Sunday, 31 December 2006

Oh No He Didn't - Oh Yes He Did !

Its Pantomime Season and Silly Sally Productions Inc brings you 'St Sally and the Dragon', a Pantomime in two acts, with no Pantomime Horses whatsoever.

Dramatis Persona:
St Sally - a formerly formidable lady; now tired, silver haired, plump
The Home Help - a nimble Dorset lass of middling years
IBM Call Centre Help Line Holiday Fill In - A young man of strange accent
and little brain, attached to a computer screen.
Lady at IBM Sales department

Act One: In Which St Sally fights the IBM Dragon

Scene One:
A Humble Cottage in Dorset, lit by the fairy lights on a small Christmas tree jammed between two filing cabinets, a bookcase and a disability trolley. Offstage can be heard the Home Help, attacking the laundry with much clattering of iron against steel and plastic buttons. St Sally is slumped in a reclining chair, clutching a telephone handset with wires to a headset with which she is conversing:

Young Man holiday fill in at IBM parts department: "Oh No He Didn't"
St Sally: "Oh Yes He Did".

Curtain closes.

Scene Two: As above.

St Sally: "IBM offered for sale an IBM wireless card for my IBM laptop that your colleague described as New, hence the £250 price tag and stated the part the IBM dealer previously quoted for at £70 must have been for a used part, which could have caused the vibration problem, which has resulted in IBM replacing the fan, and are soon to be replacing the hard drive under the extended warranty. Your colleague described the IBM wireless card for sale via the link to the IBM website that he sent me, as a new part, guaranteed for one year, and complete with printed handbook, software CD and quick set up guide.

Off stage can be heard the refrain: Oh No He Didn't

From the balcony, the chorus replies: Oh Yes He Did.

St Sally continues: "That is why I paid you £250. What I have today received through the post is a 'Serviceable Used Part' with no CD, book or guide, and with only a 90 day limited warranty. That is not what I purchased. I could have got a second hand used part for £70. "

IBM man: "Madam, our terms and conditions of sale state that we may at our discretion offer a serviceable used part. You can download the instruction book if you need to and the software driver is available at ...

St Sally intervenes: "I purchased from IBM the wireless card as described by IBM. New. Guaranteed for 1 year. With all the bits in the box. I paid for it over the phone to your Sales Department. Yes, your confirmation of my purchase has an attachment which I now see has small print describing your terms and conditions of sale. They are not the same terms that I accepted, they are not the terms on which my purchase from IBM was based. You cannot change the terms of the contract AFTER I have accepted your offer to sell. Have you not heard of the Sale of Goods Act !"

IBM man: "Erm...."

Curtain closes.

Act Two: In which the lady at IBM shows intelligence and comprehension.

Scene One: Later the same day, same cottage, same room, same chair, same problem. Ironing is finished and Home Help has left. All is relatively quiet, so St Sally is able to think. Resignedly, she picks up the phone, drops it into the waste paper basket again, as the wires tangle themselves round the reclining chair lever. She sighs heavily as she fishes it out, for the umpteenth time that day, and plugs the wire back in and sets the headset tenderly over her numbskull (strike out - replace with - carefully over her tender skull (another story a different day).

St Sally: "I purchased from you a wireless card .... (copy from above)..."

Lady at IBM: "That does not sound right. He should not have said that. Seems he gave you wrong information. I am very sorry. I will get onto customer services and try and sort this out for you, but I am sorry I cannot do much until after the holiday. I will phone you in the New Year just as soon as I have an answer for you.

St Sally: " Thank you, that is very helpful."

Curtain closes on Sally slowly levering herself out of her reclining chair. She can be heard knocking the tree over as she leaves the room searching for more tea.

Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Three Kings from Persian lands afar

The Adoration of the Magi circa 1500

by (?) the Master of the Holy Kindred, Cologne, V&A Museum

Three kings from Persian lands afar

To Jordan follow the pointing star:

And this the quest of the travellers three,

Where the new-born King of the Jews may be.

Full royal gifts they bear for the King;

Gold, incense, myrrh are their offering.

Peter Cornelius, translated H N Bate

Sunday, 24 December 2006


Nativity (detail)
Dorothy Webster Hawksley

Advent 4

Census, taxation, occupied territory, friendless, fatigued beyond weariness, worried, homeless, fearful for what the future holds.

In the middle of the painting are two carts, between them an old man leads a donkey carrying a heavily pregnant young woman, wrapped in an enveloping cloak, between two cartwheels; two circles symbolising eternity.

The Census at Bethlehem
Peter Bruegel the Younger 1564-1638

Thursday, 21 December 2006

Happy Solstice !

