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Never the Same Again Part 2 : The Night Before (posted on: 27-03-06)
It's just before the birth of our first child. It was a close call on Thursday night, but things settled down. What would Friday bring, aside from sweltering heat and ice-lollies ? ***

Lines from yet another song sprang to mind as we hit the hay on Thursday night.
''Come sweet slumber ! Enshroud me in thy purple cloak'' (From 'Paranoimia' by The Art of Noise & Max Headroom, 1986)
There were four of us in the bed that night; my wife, our baby (still safely tucked away), the TENS machine and me. Our purple cloak of slumber was actually a summer-weight duvet, but we did indeed sleep sweetly and were woken only by the alarm which was set because The Professionals - a midwife and a trainee - were due to visit for a routine appointment. When they arrived, we told them excitedly about the night before, and they recommended a quick examination to check that everything was well.
!!! WARNING !!!
Readers who are easily embarrassed should look away now, or at the very least, read the next few sentences with their eyes closed. One of the things that The Professionals checked was something called "dilation". Dilation refers to the expansion of that part of a woman's body from which babies emerge and is caused by the impending emergence of said baby. [I feel that you ought to know that I have gone very red at this point.] The dilation scale is roughly thus :
  • 0 centimetres dilation of this area means "carry on with whatever you are doing; it'll be a while yet".
  • 10 centimetres dilation of this area means "get the towels, buckets and wicket-keeper's gloves ready because it's all about to go off".
The three girls went upstairs for the procedure and I pottered around downstairs. Shortly after, one of The Professionals called out that that my wife was four to five centimetres dilated. Now, due to the poor acoustics between the sitting room and the upstairs bedroom, and the fact that I was in the act of dedicated, concentrated and focussed pottering, I didn't hear this call properly. Instead of hearing "four to five centimetres dilated", I heard "forty five centimetres dilated". I stopped in mid-potter and looked out of the window; I was certain that I could see the lessons learned at our ante-natal classes and our carefully-prepared Birth Plan all floating serenely into the distance. Given what I just heard (or what I thought I'd heard), I was about to exercise one of my key responsibilities in my role as Birth Partner. The job of panicking was mine and mine alone, and this seemed like a good time to start. However, before I could get down to some serious work in this area, I realised that neither my wife nor the midwife nor the trainee were showing any signs of urgency. Clearly, I was about to peak too soon on the panicking front. I calmed down a bit and decided to analyse the situation. Two thoughts went through my mind :
  1. On a scale of 0 to 10 cm, a dilation of 45 cm is quite a high score.
  2. Perhaps our baby is coming out sideways ?
Based on everything I that had read on the internet about childbirth, I formulated an incisive question for the Professionals. The question was :
"Could you say that again please ?"
This time, I heard the call correctly and decided that I would not share my misinterpretation for fear of appearing considerably more stupid than I really was. The Professionals were happy with the way that things were progressing. On their way out, they gave us our orders. We were to wait until the regular contractions started, at which point we should call the delivery unit to let them know that we were on the way and then hit the road without further delay. Wilco. That day was a scorcher. We had lunch outside in the shade, and even eating salad was a great effort. Heroically, I braved the heat and walked round to the local shop to buy ice-lollies. With perfect timing, we finished our frozen confectionery and the contractions started coming on strong. And regular. Gulp ! My wife was strolling around the house, all TENSed-up, increasing the zap and using the sofa for support whenever the contractions peaked. All I could do was watch, wait, ask if she was OK and rub her back. Not exactly what you might call BUPA-level care, but what else could I do ? The contractions kept on coming and it appeared that it was time to split. We phoned the maternity unit at Addenbrooke's and they said "Come On Down !". Presumably, at this point, they would begin to prepare our suite. I was rather hoping for a room with en-suite bathing facilities, Sky TV, minibar