

Yep, you can ask me to wrap anything from a model car to a rocking horse in corrugated cardboard and brown paper and then to tie string round it....i'm your girl for the job.

I worked in the packing section of the toy department at the big store for years.....I am an expert - but just brown paper and string - parcel stuff, not that 'girly-gift-wrap' crap with tight corners and ribbons!

I had my back to the windows at the rear of the store. The picture here is of the front, on Old Brompton Road. We were on the 4th floor...(the department moved from the 3rd to the 4th floor around that time). Prior to that, the toy department packing room was on the front of the building I think the 4th window along from the curved corner - the row above the 'Harrods' Sign...which in those days had 3 Royal 'By Appointment' crests above it!!!!!!!!!!

There was a loud low, rumbling boom and we all stood still, mid sentence, looking at each other. I said "...that sounded like a bomb..." A couple of moments later,I couldn't tell you how long, we smelled it - acrid, smokey and a bit like bonfire night gone wrong.

That was quite a time for everyone and one of the very many memories I have of the great red palace. The tales I could tell you! Thankfully not all so devastating.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Bedales: this just had to be gotten off my chest...sorry folks!

I was doing a comment on the blog four paws and whiskers...then I realised my ramble wasn't suitable for a little box!

I suggest before you read this that you check out Fi's post.....This is my story.

Actually - that's enough of that.....! Anyone who wants to hear it can ask....!
Thanks for those of you who provided an ear or a shoulder today....

Sunday, 14 December 2008

looking for stuff......

Having been on a very bizzarre fossil hunt by moonlight for treasure to send to Christine Quigley for her 'Cabinet' - I finally decided that the weather probably wasn't conducive to wondering about and I would have to share something from my cabinet instead.....so a parcel will be winging its way tomorrow......

No clues.

Just sorry that the post will be later than Christmas!

AND for a change, it's nothing to do with Nichiren....hang on, how did those monks creep in up there?

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Hooray........feet over the threshold and into the swing...

I went to visit my first patient today.......MY Patient.......not anyone elses - mine and all my equipment worked, and the routine went to plan. I took the right notes in the correct order and we were both pleased.....I looked very 'fetching' in my uniform and on the whole, I am delighted with the progress of the paperwork mountain........tho I MUST do my Diabetic foot health handout and my Verruca care sheet.

Tomorrow is after all another day - the day after that is a Golf Lesson.

Tomorrow however, also brings my presentation at University about my impending essay entitled:

Fast Track to Nirvana? Discuss the concept of Nichiren Buddhism and the attainment of Enlightenment in this Lifespan. and I need to print some handouts.......

Well - it's a simple enough concept... this enlightenment thing - like the man said, the hard part is sustaining it - I recon life is just like that in all areas....got to bloody well put the 'graft' in to get anywhere!!!

However, tomorrow, on the way to university, I get to pick up my new brand spanking buzzing whizzing Vascular Doppler......there won't be a foot pulse undetected on Portland If I get my way!!!

Monday, 8 December 2008

Reality check....

This morning, I picked up the two packs of business cards from the local printers, for 'In Toe' my new foot healthcare business...I suppose it's real because I have that familiar sinking feeling in my stomach - you know the one - when you feel as though every last drop of confidence will seep out while you turn your head to look at something else and before you know it, the plan falls flat and remains just 'an idea'......well it was a bloody expensive idea, so I'll give it my best shot and force myself into action.

I am expecting a parcel of 'goodies' to wing through the ether in the next couple of days and have a bit of electronic kit to collect from the surgical suppliers this week and when it all gets here, I will be sorted enough to at least make a start.

The 'In Toe' Patient Charter has been honed and my 'Infection Control Policy' has been written - I have still got to write more Health & Safety at Work Policies, including the essential 'Risk Assessments' - then we're off with no excuses....to the dreaded meetings with local GP Practice Managers and suchlike scary official folk. In the back of my mind, I wonder if any of the rest of my class have gone into HASAW policy at all...I very much doubt it - however, my attitude is that if anyone says 'BOO' to me or complains about my business, at least I can show that I have thought about the wider picture and can look professional.....well - that's the idea.

I could be destroyed by harsh words even just the one word - so have to set my defences high!! It can't be too bad tho - other people have trodden this path, with less anatomical knowledge...and I loved clinical finals...the tutors were really pleased with my work...they were really encouraging.

So, what's my chosen logo? I know some of you were wanting to know!!

"..the blue one Basil..." of course.........That clever Ian Andrew did me proud... Now - I really do have to go out there and find patients... Don't I! Anyone got a corn - or like Sybil Fawlty, an ingrowing toenail?

Watch the first part of 'The Germans' on Utube - I have had terrible trouble uploading it!

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Foot feet and fish food...

Have a look at this link - it looks a wee bit fishy to me!
You can read what the man says yourself.....

"These silver-grey slithers are garra rufa, a tiny toothless carp that live in warm water. Also known as doctor fish, they nibble on dead skin cells while secreting an enzyme said to help prevent eczema and psoriasis".

Will they be on sale for Christmas? The latest 'beauty-have-to-have'...beats Botox in my book anyday!!!


Hey - I did the 'linky-thingy' like a real blogger!!!

Still banging on about a poor Cardinal...heaven forbid that the Roman Catholic Church should have a potential Gay Saint on their hands...they haven't got to grips with the fact that several men have been deeply attracted to the camp outfits, the Ritual, flowery Rhetoric and general lack of women.

I am convinced that the Cardinal has had the last laugh...tehehe...well - I hope very much that he has!

Cardinal Newman

I can't help having been more than a little pleased that the Catholic Church couldn't find any remains when they tried to dig up Cardinal Newman...

He wanted to be buried with to his 'friend' Fr Ambrose St John....now who does that usually? It would be 'next to' or near....not WITH!

...The cardinal repeated on three occasions his desire to be buried with his friend, including shortly before his death in 1890.

"I wish, with all my heart, to be buried in Fr Ambrose St John's grave - and I give this as my last, my imperative will," he wrote, later adding: "This I confirm and insist on."

Newman wrote after the death of St John in 1875: "I have ever thought no bereavement was equal to that of a husband's or a wife's, but I feel it difficult to believe that any can be greater, or anyone's sorrow greater, than mine."...here

So - when I heard that the 'Vatican-grave-robbers' couldn't even find trace of his bones - I smiled - a lot in fact, and wondered if he had made a secret arrangement with the grave diggers before he died!

Monday, 1 December 2008

art - and I loved it!

I have to say sorry for not being able to post a 'live' link onto my blog.......somehow I just can't figure it out. However, this is clearly a 'death-related' link, so I thought it needed sharing.

As a sometime artist, I am impressed - and it leads on to even more interesting sites!



Sunday, 30 November 2008

World AIDS Day....

Home from the service at MCC River of Life in Dorchester.......
Shattered - didn't realise just how much it would take out of me! (this photo is from 'Dorset For You' website....)

I said my piece and yes - I blubbed. I wonder if it will go onto the website for all to hear? I didn't 'lose-it' totally, but had to have a couple of really long pauses for composure.....and could feel the room literally full of people praying for me to keep going. Serving Communion afterwards helped the calming process. Phew!

This is what I said: hear it here!

The names we are going to share here today are those who spent their last days, hours and minutes at a place that was ‘Sanctuary’ in Bournemouth. A Hospice, dedicated to the care of those living with HIV/AIDS.

These names are from the ‘Sanctuary’ memorial book. [They scrolled up on the overhead].

To some of us those we remember now were our friends and fellows.

To others here, they may be just names – but they are significant none the less.

