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I’m back from hospital, and now have two weeks’ convalescence where I must not mix with many people for infection control reasons. I have been ordering Bob Dylan CDs from the library to keep me occupied, along with my books. 

Things began well yesterday morning. I was one of the earlier patients taken to theatre. The modern anaesthetics are amazing. One moment I was talking to the anaesthetist and his assistant, the next I was waking up bright as a button in the recovery suite. I have suffered no pain or nausea after the surgery, either. 

Not everything was straightforward, though. The bleeding from my nose took longer to halt than expected. The nurses decided this was connected with the fact that my blood pressure was misbehaving. So instead of coming home last night, I was kept in, just in case a nasty nose bleed started up. 

As it happens, all that occurred was that I didn’t get a single second of sleep. The operation leaves patients with highly bunged up noses, largely with congealed blood. You are not allowed to try to remove it, because you could expose the work of the surgeons underneath. It would be like a child picking a scab on a knee before the new skin had formed. This left me finding it hard to breathe sufficiently deeply for sleep. Breathing through my mouth didn’t work either, because I had a sore throat from the tube that had been placed down it during the surgery. 

However, at least the blood pressure was a little more co-operative this morning. Combined with the fact that the only bleeding I had in the night was the result of a sneezing fit, my discharge today became routine. 

So I phoned Debbie and arranged that she would pick me up outside the main building at the drop-off point. We agreed on 9:15 am. Come 9:20, she still wasn’t there. My mobile vibrated in my pocket. “Where are you,” she asked, “I’ve driven past the entrance and you’re not there.”

“I’m outside the pick up and drop off point.”

“But I’ve been past A and E and didn’t see you.”

A and E? St John’s Hospital doesn’t have one. She had gone to Broomfield Hospital, eight miles away.

But before I leave this topic, I must include praise for all the staff on the ward. Their advice and care was first class. The NHS may be far from perfect, but give me that system ahead of a national private insurance scheme any day. 

The rest of the day has included some joys at the children’s achievements. Mark won a special effort sticker in assembly today for always getting on with his work straight away, and at swimming after school he swam a width without armbands for the first time. We have promised a family meal out when he managed that, and with Friday being a non-pupil day at the school, that will probably be our day. Rebekah, too, has done well, going up another stage on the reading scheme today.

It will be an early night tonight. Goodnight, all.

Sabbatical, Day 34: Computer Troubles, The CT Scan, Christian Music And Animation

Recurring computer frustrations this morning. McAfee Security Center is trying my patience. Twice this week it has thrown up warnings, saying the PC isn’t protected. It invites you to click a button to fix the problems, and it doesn’t. Earlier in the week, it demanded uninstallation and an upgrade. That seemed a bit rich, given I was subscribed over a year in advance. That time and today, forcing a search for updates seemed to solve the problem. If it keeps misbehaving, I may write off what I’ve paid ahead of time and replace it with a  high quality free anti-virus offering such as Avast and the excellent if rather talkative firewall from Comodo.

The other sinner this week has been our Canon Pixma iP5200 printer. We keep getting documents printed without that rather crucial colour, black. And that’s a disadvantage with text! Each time, it’s the same fault. One of the two black cartridge nozzles needs cleaning. It has been an excellent workhorse, but I’m beginning to suspect built-in obsolescence. It’s three years old, and everyone knows manufacturers make little money from the printers themselves, cashing in on the inkjet cartridges. And in an economic model like that, the manufacturers are being pushed hard by the widespread availability of compatibles. What a ghastly parable of our whole creaking economic system.

…………

This afternoon began with the CT scan on my sinuses. Thanks to Olive for her lovely comment on yesterday’s post. It was a strange experience, different from what I was expecting. For a start, I was seen on time, so congratulations to the Radiology Department at Broomfield Hospital! I was taken from the main radiology waiting room to a separate CT scan waiting room.

Asked if I had any jewellery, I mentioned my watch and wedding ring, neither of which I had to remove anyway. And although they are both strictly jewellery, I never think of them that way. ‘Bling’ is not a word anyone who knows me would associate with me. The watch is a tool for a job, and the wedding ring is my visual aid to remind me wherever I am that I have the privilege of being married. 

The nurse also asked me if I had any questions, and I explained my main concern was with lying still on my back, given that’s the position in which I find it hardest to breathe – and ironically the reason why I was having the test. The appointment letter had said the procedure would last between ten and thirty minutes. However, if I was under the scanner for five minutes, that’s all it was. Sinuses are among their simpler cases, apparently – and thankfully!

Lying under the scanner, I had certain expectations of what would happen. I thought it would be one long, steady, slow pass through what the staff referred to as the ‘doughnut’. Actually, I went forward and backward two or three times in semi-jerky movements. The whirring, flashing ring reminded me of something from Star Trek, perhaps a glorified version of the sight gadget Geordi La Forge wore. (No, I’m not a Trekkie: I had to research the character’s name.) When it slowed down, it sounded like a tube train coming into a station. From Geordi La Forge to Underground Ernie, I guess. 

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I’m tired tonight, so nothing intellectually demanding. I’m reviewing some CDs for Cross Rhythms. Every couple of months, they send me four releases to write up, and the musical styles can vary greatly.

