Monday, January 31, 2011

The Birdman of Cumbria

There are (I think) 90 lakes in the Lake District in England. I think we managed only 87 because on couple of occasions I collapsed with exhaustion and Maalie could not drag me and Mabel’s meat pies and hack his way through the Bracken at the same time.

But trust me – they are there – and I have most of they pictures to prove it. I can also let you know that only one is called ‘Lake’ something. The others – for reasons English – just go by their names – you know what the English are like.

I made a maximum effort over the five days and learned the names of two new birds. One was a Magpie. The other was a Wigeon. I even managed to remember their names and produced them when Maalie asked me. This pleased him immensely. (He is easily pleased when it comes to birds).

He said ‘You will be amazed how much you will improve if you show an interest!’

I have spent some considerable time since then wondering how I can become interested in birds but so far to no avail because no matter how hard I try they all look the bloody same – except some are larger than others.

I did buy an iPhone App for British Birds and this gives photos of males and females and the sounds of bird calls and stuff like that which is great if they land on your arm and stay still for five minutes and chirp and stuff like that but my experience so far is that they are a small black or white speck at a very great distance.

I can also tell you that Mabel – who has a shop in in Askam-in-Furness makes the best meat pies I have ever tasted. Of course they were a bit frosty and crunchy by the time we got to them – but delicious nevertheless.

Maalie is an excellent cook. I was normally too tired to eat by the time we got home from the Lakes and Birds so he had to mash my peas and help me eat before we watched some Bird documentaries on TV. 

He wants me to go ringing with him. This involves getting up before dawn and catching birds, attaching rings to them and letting them go again. It is apparently tedious, painstaking, exhausting work which can go all day and all night. Can’t wait. I think I will do it naked with electrodes attached to my testicles.  

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Badger is back

Badger searched high and low and - despite much evidence of their existence - could find none of his furry family in Cumbria. Normal blogging will recommence very soon. 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Badger is Bird Watching

Badger is in the land of the flightless Maalie Bird.

You may find some traces of him here.

This is unlikely because any spare time Maalie has will be devoted to pointing out bird species, cooking delicious meals for Badger and opening bottles of wine.

Incidentally - as well as knowing a fearful lot about science and birds - Maalie is an exceptional photographer and you should have a poke around his Blog.  

Friday, January 21, 2011

Cate is not sure what to do next

Rozalin and I are a bit worried about Cate. After 12 months of non use - Cate’s Gym membership has finally expired and Cate is casting about for something else to do - or not to do.

She is not really happy unless she belongs to something she is not using and is heading towards not using a Yoga Club membership. This is a healthy thing to do – or indeed not to do – and there are Yoga classes held in the building next to ours – so Cate will probably join there – because it is not far not to go.

I will encourage her to join for the longest period possible – there is probably a 2 year non refundable option which comes with a free Yoga mat (obtainable for €5 at Eduscho). This will make the 2 Lessons she attends fairly costly  (€800 each – but will mean that she does not have to look for something not to do in 12 months time).

I may even do this with her. I am just as good if not better at not doing things as she is. And if my ribs do not heal properly I will probably provide excellent entertainment value as I wriggle around on the mat like a butterfly on a hat pin. I do hope that the woman who saw me with one lens in my Ray Bans does not go to these classes.  

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Is it a passing phase?

The thing that has caused my Blog readers most concern is apparently my lack of ability to fart on demand (Correction: As required by the dictates of nature - see comments by white rabbit). I have had a number of off-Blog enquiries about this affliction. I hasted to add that this was a very short–term, temporary problem which lasted only a couple of days immediately following the harrowing events at Kamisak Husky Farm on New Year’s Eve.

You will not be surprised to learn that the promised snow tuned into rain – and even this  has now disappeared entirely. Today it is sunny and I am feeling quite perky so I may well go and see the Ducks and test the new Canon Powershot G12 prior to next week’s expedition.

A by-product of broken ribs and a short course of heavy duty pain killers is that it has desensitized me to the wide variety of stupidities undertaken on a daily basis by humanity in general and some Republicans in particular. I have discovered to my great delight that my ‘Care-O-Meter’ has been de-activated.

Things that a month or so ago would have me foaming at the mouth and reaching for my blog have left me yawning and scratching my itching ribs and saying things like ‘who cares?’  

I even tuned in to Fox for a while to discover what the great Satan Obama and the Marxists in the White House had done to destroy the American People and the economy while I was away and didn’t shout once – even when I realized that it was he – the evil Satan Obama of Kenya – who had arranged the shooting of that poor Congresswoman in Arizona.