The ‘Sanctuary’ truly represented the nature of the word; also the deeds of Simon of Cyrene – the Good Samaritan of the Bible, whose name was used when the original Trust Fund for ‘Sanctuary’ was founded, by John-Luke Edwards.
Simon - if you remember, helped a wounded stranger when those of his own faith and social group wouldn’t.

The ‘Sanctuary’ was much more than an ‘organisation’ for all those who worked lived and died there.
‘Sanctuary’ was a place of spirit, where real and reality – often the most painful of realities, were held in the safety of non-judgement; a significant place where friendships and trust were tested too; sometimes to the bounds of breaking point.

A place where the simple – no, the complex love of humanity, was experienced in action, through service of staff and volunteers and in the very deaths of those who came through the doors; knowing on arrival that they were probably there...only to die. It was this reality that bound us then and continues to bind us in memory even now.
I would like to read a couple of quotes sent to me by Mags Smith – Patient Affairs manager at ‘Sanctuary’. She said “...how do you some [sic.] it up eh xxx It binds me to you Mark and to Neil..[and of course to John-Luke..hang on...”:

From the book A Soldier of The Great War:

The war was still in him and it would be in him for a very long time to come, for soldiers who are bloodied are soldiers for ever they never truly fit in..... That they cannot forget, that they do not forget, that they never allow themselves to heal completely, is their way of expressing their love for those friends who have perished, they will not change because they have become what they have become to keep the fallen alive...[Mark Helprin 1992 Avon Books].

“And another...The aim of the Sanctuary was to provide care..what greater pupose is there; No obstacle should ever be put in the way of caring..Gary Wilmot”

‘Sanctuary’ was also about life - living - in spite of the awfulness of AIDS and it was a safe space in which the dying and the living confronted both the best and the worst aspects of that life together. In those days before the drugs – the illness was very apparent, both physically and emotionally.
The fear surrounding AIDS was sometimes tangible....
Obvious you might think in those who were ill, but then, this fear was also endemic in wider society; where people who couldn’t or wouldn’t understand presented many very unwell people with several extra problems. Rejection loneliness and isolation were real in the lives of some of the folk who came to ‘Sanctuary’. Friends, family and workmates had often disappeared; in some cases a much loved partner had died previously.
For some tho, families and friends were there for the last journey and ‘Sanctuary’ encompassed them too – embracing them with food friendship, emotional support and open door visiting.

‘Sanctuary’ was therefore a dynamic flux of humanity, nevertheless, isolation beyond its walls was palpable and at that time, very much part of the AIDS tragedy.

‘Sanctuary’ cared beyond that isolation and was there when others wouldn’t or couldn’t hold thinning hands, care for the basic physical needs, or cope with the ravages of body or mind. ‘Sanctuary’ nurses and the ‘Buddy’ network were there 24/7. No one was friendless or unsupported. Dr. Gillett worked well beyond the call of duty and ‘Sanctuary’ - just was – for a short time, quite a remarkable place to be.
MCC was there too.....Neil Thomas as Pastor of Bournemouth laughed and cried alongside clients, friends and family and staff.

For some of those in the memorial book, I was also there as the very end came. Sometimes, with Neil and other carers, I was at the last bedside vigil as a friend and supporter but it was me who in my work capacity cared for many of those named here after they died.

So I remember all of them with love – but also with gratitude for allowing me to share in their journey and for the trust they placed in me as a professional – knowing exactly what that trust actually represented.

But I also remember sharing long nights with the nurses and days of cooking green chicken for Alec – because he wouldn’t eat anything else!

These are the names from ‘Sanctuary’ - they are but a drop in the ocean of World AIDS.........

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Ok so another logo.....or three...

A bit more my style - but I thought it would frighten the punters off before I got to see any feet.......

What do you think?
I quite like the coloured scrabble on the less anatomical one...but I think I chose the best one. I promise I WILL show you it - in time!

logos and things

Yes.....you are right - I did have a post about logos and I got really frustrated with it as I couldn't post a film clip of them......
here is a taster of one that got away - that is one of the 31 possibles that the lovely Ian Andrew thought up.

At least I can upload pictures!
I chose a stunning blue foot, which I thought would go well with the slight nautical 'In-Toe' island based (all in my head of course....) kind of aspect. When I get it onto something, (like a card), I'll share it too.

I have had a good day so far - tho nothing Nichiren Essay has been achieved yet as I went down to see my friend Mick who lives in a big grey truck. He also has a very comfortable (huge) workshop that he makes things in - mostly re-cycled from drift-wood or furniture rescued from the skip/dump. An eco chap with a very kind generous heart. Someone who it is great to pop in on and drink coffee with....this morning, I found myself cooking a breakfast for myself on his camping stove. Eggs, bacon, sausage and beans...washed down with coffee (real) and plenty of conversation (also real).

On the way back, I picked up a box of fresh fruit ordered earlier in the day from the shop just down the road.....a lovely collection of goodies for us to enjoy and as I was leaving, a vast (free) bag of Jerusalem Artichokes was pushed into my hand....last time I bought some, I made soup and took the shopkeeper a mug to keep her warm!! Island life...I just love it.

Tomorrow 'Er Indoors' has to be up at 4.00am in order to catch a flight up to Scotland. That far for a day's work in the eyes of a 'recovered' Agorophobic is totally mind boggling....I am staying here to wait for the new mattress to be delivered! 2 weeks away at 'foot-school' made me realise that I don't have to wake up with back-ache every morning! I am just thankful that I could do something about it and buy an autoclave in the same week. Do you think 'Memory-Foam' works on the little grey cells as well as muscles and joints?

Here is another logo......what a joy to have such a talented friend.

Yesterday I wrote my 'Patient Charter' and started to design my brochure....the layout was quite beyond me - I can't for the life of me manipulate columns, so I will pass that job on to someone more computer literate!! ('Er Indoors' has offered -I think it was self defence more than anything).So today, it's back to Nichiren and enlightenment.....seems to be illuding me......

Monday, 24 November 2008

Normal - freaky or what?

Now then folks - those of you who know me and my foibles well, will know that I always 'thank Mother' for co-incidences and parking spaces.

The last offering from 'her in heaven' came to me seconds ago when I opened my weekly email - 'Weekly Words of Wisdom chosen by Lama Surya Das - 24 November 2008‏' -The Lama who is very much alive...somewhere in America - I recently signed up for his cyber offerings.....who knows why.

This was todays email......consider carefully if you will that I have just finished writing my AIDS day memorial words for Church next Sunday...remembering folk who died at 'The Sanctuary' a hospice (no longer in existance sadly) of great worth and note in Bournemouth......and of course my recent triumph in the distal plantar anatomical region.....plus the fact that I am 'married' in a civil partnership kind of way to Catherine and...you can come to your own conclusions.

I think that Mother has shown her usual inimitable approval of what I am currently engaged in......"Thank you Mother!"

I would value your comments - but would add that she never was one to do things in half-measures!

Lama Surya Das sent:


It could be said that God’s foot is so vast
That this entire earth is but a field
On God’s toe,

And all the forests in this world
Came from the same root
Of just a single hair of God’s.

What then is not a sanctuary?
Where then can I not kneel and pray
At a shrine made holy
By God’s presence?

-- Saint Catherine of Siena

Sunday, 23 November 2008

feet foot footsie......

Here I am back from a cram packed fortnight of clinical practice at 'Foot College'; the culmination of many months of study and I really enjoyed myself. Whatsmore, I passed the Diploma...hooray, even more letters after my name!

While I was away, Chris Quigley sent me a little snippet of information to be getting on with.......Thanks Chris - you can always be relied on for the 'off-the-wall' medical insight.....every situation covered! Check out the link and see for yourselves what Chris supplied to foot the bill in this case.