Winter Solstice - 00:22 GMT
22 December 2006

In the bleak mid winter

frosty wind made moan,

earth stood hard as iron,

water like a stone;

snow had fallen, snow on snow,

snow on snow,

In the bleak mid winter, long ago.

Christina Rossetti - Gustav Holst

ADDENDUM: For an explanation of the Winter Solstice and the part it plays in belief systems before and after the birth of Christianity, in both hemispheres, see this site and the entries for 21 December and 25 December.

Monday, 18 December 2006

Sally has decided not to be shy

Fifty years have passed, little has changed. I am sat down. I have a fringe, temporarily, almost. I smile and I am, generally, happy to be alive.

Pingu !

As an old-ish crip, it takes me a while to come round in the morning, but at this dark time of the year, my morning Earl Grey and toast have to be in position at my elbow in time for Pingu on the telly.

(Enter 'Grownups Pingu' in the search box.)

I found I am not the only fan of Pingu when Pete created a fine graphic for another friend and Pingu enthusiast, of Pingu in a hat, which I loved, and said so, and thanks Pete for the Card !

Now, this is for Pete and Oscar and all other Pingu fans

There is a very sweet Pingu game to play, if you can find a tweeny nephew/niece/related child to play with, to cover the fact you love Pingu too !

(Normal service and awareness of the real world out there will be resumed after 12th Night.)

Book Meme

Blogging Mone tagged me for a book meme via Spotted Elephant.

Now, listen closely, because it could be your turn next.

1 Get the nearest book in your reach and turn to page 123

2 Go to the fifth sentence of that page

3 Copy the next three sentences

4 Then tag three people

" The medievals were not great builders of new roads, except perhaps in the Fens or in connection with new towns. Roads were usually taken for granted as established features of the landscape. Any through road, even between two villages, is dignified as 'the King's way'; lesser highways are called 'common way', 'lane', 'vennel' (still the Scots word for a lane), 'church way' and so on. "

The Illustrated History of the Countryside - Oliver Rackham

I tag: Lily, Gimpy Mumpy and Agent Fang, but I do appreciate this is a busy time of year for such pleasurable distractions.

Sunday, 17 December 2006

Advent 3 - out among the hills

And there were shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping the watch by their flocks, at night.


Yesterday I was in some country I had not explored before and on a farm track under a blue sky I found myself in a position to see a line of great Dorset hills, which I know as Duncliffe, Melbury, Spread Eagle, Hambledon and Bulbarrow. It is a blessing, that comes from living in the countryside, to be able to sit and see all this.

Sat in my cottage facing south east with the silver ribbon of the swollen river below just glimpsed between the leafless tress and with small hills beyond and behind, I feel some kinship with others who have settled amongst hills. In Crete years ago, it felt familiar to stand at Knossos and view the 360 degree panorama of hills that sheltered the rise on which the palace was built.

In the museum at Heraklion, in a glass case surrounded by shells painted with bands of the sacred colours red and black, stood this lady, a priestess who facilitated her peoples' communion with the earth and the sky, in the way that seemed to them most proper and appropriate.

As a schoolgirl I had found her while leafing through a book in the school library and she had given me a sense of feminine power beyond the guilt and shame that then was appended to being female by a patriarchal society and common religion. Times and belief systems are, thankfully, beginning to change.

This is where she lived, where she was found 3,600years later, looking through the windows of the Antechamber to the Throne Room, to the hills beyond.

Tuesday, 12 December 2006

This is from, and for, Spotted Elephant

This wonderful happy Elephant is from Spotted Elephant's blog the other day, a celebratory one for her.

Today, reacting to something she read elsewhere, she posts on Racism and Mental Illness.

As Blogger has prevented me adding a comment to her post on three occasions this evening, I am putting it here, for her.

Please read Spotted Ellie's post first, for the context of my comment to Spotted Elephant:

I do understand why this upset you, and I think it is good to post when upset, from the initial gut reaction. We battle against ignorance, which clothes itself in clever words, all the time. To say that Racism is a Mental Illness is absurd, but worse; a dangerous absurdity. Racism is a choice, not a mental illness. Mental illness, any chronic illness, is an affliction, not a choice. Obvious really.

Monday, 11 December 2006

Just because ...

This inky blackness needs some colour ...

Odilon Redon - Apollo's Chariot (detail)

The Things They Didn't Tell Me in 'Kindergarten'

No. 1 Thing:

That the skull surgery would leave the left half of the top of my skull numb, disconnected from the rest of my skull; odd, weird, not right at all.

When I tap the left side with my finger tip it sounds different to the right side. When I am shampooing, the sensation of my finger tips on my head on left side feels different from the right side. When showering, I cannot feel the falling water on the left side top of my head in the same way as on the right. It feels as if my skull bone on the left side has been levered up and there is a dead zone below.