I wonder if this is a passing phase? I hope so. I really don’t want to miss all the fun in the run up to the next election.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Apparently they do it themselves

SK Waller asked what do they do for broken ribs. The answer is not much. There are no bandages or straps or wraps or flaps.

My Doctor in Finland told me not to lift anything and if I got dizzy or felt sick to call an ambulance immediately. He stressed immediately. He hinted at dire consequences. He mentioned Spleens.

He gave me some heavy duty pain killers.  These were fabulous and enabled me to listen to Led Zeppelin without the benefit of an iPod. I could  also hear individual snowflakes calling out to me as they fell.

I thought the Doctor might give me some literature or some other guidelines. Four broken ribs in the wilds of Lapland seemed like a big deal to me at the time. I mean he did consult two colleagues in another city before he would let me fly home. Apparently it is bad form if patients die on Finnair.

Maybe a brochure? Sure it would be in Finnish but given what I know now about the life threatening events that can befall a person with broken ribs - even pictures would help. 

You could show a man just about to sneeze. Just before he sneezes his companion clubs him over the head with a piece of firewood and renders him unconscious. You could show a woman about to look at a cartoon. Her companion tears this from her grasp and throws it into the snow. The universal signs for laughing, sneezing and coughing are marked with skulls and crossbones.

There is no need to do this for farting as it is simply not possible to fart when you have four broken ribs – no matter how much you would like to. Trust me on this one.

I mean you have to believe me when I tell you that had I known the consequences - I would not have sneezed – and it will be a long time before that memory fades.

It is amazing what you can do not to cough. I could train crowds at the Metropolitan Opera and performances would be undertaken with totally silent audiences. Most operatic and theatrical events these days are treated as cough-a-thons. The lights go out and everyone in the audience develops Tuberculosis and hacks their way through three acts of Faust. I could fix this. It is actually possible to not cough – not just for 3 hours – but for weeks at a time.

OK so who cares about Faust – indeed I hate Faust so much I would be happy for people to ring cow bells or bang tins drums through it – but it is the concept that is important – the self restraint – the ability not to cough – the inner strength available to all those with broken ribs.

I used to lay awake most nights in pain and worry about how the ribs would heal given that I could feel them moving about. They made extraordinary popping and burbling noises –and still do. I figured that if I lay really still they may knit a bit at night - but that when I started moving about they would surely part company again in the morning.

But I checked Google and various sites – including the Mayo Clinic – and all they say – rather mysteriously – is that the appropriate treatment is to let them be and they will heal themselves. Clever little blighters.

One of the reports I read said that more than 3 broken ribs at one time is potentially life threatening so on that basis  alone I am surprised that no mention was made of sneezing because that particular incident nearly sent me into another dimension. I was driving along the A2 at the time and the A2 and Billy Benz very nearly parted company. However - I dwell too much on what is really a trivial part of my otherwise wonderful existence.

I am indeed getting better and after the required time – which varies but seems to be somewhere between two and three months – I will be perfectly healed – or deformed – but no longer in pain. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Another thing not to do

Another thing you should not do when you have four broken ribs is brake suddenly. I was beetling up Salesianergasse last night on my way to pick up Cate from work when this monster Mercedes loomed out of a hidden driveway.

Salesianergasse is a very narrow street (as indeed are most streets in our district) and of course Monster Merc was not going to come into the street - but he gave me quite a start and of course I stood on the anchors.

This was followed by a piercing shriek as my ribs hit the seat belt. With the benefit of hindsight I should have let nature take its course  as even if he had not stopped  the impact absorbing qualities of two Mercedes Benz(s) are undoubtedly greater than four broken ribs.

Yesterday I was strolling through Stadtpark – it was a balmy 7°. A couple of workers were sweeping up the kitty litter. This is a very sinister development. It is mid-January – i.e. mid-Winter.  We had some snow before Christmas and nothing since. Now they are taking the kitty litter away. I will be VERY unhappy if that was winter.  Sure there was Lapland but I spend most of that on my back and in agony so it does not count.

So now on top of everything else I have to sneak around Vienna at night and scatter the piles of kitty litter back over the footpaths so as to encourage the snow fairy to visit once more.

My Canon 500D has been in hospital for a few weeks now. I have not had any news and I fear the worst. I can just imagine Herr Doktor snapping off his rubber gloves in frustration in the Canon ICU in Stuttgart as the green blob flat lines across the screen ‘Gott in Himmel’ he says ‘I het loosing vun off zese Canon 500Ds – zey are zech vine machines!’