and sundry stationery items that I didn't really want or need but would find myself taking anyway. So, at 5:10pm, we saddled up and set off for the hospital. Five minutes later, we were still trying to get out of our own road and we had travelled just one-tenth of a mile. Although it was clearly not a blistering pace, I was pleased with this progress. Why ? Well, I am a somewhat lazy mathematician and I found that it was easy to work out our estimated time of arrival based on the progress we had made, thus : There are twelve 5-minute periods in an hour, so to find our average speed in miles per hour, I multiplied the distance we had just covered by twelve. Twelve times 0.1 is 1.2, so our average speed at that point was 1.2 miles per hour. To find the estimated elapsed time for the journey, I divided the total distance that we needed to travel by the average speed that I had just calculated. It is a curious happenstance that the distance from our house to the maternity unit is 12 miles, so if we maintained our average speed, I worked out that it would take 10 hours (12 miles divided by 1.2 miles per hour) to reach the maternity unit. You can see why I was quite pleased that we hadn't had an awkward average speed like 19 miles per hour to try to reckon with as I was doing the maths in my head whilst trying to edge out onto the A10. I decided not to share the results of my calculations with my wife. Given the circumstances, I doubted very much whether she would have been as pleased as I was with the simplicity of the calculation or, indeed, very pleased at all with the result of the calculation. Also, she doesn't like maths that much. Some kindly soul let us onto the main road and we were off. All along the way, we were caught in POETS (Piss Off Early Tomorrow's Saturday)-day traffic; nothing serious, but every second that we were delayed added to my stress, and - I'm just guessing here - my wife was none too happy about having strong and regular contractions in a car that was stuck in a series of minor jams on a hot afternoon whilst cosseting an overdue baby. Of course, there was always the fear that we wouldn't make it to the maternity unit at all. I took a fast-forward from that scenario and imagined the conversation a few years later : "Dad, where was I born ?" "In the front seat of a Vauxhall Astra at the Waitrose traffic lights, just south of Cambridge". "Is that why I've got a funny name ?" "Yes, Trumpington, it is." I didn't really fancy trying to deliver a baby armed only with half a bottle of Evian and a packet of Tesco's roasted cashew nuts. Mind you, the water had apparently been filtered through volcanic rocks for the best part of a million years or so, and the cashews were organic, so you can't really ask for a much better start to life than that, can you ? I wanted to cause a bit of a scene. I wanted a policeman to turn up on a motorbike and I wanted him to escort us to the hospital with lights flashing and sirens wailing, just like on the tele. Rather less dramatically, the traffic lights obliged and we cruised to the hospital safely and sedately. We parked up, grabbed our luggage and sweltered our way across the grounds to the maternity unit, passing several other expectant mums who shuffled around, rubbing their bumps, arching their backs and looking at their partners with a "when this is over, don't you ever come near me again" sort of look. It was uncomfortably hot outside, but inside was something else. The delivery unit of the maternity wing is in a south-facing building with big windows and no air-conditioning. This is good news for the newborn babies who need all the help that they can get with their body heat, but not so great for the mums-to-be, the staff and the hangers-on (like me). We were greeted by the maternity unit crew, shown to Room 6 and told to make ourselves as comfortable as possible. I looked around. The Sky TV and minibar were conspicuous by their absence, but I decided not to complain. We were alone together in our room. We held hands and wondered how long it would be before we were three. At this tender moment, how were we supposed to know that the night's proceedings would be dramtically impacted by celebrity burger-flipper Anthony Worrall Thompson ?
Archived comments for Never the Same Again Part 2 : The Night Before
Kazzmoss on 29-03-2006
Never the Same Again Part 2 : The Night Before
Fantastic! I remember the first one too. Wonderfully written and the humour had me laughing so much. I like the way the paragraphs were divided up too, it made it so much easier to read than one big blob of words. Just great, top marks. - Kazz

