Galloping Gravewards

(The title was how my friend R announced his birthday celebrations. I’m using it for general musings on ageing.)

I read once, or someone told me, or I vaguely heard it on Radio 4 whilst sleeping, that in your subjective experience of your own life, time passes more quickly as you get older. Think about it. How long did six weeks used to feel when it was a school summer holiday? Now six weeks is just the time it takes to show a whole series on the BBC or something.

What with your childhood taking ages, apparently the subjective halfway point in your life is 25. It will feel like all the time from 25-death lasts as long as the years from birth to 25.

But the thing that’s really been striking me recently is how things that used to take forever are just happening so fast. It sometimes feels like my toenails need clipping every other day. I use a bar of soap in the blink of an eye.

The other thing that has had me contemplating relative ages recently was a conversation with Ed, who was back up training locally recently. A long time ago, I told him I’d been to Berlin whilst living in Germany as part of my degree, and in return he asked whether I’d been before or after the wall came down. I had to point out I had been 11 in 1989 and had been more pre-occupied with starting secondary school than the death of communism. Ed’s not much more than a decade older than me, but has a completely different frame of reference, and my answer made him feel old.

Five years later, and my German A Level teacher was showing us the text book he taught from. He’d crossed out the page about the Berlin wall on the day it came down, but by 1996 he’d realised that he would still have to teach about it not as a fact of daily German life, but as something crucially important in Germany’s history.

This comes back to Ed because just recently he was telling me about a colleague of his who teaches an undergraduate module about communism and the fall of communism, and used to ask his class what they were doing in 1989. He’s had to stop that now because this year’s crop of 18 year-old undergraduates were born in 1989. Their frame of reference for communism is that it’s something that was largely over before they were even born. That makes me feel old!

What made me feel older still was going to talk to a group of 16-year-olds at a local school about politics, the local council and so on. And they couldn’t remember a prime minister before Tony Blair. They had no recollection of a Conservative government at all. It doesn’t seem like very long ago at all that I was in secondary school myself and just finding out that prime minsters didn’t have to be female.

Time passes. We all grow older. Younger people keep turning up. 30 seems like a big milestone that’s a long way off. But in the general scheme of things, it’s not that many soap-bars or toenail clippings away.


“Hip, Hip, Delay” is how Eddie Mair introduced the news story about the delay in the home information pack on PM this afternoon when I was stuck in traffic.

I was home by the time the next groan-out-loud pun floated over the airwaves when Peter Hitchens referred to the Conservatives under Cameron as “Blue Labour”

I should definitely listen to PM more often.

A day spent leafleting.  I’ve been feeling tired all day.  It must have been the golf and gardening over the two previous days


For the second day running I have been more than usually active doing something that blisters my hands.

Yesterday, the spud-planting left me aching and my hand sore, and my arm covered in scratches and grazes that I can’t remember doing.

Today, I went with friends to a golf driving range near the River Trent to see whether I am as awful at golf as I am at every other sport I have ever tried.  There does seem to me to be some appeal at wandering around a field hitting tiny balls – at least compared to standing around in a room running on the spot.

I got on reasonably well.  I hit most of the couple of hundred balls I hired – some of them got hit reasonably far, others barely made it off the astroturf.  But like all sporting activities I have no idea what I was doing differently.

Not sure at all whether I will have many more goes, let alone invest in the equipment.  But I can keep trying it out for another few weeks.

Spud planting

Managed finally to find some time to get my potatoes in the ground, after buying them months ago.


I’m not sure if this actually is potatoes or whether it’s the next Dr Who monster. It was getting to the point where if I didn’t plant them in the ground soon, they were going to take root in my sitting room, something that surely wouldn’t have been popular with ‘im indoors.

So this afternoon, I went over the friend’s house where the garden is that I’ll be using as an allotment, and got to work.

It took about three hours to turn this:


Via this


To this:


… with which I am quite impressed, and which gives the entirely false impression that I actually know what I am doing.

There are about 4kg of seed potatoes in the ground, and the tripods are for drying beans (which I have been singing to the tune of the Crying Game all day) and runner beans.   Potatoes come without instructions, so I dunno whether they are deep enough, properly spaced, etc, etc.  I don’t know how long it will take to see anything, and probably, the minute my back is turned, the local squirrels will leap into action, dig them all back up again and eat them.

There was one rather brave robin who kept showing up to eat recently unearthed bugs, which was rather sweet.

Lets see how it all goes!

Today’s trip

Rather less exciting than yesterday’s, today’s trip was down the road to the

Caged beasties

Fudge is fine. He’s beaten the UTI he had earlier in the year, and has even lost weight, so that he’s down to his target weight of just under 5kg.  All that ignoring him demanding food has paid off.  If only it was as easy for the rest of us to diet.

Smudge wasn’t quite so happy though.  He’s not been well for the last couple of days, and we have been woken three or four times in the night to hear him make a noise quacking like a duck.  This has got worse until he’s gurgling instead of breathing most of the night time hours, and last night, he was sick four times (that we know of) around the house.

Clearly a problem.  By chance, the vet we saw for the routine check-up is the vet we should have been to see for Smudge’s heart at some point in the year.  (Has it really been a year?)  He was able to give an opinion without an ultrasound: severe, untreatable, congenital heart problem, probably been like since birth, and will most likely cause him to die suddenly and without warning sooner than you’d expect a cat to die.

But the gurgling and vomiting was actually a symptom of something else: feline asthma, probably brought on by tree and flower pollen that’s suddenly in the air a lot at this time of year.  Unfortunately, the treatment for feline asthma is not generally good for the heart…  So the vet has given him a lower dose of the treatment, we have to monitor his respiration every day or so when he’s resting to see whether his breathing gets easier, and pop back to the surgery next week to see how things are getting on.  And hopefully, no more piles of cat sick to clean up the following morning.

In deep sleep hear sound
cat vomit hairball somewhere
will find in morning.

The idea that we can expect one of the cats suddenly to die without warning at any time in the next five years is a bit strange.  I suppose we just have to concentrate on making life comfy for him on a day to day basis and take each day as we find it.  We could all be hit by a bus tomorrow! (must write will…)

Fascinating road-trip today

Ed Maxfield and Sutton Bridge Power Station Spent today 80 miles and more from here with Ed Maxfield in Lincolnshire touring a gas fired power station at Sutton Bridge and speaking to a migrant workers chaplain based in Boston.

The Sutton Bridge power station, on the River Nene and the far boundary of the East Midlands, was interesting, and I wish I could have taken more photos. The tour guide, one of the few members of staff at the power station, said I needed to be sure my digital camera was “intrinsically safe”, which seemed to mean being rock solid certain that it would not make any sparks that could have ignited a cloud of gas that could have escaped. They were highly safety concious – as visitors, we were equipped with hard hats, safety goggles and steel-capped boots to change into, and as we were going round, many of the areas had sweet-dispensers near the door giving out ear plugs to safeguard our hearing.

The power station has two gas turbines, and the waste heat from each of them is collected, turns water into steam, and this steam drives a third turbine. Each of the turbines produces about 250MW, and whilst we were there the whole plant was producing about 740MW. Compared to nearby small town Kings Lynn, which has energy requirements of about 10MW that’s rather a lot of power!

Some fascinating facts:

  • the plant uses in a second the amount of gas the average home uses in a year – 2% of the nation’s entire gas supply
  • steam is 17,000 times greater by volume than water
  • they use natural gas from the gas grid, but they take it out before the artificial smell is added
  • the plant was about 54% efficient, which is apparently good
  • They get through 100 tonnes of ordinary drinking water every day

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