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Sabbatical, Day 58: Nosing Around

 

Lee Bay from the rear of Lee Abbey

Lee Bay from the rear of Lee Abbey

I’m opening up today’s post with a few final photos from last week’s photography course at Lee Abbey. All of these were taken last Thursday, on the final full day of the course. This is Lee Bay from the rear of Lee Abbey. It’s wonderful to look out on this view every day when you come down for an early morning cuppa. 

Seat in the grounds of Lee Abbey

Seat in the grounds of Lee Abbey

Here is a seat in the grounds of Lee Abbey, where you can relax. They chose the right email address for general enquiries: it’s relax AT leeabbey DOT org DOT uk. (I am not being paid for all this promotion of the place! I have simply been there five or six times over the years, and it is one of my favourite ‘thin places‘ in the world.)

 

Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway

Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway

I spent Thursday afternoon in Lynton and Lynmouth. I took the Cliff Railway down from the former to the latter. It is another reason why I would like to take Debbie and the children there. We did visit the area for a few hours one day some years ago when Rebekah was tiny and we were on holiday elsewhere in North Devon, but I think the kids would love an attraction like this. Especially since at the bottom in Lynmouth there are some great shops for clotted cream (Debbie would love that) and clotted cream ice cream (we’d all love that). Not only that, there is a fish restaurant that sends the most wonderful aroma into the local atmosphere. 

 

 

River and Bristol Channel at Lynmouth

River and Bristol Channel at Lynmouth

Lynmouth itself is small, but pretty. There is a river which runs through the town and out into the Bristol Channel, as depicted here. I also caught various scenes of the river flowing under bridges and houses and hôtels built on the steep bank between the river at the bottom at Lynton at the top. 

But at this point, I think I’m going to leave my memories of the Lee Abbey trip, at least so far as the blog is concerned. I might have wished for further ‘input’ on the course in terms of some theological reflection or some further inspiration on technique (although it was specifically advertised as not being a ‘technique’ course), but overall I am glad I went.

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On finally tonight to some personal news from today. I wrote in January about an out-patient appointment regarding my nose and sinuses, then earlier this month about the CT scan I subsequently had. Well, today was the follow-up appointment. I agreed to have the surgery, called septoplasty. It will happen some time in the next three months, involve an overnight stay in hospital and two weeks off work. The scan also showed some information I need to relay to my dentist, because the surgeon quite thought my sinuses were being interfered with by a tooth on the right of my mouth! 

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.

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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. 

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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!

Some Surprising Medical News

Anyone who ever watched that classic 1990s comedy programme The Fast Show might remember one of the minor characters, Bob Fleming. He’s the man with the persistent cough – Fleming, geddit? 

I am Bob Fleming.

It wasn’t until my early twenties when I went to see my GP about something else and she said, “Good grief, you’ve got a horrible cough there” that I realised it was abnormal not to spend the first two hours of every morning clearing my sinuses and coughing. I kept Kleenex in business – what was so unusual about that?

She sent me to see an ENT specialist. “What’s your problem?” he asked.

“I don’t think I’ve got a problem,” I replied.

The frustrated consultant questioned me more until I explained the back story. “Well,” he said, “the x-ray shows you have a polyp in your left nostril, but it’s clearly been there from birth and it’s evidently benign, so if you’re not worried I don’t see the point of surgery to remove it. Besides, it’s a rather messy operation.”

Now if a doctor says an operation is messy, I guess it’s very messy. Being offered the chance not to have a grotty procedure, I was glad to be discharged from the clinic. Later doctors put me on a repeat prescription of Beconase to keep the polyp down and deal with the allergic symptoms it gave me (it’s like having hay fever all year round).

And that was my situation until just before Christmas. At our current doctor’s practice, all repeat presscriptions are reviewed every six to twelve months. I had a review of my Beconase with one of the GPs. I said I wondered whether we ought to look at the question of my sinuses again. He assured me surgery had come a long way, and we might even just be looking at keyhole surgery by now to deal with the polyp.

So this morning, I had an out-patient appointment at the local hospital ENT clinic. A specialist inflicted local anaesthetic on both nostrils and then sent a camera up each of them in turn.

The verdict? There is no polyp. I don’t have a sinus problem, but I have a genuine breathing problem. The reason is that my nasal septum is out of shape on the left nostril side, and this makes gunk collect rather than dissipate easily. And no, you can’t explain my damaged septum by cocaine use. I’ve never been near the stuff. The doctor thought I had been this way since birth.

It’s possible that all the years of Beconase have shrunk the polyp out of existence. The curious question is why the consultant I saw in my twenties didn’t notice the out of shape septum. But that’s mucus under the bridge now.

I have been changed to a new nasal spray in place of Beconase. I await an x-ray appointment. Three weeks after that, I shall return to ENT and discuss whether to have surgery that will correct the kink in the septum.

All these years I have been living under a medical misapprehension. It’s amazing how often we do live under misconceptions in life. Only yesterday, our daughter wanted to have a conversation with me about Jamie Oliver the footballer.

“He’s not a footballer, he’s a chef,” I said.

“No, he’s a footballer,” insisted Rebekah.

“Well, you might have seen him kicking a ball on television and perhaps he enjoys football, but really he’s a chef,” I replied.

She wasn’t convinced, so I got Debbie’s copy of The Return Of The Naked Chef off the bookshelf. Showing her some pictures of recipés convinced her I was right.

The preacher in me can make a sermon illustration out of this – how people live under delusions and need convincing of the truth. Ultimately, it is the work of the Holy Spirit to do that work of convincing.

So people live under the delusion that their goodness will earn them a welcome from God. The Gospel shatters this with a message of grace and mercy. Richard Dawkins publishes ‘The God Delusion’ and only proves he is living under the greatest delusion of all, where even human wisdom is foolishnes in the eyes of God.

And we still live under delusions in the Church. We are on a lifelong (maybe even eternal) journey of having our delusions shattered, as the Light of the World shines into our darkness. When we receive and pass on a tradition without understanding it, we fall foul of the old maxim that the seven last words of a dying church are, “But we’ve always done it this way.” We practise Einstein’s definition of insanity, in which we keep doing the same things while expecting a different result.

The delusion-breaking work of regeneration is essential. But it is not the last word. It is God’s first word. He who began a good work in us will complete it on the day of Christ Jesus, says Paul in Philippians 1: the shattering has only just begun. We need to welcome it as it continues throughout our lives, for it is a critical component of discipleship.