Author's Reply:
Thanks Kazz !

HelenRussell on 31-03-2006
Never the Same Again Part 2 : The Night Before
Fascinating to read this from the male POV.
I'm curious about the impact of the chef now though!


Author's Reply:
Thanks Sarah.
Yes ... the contribution made by Mr Worall Thompson will be revealed soon ...

Schrödinger's Advert (posted on: 20-02-06)
In which the author examines the background to the following advertisement from a 1935 edition of the "Vienna Bystander" :
!! FOR SALE !! One cat in a box. Might be dead, might not. ? Interested ? Contact Erwin Schrödinger on Austria 1-1-2-3-5. ***

Often regarded as one of the most famous imaginations in the field of Natural Sciences, the legendary "Cat-in-the-Box" experiment was created by Erwin Schrödinger to pooh-pooh some very strange repercussions of the emerging science of Quantum Physics. Even Albert Einstein was said to have remarked that this particular scientific field "had some weird shit going on". In the world of Quantum Physics, there is a basic premise that - in a nutshell - states that if you look at something very, very small, you affect it. This in itself is a bit weird but quite understandable in the context of subatomic particles; these are incredibly small and can most definitely be affected by shining a light on them in order to look at them. So – it follows that if you look at something, it will not be in the state that it was in before you looked at it. Quantum physicists at the time took this argument to its conclusion : that something can only really exist if you can look at it and can measure it. If you don't look at it, there is an equal chance that it exists and an equal chance that it doesn't exist - in which case it is in a strange probabilistic state where it simultaneously exists and doesn't exist. [ Are you with me ? It's all a bit Zen, really. You know the sort of stuff - If a tree falls in a forest and there's no-one around - does it make a sound ? That sort of thing ...] So far, so weird - but relatively reasonable. Until, that is, some scientists became discontent with restricting this type of thinking to the world of the infinitesimally small. They argued that it ought to apply to the world of Big Things - the world that you and I live in and understand – where things quite definitely are or aren't, where apples are apples and oranges are oranges. Erwin Schrödinger thought that this was all a bit daft, so he suggested a thought-experiment to show just how daft it was. He said : Put a cat in a box along with a "diabolical device" - that is, some radioactive material and some poison. (No, I don't like it either, but bear with me). Two things can then happen.
  1. If the radioactive substance decays sufficiently during an interval, it triggers release of a poison. If this happens, the cat dies. (Everybody say : Awwwww ...)
  2. If the radioactive substance does not decay sufficiently during the interval, the poison is not released and the cat lives. (Everybody say: Hooray !).
And the the question is .... how is our cat ? Remember that we can't look in the box, because - according to a by-product of Quantum Physics - we would affect the experiment. Tricky one, eh ? Quantum-type thinking dictates that because the radioactive decay is a random event governed by the laws of probability, the cat has been transformed into some sort of a combined probability wave that is both equally dead and equally alive (but probably useless at chasing mice) .... whereas you and I would probably do some normal-type thinking and come up with "it's either alive or it's dead" (and therefore good/bad at chasing mice accordingly). Some luminaries of the day were concerned with the implications of this on the understanding of science and nature; others missed the point completely and were rather more concerned with Schrödinger's attitude toward dumb animals.
.... NOW ....
Until recently, it was generally assumed that the "Cat-in-the-Box" was a thought-experiment - a hypothetical situation deliberately designed to make people think in an uninhibited manner. However, I can reveal that the experiment was actually executed by its creator using a silver tabby (whom Schrödinger named Rutherford) that was sealed in a box along with the "diabolical device", a large bowl of water, a little milk and a plentiful supply of pilchard-flavoured KatzenKrunch biscuits (''Eight out of ten cat owners said they didn't understand the question''). As if to prove some sort of a point, Schrödinger did not want to ever open the box, and it sat in the family living room for several months. He found himself moving away from his original intentions; far from using the experiment as a means of pooh-poohing, he found himself becoming rather attached to it all. When he came home from a hard day's physicisting, he would spend hours just watching it, amusing himself by considering the probabilistic state of the animal therein. He was also proud of the fact that he had a cat like no other; a cat that was both alive and dead. There were other benefits inasmuch as it wouldn't bring half-eaten sparrows into the house, it wouldn't pee all over the furniture and wouldn't climb up the curtains in the middle of the night. Understandably, Frau Schrödinger was not quite so enamoured by the whole situation. Not only did she feel that she was losing her husband to a box that contained a probabilistic and paradoxical feline, she also feared the potential twin terrors of radiation poisoning and the potential pervasive whiff of a dead cat. To cap it all, it was she who had to dust the thing every couple of days and was forever snagging her tights on the rough edges in the process. In December of 1935, Frau Schrödinger delivered an ultimatum to her husband :
"Either it goes, or I go" (only she said it in German).
Erwin then told his wife (in German) to think herself lucky; his original concept for the experiment had called for his mother-in-law to be placed in the box instead of a cat. He quickly realised (also in German) that this would prove no real consolation to his wife; he agreed to remove the offensive items from their domicile and placed an advertisement in the small-ads column in the December 20th edition of the popular newspaper ''Die Wiener Zuschauer Zeitung'' (The Viennese Bystander). It is understood that the Schrödingers never received any monetary offers for the goods. They settled instead to trade with an anonymous German naval commander who offered an accordion and a budgerigar (called Adolf) for the package. The Schrödingers were quite content with this deal. Erwin took to playing the accordion instead of losing his mind amongst all this weird quantum-mullarkey, and Frau Schrödinger was happy to care for Adolf - a quite normal, non-quantum pet - about whose mortal state she could be confident simply by peeping through the bars of the cage.
Archived comments for Schrödinger's Advert
Romany on 20-02-2006
Schrödingers Advert
Quantam physics and probability? On a Monday morning? Are you mad?
Lol! Very witty again - and very interesting. I like your style.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Romany !

> Quantam physics and probability? On a Monday morning? Are you mad?
Much more interesting & entertaining than my proper job !

e-griff on 20-02-2006
Schrödingers Advert

I think in the first section, you would be better to use the word 'observe' (in the scientific sense) rather than 'look' , which is the point. 'Observe' in the scientific sense implies, as you indicate, shining light or X-rays, etc and registering their reflection or 'bending' or obscuring (or some other form of physical registration). To 'look' will make no difference as the interfering rays or field will still be causing their interference.

Author's Reply:
Hi e-griff ! Thanks for the feedback.

You're right about "observe" vs "look". Technically correct & it sounds better


Andrea on 20-02-2006
Schrödingers Advert
Oh, I thought this was very, very amusing. And I find Quantum Physics fascinating.

I bet dear ol' Albert didn't really say "had some weird shit going on", though 🙂

Author's Reply:
Hi Andrea
Thanks for the feedback

> And I find Quantum Physics fascinating
Me too ! But I fear it's one of those subjects that - just when I *think* I'm getting the message - the tiny part of my mind that deals in commensense kicks in & shouts "IT'S ALL MADE-UP NONSENSE!"