In the meantime I am going to see Maalie next week so have acquired a Canon Powershot G12 which itself is a damned fine piece of baby Canon machinery and quite capable of taking excellent Duck photos. He is taking me around the lake district where he will point out 2,000 different species of birds while shouting ‘Look Badger - a Lesser Crested Mugwump – the first of the season!’

Unfortunately to Badger it will look just like a small black bird - but Badger will look very closely to try very had to remember its features so that at some suitable time he too will be able to shout ‘Look Maalie another Lesser Crested Mugwump’ and Maalie will say gently ‘No Badger - that is a Hooded Crow! We have seen about 600 so far today.’

(PS Rozalin has just reported that light snow is due later this week. We shall see!)

Monday, January 17, 2011

I am sort of re-emerging

I am sort of re-emerging back into the world. It will apparently take a bit longer to heal than I thought it would. In fact I just do not know how it works. How do bones knit when I keep moving them about? I am taking calcium tables. I am sure this will make no difference whatsoever. My X-rays are on the way from Finland. I will probably have more soon.

I have new found respect for broken ribs. They deserve more credit. But I am coming to grips with the intricacies. There are many things you should not do if you have broken ribs. One of them is sneeze. Keep a gun beside you. If you cannot avoid sneezing – at the last possible moment before sneezing – shoot yourself. You will not regret this. I sneezed while driving. I wished I had had a gun.

Getting in and out of bed is an art. You cannot lie down or sit up like a normal person. To get up you must draw your knees up your chest, wrap your arms around your legs and then rock backwards and forwards until you get just enough momentum to propel yourself out of bed into a standing position. This takes some practice. Too much momentum is very dangerous – for you and for your chests of drawers.

Getting into bed is the reverse of this and is complicated if you land on a cat. Always check behind you first.

There are not many positions you can lie in with broken ribs. There is in fact only one. This is on your back. It is theoretically possible to lie on your side (the one without broken ribs) but the noise the broken ribs make is so blood curdling – with the squeaking, snapping,  popping and scraping – that it is really not feasible.  

I have managed to stifle my involuntary shrieks so that they are more or less squeaks and can be passed off in public as nervous tics or coughs.

Today I went out to do some shopping and wore my woolen skivvy, leather jacket, bank-robber beanie and Ray Ban Aviators. I put my Ray Bans on coming home through Stadtpark and coming into Am Heumarkt this good looking blonde came out, gave me a glimpse, then gave me a long stare and a big smile. I must look HOT today I thought. I checked myself in the elevator mirror and discovered that one of my Ray Ban lenses had fallen out.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Badger is taking a break

For a while now I have been taking stuff to prevent migraines from occurring. 

The good news is that this is working and I have not had to take a migraine tablet for weeks.   

The bad news is that it makes me feel as though my head is full of molasses and my body is full of porridge.

Now the rib thing has compounded the problem. I am hurting like hell and am having to take a lot of pain killers. It hurts when I sit up (and when I lie down) so I do not feel like writing. After a brief burst of activity on my return from Finland I have well and truly run out of steam and am going to hibernate for a while.  I will post some photos from Helsinki on the Picasa album linked to my Blog.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Badger Award for Bravery goes to.....

As part of the Finnish experience we undertook an authentic Sauna. There was one at the Wilderness Hotel where we stayed. I have had Saunas before but never the real thing - with a real wood fire. Timo lit this for us and got it to up the correct temperature - and we trudged down through the snow to the Sauna hut at the edge of the frozen lake. It was 4:00 PM so was of course pitch black but Timo - that old romantic - had lit the way with candles.

I was not very good at it. Not the least reason being because I was in excruciating pain from my ribs and had trouble moving. But I gave it a try and stayed as long as I could in the oven before creeping outside to stand on the porch in a basin of tepid water for a few minutes. The basin was necessary so that my feet did not freeze to the porch – necessitating amputation. The temperature on the porch was probably -17.

Gwenyth and Cate get the Badger Award for Bravery by rolling (I kid you not) in the snow. I was not allowed to take pictures.

I must confess that had I been physically fit I probably would not have been tempted to roll in the snow. I think the Reindeer Ride will leave a lasting impression on me. We also did not beat each other with Birch twigs.

But – as it was – every movement was difficult and I was not able even to get in or out of the car with help. Also I kept shouting – involuntarily - with pain which was embarrassing in public places and on a couple of occasions I felt it necessary to explain  myself – rather than have people think I was an imbecile. It is however an excellent way to clear space around you in an airport lounge or indeed make people jump six feet into the air if you think they are too complacent.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Not all my decisions are bad

After rib-breaking day we went on a Reindeer Safari. This was supposed to be easy and involved nothing more than sitting in the back of a sled while a Reindeer dragged us around in the snow.