First off tonight, a compilation from the now defunct American girl-pop trio Zoegirl. It’s highly professional yet very derivative of other teen pop. Like Andy Crouch, I believe Christians should be Culture Making rather than culture copying. However, it does have the merit of lyrics that attempt to boost the self-esteem of teenage girls. I suspect the members of Zoegirl are utterly sincere Christians, working within a less than entirely honourable industry. Hits: Greatest Zoegirl is their third compilation since 2005. It came out last year, and there’s another comp of them being released next month! It’s hard to have kind words for an industry that behaves like that.

Currently playing while I’m typing is Hold On For Life by the Arkansas Gospel Mass Choir. Right now, I’m only seven tracks out of ten through a first listen, so any opinions now are highly provisional. It doesn’t break any new ground in the black gospel genre, either musically or lyrically, and some annoying pseudo-live sounds are overdubbed, but you can’t get over the extraordinary power and quality of those voices, and a great brass section. 

…………

I’m signing off tonight with an amazing piece of animation. A friend just sent me the link to Animator Vs Animation by Alan Becker. It’s an amazing treat.

Goodnight!

Sabbatical, Day 29: From Mountain To Valley With A Bump

So we roused Mark at 9 pm yesterday. Despite the pain in his ear, he protested that he wanted to go back to sleep rather than see a doctor. Eventually, half way to the hospital (where the out of hours GP service is located), he began to be half-awake enough to view the trip as an adventure. 

Arriving in the car park, we were still stung at that time to the tune of £3.50 for the privilege of leaving the car in a mostly empty facility. Thanks, Broomfield Hospital. You’re so kind.

Entering the waiting room at 9:20 with an appointment time of 9:40, I let Mark snuggle up to me as I noticed more than twenty minutes go by before anyone else was called into a consulting room. I calculated that with the number of people in front of us, we would probably only get to see a medic around 10:20 – 10:30. For me, the time was passing almost as slowly as it would for a child, and I invoked my interest in Maths to occupy my brain, just as I sometimes stimulate myself on a long car journey by periodically calculating my average speed to two or three decimal points. Did someone say ‘Sad’?

I gathered only one doctor was on duty, but while we were there one more began a shift, as did an advanced nurse practitioner. The pace thus sped up, and just after 10 Mark was called in. We trotted into see the nurse practitioner, along with his Favourite Bear. (He gives his cuddly toys descriptions rather than names.)

Sure enough, it was a routine ear infection and so out came another bottle of amoxicillin, or ‘banana medicine’ as Mark calls it. I wonder whether you can guess the flavour. 🙂

On the way home, he was chatty if still tired, but was very taken by the experience. He said that in future when he was ill he wanted to alternate between seeing ‘Chelmsford doctors’ (by which he meant our GP surgery) and ‘hospital doctors’.

Of course, he didn’t realise that he had seen ‘hospital doctors’ when he was a baby – not only when he was born, but when the root cause of his permanently screaming the manse down was discovered. No, not the shock of having me for a father: he had been born with an inguinal hernia. Diagnosis only happened at seven weeks, after several incidents when Debbie had taken refuge with large glasses of sherry on nights when I was out at church meetings. He had surgery at ten weeks. 

This morning, Debbie took Rebekah to church while I stayed home with Mark. He has picked up considerably, but he has a week of banana medicine ahead of him and although he has been quite bouncy today, we’re keeping him off school tomorrow. 

If I’ve done any thinking about the sabbatical today, it’s just been a temporary musing of the problem of re-entry that awaits me in two months’ time. I’ve had two mountain-top experiences already, and while the church usually aims to ease ministers back in post-sabbatical, it didn’t happen to me last time and I don’t suppose it will this time.

Last time, the circumstances were exceptional: the circuit treasurer had failed to apply for the release of some funds. Realising his mistake, he had put thousands of his own money into the circuit accounts, leaving us the recipients of an unauthorised loan. He was one of my church members, and a decent guy in many ways.

But what exercises me this time is the adjustment to ‘normal church life’. I think it was A W Tozer who once observed that the spiritual temperature in many churches is so low that when someone turns up with a normal, New Testament ‘temperature’, they treat that person as if they have a fever.

Now let me quickly qualify that. I’m again aware how easy it is at a point like this to slip into a judgmental attitude. I can only assure you I don’t mean that, just as I also don’t mean anyone reading this to assume I’m painting myself as the one with the normal spiritual temperature. I’m struggling for language to express the dilemma, and I expect and hope you know what I’m driving at. In a desire to be accepting, inclusive and indeed avoid judgmentalism we have tolerated a low temperature in our churches. There have been many times over the years when I have felt that slowly suck the life out of me. In such circumstances, regular outside support is vital. Sometimes it’s easy to come by, but not always. Even when it is available, it emphasises the disconnect painfully, and has to be channelled into a passion for change.

In other news: I’ve been wading through the five hundred emails that were in the inbox when I returned. Among the gems was yet another article from the wonderful Ruth Haley Barton. I realise this one on Ash Wednesday is now four days late, but you might still gain something from her reflections, or at very least note it for next year. 

And on that positive note, it’s goodnight from me.