> I bet dear ol' Albert didn't really say "had some weird shit going on", though 🙂
OK, I admit. It's a fair cop. I made it up. 😎


sirat on 21-02-2006
Schrödingers Advert
Schrodinger would have liked your story, because I'm certain that his thought experiment was also tongue-in-cheek. He was trying to show that the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum phenomena couldn't really be the whole story because it led to absurdities like the cat that was neither dead not alive. But his thought experiment is flawed because the radioisotope either will or won't have decayed and emitted its particle during the time that the cat is inside the box, whether it is observed or not. The cat will either be alive or dead. There is no law that says the quantum field is going to remain uncollapsed until we make our observation. He has chosen a process in which collapses of the quantum field take place at a known statistically random frequency whether we are observing them or not. The experimental setup is not OBSERVER CRITICAL, as the simple Young's Slits experiment is. But that's only a detail. It's a great story, I loved it.

Author's Reply:
Thanks sirat !
Also appreciated your thoughts on the flaws in Schrödinger's "experiment"; a good, clear & concise summary.
Cheers !

Fascinating Facts, Flim Flam, Flannel and Flapdoodle for Festal Functions (posted on: 13-02-06)
Heaven forbid that one might be stuck for conversation during a dinner party or somesuch festal function. Should this dreadful situation arise, herewith are some bon mots that you are welcome to utter. They are sure to delight, fascinate and entertain all who hear them, and your apparent depth of knowledge will surely guarantee you the toppest of topmost positions on the guest list for future events.

  1. Pasta was invented by Italian Al Dente in 1678 when, trying to perfect his recipe for the world's first batch of chewing gum, he cocked-up the ingredients.
  2. Natural grass is made entirely of milk atoms. It is coloured green by farmers so that the cows know where to go for lunch.
  3. The custom in the British Isles of looking right, looking left and looking right again when crossing a road is based upon an ancient Celtic ritual that was thought to purge demons from the thoroughfare. In many other countries, this practice is deemed to bring bad luck and usually results in some kind of accident involving a motor vehicle.
  4. 78% of people in the world were born on a Wednesday.
  5. The Earth and everything on it is growing every year. In Biblical times, our planet was approximately the size of the Isle of Wight; in Neolithic times, it was only as big as a beach ball. This would explain why old people are small.
  6. Certain types of electricity are made from burning the fossilised remains of dinosaurs. Because the dinosaurs are so old, the flames given off are cold, so these electricities can only be used to power fridges.
  7. To a person, the entire French nation speaks in code so that you can't understand what they are trying to say. Their code is very clever in that the written form is nothing like the spoken form, and neither bears any resemblance to English. Most other countries have a similar code designed specifically to confuse us.
  8. Chickens are rare amongst animals inasmuch as they do not need oxygen to survive and breed. For this reason, NASA has chosen to colonise Mars with these remarkable animals. There are already plans for a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise to be established at the foot of Mons Olympus.
  9. Computers are very versatile because they can execute programs to perform a wide range of tasks. What most people do not appreciate is that inside every computer is a complex ant colony that performs all of the work. The programs that run on computers (such as word processors) are special sets of instructions that are written in ant language. A computer crash is usually caused by predators or enemies predators (such as termites), attacking the ants.
  10. Earthquakes are caused by the entire population of China slamming their front doors in unison. They do this to annoy foreigners.
  11. Elvis Presley was 73 and profoundly deaf when he recorded Blue Suede Shoes.
  12. There are 7.43 million different words in the King James Version of the Holy Bible. There is only one word repeated in the entire book and that is "orange".
  13. Contrary to popular belief, all of the Beatles songs were written by Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Wilson was also a competent drummer, occasionally filling in for Ringo and for Keith Moon of The Who when both were too pissed to perform.
  14. America used to be within walking distance of the British Isles. However, after the Boston Tea Party, the British government took a strop and decided to have the entire continental land mass towed across to the other side of the Atlantic.
  15. Street lamps are coloured orange because they give off vitamin C.
  16. Frogs jump higher than most animals because they eat flies. The aeronautical ability of the fly is transferred to the frog during digestion.
  17. According to Football Association rules, there must be 2.4 million blades of grass on a standard football pitch. If this is not the case, then both teams are offside for the entire match and the referee must book himself.
  18. There are actually 3,104 signs in the Zodiac. This has been reduced to 12 to save time for astrologers and to save space in the daily newspapers.
  19. The oceans would be a lot deeper if it wasn't for all of the sponges on the seabed
  20. .
  21. Potatoes roast better if you play classical music to them during the parboil phase.
  22. The oil for artist's paint is extracted from brussels sprouts. The next time that you are in the National Gallery, lick a Vermeer or a Rembrandt and see for yourself.
  23. Lightning is caused by all of the radio and TV programmes that don't get listened-to or watched being beamed back to Earth. Thunder is generated because all the soundtracks are broadcast simultaneously.
  24. If all of the cars in the world were parked end-to-end, they would form a line that would reach all the way from Acton swimming baths to Ealing Broadway.
  25. Spring onions actually do contain tiny springs that help the plant to sway in strong winds. The springs are made of chloroform and they work by mean of photogenesis.
  26. Putting 2 and 2 together is only useful under certain circumstances, and more often than not, is a complete waste of time.
  27. Rain falls upwards in the southern hemisphere.
  28. Voices are carried between mobile phones using a massive network of very thin spider webs.
  29. It has been proven that gargling with shampoo twice a day prevents throat dandruff. A citrus-based product is the best.
  30. Police officers in the UK get a £10 bonus every time they are sworn at.
  31. Dairy products and similar derivatives are good substitutes for vehicle fuel; full-fat butter may be used in place of unleaded petrol, and that stuff made from olives (you know, used to be called Olivio, but they've changed names recently to give it a proper Italian name, but I can't remember it at the moment) can be used in place of diesel.
  32. Saying "Boo" to a goose is not a good idea. Geese are vicious buggers when provoked and you're likely to be on the wrong end of a good flapping. I know. I've tried it.
  33. If all the cars in the UK were stacked on top of each other, it would be not at all safe and would probably topple over before you knew what was happening.
  34. Cooling rods in nuclear power plants are made from recycled baked-bean tins. The rods are initially cleaned with Fairy Liquid, but this process is occasionally not 100% successful. Meltdown occurs if any tomato sauce residue reacts with the radioactive particles produced by the giant atomic batteries.
  35. If you put lettuce in a salad spinner and turn it very, very fast in an anticlockwise direction, it will go back in time.