This was not a condition we came across at college I hasten to point out! Sadly, corns; callouses; verrucae and various fungal conditions predominated...alongside some terrible toenails. A nipple may have been a little too much to handle - specially in the first week!!!!!

Back home now to concentrate on Death rites and rituals and setting up in the business of feet. Continuing with matters of the sole naturally!

Saturday, 8 November 2008


This week brings us a week of remembering.....for me it hasn't simply been the red poppy type. More colour for me this year - or should I say several colours as 'her indoors' brought me a white 'peace' poppy to wear.....not only that, there are even more colours in my own rememberance....which always includes the strip of red white and blue ribbon that my Grandma saved from the celebrations after the 'Great War' in 1918.

Recently at university we looked at the Holocaust and somewhen today, I stumbled upon a blog site that included this photo and a poem entitled 'a rainbow of triangles'......the poem that went with the picture was really moving, but could I find the blog again - having closed the tab by mistake? No - of course not and I went there via Black-Boxes, so I was sorry as it was more than good...but by the fortune and miracle of google, I found it - 'A Rainbow of Triangles (poem) by Deborah Rey on AuthorsDen'.

Back to remembering....I am just about to go off for 2 weeks and won't be near my beloved computer - no Internet anywhere apparently, so I have been told. Therefore, having been asked to write some words for the AIDS memorial service at the end of the month, I had to finish the piece today so that the dear Pastor could arrange her service around it if necessary....or alternatively, get me to re-arrange my words around her plans!!!

Lots of memories then - losses of all kinds, war, violence and pestilence.

I led a remembrance day service at church a few years back and used coloured leaves as well as poppies to represent the 'people of the triangle' - it seemed to provoke a lot of thought and I managed to get through without crying.

I just don't know about the AIDS service this year - I am reading my piece through time and again - feeling the words, rolling them off my lips. But the memories are real and very personal - the losses were close. I suspect that tears will fall no matter how hard I rehearse.......

In the meantime - a two week period of reflection on foot anatomy with the vague possibility of a diploma at the end.....(it's the final fortnight of a diploma course that I have been placing on the back burner a little too often while studying for the more erudite university Masters course).

We shall see....it may be tears all round......

Wednesday, 5 November 2008


I haven't been near this page for days and it's not because I got scared on that night of nights when ghosties and goolies get to go abroad!

Unlike some, I was not lucky enough to go to Mexico - but I did get to go up the road and through the village in a skeleton suit, to a party and then to the pub. The reactions were mixed! The best was in the street when a 6 year old told us we were "...SAD" - we enquired why, pointing out that she was also dressed up. Her reply was "Yeh - but like for a 29 year old....". This caused much mirth and we went away giggling about my being 50.

See, I'm still enjoying it!

Friday, 24 October 2008

Friends Thesis....

I have just spent a good part of this afternoon reading through (not all - yet) the Doctorial Thesis by my friend Kyro Selket.


It is a document I devoured with an outpouring of many emotions - pride in the epic proportions of the task accomplished and humour at the individual 'take' on the approach. It is a document that I know Chris Quigley would like to read.........!


I guess you will have to click and engage in dialogue with Kyro re: her work.

The way in which Kyro speaks about trying to gain access to the funeral premises which she was trying to research, past the conventionally suited, conventional people who worked within them is something else.....it speaks volumes about the general 'nice greyness' of the 'Western Funeral Directorate' and Charles would heave a great guffaw if he read Kyro's words. Hooray for her, a proud self confessed Butch Dyke who 'fits in or fits not' - depending on the hue of the grey and the blandness of the mentality she constantly challenges - simply by being present.

I am proud to have been in the 'presence' that is Kyro, at the Death Conference - DDD7 at Bath University in 2005.

It was a very, very good conference; yielding not only Kyro, but my Spouse ('er indoors), who was there as the NSW National Trust cemetery expert and one other, who is now a friend of us both and indeed our doggie. Importantly, this latter conference friend is the person of superior knowledge who I consult on matters of enlightenment....
Who would have guessed that Bath University would come up trumps like that!

Back to Kyro though......she is so worth it!

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Thanks for my 50th

Well, it's over and dusted.......or is it?
Actually, no it isn't, because on Saturday I am going clay pigeon shooting with a bunch of friends. Er indoors organised it and it is a present from the family folks in Australia.

All in all, it is a fairly radical thing for me to be doing as usually, I 'don't do guns' however, at 50, I have been reliably informed, one can start to do as one pleases........so I am branching out and giving it a go - I hope (and so do all the friends we have invited), that I am better with a gun than I am at darts - one of them bears a scar on her leg where I once missed the dart-board. I wonder if the same thing applies.....I get good at darts after drinking a pint and 1/2 of Guinness. If I am a bad shot, I can only presume that I could be better 'drunk' it's not something to try out in a crowd.

I digress.....

Only on my birthday could the gifts include several alluding to religion/death:
7 Deadly Sins Chocolates
6 Bastet Cats (why 6 all at once? Why?)
A Coffin Cake - you have seen it....if not, scroll down to the previous age related post.
A tryptich Buddhist icon celebrating (as far as I can tell) the Lotus Sutra and the sermon in the clouds....

There were also:
4 Talking boxes....3 with messages from friends and the other stating "That Was Easy!" Also acquired were several books - the earliest dated somewhere in the 1700s and the favorite being 'Muffin the Mule'. The 'Old-Lady-Pants' were an interesting pre-need aspirational item, the pot with beautiful glaze also doubled as a musical instrument...(I had to blow it just to see), flowers and bottles will sustain the memory of the days of celebration for a while to come. The balloons will deflate before the excitement wears off and the cards will gather dust. I must email thanks to all and sundry. Please note, the blog gets first bash at the thank you picture...no one else will understand it!

I wonder how long the rocks will stay on the hill.......

Death Care Industry....

This is an interesting little film...
Enjoy it!

It came to me from a friend via Facebook. The credits are at the end.

By the way.......I want to be the pencils!

Monday, 20 October 2008

Last night in my 40s

Tomorrow when I wake up, I will be 50.

I can't quite believe it but I am excited nevertheless............so much so, that I have just spent 2 hours having my hair died pink, blue, orange, blonde and black.......

I decided that was the best way to mark the occasion.


You are the first (apart from the hairdressers) to know.
Even her-indoors doesn't know the extent of the transformation yet.

I have posted a photo............I did promise!

Also one of my 'Happy Birthday in stone' which is how we do things here on the Island of Slingers.......

AND my fantastic Birthday cake......

Party time tonight - a feast at the local posh Indian down the road...then home for champagne and Coffin Cake!
Death is apparent even in our jolly times.......guests include 2 funeral directors an embalmer and a cemetery expert....the cake therefore is highly appropriate don't you reckon?

(One friend thought that it was 'problematic' and 'highly inappropriate for an anniversary' - clearly she won't be coming back for champagne then and very clearly she should know me better - [actually, she did come back for champagne - and sat in the other room bless. I don't know if she ate cake tho]!!!).

Saturday, 18 October 2008

'...a bit of re-cycling...'

I haven't posted for a while, because I am getting used to a new regime of reading and thinking, due to being back at university.

It's a poor excuse on the face of it I know, but I am not yet attuned and anyway, despite being told that I look at everything critically and constantly dissect all matter of issues, thoughts and deeds, of myself and others I might add, I still feel that academic critical thinking is a step beyond my personal 'comfort zone'. One needs to develop the right vocabulary.... and that takes effort. Synapses use an abundance of energy to make new and tentative links in my poor brain. It wears me out. (Or is it simply a lack of time management skills?)......