Solution: Get the Doctor of Osteopathy's view on this - after all he has known my medical querks for 13 years and his cranial work it blissful. Then see what my GP thinks. Only then, fully armed, ask the Neuro Surgeon what the hell is going on. And, while I am there, ask why is the left half of the 7 inch scar puckered up like a ripple in the road surface after an earthquake, when the right half of the scar is flat.

No. 2 Thing:

That getting my laptop wireless-ed for broadband would cost £250, not the £50 the laptop supplier quoted.

The laptop supplier (IBM approved) supplied what they assured me was an IBM compatible Wireless Card at £50 to fit in the laptop slot. Installing that was the point at which the vibration began, causing severe tingling in left hand and arm. Un-installing the wirelsss card and software reduced the vibration only partly.

I asked IBM service centre to look at the new vibration problem under extended warranty; they asked the usual questions, ending in: was it an IBM wireless card. Supplier said no but it is compatible. IBM weren't buying that excuse, so I returned the wireless card to the supplier for replacement with an IBM one, which they said would cost £70. That was a month ago. Surgery intervened. I am back now to sorting it out. Supplier having problems finding an IBM wireless card to go in my laptop slot.

Now that I can cope with a visit (the 7 inch scar along my hairline not quite so scary to the squeamish), the helpful IBM from last April called again, and he thinks that the source of vibration leading to hand and arm tingling, is the fan, rather than the hard drive. He did not quibble that there is a vibration problem, did not try to say it was just me because I have soft tissues disease (probably because he does not know the implications of that) and a new fan is covered on the extended warranty. He suggested that the sticking out Wireless card, not IBM manufacture, caused the fan to vibrate. We shall see. He has ordered a new fan.

Now I need the IBM wireless card ready to install when he returns, so we can check that an IBM wireless card does not cause the new fan to vibrate. In the meantime, the supplier advises they are having problems trying to source an IBM wireless card to fit in the empty slot at the side of my IBM laptop. Growing impatient, I checked the IBM web site and found two wireless cards: one costing £58 which is not suitable for my model R40e and one that is suitable, but the part number is not recognised by the following ordering page on the web site. So, while IBM man here, I rang the secret number he gave me and IBM tech wizard said the wireless card for this model laptop is £250. My (unspoken) reaction is: WTF?! My friendly IBM man made some enquiries: apparently this model laptop, although it does have the external slot in the side of the laptop to take the wireless card and the connection on (in?) the system board inside for the wireless card, it does not have the internal cabling from there to the aerial within the screen/lid, nor does it have the aerial within the screen/lid. Bugger. That is why IBM quoted me £250, and suggested I download the installation instructions before I take any action. That sounds as if it might not be do-able by me - Oh, ...., ...., ....ity, .... !

So now it seems entirely feasible that the non-IBM wireless card which stuck out of the side of the laptop by 3 inches worked because it had an internal aerial, but the 3 sticking out inches caused the fan to vibrate !!! Levers and fulcrums 'springs' to mind.

Solution: Blast the laptop supplier.

No, gather all the information, put it in a letter, ask them to take responsibility. Afterall, I accepted their quotation two years ago on the basis that the wireless card was a simple thing to add at a later date at relatively low cost. Tell them also that I have entered into a twelve month contract with BT for wireless broadband, but I am not yet wireless, and I had to spend more money on an ethernet cable, which looks hideous, its bright blue cabling snaking across the floor, not just a trip hazard but just not right with the decor !

No. 3 Thing:

That Social Services, at approximately annual intervals, would add another tier to the bureaucracy, which tier would make a different set of decisions (without reference to the service user, contrary to Fair Access to Care criteria) to those made by the previous year's bureaucrat. That on an annual basis I would therefore take two steps forward and three steps back. That this game of snakes and ladders is way more dangerous than the board game learned in kindergarten.

2 Possible Solutions:

Solution 1 - Post, without any culling, the twelve page ranting and despairing letter I spent all day Saturday writing, in response to the newest bureaucrat's written decision.
Solution 2 - Be brave, tell myself this really is The Last Straw and ask the Local Government Ombudsman to investigate the management of Dorset Social Services.

No. 4 Thing:

That the new BT telephone would cry, just like a baby, on and on and on, if there is a power cut in the night and it gets hungry.

Solution: Throw it across the hall into the bathroom, turn over and go back to sleep. Worry about it in the morning. You can't do that with a real baby.

No. 5 Thing:

That having a baby, for all the nightmare-ish early days of sleepless nights, screaming days of colic, tantrums, teenage angst, financial expense, and sole-parent responsibility; would still be a total joy 28 years later, confirmed as we stood together in a little candle-lit Dorset greensand church and sang our hearts out harmonising Christmas carols.