Archived comments for Fascinating Facts, Flim Flam, Flannel and Flapdoodle for Festal Functions
Romany on 14-02-2006
Fascinating Facts, Flim Flam, Flannel and Flapdoodle for Festal Functions
That's cleared up a few mysteries for me!

These are funny and very clever. 19 and 32 made me laugh out loud. Terry Pratchett uses the ants as a computer thing in his Discworld series; the Unseen University use it, it's called hex! (I think!)

I really enjoyed these; as did my 14 year old son who read them over my shoulder, giggling, "Read number (whatever) mum!" and then a very impressed, "Did he just make these up?"

Nice job! I hope you get more reads, you deserve them!


p.s Thanks for making me smile. May I email this page to a few friends, and my hubby at work. Spread a little happiness, etc...

Author's Reply:

admin on 14-02-2006
Fascinating Facts, Flim Flam, Flannel and Flapdoodle for Festal Functions
Made me laugh, too. And, as you say, just plain daft 🙂

Author's Reply:

Jen_Christabel on 14-02-2006
Fascinating Facts, Flim Flam, Flannel and Flapdoodle for Festal Functions
I loved this, can we have some more please?
I think your name is great by the way :o)
Jennifer x

Author's Reply:
Thanks Jennnifer !

> I think your name is great by the way :o)

I was thinking about adopting it as my real name 😎

Never the Same Again Part 1 : The Night Before The Night Before (posted on: 06-02-06)
It's just before the birth of our first child. Mum-to-be starts getting the warning signs. Dad-to-be starts to wonder if he's up to the job. ***

It was Thursday the of 29th May. I was reminded of a line from a Pink Floyd song that seemed very appropriate for our situation on that particular evening. The song is called ''One Slip'' and the lyric is simply : "There'll be no sleep in here tonight". Here's why it was appropriate. Our first child was on the way. Well on the way. The little person was due exactly a week before, but s/he must have been comfortable where s/he was. Not so much as a peep from junior until earlier that evening when my wife was able to tell the time by the regularity of her contractions. To alleviate the pain, she had a warm bath, dried off, and then used a machine to generate some Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. I was frightened of this magic box until she explained that it was quite benign, gently zapping her back with mild electric current. I was also encouraged by the fact that it seemed to be doing the trick. (I was glad that we could save a lot of time, energy and wear-and-tear on the tongue by referring to the gizmo simply as a TENS machine. For example, in the throes of contractions, my wife would hardly likely be expected to say : ''I believe that I am in need of some Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. Would you mind awfully passing me the device that is capable of applying such ?'' Instead, she could just say : ''Gimme TENS!'') I admit that I was by now in a state of panic. It was only mild panic, but it was there nonetheless. Under normal circumstances, to calm myself I would normally have gunned-down a bottle or two of Adnam's Broadside. But then a glimmer of sanity appeared from somewhere. What if I had to drive to the hospital ? So, no beers. And it wasn't fair. My wife couldn't drink. Instead, I found other diversions. I scribbled furiously, drank more tea than I had ever done and put in some useless pacing and pottering to a background of MTV2. "Universally Speaking" by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers was a favourite at that point. Then I had a brainwave. Maybe I should strap the TENS machine onto my head ? Hmmm. Maybe not. Seeing my wife in discomfort made me feel very strange. We knew that it was going to get worse before it got better, and I knew that there was really stuff-all that I can do to help her apart from be there when she wanted me. Nervous. Excited. Tired. I wanted Pink Floyd to be wrong.
Archived comments for Never the Same Again Part 1 : The Night Before The Night Before
Sunken on 07-02-2006
Never the Same Again Part 1 : The Night Before The Night Before
Isn't there a pink Floyd song called 'Comfortably Numb' too? I can't imagine what it must be like to have a baby. I once passed a rather large stool when I had a dodgy stomach, and that was bad enough. No, you can keep all of that baby stuff. Anyway, none of that is important right now young Flap of Doodle fame. Forgive my rudeness. I haven't even introduced myself or welcomed you to Uka. I have shared my toilet problems with you tho? So hopefully that makes up for any shortfalls. A very entertaining little sub young Flap that required no Tens... apart from the one I'm awarding - did you see what I did there? Just nod and I'll leave quietly. Thanks. Take care and a radio.


