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Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Secret Pleasures of Reginald

As I begin to write this, it's just after 9.30 am. I've been in another morning wake-sleep pattern for some time.

   It all flows from one decision – to drink more water through the evening than I've been doing. I think this is good for my stomach and kidneys apart from anything else, like skin. With the concoctions I am subjected to, I figure the more diluted they are, within reason, the easier it all is on my internal organs.

   Inevitably, it means that I wake earlier, because it's not good for the bladder to retain a cocktail of chemical residue for any longer than I can help. It's like what's brewing in the witches' pot in MacBeth. Besides, my stomach has a dull persistent pain when I waken in the morning, and activity eases that, so it's a 6 am trip to the bathroom for me.

   I have to be careful, because I may not be fully alert, and my legs may not function well. On the right side, there's not much synchronicity between joints – hip, knee and ankle. This is danger time. Concentrate.

   It's cold, so my right arm in various positions has a bad tremor. All I have to do to stop it is to change that position, or hold the arm with the other hand, and it ceases immediately, but the tremor soon comes back. 

   I bathe my hands and face, left-handed, because the right won't cooperate. Trying to make a two-handed cup for water fails, because I can never get it to my face without losing it. It's hayfever season, and washing face and eyes thoroughly does much to keep sneezing at bay.

   Now, with this activity, I'm fully awake. I could go straight back to bed, but I don't. I do the exercises that I practise every morning for balance, muscle tone and strength. I always do them in lots of twenty.

   But each morning I am noticing one sad thing. All these exercises are getting harder and harder to complete. Doing them regularly should make them easier, and for a while there it was, but something vital is being lost each day.

   This morning on the most difficult exercise, I made it to nineteen, but it was impossible to do the final one. The brain was giving the order, but the biceps and triceps weren't listening. If it all stops dead, there's nothing you can do about it.

   I completed the rest of my routine, but felt sad. I've never not made it to twenty before.

   My body after exercise is always very weak, and I can only just crawl back into bed. I get out the Kindle, and start to read. It's wi-fi, so I can read the ABC News headlines and see what miseries humanity has managed to inflict upon itself in the past few hours. There's plenty to choose from.

   If I felt like it, I could read the New York Times or practically any other newspaper, but this morning I didn't. I read what's static on the Kindle – what I've chosen to put on there. A long article I've had for a day or two by an absconder from that dreadful cult in the USA. You know the one. It litigates the pants off anyone who criticises it. Evil, evil. I finished reading the script for Meet Joe Black and now I want to see the movie. I read some very funny stories from P G Wodehouse – A Wodehouse Miscellany. It's free – you should get it – or just dip into it online. But not till you've finished this, OK?

Kindle Reader

I found Reggie in the club one Saturday afternoon. He was reclining in a long chair, motionless, his eyes fixed glassily on the ceiling. He frowned a little when I spoke. "You don't seem to be doing anything," I said.

"It's not what I'm doing, it's what I am not doing that matters."

It sounded like an epigram, but epigrams are so little associated with Reggie that I ventured to ask what he meant.

He sighed. "Ah well," he said. "I suppose the sooner I tell you, the sooner you'll go. Do you know Bodfish?"

And so the charming story goes on. 

   Then I was tired again, although it was 8 AM. My body was relaxed after the morning's ablutions and exercise, and I felt cheered after the exercise failure by the ingenuity of what Wodehouse's mate Reggie was not doing. I turned on my side, glad my head and stomach felt fine, and drifted off....

   It was after 9 am. I felt deliciously warm and relaxed, and for this brief time it was as I had felt nearly every day that I woke up in more than twenty-two thousand mornings of my life.


   Oh God, if you haven't felt normal for nigh on a thousand days, you don't know how good a sensation it is.

   I didn't want to get up, but it was important for me to pop pills, and that meant eating breakfast. I had no choice. But I did lie there for another ten minutes of perfect, perfect luxury. The enchanting illusion of blissful normalcy.

   11:07 AM. That's not bad going. By the time I correct this and post it, another hour at least will have disappeared from my life.

   But there's one thing I'm going to do in a few minutes. I'm going to do that one last freakin exercise – no. 20 out of 20. No, not just by itself; that's cheating. The whole bang lot. Twenty.

   You reckon I'm joking? You don't know me all that well, do you?


  1. 1.15 PM. I did the full twenty.

    Get lost, Brian.

  2. Well done. from curly haired Liz

  3. Good on you Denis. Great reading as always :)

  4. The Secret Pleasures of Reginald ... ah - how I love it. That laid-back, comfortable introduction. It's what I grew up on, I suppose and now, some 70 years later, a style of writing to which I find myself increasingly attracted. (Denis - I had to re-word that with some difficulty ... although I was only ever a second-hand student of yours, the spectre of grammar-police still lurks in my sub-conscious).

    Back to Reginald. Gutenberg and Kindle between them have re-shaped my reading habits. The Bronte sisters, Dickens, Wilkie Collins, old tomes on the Africa - the much-beloved Africa - of my youth. And now I have re-discovered Rafael Sabatini ... The Sea Hawk, Captain Blood, and many other historical novels about honour, courage and adventure.

    These distant, mole-like sniffings at a way of life and values, now gone for ever, make me wonder if I am not becoming an old man.

    I am aware - although I try not to be - that the reality of those times was nothing like these romantic novels. But the values, surely, reflect the societies of their day. (What about Dickens, you say. Yes, you have a point, but in our imagination we always identify with the heroes of our literature - the brave and beautiful, the lords and ladies, the upper crust ... never the factory workers. Just don't spoil the illusion, please).

    So I sit here now, with what I know is a wonderful book; a contemporary Pulitzer prize-winning novel of almost 1000 pages, which has been gracing my bedside table for a week. But the Kindle calls. Julie tells me she has just downloaded Les Miserables - the book - (following our enjoyment of a stunning DVD featuring the 25th anniversary of that show)and I have only to click on 'Bookmarks' and I too will have it at my fingertips.

    Today's technology, yesterday's values. It is all very confusing.

    But I will read the Pulitzer prize-winning novel .... really ... sometime.

    Oh well. Time for our 6am cup of tea, as soon as Julie finishes her yoga.

    Our thoughts, as ever, are with you Denis.

  5. Denis - another extraordinary dispatch; such a good read (plus also enjoyed Bob Lake's musings on 'today's technology and yesterday's values')

  6. Yes, all of the above:) I'm so happy about that last 20, DONE, and about the second waking, peaceful, normal!! The things we take for granted.

    Also increasingly drawn to the Kindle, as the piles of books beside my bed become totteringly dangerous and a trap for dust lumps..

    You are such an inspiration!

    JulieM xx

  7. Denis, you are so hard on yourself. Probably all of us have the experience that what we can do one day, we might not be able to do the next. Some days I run like the wind on my 6km run/walk routine. On other days I can barely get this ageing body up onto its two pins, and I feel more like Sisyphus, even going down hill.

    Having said that, congratulations on the 20, and I'm so pleased you are having some blissful, normal moments.

    We finished the Gunnedah project yesterday. My two pins feel like lead. I love these huge community sculpture projects, but they take the stuffing out of me. Now to rest.

  8. Thanks to all who responded. I've been solving a problem unrelated to health and it's taken nearly all the time I've had available in the last day or so. I won't try to respond individually but jot down a few thoughts evoked by the responses.

    I'm learning that grammar/spelling police have their place but there's times [OK, there ARE times!] when they should be ignored.

    There are just so many wonderful pieces of literature free online that I feel little desire to read someone's latest novel unless I have a strong reason to. The world is full of writings I would love to absorb but never will, but I have a great variety already on the Kindle that I know I won't get to the end of. To have a library of some 150 books right there at my fingertips on a device no larger than my hand, each one bookmarked where I left off and more, is magical. Still, as I said, books are books and irreplaceable in certain respects - especially when not available in digital form.