It was ethereally beautiful and white. The trees groaned under snow. Some collapsed under the weight of snow. I was wearing two pairs of socks and Ugg boots. I was wearing three (3) pairs of gloves. We were under big woolly rugs. My feet were blocks of ice. My hands hurt so much I thought I would cry. My ribs hurt so much I screamed every now and then with pain. It was like screaming in space. The snow swallowed the sound.

No one cared much – we were all in our own little worlds of pain and coldness. The Reindeer were totally indifferent and plodded along dragging us to our doom. I imagined the Reindeer dragging blocks of ice through the frozen wilderness. We would die and no one would notice.

This went for two hours. Eventually we stopped. The Reindeer man helped us into a hut and lit a fire and we tried to warm up. A van arrived and took us back to the Safari place. I lost my vision and went deaf. Apparently I blacked out. An ambulance was called.

The thought of spending more time in Ivalo hospital perked me up and I feigned wellness. The ambulance people were suspicious but let me go.  We crept home in blinding snow and an oncoming car hit a reindeer and pushed it into our path. Cate tried to avoid it - and had almost stopped but the reindeer whacked the driver’s front side. We stopped but the driver of the other car said it was his responsibility. He called the appropriate people who would deal with the Reindeer – which was still alive – and sent us on our way.

When I had picked up the car the man said that that the insurance excess payment was €950 - or I could remove this by paying  €9.53 per day. Duh! In Lapland – in Mid-Winter? I paid the  €9.53 per day. Not all my decisions are bad.

I have posted some Lapland photos on the Picasa album attached to this Blog. Click on a photo. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I really do not deserve any sympathy

My second home in Ivalo – the Hospital.

Having broken ribs is not such a big deal and I really do not deserve much sympathy. I mean – with the benefit of hindsight – it is pretty dumb to go dogsledding carrying a bloody big camera. It would be best if you left comments saying ‘Jeez – you are really dumb!’

When we arrived Cate said to Mika ‘Is it OK if we take a camera?’ and Mika replied ‘Sure but you may fall off and break it!’ Pretty clear message there.

We spent a fair amount of time in the hospital in Ivalo where I was attended to by Doctor Väärsi.

I broke my ribs on New Year’s Eve so X-Ray was closed and I had to wait two days to get this done. At first the good Doctor was a bit dismissive – suggesting after an examination that I might have a ‘cracked rib’.

He was much more impressed after the X-Ray when it revealed 3 and possibly 4 breaks. He thought I may not be able to fly home as planned because of the nature of the breaks – but he discussed this with his colleagues in Rovaniemi and they decided to let me go as planned.

We stayed in the Lapinleuku Wilderness Hotel which is a collection of log cabins inside the Arctic Circle. The place was built by Timo Sarkoja who lives there with his wife. They still seem to do all the work even though they are both in their 70s.

It is a surreal experience to be in a place so remote and so cold that you would be dead within an hour without winter clothing – and where you really cannot get the 30 meters from your cabin to the dining hut without kitting up with coat, boots, hat, gloves and scarf.

I know I bang on about this all the time but for people from the Southern Hemisphere – this was an astonishing experience. We had only four hours ‘daylight’ each day but wallowed in the bliss of every second of our stay in this wonderland of snow, half-light and shadow – and then the inky blackness of the Arctic night. Unfortunately we do not have many photos of our trip after Helsinki because of the Camera Crushing incident.

Gwenyth has a camera but it was made in 1992. Yes I kid you not. This is a woman who is a General Manager in charge of Technology in one of Australia’s major Law firms and she has a camera made in 1992. Well you can just imagine the quality of the photos it takes. In case you cannot - I will post some soon in the Picasa Album attached to this Blog. 1992. Sheesh!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Man murders camera in Lapland

These are some of the boys and girls who took us on our Husky Safari.

Finland – and Lapland in particular – was a fabulous experience. Never seen so much snow. Never been so cold. 

Falling off the dog sled and crushing my Canon 500D Camera with my ribs was also an amazing experience. The Doctor in Ivalo says that I have at least 3 broken ribs and maybe 4. 

He gave me permission to fly at the last moment so we got home as planned. The camera is totally pulverized and is probably beyond a rebuild. I will post some photos on Picasa in a day or two. Life is a bit of a struggle at the moment.