Slough 3 - Plough 4

Author's Reply:
Thanks for the comments, the rating ... but most of all for the intro & welcome.
I'm also honoured that you feel comfortable (? comfortably numb?) sharing toilety-insights with me.

Look forward to reading some of your stuff.


Kazzmoss on 09-02-2006
Never the Same Again Part 1 : The Night Before The Night Before
Very nicely written and enjoyable reading something from the Dad's side about birth. And what was the outcome..? - Kazz

Author's Reply:
Thanks Kazz.

> And what was the outcome..?

Details of the Outcome are on the way soon.
In fact, even I can feel the labour pains of Part 2 as I type .....


Hippocracheese (posted on: 06-02-06)
A short tale of medical history, sunshine, minor personal injury and dairy products.

Some years ago, my wife-to-be and I holidayed on the beautiful Dodecanese island of Kos. It is historical fact that this was the stomping ground of one Hippocrates who was, by all accounts, a bit of a bright spark and is generally considered to be the founder of modern medicine. He developed, practised and taught his trade on this very island - and one can even go and visit the very Plane Tree under which The Big H is said to have imparted his knowledge to his students. It is said that Kos still produces many doctors and medical practitioners, no doubt all keen to follow in the besandalled footsteps of the old doctor. I figured that there must be something about the history of the island, maybe some deep racial memory, maybe something in the air, maybe even something in the water that gives rise to inventiveness in the field of medicine, that makes people in this part of the world want to heal. There is also a written legacy. The Hippocratic Oath is still sworn by doctors today. To the untrained eye such as mine, the Oath is a little like a cross between a set of Commandments and a Boy Scout's promise-list. It is a code of ethics rather than a "How To be A Doctor" checklist. Anyway, after a few days on the island, after a few days of sun, sand, sea and ... (well, let's just say we were having a good time) after a Certain Incident had occurred, I found myself studying the Hippocratic Oath, scouring every sentence, phrase and word in an attempt to find references to dairy products therein. There appeared to be none. I thought that there might be some oblique mention; maybe he did not specifically speak of non-meat, dairy products for fear of angering producers and vendors of other foodstuffs. But no. There was not a Hippocratic Babybel in sight. So why was I looking for dairy products ? What was this Certain Incident that inspired my studies ? One evening, after a day of sun, sand and sea (but not the other "s"), I bent down to tie my shoelaces and - Ow ! - I whacked my eyebrow on a chair. Enter my wife-to-be. Edna, then aged 31, a qualified Nurse of 14 years experience and ITU Specialist for the last 7 years. Without hesitation, she swung into action, the deep-rooted medical vibes of the island obviously having made a positive impression on this lovely lady. She carefully examined the dented eyebrow. She opened the fridge door. She pulled out a 2oz packet of English Cheddar Cheese. She held it firm against my brow. I sat in silence for a minute and considered this high-tech treatment. "Ah ! Is there some kind of enzyme that emanates from the curd and permeates the hirsute membrane of my forehead, thereby interfacing with the inflamed nerve endings, resulting in a negating of the pain ?", I asked, somewhat pleased with myself for putting together such a thought. "No", replied Edna. "It was the first cold thing I could lay my hands on". I'm sure that I could hear the mountains echoing with the sound of The Big H laughing his sandals off.
Archived comments for Hippocracheese
Romany on 06-02-2006
So Hippocrates was something of a bright spark was he? Lol. Does the Hippocratic oath still stand though? I thought the medical world had stopped taking it (doctors that is) a while back; scrapped it for some reason? I dunno!
Enjoyable little read. Thanks.

Author's Reply:
Thanks Romany for the feedback & the tip-off re: The Oath. I shall be diligent & follow that up

Kazzmoss on 06-02-2006
That is so funny and very well written too.