At the moment I am deeply immersed in Buddha - essentially the way in which
nirvana is conceived in the Nichiren Tradition. I won't go on about it - well frankly, when plotting an essay, I always think it best to internalise as much as possible and only 'splurt' words when the concept is well past the embryonic stage.

The point is - following on from the last post, it strikes me that re-cycling might be quite a Buddhist concept...multiple re-births and all that. Perhaps not so much in the Nichiren tradition however; I get the feeling that Nichiren is more about infinite possibility, dynamic unity and encompassing wholeness through Nam-myo-ho-renge-kyo...It's dangerous to expose the astounding gaps in ones own knowledge - I hope that a suitable quantum filling of Bodisattva is present somewhere in the relationship between my ku ke and chu

I'll let you know if I find any; alternatively, if any of you are so enlightened......please do share it with the rest of us!!!

Or, and I'll leave you with this; is the answer to enlightenment really as simple as Nichiren said...after all?

Monday, 13 October 2008

Lucky lucky lucky...

I've had a busy morning since the 'Missiz' went off to work. I transformed the kitchen - with a lot of help from 'friend-next-door'.

Thing is, that the dishwasher broke - it sounded OK but the dishes were coming out dirty, which clearly wasn't the best option. After it happened half a dozen times, I thought it best to have a change. Mind you, the old dishwasher belonged originally to 'friend-next-door's gran. Then it washed mugs for the workers in 'friend-next-door's' dad's office. Then, it was in 'friend-next-door's' flat......it has since lived with me for about 7 years. All in all, it was clearly a machine made to last; (they were made to last in those days!!!) and we were quite sorry to have had to take it to the dump.

I moved the fridge to make room for the new machine, which is as I type, whirring around and doing its stuff for the first time here in its new home. Oh yes - I forgot to say - the 'new' machine has been in my store for a year; it previously belonged to 'friend-next-door's' mum and dad, who 'got rid of it' when they moved house.
So far, it hasn't produced a puddle on the floor - which is of course a brilliant sign!

The freezer - I ought to mention, came from some other friends over the back wall, after it became surplus to requirements; the sink and work-tops came from the chemistry lab refurb at a local college (complete with Bunsen-burner hole). All the cupboards are made or re-cycled. Life is like that here - give and take, share things round. Friend-next-door uses my storage space and in exchange, puts things my way. It makes for a comfortable existence, no frills and no H.P.... in our little community, to have endless 'things' simply in order to impress the neighbours, has the exact opposite effect.

I consider that we are very lucky; life is good and so are the friends we have the honour of sharing it with. I have pity on those with complicated lives who consider that they are judged on what they have, rather than who cares about them.

Oh - and you can forget the previous post about an 'expensive' Eco-pod coffin, don't you think it would be more in keeping for me to have a re-cycled pine box? I recon I could probably russel-up enough friends to carry it - save paying the 'dismal men'!

Friday, 10 October 2008

Measuring Up

There has been a good deal of measuring up in recent days, or has it been just measuring down as we wonder quizzically what Iceland has done with the vast investments entrusted to their banks by UK Local Authorities!

Icesave said that they weren't involved in the 'Sub-Prime-Market' - what is happening in this curious world?

Daniel Defoe, said in The Political History of the Devil, 1726:

"Things as certain as death and taxes, can be more firmly believed."

Measuring is simpler by eye I suggest - but I am wondering, is it only the Mortician in me that can tell what size coffin you would fit in, just by looking at you?

At this rate, no one is going to be able to afford to die, let alone travel in taxis!!

Wednesday, 1 October 2008


I was watching the news before going to sleep tonight and the Credit-Crunch Crisis was on. Some very personable but clearly a little stressed American Senator was being asked if the 'deal' was going to go through.

He said that "Humpty-Dumpty needed to be put back together again..." which made me laugh out loud and when I awoke in the middle of the night I lay awake thinking about it all.

I'm not awake because I am worried - my stock broker (haha, I have one - for now at least!!!), has had sleepless nights for the first time in 20 years, but not me. I just watch from the sidelines and wonder how 'they' (whoever 'they' are) ever managed to do the maths that enabled so many to borrow so much, without any means to pay it back.

I am totally innumerate - a legend of the arithmetic test (0% average)....but even I can see that the equation was never destined to work. My stock broker was right when he said that in his opinion "...there just isn't the intellect - at the top."

I have been in several Humpty-Dumpty situations myself.

As an embalmer, you get to appreciate the fragility of the human head when it comes into contact with a solid obstacle at speed. I know I have mentioned that several academics have criticised us as doing violence and invading the bodily space of the deceased as part of our work (Hallam et al, 1999, p.130), but frankly, if it was me and my child had been killed in an accident, I think I would be glad that someone just quietly set about spending hours putting Humpty-Dumpty back together, so that I could spend some last times with them before the oh so awful, premature, funeral.

Memory is a precious resource, I think of several of my accident restoration folk quite frequently. Them, and also those that I remember having visited them in chapel - the ones, who left behind in thier grief, never knew that I had been told that it would be an 'impossible job', when I collected thier precious dead from the hospital mortuary.

What's the world economy when it's weighed against the life of a teenager - or anyone for that matter?

Not a lot...

Hallam,E; Hockey,J; Howarth,G. (1999). Beyond the Body: Death and Social Identity. London and New York. Routledge.

Sunday, 28 September 2008


So what is grave humour?

I ask this question in all seriousness - and I have a feeling that over the next few years, it will be an issue that confronts me and stretches me - sometimes to breaking point.

You may have detected a certain relationship between me and Mr Reaper...I admit to being attracted to the 'Pythonesque' vision and also the version purported by the inhabitants of 'Diskworld'. Mort ought to be my nickname, but I have a perfectly nice acquaintance called Mort (in real life naming terms...) and Antler is something that I got stuck with years ago. Antler reminds me of a shamanic head-dress I once saw - or imagined. (No one else would think of that link in relation to.....) I digress. Sorry.

'Grave humour'. What is it? How is it used? Is it helpful - even useful....?

There are so many aspects of this question - aren't there!
Bordering on the dangerous and distasteful - some of them.......

Justification/or not-of...

Facetious and tasteless quips to cover the discomfort of a situation.
Light hearted observationals, such as 'do you know the one about the headless man.....' Throw-away lines that may even act as 'mantras' to 'protect' the speaker - but which might actually cut to the quick, or deeply offend someone else, if heard inappropriately.

Could this mechanism be used unwittingly to transcend unpleasant reality, especially by those who face these types of hard realities daily?

Is this a phenomenon that can be seen as a measurable coping mechanism?

I know some of you are nurses/etc....medical humour may be considered to act similarly. Any observations?

Back to tattoos...'CUT HERE' seems appropriate to me.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Death is for life....

It's a promise folks, death is more permanent than a tattoo!

Tat's are sometimes cool, but unless you're a Japanese gangster and get your skin fleyed - or come to that, you become one of 'Von Hangman's' specimines, it's death that sticks by/to/on the soul. Yours and mine.

So in the meantime, while you're waiting, make a list of stuff you can do, but don't anymore.....see if there is anything worth re-visiting in the skills closet.

Here are some of mine: The Can-do but Don't-do-anymore List.

1. Darn socks......
2. French Polish Pianos.....
3. Turn Table Legs.....
4. Cook....
5. Smoke a Pipe....
6. Play the flute/guitar....
7. Sing.....
8. Swim.....
9. Sleep......

I am going to give the last one a go - right now!

If I make it through the night without the reaper getting me, I will blog again soon.
Tata for now!

Thursday, 25 September 2008

The Meaning of Death...

I just thought I ought to balance the last post with something pertinent to the subject in hand.

You know, of course, that this is clearly a real event from "The Meaning of Life"
- docupython style don't you?