    And Joan, you are right. Day to day things do change for everyone and the variables are even more potent for me. Some days I feel quite different from how I do on others, for no clear reason. I'll bear that in mind. You must tell us about the Gunnedah problem when the stuffing is ummm... replaced!


  9. 'The Secret Pleasures of Reginald' is a follow up to 'Fifty Shades of George', or I think that's what I've been told.

    Denis please stay off the exercise kick; too much of that stuff can kill you.


    1. Ah, good old George. I must admit I can't see PGW writing soft porn, but who knows? I'd love to see him try. Were he still extant.

      I am much comforted by your response, be'ant as I evaded exercise completely this morning!

  10. This has been a serendipitous read for me. Just this morning I woke up at 1.20 a.m. feeling dreadfully like I needed to vomit, something I, thankfully, so rarely feel. After an hour of resisting the urge, I finally obeyed my body and went out into the cold bathroom to do the dastardly deed. I felt better for a little while, then woke on and off all night with cramping and nausea. Headache, dizziness and gagging at the mere thought of food. (I still needed to feed Dave, the dog, the chooks...which I did with great difficulty.) In and out of bed all day to attend Dave's needs...sleeping, waking, sleeping.
    So - here is me, less than 24 hours later - still weak, headache, cramping but coming good. Throughout all, being immensely, enormously grateful to my stomach for usually being so kind to me, such a good friend. I can usually eat anything - no allergies, no intolerances. Pure luck. I'm glad to be reminded how I take this freedom from pain for granted. You have been dealing with this stuff for 1,000 days - me for less than 24 hours. Thank you, Denis, for writing as you do, so deeply personally and so frankly. Always giving much to mull over.

    1. I do hope you're fully recovered now, Roz, both for your own sake and the variety of creatures [does Dave mind being a 'creature'?] dependent on you.

      Food poisoning. I wonder what it was exactly?

      All the best.

  11. I well recognise so much of what you've said Denis.

    The sumptuous, exquisite, unmatched (can't find enough good adjectives) delight of that morning call to close the eyes. I used to do it on my way to work - there was a place I parked when I felt drowsy and then seat tipped back, radio on and twenty minutes of bliss. I can taste it. Should I lock the car - deep in the country? Opinions vary.

    Then the magic number. We choose 20 don't we? It could easily be 15 but no it's not so 20 it must, really really must be. And when it's done, the exhaustion feels like a warm reward.

    Kindles? A crack in history, a world-changer. The "first holding one" moment when it all made sense. My student foolishly showed me his in the corridor. He let me take it home to see if the 3G worked in our bit of the Bush - it did. In that regard Telstra rocks.

    While I'm enthusing about a large corporation what about Amazon who have the most astounding approach to customer service. My Kindle Fire is getting hard to charge. The connector inside is getting loose and you have to balance it on things to get any juice. Report the problem on the Amazon site, enter my phone number, press the button and the phone rings. Anthea from South Africa listens to my problem, thanks me for trying other chargers and arranges to send me a new one free of charge. Customer service story from heaven.

    Thank you Denis for telling so much - and for listening too

    1. Lock the car? Probably. A sad commentary on humanity today that you should feel the need to. Until we came to live in town, we never locked the house, and the keys were in the ignition of the car – the best place not to forget them. Unimaginable now!

      It's odd about the 20 as I thought of that lots of times. First 5 no problem. Next 5, into it. That's half way, so mentally down hill [in a good way] from there. Next 5, the most difficult but you know there's just the last quarter to go after that. You run on that gas to complete. No other number seems quite right.

      My Kindle is deliberately the simplest wifi and because of my hand problems, easiest to hold. It's something I resisted for a long time – seemed kinda wimpy. Even the name. But it's as perfect for what I need it to do as it can be.

      That is a marvellous story of customer service. We are so jaded these days about it that to hear such a story is uplifting.


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