Author's Reply:
Thanks Kazz !

narcissa on 10-02-2006
"The big H" - love it!
I really enjoyed this little tale, great stuff!!
Laura x

Author's Reply:

A Spiritual Sausage (posted on: 12-01-04)
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you (Matthew, 7:7)

Oh yeah ? (Flapdoodle, 41 & ½ )

>>>>>>>>>> *

I tried to explain my situation to the vicar; he was patient, kind and allowed me my full say. I told him that I had tried prayer. I genuinely believed in a Heavenly Father, His Son and The Holy Ghost. I had genuinely believed in the power of prayer. I had genuinely believed in Eternal Life.

"But I'm not sure any more".

"And why is that ?"

"Well ..... "

To my innocent mind, Eternal Life meant just that. It meant that the people I loved would never die. It meant that they would be alive, here on Earth and preferably not too far away so that I wouldn't get car-sick on the way to see them. All of this spirit-stuff and the soul surviving physical death was a little too much to grasp when I was six or seven.

Nevertheless, it dawned on me with some force when my Nan died. No matter how hard someone prays for another person, that latter person will eventually die. Come to that, so will the former. Those that you love will not always be around to see, to hold, to talk with. This concept was difficult at first, but eventually I could see that it made some sense.

I continued praying for those that I loved, but then began adding some personal requests. I politely asked the Lord if I could be slimmer, taller, cleverer, attractive to girls and good at football. Please ? After all, I was nine and had to move quickly. I foresaw that if my prayers were answered, I would probably be playing for Everton by the time I was 14 - with the provisos that my wife (whom I'd already decided would be Raquel Welch) didn't mind staying home to look after the kids and that the research into cold fusion didn't get in the way too much. I imagined that these types of request would be small beer for Someone who made the entire Universe within a week and still managed to get some kip on the Sunday.

I was good. I was patient. I kept praying. I waited.


Not a spiritual sausage. Despite my efforts, I remained well-and-truly ordinary.

As he listened, the vicar slowly shook his head and gave a knowing, glowing benevolent smile. He said :

"You still haven't got the right idea, have you ?"

"Well, I suppose He can't be everywhere at once, can He ? What with an expanding Universe to look after ?"

He shook his head even more slowly. His kindly, smiley face seemed to dissolve and his cheeks became flushed with a colour that Dulux might call Hint of Purple Rage. He growled :

"Do you have a dictionary at home ?"

I did.

"Good. And do you know how to use it ?"

I did.

"Good. Then do me - and yourself - a huge favour, would you ?"

I would.

He scribbled furiously on a piece of paper and then handed it to me. It had a single word in big, bold letters, and that word was OMNIPRESENT.

"When you get home this evening look up that word, would you ?"

I did.

And I felt a bit dim when I had finished. Almost as dim as the time that my English teacher set me a special essay for my homework, entitled - "The Simpleton - An Autobiography".
Archived comments for A Spiritual Sausage
bluepootle on 2004-01-12 04:21:15
Re: A Spiritual Sausage
I enjoyed this - actually, I felt the centralized text was really effective. Interesting!

Author's Reply:

Flapdoodle on 2004-01-12 10:28:15
Re: A Spiritual Sausage
Hi bluepootle
Thanks for the comments - much appreciated.
I have a confession. The centralized text is a mistake - it didn't look like that on the "Preview" before I submitted it !

Author's Reply:

shackleton on 2004-01-14 16:11:12
Re: A Spiritual Sausage
Hi Flapdoodle. Interesting read. I think the centralising actually enhanced it. I never realised it was possible to do that on this site. I enjoyed your story. Bye now.

Author's Reply:

spacegirl on 2004-02-10 15:03:52
Re: A Spiritual Sausage
I enjoyed the story, reminded me of when I was young, I said in church with my parents asking for Arsenal to win the league and the cup. It did work in the end - some 20 years later 🙂

The centralising did enhance it as Shack & bluepootle said. The last line was classic.

Author's Reply:

tai on 2004-11-07 11:53:26
Re: A Spiritual Sausage
Hi Flapdoodle, love the name, the title is appealing and the story, very entertaining.


Author's Reply:

Flapdoodle on 2004-11-08 15:06:09
Re: A Spiritual Sausage
Hello Tai !
Thanks for the notes.
Just found my way back to this site after a bit of an absence, so I hope to get round to reading some of your stuff soon.
Cheers !

Author's Reply:

The Great Knolly : A short prehistory (posted on: 05-01-04)
A short discourse on the very early days of a true gentleman hero.

Friend, The life and times of The Great Knolly - more formally known as Montagu Valentine Knolly - have been the subject of much discussion, debate, speculation and extrapolation over the years. However, there are two periods of his long, fascinating and eventful life that are shrouded in mystery - the very beginning and the very end. Here follows a very brief discourse on this remarkable man's earliest days - in fact, what one might almost term a prehistory of Knolly.

There were several women in Knolly's life, but certainly in the early years, none as important as the woman to whom he referred as "Aunt Lettice". Lettice - or Lady Lettice Montagu to use her full title - was almost certainly no relation to Knolly's natural parents, but even so, she raised him as if he were her own son at the magnificent Hoot Hall, near Marlborough in Wiltshire.