No. 6 Thing:

They did tell me; the instructions in 'change template' kindergarten warned that customisations would be lost. If they had said in language a child could understand: you will loose your list of your links if you change your template - I would have done something about it before I changed my template.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as ...

Now to ask: do you like it ? - I find it easier to read, but if it has made it more difficult for others' disabilities, do let me know and I will tinker with it, if I can find out how.

Sunday, 10 December 2006

Advent 2 - Signs and Symbols

The reality was unmissable in the sky, pointing from right to left but not visibly moving left-handed and it held no mystery as it hung in the east of my garden in the Dorset night sky.

This artist has reached back to the symbolism that has attached to another star travelling across another night sky in another land.
Star of Bethlehem - Richard Jesse Watson

Monday, 4 December 2006

Antidote to Seasonal Thoughts

Monday morning, the nostalgic glow awakened by Radio 4's Advent Carol Service yesterday, has departed, leaving me looking out on grey clouds, so needing a lift I trawled the net for something a bit more .... eclectic.

Don't let any initial twee-ness on Day 1 put you off, go with the flow and explore all the options.

Sunday, 3 December 2006

Seasonal thoughts

Today is the first Sunday in Advent. This is the best season for choral singing and I am enriched by the composers, artists and poets who have found a vehicle for their own philosophy in the Christian calendar.

The Angel Gabriel from heaven came
with wings of drifted snow
with eyes of flame,
All Hail, said he, thou virgin maid Mary
most highly favoured lady,

Fra Angelico - Annunciation

In 1899, Rainer Maria Rilke wrote 'Die Wort des Engels'

You are not nearer God than we;
he's far from everyone.
And yet your hands most wonderfully
reveal his benison.
From woman's sleeves none every grew
so ripe, so shimmeringly:
I am the day, I am the dew,
you, Lady, are the Tree.

Pardon, now that my long journey's done,
I had forgot to say
what he who sat as in the sun,
grand in his gold array,
told me to tell you, pensive one
(space has bewildered me);
I am the start of what's begun,
you, Lady, are the Tree.

The angels tremble in their choir,
grow pale, and separate:
never were longing and desire
so vague and yet so great.
Something perhaps is going to be
that you perceived in dream.
Hail to you ! for my soul can see
that you are ripe and teem.

You lofty gate, that any day
may open for our good:
you ear my longing songs assay,
my word - I know now - lost its way
in you as in a wood.

And thus your last dream was designed
to be fulfilled by me.
God looked at me: he made me blind ...

You, Lady, are the Tree.

Translated by J B Leishman

Saturday, 2 December 2006

A hat, not A Hat

It is going to be months until I am no longer eligible for the Frankenstein's Monster's Missus look-a-like competition, so I have considered my social diary for the foreseable future, and given thought to how I will appear. It is now obvious that I need another winter hat, as my work-a-day keep-me-warm-in-winter hat has seen better days, but to answer Charles Dawson's comment on my last post, I don't need A Hat like the splendid one that Lady Bracknell commissioned for her recent attendance at Buckingham Palace.

This is deepest Dorset and, in the dark days approaching the winter solstice, the rain is filling the rivers and water meadows, as it is meant to and is likely to continue for some time, so the downpours are one consideration. Also to be considered is that outside of the conurbations, the staple of Dorset ladies outfitters is tweed, waxed cotton and leather (not the tight and shiny niche market stuff, which would frighten the horses). Summer hats are so much easier.

The County Town's hunting/shooting/fishing shop supplied this new hat which I am very pleased with. Obviously this is not me, not even thirty years ago, and the bow needed a bit of re-modelling, but on the whole it will do very nicely. Reactions have varied, from: "...very stylish dear.." to "... that's a bit posh !".
Posh is fine. Posh overcomes any negative wheelchair effects - yes, it does happen, every time I go out.
(Its not me, its not, its them.)

Now that is sorted, I have to consider what to do, how to be, indoors - adorned or unadorned, covered or uncovered, considerate of others' squeamishness, or don't give a shit.

This would cover the dot dot dash effect of the beginning-to-heal scabs (is there a more refined word ?) on my forehead but the hand signals may be mis-understood by those people behind me at the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra concert.

I have tried scarves in all possible styles but silk slips and the silk rustling with every slight movement is amplified in Meniere's noise recruitment, in fact anything near my ears is not possible and anything on the stubbled scar that is not silk is too harsh. I am such a tender little flower.

So, unadored it is then. Move over Beethoven, cue the Munster's intro.

(Editorial post script:
Instead of correcting 'unadorned' I hereby acknowledge it was a Freudian slip.)