But for those who are still puzzled, you needn't be. This clip is exactly what it says on the opening credits. Moreover, having studied the work of Mr Grim Reaper, up close and personally, for several years, I think I do detect his real - true-to-life - biographical character...in this little fillum.

Now you have watched and learned, I hope you found everything instructifying and re-assuring. Petrolheads amongst you ought to be particularly pleased to know the truth.

However, my tip for today is most certainly to avoid the Salmon Mousse!

Wednesday, 24 September 2008


I found this clip...and then had to manage to overcome the 'Poohemes' and work out how to post it.
It had me rolling around in mirth. I just love this team of people. However I can't help casting John Cleese as Basil Fawlty in everything else he does.

Where was I? A clip was about birth, surely - that's the wrong end of the story!


I am now the proud owner of a new shiny University card (sporting a hideous photo). Not only that, but I have an NUS (National Union of Students) card to pick up - next time I go to campus. The photo on that one is worse, but the prospect of money off books might coax it out of my wallet - every now and then!!!

Logged into the system and fired up. My tutor is enthusiastic, supportive and awake -I just have to rev up the brain cell, re-learn how to write in 'academic-speak' and prepare to wear my reading glasses a lot, lot more.

MA here I come.....the plan is to convert eventually to MPhil then PhD.
Not bad for a gal who left school at 16 with not much in the way of qualifications or hope. For me, it's the very best way of entering my 50th birthday month and the most fabulous present that my 'Ancestors' could ever have given me.

Death has done me proud - they died - bless 'em and I have thrived - I have, I hope, been positive about being the only one left plodding the earth.

I have taken time to think, time to grow and time to explore the wonderful opportunities I have been given. I never dreamed such things were possible for me. What blessings!

I recon they look proudly down every now and again and smile on me...
or should that be...look up?

I buried some of 'em if I remember rightly - didn't I!


An argument I really wish I had won....

I have quite strong views when it comes to talking about my work.

I talk around it but not often about it - except in defense.

As a member of my institute, I have various statements or promises that I endeavour to keep. We all should. It's only fair. Especially where 'the media' are concerned...a slippery bunch - on the whole.

In the dim and distant past - when I was working and not studenting and sitting on my bum reading, a film crew visited our company. They were from the local University - which apparently had/has a very good reputation for turning out media graduates.

They wanted to make a documentary all about funerals...

I made a stand and declared that I wasn't going to be filmed in the embalming theatre and they could interview me about my job in the sitting room....that was it.

My boss and I had a row.

I refused to budge. But somehow during the course of the day, she managed to manouver things so that I was told to go and do a sound check while the film crew took some shots inside the theatre.

How bloody nieve was I?

They got me talking....and before long it dawned on me that the very worst situation was unfolding. There I was, walking around in my day clothes and the red-light was on the camera.

I asked later when they were going to do my interview. I was told that they already had.

I was furious. Incandescent with rage (that's when my nose goes red). I was especially angry with my boss - who had clearly given permission for them to film me like that. I felt really betrayed. Another huge row happened but I was just seen as obstructive and difficult....Moi?

Some months later, a copy of the film was delivered to the premises.

No one ever got to see it.

It vanished.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Pepper up-the-bum of the establishment....

"...pepper up-the-bum of the establishment..."

Lindsay Anderson (the 'If man'), was described thus (or by words to that effect) this-morning on the esteemed Radio4. I was driving up a steep hill at the time and had to stop a guffaw of laughter from swerving me recklessly into parked cars that people had left on each side of the road.

Dunno who said it - I suppose listen again could inform me - but somehow, the phrase not only tickled my fancy, but it described me to a tee.

I passed it on to Charlie (Good Funeral Guide...) and he recognised himself in it too...I am going to have it on my tombstone. He agreed. I suppose now, we have to see which of us goes first and claims it in carving. Second time round on a grave (however far apart) could be thought so very passe darling.

I had been down to my local FD, to collect my equipment. I don't suppose many people know what 'equipment to embalm' looks like - my car was full to the brim with it.

Dog was there too. He often is. I am reassured to know that Zoroastrians consider Dogs to have the power to ward off evil spirits. Dead Zoroastrians are always shown to a dog as a precaution against such contamination.

My dog is happy around coffins - he knows, I think, that he has a duty to perform - as far as I know, he does his best. (It surely isn't for nothing that dog spelled backwards is deemed an important word...to some humans).

Peoples dogs and cats should go to their owners funerals...it got me thinking.

I have been to a couple of funerals where anonymous cats have appeared and partaken actively with no bidding. The first memorable time was in a very, very cold cemetery. Parents were burying the ashes of a much loved daughter - aged 23. A tragic time, much sorrow, many tears and hankies.

Suddenly and with much purpose, a cat came towards us and looked into the hole at the ashes casket, then it proceeded to wind itself round the legs of the parents - completely ignoring the rest of the small group of onlookers. The FD tried to usher it away - but it persisted around the two 'chosen' for a number of minutes - before going off in the direction from whence it came.

Afterwards, we realised that donations for the funeral were being collected in aid of 'Cats' Protection' and that the daughter had been a real proper cat lover and owner of several. We never managed to find out who's cat it had been...we asked around.

The parents loved it - it made the day really special for them. They said so.

Second memorable cat was black and sleek and very vocal. It came from nowhere and marched in front of the hearse up the hill towards the Crematorium accompanying the FD who again tried the "shoo! go-away!" handbag technique...Not easy when you are trying to walk in front of a hearse with unsuspecting but onlooking mourners.

The hearse stopped - the cat stayed around and insisted on coming in to the funeral - the family decided to let it; why not? It behaved perfectly and didn't sing till after the service. It liked funerals, (It was black for a reason I guess).

It stayed around the crem this black funeral cat, (helping...where it could), for a week or so, till it was adopted by the cremator attendant who took it home. He and his wife lived in a cemetery gate-house, so the cat was still in it's absolute element.

So I think that animals too can be 'pepper up-the-bum of the establishment' - frankly, who would want to stop them?

Monday, 22 September 2008

Caught up in the net......

Black boxes have captured me - as they have so many others.

I am wondering just how 'they' decide where to send me. Not that I am complaining at all, I have been places that I formerly wouldn't have dared to go...

This morning I found myself on a squeeky clean site - run by an American Pastor's wife......I left a message. I wonder, if she visits here, if she feels welcome, daunted or confugilated.

I hope it's the former.

Death is somewhere we can all meet up...it's a net we can't escape from. No button marked 'out' or 'backspace'.

Just buttons marked 'chance', 'dare', 'choices', 'opportunities' and 'friendship'.
All the buttons determine how we live towards death.

The vicar's wife will have her own ideas as to what happens next. You also may have a vision.

Faith, vision, hope. More than this?

A promise that you'll meet Daena and get over the bridge? Heaven? Re-Birth?

What is out there and why do you think you'll go there and where and who will you be meeting up with?

When is just - for most of us at least, too dificult a question to be asking!

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Something rocked my boat....

There are a few things that rock my boat. I guess you may have gathered my take or slant in life, but one thing I am passionate about is anatomy and another – books.

I mentioned my youthful infestation with ‘Pooh’ in a previous post. This new post might suggest another serious infestation and it may well explain, in a convoluted way, how I happened upon any facility for critical thinking about the following rant!

Remember the story of ‘The King’s New Clothes’ – Hans Anderson I believe (I can hear Dick Van Dyke singing in my head as I type – I had a record of stories when I was very very young). If you want a short recap, (off the top of my head and with many apologies to the original…), the tale is about a King who wanted to be the best dressed King around. He was visited by two Tailors who wanted to make a quick buck. These two geezers persuaded the King that they could make him a unique suit with the most prized cloth, so rare and fine was its quality, that only the most observant and bright could detect it. They ‘showed’ him a ‘sample’ – which he naturally agreed was genuinely unique, so fine as to be like the shadow of a wisp of silk.
The Tailors discussed design and price, said it would be ready in a few weeks and went off, smiling I bet.

The King was so excited and soon news of the marvellous suit of clothes was known far and wide – throughout his kingdom. Everyone was told that only the most genteel, wise and perceptive people could detect the quality of the cloth and people flocked to see the king as he paraded the streets on the celebratory day that he chose to wear it publicly.
Everyone “Oh’d” and “Ah’d” as His Maj. swept through the streets. They turned to the folk next to them saying “…Such fine lines – what rich colours, such subtle design….”

Till a little five year old girl pushed to the front of the crowd, pointed her finger at the King and shouted “Oi! He’s in the nuddy – look everyone, the King’s got no clothes on!”

You get my drift?

Well…in my world - and yours too, there is an anatomist with a hat.

Not the Cat in the Hat, a man in a hat. I think he’s really a Dr.

He wants (by his own admission) to be the best anatomist in the world. Well, there are some fabulous anatomy teachers – take Dr. Alice Roberts for example. Who, but the coldest of stones, could be uninspired by her? I recon she could teach me the differences between my adenoids and my aorta any-day.


Back to my “man in the hat”. What is he doing with bodies? Moreover, is it only me that simply doesn’t get it?

Actually, it seemingly isn’t only me and I am going to (try to) post a link or at least a site for you to cut & paste. Sorry - I am incapable, it's the best I can do!!!


If you are just about to have dinner, or are a bit on the ‘squeamy’ side – you could take my word for it, but watch it if you want plus all the other 'Body Worlds' stuff and make up your own minds.

When the ‘Body Worlds’ exhibition hit Brick Lane, I (along with many others) went to see it. I got in for a bargain price by showing my British Institute of Embalmers’ membership card.

As I made my way around the exhibition I became profoundly uneasy – not just because the exhibits were bodies – heavens, I’ve seen thousands of dead people, up close and very personally. I’ve been in anatomy labs in medical schools – scalpel in hand even; I have read text books galore and looked, for hours, at anatomical specimens in jars at places like The Hunterian Museum. Besides which, in the course of my work, I have held the very hearts of several people I once knew.

All that aside, nothing prepared me for ‘Body Worlds’. Something disturbed me so much, that I had to go to the V&A afterwards to see real art and to recover my composure.


I have thought about it a lot since then and have even explored the subject through the analytical sieve that is the undergraduate essay, but I still have questions and grave misgivings.

I could just about accept that people want to donate themselves as ‘exhibits’. But my gut tells me that what is actually being presented is akin to some kind of freak show – one that presents human tissue without any genuine reference to it’s humanity, even though the figures are posed ‘in artistic animation’. The glassiness of the plastic eyes gives nothing away and the preposterous nature of the exploded movements or exposed internal landscapes, seemed not to instruct many of the masses, simply titillate.

I say this as a reaction to what I heard and saw. I spent a lot of time at the exhibition listening to the comments of fellow voyeurs. It was an uncomfortable journey in which I witnessed many misunderstandings about the anatomical facts on display (many people were seemingly not able to interpret the labels). In addition to this, I witnessed many uneasy snickers and the inevitable guffaw or two about the nakedness so called ‘art’ in the arrangement.

Fascination was there, but questions were also being asked, by more than me, about where in the world a dead full term pregnant mother with baby in-situ could have come from.

Is there a European country (or a family for that matter) that would/could allow such an event to go un-examined by the Coroner, or equivalent, or un-marked by mourning ritual? In a post-Alder Hey Britain, the exhibition of such an emotive subject seemed to me to be wrong.

Please tell if you know, think, or suspect otherwise.

The visitors’ books that were available for all to sign, showed delight and support. People wanted to donate themselves and were engaged with the project.

I just didn’t get it - not really.

A fabulous technique, plastination may be, in its place - where should this place be?... Anatomy is the coolest subject after all and med students really do need to benefit from the technique.

Although we live in the most extraordinary bodies...(you do, look at yourself - go on); we have the technology to create real plastic model bodies. For centuries, beautiful wax anatomical models have also been on show. Moreover, the internet opens up doors and windows into body and soul alike...go to the Wellcome collection online or offline and see.

But surely, real anatomised bodies, so patently used as art-form, for fame and financial gain smacks of King’s New Clothes to me. Is, I wonder, the man in the hat a Tailor, an artful butcher or simply a very clever salesman?

Or, is it just me being a precious over sensitive death-worker, a grumpy old-woman or even - God's forbid, a wee bit cynical?

Failing that, I may simply be showing my true age...five wasn't it!!!

Friday, 19 September 2008

NO.....what's REALLY important?

Nothing that can be hoarded and that's for sure.

Love, laughter, good health, safe home, loving friends and family, good food and time to enjoy sharing ideas.

Communicating about the phases of the moon or shapes in clouds, hearing music, smelling scented flowers.

Smiles, cuddles - nothing that can be measured with a tape-measure or a calculator.

Thankfulness when these things are in life.
Strength granted when life is tough.
Mates to share troubles.
Understanding and grace, peace and gentleness.

Beauty - seen or unseen passion for adventures real or imagined.

Nothing to take into my final box for sure - but inspirations to find through Black Boxes........

You can't take it with you....

Why not....why can't I take it and anyway, what's really important?

Don't know about you, but I am a real hoarder. I think if it wasn't for my other half - who likes "cleaning up", I would be one of those old people with piles and piles of newspapers in the front hall and God's forbid 26 cats. (Thankfully, I now have a dog who has a serious hobby - cat chasing, so we are safe, for now).

Actually, I kid you about the 26 cat's, I couldn't live with the combined smells. EW and I'm an embalmer, we have iron stomachs - for smells!

But hoarding is a hard one to shake.

It's not a habit that I chose for myself, it just started to happen. One minute I was minding my own business in my flat, deeply enjoying a wall of books and the rest covered in pictures. Simple life - work and play, play and work. Polish furniture, mend furniture, lacquer doors.

Then it happened - mother died and the questions started. What do I throw away, what do I keep? What's important in my life that was also important in hers - precious enough to save and enjoy living with? Certain things were easy, the Oxfam mountain grew and grew. I moved to accommodate the resulting bulk.

Then, over the years, the rest of them went and you're right, none of them made any attempt to take any of their treasured stuff with them. They had wills, but they only covered theoretically 'important' things bank-manager, tax-man things.

How in the world do you face throwing away bits of red white & blue ribbon saved from 1st World War France?

Yep - somewhere in my crowded house, it's here....somewhere.

However, a friend visited yesterday and he started reminiscing about my 104.5 year old Gran. He knew her while she was alive and helped at her funeral when she died.

(He also kept me on track, when the time came, between house and skip, throughout the whole drawn out episode of choosing artifacts to 'throw', 'keep' or 'Oxfam').

"Well!" he declared, "If they dig up your gran in the future sometime, they'll think she was some kind of royalty with all the stuff we put in her coffin...bits of knitted tat from 'Auntie Wheels and...'".

"Yep...", I replied "remember the Herb Alpert records...and the - and the..." and we spent a funny five minutes recounting all the detritus that we knew she had kept for a really good reason over the years - but for what reason we couldn't begin to guess. Some things we couldn't fathom at all, so in the course of time that the old lady lay in state, in her bedroom in her coffin, we just added and added her treasures to her burial box!(She was 4'2" and I swear that the coffin we gave her was huge - it had to be, to fit all the 'stuff')

It was a serious transition clearing out Gran's place - reminders of 4 generations of family that I am now the solitary remainder of. It was like a series of mini mourning episodes, all of which had to be examined emotionally and dealt with as the physical artifact was given an allotted place on the chosen pile.

No wonder a lot of it has ended up at home!

But what, would I take with me? (A much harder question than what would I grab if the house was on fire that's a practical and logistical question).

The 'taking list'
A photo of my spouse...
The ashes of 'Booby' my cat...(sorry dog)!
A miniature clarinet model...
A very small, very old Teddy...
A small matchbox steam-roller...
A small Buddha...
A Shabti...
All wrapped in a red and white spotted 'running-away' hankie.

But hang on you cry - we thought you were going to be cremated with Booby.

I am, so why not keep the above list intact and make up stories over lunch - over a good bottle of wine.

Discuss: These things were important to Antler - why?

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Welcome to widget travellers....

Hi - if you got here via black boxes, please send me a message.

Despite the general theme of my site, i'm really quite OK.....really!

Welcome anyway whoever you are and wherever you zoned in from. Perhaps you could help me out and tell me what you think is going to happen when/after you die....what do you hope for? Heaven? Nothing? Something alternative?

Look forward to some comments......

boxed and not literate...

This is a lovely little word gadget......but try as I might, I can't work out how to paste it onto my sidebar. (I since have managed...I feel sooo credible now).

The instructions don't equate with my Pooh-logic. Sorry, but that's how it is.

Black boxes are interesting things. I have learned a little about them from training courses with one of the leading disaster management organisations. In aircraft, they aren't black at all - they are bright orange. Just goes to show that clearly in this case it's 'all in the name'.

Orange is one of my favorite colours. I wonder if this is why I have a leaning towards eastern religions? If it hadn't been for the threat/promise of no food after 12.00 mid-day, you might have seen me in a Buddhist robe....but hang on, the nuns wear brown at Amaravati.....I must have always imagined myself as a monk.

This whole thing about not fitting into boxes has been chasing me all my life and sometimes it has presented as a lot more than an irritation - no wonder I have been accused of being 'spiky'in the past. I have got to the stage now, where I can 'manage' the situation of not fitting in and am comfortable in the knowledge that what I think or do will most probably turn out to be the opposite - to the point of extreme - to anyone else.

I don't fit into the 'banking' system; I am under the credit 'radar'; I am married to someone of the same gender and think about death more often than is recommended in conventional Western religions. I certainly think about a personified death more than the so called modern gods and godesses of today - the 'celebrity'; 'football'; or 'fashion' icons - victims I would prefer to call them...

So there's the rub. The only box that I will ever actually fit into is probably going to be a gold leafed, feather-lined 'ecopod', check out the one on this website


So, from the Grim Reaper and ecopods to black-boxes of various hues, what a journey.

Bizarre things can happen when blogging. They are fruits of the imagination...

So, once more my friends,I have to remind you that as I haven't grasped the linkage thingy, you take your own chances as to where black-boxes send you - off a Death-site into...I wonder?

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

poohmes vs witwimes?

One of my all time heroines has to be Sue Blackmore....

Know her?


Get the general idea?

Well, having seen her in action on a lecture stage and having spoken to her, I can understand why Memetics may be seen as a force to be conjured with. She is a fabulous instrument of transmission for any kind of information. What's more, I want her hair; but haven't yet assimilated the correct meme for courage!

As a student of religious studies, I have to take this memetic aspect of information transmission seriously. It isn't hard and makes perfect sense - to me...

I have a theory of my own - bear with me. Yep, I meant that.

When I look at my friends and try to evaluate what 'take' they have on their own world and religious reality, it strikes me often that they fall into two camps. (I am aware that this may also be entirely generational...do kids read books now, or are they only subject to Temes???...).

I think, within my mates, that I can detect two predominant mindsets - and I know that although this is clearly a very, very (very, very), small sample of humanity; there are those of us who's world perspective and resultant logic is purely Poohish and another lot who show signs of being deeply Wind in the Willowsish.

In my case, I was 'infected' at such a very young age, that the Poohmes got hold of my innermost being - influencing my every thought and therefore infesting my physical, spiritual and psychological character to boot.

I know this theory to be totally true as I am manifestly an empty vessel - much like a 'hunny pot' after lunch. A good place therefore, for thoughts and 'thunks' to swill around in while being open a bit at the top - so that 'thinks' and thunks' get to escape again. It's a pretty random happening.

I have found.....that 'thunks' only escape from the memory, after swirling around a little. But possibly only really truly escaping after sticking a very little bit to the 'thinks' that have been left behind since the last time they were 'thunked'.

Besides all this, like Piglet, I have a very small head and must therefore have also inherited the perfekt Wol spelling meme as part of the 'Poohme' infestation. (Even tho I was initially infected by 'Boomes' [book memes???]that ought - one would have thought - to carry a viral attack of perfek grammar).

My friends - the real ones, who are therefore similarly infected - but with the alternative 'Witwimemes' - show different deep-thought characteristics. But I am sorry I can't 'thunk' quite what these deep-thoughts might be replicating or even believing in.

I can only guess that they (the replicated characteristics) might have proved to be too complicated for my 'hunny-pot' to capture - moreover, piper's anywhere - especially at the gates of dawn only act to frighten small-headed people like me - I am easilly confused to the point of memingless drivel.

Besides which, it's now time for a snack - which I need....if you have paid any attention to 'Pooh-logic'....parti-qu-lar-ly often.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Towers of Silence....


This link - if you can get to it mind you, takes you directly to a Google map image that hovers you above the Malabar Hill Dakhma Complex - The Zoroastrian Towers of Silence.

Actually, I thought that photographing them even from a height was frowned upon, so I was glad that the zoom button refused to take me in any further...yes, I admit to have tried it!

I have long had a fascination for the Zoroastrians - whoever thinks that Mazda is simply some kind of Japanese car, needs to look lively.

Mazda is the omniscient Wise Lord, the Creator. Mazda or Ahura Mazda among other names, is the exulted God of Zoroastrianism.

Zarathrustra was his priest/prophet who got the religion named after himself having built it out of some earlier established religious frameworks (Clark 2001: 3).

When shall I know, O Mazda, whether through truth you have control over anything, the fear of which frightens me. Let the pronouncement of good thoughts be told me truly. May the benefactor know of what kind his rewards will be. (Y.48:9)

That's from the Gathas which are the sacred texts provided for us by Zarathrustra - they are personal songs to God, a bit like the more widely known psalms and what is more interesting (to me at least), is that this religion - which we have, I hope, established is not - NOT - about worshiping a type of automotive technology, is considered to be the world's earliest 'received and prophetic' religion. Possibly 1400BCE and pre computer; blackberry or mud tablet script.

This is a living religion - although it seems not to be one that one can convert to.

However from what I can gather there has been enough spiritual permeability to allow scholarly types to detect historical links between the other 'people of the book'. but sadly Zoroastrians were dominated historically by the ones who thought theirs was best...

This all got me thinking - we have had the first Hindu Pyre in the UK, when can we build a Tower of Silence? Would we - if we had such a thing, as juddin - non-Zoroastrians get to go there, if the rituals were deemed suitable. Or would we have to steal the idea (like we have with lots of other non-western things in our oh so chequered past) and create our own local versions?

Where, (disregarding the straight-jacket of local planning departments for the benefit of imaginative thinking) would we put our new-fangled 'towers'? It seems a great pity to me that the famed Calder Hall piles have been demolished recently...They could have been modified perfectly!

Something on The Isle of Dog's might fit in with the ritual side of things....
(a joke in poor taste for those who know - shame on me).

But continuing on the wildlife theme, it's clearly the birds that are the main problem. Although if we are being creative, surely we could come-up with another form of vulture.....

Answers posted here please.

And I apologise in advance - for everything - with huge reverence - to Ahura Mazda engineer of all things and His followers in the Parsi community who I promise - I respect hugely.

Clark, P. (2001)Zoroastrianism: An Introduction to an Ancient Faith. Brighton/Portland: Sussex Academic Press

Thursday, 11 September 2008

In and Out of the Box...

I am reminded about how difficult it can be to explain coherently what you do, if you do something that is margianalised or hidden from the norm.

I have just been reading a book by three very erudite scholars - entitled:

Beyond the Body: Death and Social Identity

A book authored by Elizabeth Hallam, Jenny Hockey and Glennys Howarth; all women that I have huge respect for. I passed my previous degree with many references to their past works.

Now while it's entirely reasonable for people (including them) to hold opinions against embalming practice, even to describe the treatment in terms of "...violence...", I get really 'thingy' when the description is patently wrong.

I am nit picking - you think!

I have never sewn lips.......we don't sew lips.

We do oral sutures - or mandibular sutures, but the stitch doesn't go through the lips. For one thing, the tissue isn't strong enough to hold the suture and another thing the damage caused would cause fluid to 'weep' constantly.

Even you can understand the concept of wet lips being not one we would encourage...surely?

Then - if that wasn't bad enough, they got the whole embalming technique back to front so that whoever was embalming in the description, was injecting preservative into nowhere in particular.

Eh? you may ask.....

Well, the whole point is that you have to have an intact system to take advantage of the natural circulation. Poke holes in it and what do you get? A 'sieve'...with no way of transporting anything fluid that isn't going to escape.

It is of course possible - but it gets more complicated and having been accused in the same book of being "...pseudo medical...", I won't bore you with the anatomy lesson.

Which gets me to the point of this little rant.

Yesterday I went up to university to see my tutor and have a bit of a look round and chat to folk.
I met a charming young man who is a recent graduate - who having done the education thing at the correct end of his life, hopes to follow in his fathers footsteps into the Church of England. He was suitably earnest and enthusiastic a model 'Anglican'.

We had this chat about coffins, which I decided, suddenly as I was driving home later, might have been one of those parallel communications where you are each talking about the same issue - but from totally different points of knowledge.

Compared to him, a novitiate in 'boxes', I think I might be termed coffin expert - this latter position naturally only complicated things.

So, when he said words to the effect of 'I have heard that it is illegal to re-use a coffin after you have taken the body out of it....'

I naturally said - "rubbish - who told you that, of course you can re-use a coffin - mind you, you might not if it had been contaminated in some way.....!"

My answer was based on the knowledge that there ARE indeed certain circumstances where the coffin may be changed or re-used. I give you three such examples that I have experienced:

1. You go to remove a person who has died in certain private hospitals who only allow you to use a coffin and hearse.....not the usual stretcher and ambulance/van/estate-car.

This is the first-call and you have not yet been told by the relatives which coffin to use for the funeral - not only that, you may not be able to get an accurate size for the person. So you use a nicely lined coffin that is large enough to accommodate the nurses 'guesstimate'. You find out later that not only is it the wrong size - but the wrong colour.

You put the person in another coffin and are clearly not going to throw the first one away!

2. You do the funeral of a VERY large man.

To lay him out in comfort - the coffin (which has to be specially made) is 4" wider that the crematorium maximum size....so you explain to the family that the option may be to get another identical but slightly smaller coffin (at no extra cost to them)- that will go into the cremator - and ask if they are happy for you to transfer him on the morning of the funeral. Otherwise - burial is the only option.

In the slightly smaller coffin, which was indeed a very snug fit (meaning that the gentleman's hands stuck up a bit - due to his arms being tight against the coffin and his elbows up on his body, instead of by his sides)...he was safe enough. However, not quite as dignified looking as he was in the previous coffin.

Termed 'the boat' as it took up considerable space in the coffin store, this giant box was eventually acquired, by another funeral director who used it to bury one of his own clients.

3. A coffin comes over from abroad carrying a person who had died on holiday. The family don't like it at all - they hate it in fact - and so they ask for another one.

So we re-cycle the Zinc lining and put the coffin in the coffin store.

Sometime later we give it (at no charge) to a family who have limited funds and who love it, in all it's European glossy finary, while knowing perfectly well where it came from.

Going back to my prospective young priest........the coffin novice. What he was really implying was (I think), that once the coffin is on the catafalque in the crematorium, it is indeed illegal to tamper with it in any way, externally or internally. At that point, removing the body and re-using the coffin would incur a lengthy visit to one of HMQ's penal institutions.

Moreover it would be very bad form to try to tamper similarly with a burial coffin after the funeral. However, being a "...coffin expert...", I do know of a company supplying coffins that have a cardboard coffin liner (that remains - with the person inside - to be buried or cremated) and a legally removable posh wooden exterior that can be used for burial or cremation - and used and used and used again ad-infinitum!

Simple, in the end, wasn't it!

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Lot to think about....

I am steaming uphill towards my 50th birthday.

I see it as either a half-way stage, considering my grandmother's 104 years and my great aunt's 97 - or near my ending, if looked at through the glass half empty eyes of someone who has lost 3 close relations all aged 58.

Those three early demised, all went to the great 'beyond' - that is the suprise behind the door of death - over a relatively short period of time. The race for the finish line in each case was attended by various illness which, I suppose helped to provide some reason for it all. Naturally though, it got me thinking - pondering and reflecting.

I was 32 when the first one went...and that's when I unwittingly fell into the funeral business. I think a Coroners case with 2 inquests and a 28 day wait for release of one's mother is a very sobering entrance into a profession...I French Polished her coffin - and that was it. I like to think that she would be secretly proud to have started the ball rolling!

When the very last of my relatives died - this time in her 80s, I had thought and pondered enough to do 99% of her funeral myself. The 1% was only a quirk of geography. I lived miles away from her nursing home, so when she died, I asked the nearest 'man in a suit' to collect her and see to the Dr's paperwork. I told him that the coffin would arrive the next day, that I wanted to hire a hearse & bearers and that I was going to conduct the funeral.

My partner's mother had just arrived from the Antipodes for a holiday so we decided to hold the funeral after she left - so that we could concentrate on both significant incidents to the full and it also gave me a few days to chat to folk and write the service.

So, when the Dr's papers had been done and the death registered by a friend who was there at the time of death, I got the 'call' and set out in my little van - up the motorway.....

It broke down, just outside Bristol . I think the RAC switchboard lady was a little taken aback when I calmly said I was going further north "...to embalm my 'auntie'!"

So - if you are a critic of embalming, I put my hand up to say that I have embalmed 3 members of my close family, quite a number of people I counted as good friends and even more folk who I recognised as aquaintances. What's more, in many cases, I know that my work made a difference - because unlike some other embalmers who are closited in the mortuary, I met many of the people who were left behind.

I am very passionate about my work - those who know me, know that I can be ferocious if I feel that corners are being cut or people aren't being treated correctly. I care because I recognise that what we are able to do as embalmers, is 'beyond' the remit of everyday life. Anyone can look on the internet and find things out about embalming - even see film clips, but nothing can really describe what it is like to stand there and make the first incision.

So, to those funeral directors who are 'fridge-magnates', who declare that there is more skill in keeping a body in cold storage to embalming, I say that in my experience and humble opinion - I beg to differ.

Moreover, when I do get to go through the doors of death myself, I want to spend as little time behind the door of a fridge as possible. Get me embalmed (I can tell you who I want to do it...) and put me at home in my living room - in the warm for at least a week!

I recognise skill...and when the time comes - will be happy to pay my last tribute to it.