Lettice Lacey had a working class upbringing. She was one of seventeen children - the only daughter - in a family from Pratt's Bottom in Kent. Her father earned an adequate wage from cultivating wormwood, and her mother stayed indoors and had babies, rarely venturing past the wicker gate at the front of the house. The Laceys were a decent and happy family and every child was as well-educated as possible given the circumstances. At the age of sixteen, Lettice won a scholarship to the Royal Equestrian College at Lewisham. Here, she worked diligently at her academic studies and according to her school report, also approached the practical activities (such as mucking out, castrations and firing crossbows at moving targets whilst riding bareback) with "vim, vigour and great gusto".

Lettice was a natural with ponies and horses and was soon successfully representing the College at events around the south of England. Whilst competing at the prestigious Peckham Rye Gymkhana in August 1843, she was swept off her feet by a handsome, dashing, brave gentleman officer who also happened to be stinking rich. And he was a Lord of the Realm. And he was a nice bloke. Colonel Lord "Monty" Montagu of Avebury took Lettice to be his lawful wedded wife in September of 1844 and they moved in to Hoot Hall after their honeymoon Yeti-hunting in Nepal. The future looked nothing but bright for this couple. Lettice always wanted children of her own and had dreamed of a large, happy family; Monty was the ideal image of husband and father.

Sadly, an accident in 1845 robbed the happy couple of their dream and Monty of his life. He was lost to the deep when a freak tidal wave swept him overboard from the deck of the Woolwich Ferry, just off of the coast of Silvertown. Despite the heroic rescue efforts of the Royal Navy in mountainous waters, Monty was never seen again.

Lettice never fully recovered from this catastrophe and remained single for the rest of her life, despite countless offers of marriage from top-drawer European Princes and even from His Holiness Pope Rocqui III (although the latter proposal was never officially confirmed). She had men-friends, many of whom considered themselves potential spouses, but none was ever granted the honour of staying unaccompanied with Lettice past tea-time.

In the main library at Hoot Hall, there is a series of leather-bound books, each with the Montagu coat of arms emblazoned in gold leaf on the front cover. These books are the Montagu Journals, presenting a detailed and accurate account of the goings-on at Hoot Hall since the Montagus had it built in 1619.

In the Journal for 1862, it is recorded that on the morning of 14th February, Daisy Rootes (one of Lettice's kennelmaids at Hoot Hall) was exercising the ten pedigree Irish Wolfhounds when she discovered what at first sight looked like a small bundle of laundry on the front lawn. Closer investigation revealed a healthy baby boy - about one week old - carefully wrapped in calico sheeting which bore the label of the popular "Knolly Mills" textile manufactory from nearby Swindon.

One of the dogs - Daisy did not know which - had chewed and swallowed an envelope that had been pinned to the sheets. For three days after the discovery, the junior kennelmaids were given the duty of sifting through piles of steaming dog-motion to look for any paper that might have survived digestion. Alas, there was none (but the Journal does tell us that the kennelmaids were each rewarded with an extra tuppence for their efforts). Other than the potential contents of the envelope, there were no clues to the boy's origins.

The abandoned baby presented Lettice with an opportunity to fulfil a dream. She wanted to formally and legally adopt the boy as her own son. However, some of the less progressive of the Montagu patriarchs and matriarchs would not concur, stating that they could not be certain of the boy's parentage and that there was a chance that he might be some sort of "foreign-Johnny". The Montagu elders did allow Lettice to become the legal guardian of the child, a decision which she accepted with great grace and dignity.

The Montagu elders relented somewhat in the naming of the child and allowed Lettice to use the family name as a Christian name; Daisy was allowed to choose the middle name and so selected the name of the Saint on whose day he was found. The surname proved more of a problem. Eventually, the chief gardener, Mr Bonemeal, suggested that they use the name on the label from the baby's swaddling. Hence Montagu Valentine Knolly.

As soon as she thought that Knolly might be old enough to understand, Lettice explained that she was not his real mother. He took the news very well for one of such tender years, nodding quietly and then innocently asking if she would be his Auntie instead. By all accounts, the entire Montagu household burst into tears in a show of sensitivity and emotion that made The Waltons look as badly-behaved as the provisional wing of the IRA.

Friend, I would like to thank you for your time in reading this, and I would also plead with you to accept my apologies at the brevity of this introduction. There is a wealth of information now available from both the Knolly and Montagu estates; the author hopes to make more of this fascinating material available to the general reader in the very near future.
Archived comments for The Great Knolly : A short prehistory
chippy on 2004-01-08 08:49:00
Re: The Great Knolly : A short prehistory
This is great - real potential! A cross between a history book and Terry Pratchett. I hope there is more to come.

Loved the aside after the searching through steaming dog-motion that tells of the extra tuppence reward!

Author's Reply: