WORKING IN WESTERN UZBEKISTAN by Lee Chenoweth (Diamond Creek Om:Ni)

In 1966, while working as an exploration geologist for Western Mining Corporation, I was sent to the remote Kyzylkum Desert in Western Uzbekistan to report on various gold projects. This area is near to the Aral Sea, which has essentially dried from a large fresh-water lake with a thriving fishing industry into a dried dust bowl with a saline playa in the lowest portion.

The trip was organized by the Geological Survey of Uzbekistan and we flew out to Nukus where the vehicles were waiting for us. We travelled to the Karakalpakistan Gulag at Sultan Uizdag, which was a women’s prison from the former Soviet era.

This was to be our base while we explored the gold workings in the area. We slept in cells on old prison bunks using our super-down sleeping bags. The gulag was being used as a storage compound for drilling equipment.
One morning I got up early at about 5 a.m. to photograph an old fortress about one kilometre from the gulag. It was named Fortress Gyraur Kola and was built in the 4th century AD from mudbricks. Due to severe damage over the years from Mongul attacks, it was rebuilt in the 14th century AD into an interesting structure. However, with the salination of the river basin by excessive upstream irrigation, the water table of highly saline water has risen and is gradually destroying it. What a pity!

While there taking photographs, I noticed a vehicle approach the gulag entrance and four guys jumped out armed with Kalashnikov rifles. Two of them stayed to guard the gate while two entered the gulag. I also noticed that one of the two Russian-speaking geologists had gone out to the pit-drop toilet well outside the gate just before they arrived. I sneaked around to the toilet to talk about how we should proceed. In the end we decided to bluff it out and approached the gate openly and cautiously. We were pointed into the prison at gun-point by the guards.
On entry we quickly discovered that they were Islamic extremists who had come to capture us for ransom. Luckily, the Tartar Russian-speaking geologist, who had been employed back in Melbourne, knew the leader of the group (they went to university together and had been friends). This leader decided to let us off this time.
In order to celebrate this very fortuitous meeting, we purchased a sheep from the locals. I watched as it was killed by pointing its body towards Mecca and then cutting its throat with an evil-looking Islamic knife. It was quickly dressed and the cook turned it into a sumptuous meal. The excess sheep meat went back with the extremists as a token reward to their colleagues back at their camp.


This was just a typical occurrence when I was working around the world in all the places tourists never see. The odds of employing a Russian-speaking geologist in Melbourne, who knew the leader of some Islamic extremists in Western Uzbekistan, is mind-blowingly miniscule! We completed the trip safely.

OM:NI Diamond Creek Tenth Year Anniversary Celebration.

A Tenth year celebration of Diamond Creek OM:NI was held on 16th March at the recently refurbished Diamond Creek Netball Clubrooms, the venue of the Diamond Creek group since its inception.

About 50 guests attended, including members from the Nillumbik, Banyule and Whittlesea area groups, family members, the Mayer of Nillumbik, staff from Council On The Ageing, sponsors, and representatives from Nillumbik Council. Before the proceedings the audience was entertained by a band ‘Luna the Moon” an enthusiastic trio of young women who won the Young Creative Leaders award recently.

Daryl Morrow, one of the original members of the group facilitated the event, and opened by acknowledging the Wurundjeri People, the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we meet, and paid respect to their Elders past and present. He thanked the local traders who have supported the group, including Mason White McDougal Real Estate, Reece Plumbing, Coles, Diamond Valley Hire, Valley Financial and Bendigo Bank. Daryl also thanked the Netball Centre for their assistance in supplying a venue for the group over a number of years.

The celebration then continued by various people telling their stories of their involvement with the group.

Michael Slaughter, Manager of Bendigo Bank congratulated the group on operating for ten years, stated how he has enjoyed the relationship and looked forward to an ongoing support.

Ken Ramplin, the originator of the group, spoke on the importance of OM:NI in engaging older men, particularly after their retirement. He gave a moving tribute to the group members who have passed away – Kelvin Kaires who was the respected elder of the group, Tom Hendry an original group member who was a keen traveler, Les Robertson the group’s bush poet, and NIck Grange, who started the Diamond Creek Group blog which contains the mens’ stories, and who with Ken came up with the idea of the Diamond Creek Regional Playspace Labyrinth and worked with the Nillumbik Council to enable its construction.

Tina Hogarth-Clarke, CEO of Council On The Ageing, presented a ten year certificate to the group. She stated the importance of OM:NI in supporting and bringing men together after their retirement. Even during the recent restrictions OM:NI managed to meet in various ways, principally via Zoom. She congratulated the achievement of the group in continuing for ten years. Karen Ivanka, also from Council On The Ageing, congratulated the group, saying how she has enjoyed supporting the group, and in general interacting with the now 28 Victorian groups.

Peter Perkins, Mayor of Nillumbik spoke on how he was first introduced to the idea of OM:NI groups at the launch ten years ago, and how he met with Ken from time to time on a park bench in the area. He acknowledged the work of Ken within the community and OM:NI, and paid tribute to Ken and NIck Grange’s work in getting the labyrinth going.

Anna Maio a council Officer from Nillumbik Shire Council was also acknowledged by Daryl for her assistance in obtaining grants and other help and encouragement to the group.

Representing Banyule group, Ken Young spoke, stating how he started in OM:NI in 2006, and has had an enjoyable time, meeting good blokes and making new friends.

Graham Gobey from Watsonia group spoke on how he has shared many life experiences over the years, but how sadly a few blokes have passed away, however their families always say good things about OM:NI. He was proud of how Diamond Creek group has lasted ten years.

Lindsay Clarke and Ian Sandham, representing Eltham spoke on how the Eltham Group has been going for nine years, Lindsay saying how OM:NI has given him increased confidence, Ian mentioned their new location at the footy clubrooms, and also thanked Diamond Creek Group for their support.

From the Hurstbridge group, Peter Clarke stated how OM:NI is the best kept secret, and how he is enjoying bringing OM:NI into other parts of the state, particularly in areas where there is a range of ethnic groups.

The final representative to speak on behalf of a group was Ken Ramplin. Ken told how his involvement with OM:NI began after a health issue when he retired. He started attending the Greensborough Goup. After about three years, he was challenged to start up a new Group in Diamond Creek.

After an exhaustive advertising campaign, a meeting was held to launch the new group on 15th March 2011. About fifty three people attended the launch and the new Group had its first meeting at Creek’s Cafe on 29th March. Ken then led a committee starting the Eltham Group, launched a year later with more than ninety people attending.

Two years later, another committee was formed to launch another Group in Hurstbridge, confirming Ken’s conviction that there were many men in the community needing this type of service. Since then, the groups in the Diamond Valley have disproved the notion that men don’t talk, all groups have great discussions on a wide range of topics.

The formal part of the proceedings finished with an old standing member, Jim Duncan, cutting a splendid ten year anniversary cake, which all present tasted together with an afternoon tea and socialising.

Thanks are also given to Darryl Morrow, for his excellent job of facilitating the celebration.

Diamond Creek Regional Playspace Labyrinth

Three and a half years ago, OM:NI – Diamond Creek put a proposal to Nillumbik Shire Council that a labyrinth be built at the Diamond Creek Reserve.

To test the concept Council built a temporary hay bale labyrinth next to the netball courts. This was a runaway success with the younger members of the community.

After many conversations and onsite meetings, the labyrinth is now a reality. Council were able to incorporate it as an integral part of the Diamond Creek Regional Playspace.

What is a labyrinth?

A labyrinth is a simple contemplative pathway used for walking meditation. The labyrinth has a history of more than 4,000 years. It has been described as a stress management tool and watering hole for the spirit. Walking the labyrinth is a detour from the everyday path of our lives – an opportunity to slow down and reflect. It’s an easy way to meditate – to simply quiet the mind and open the heart.

How do you walk a labyrinth?

There is really no right or wrong way to walk a labyrinth. On the inward journey, it is an opportunity for personal reflection. Pausing for a moment in the centre, refocus your mind, think about the difficulties you may have had in the recent past, then retrace your steps, refreshed and anticipating a brighter future.

The local Nillumbik OM:NI groups have greatly appreciated the assistance of Nillumbik Shire Council and their cooperation in bringing this community project to a successful conclusion. For more information about this project click on the following link.

https://participate.nillumbik.vic.gov.au/labyrinth

Beneath My Feet – By Daryl Morrow

Walking past a small spiky bush on the way into the veggie garden I felt a sharp sting, I hadn’t noticed this plant before it appeared overnight, strange feeling was overcoming me the plant in my eyes suddenly became very large, like a mature Gum Tree . I was becoming scared every thing was large, overpowering like being in the amazon rain forest, it was then it became apparent that I had shrunk down as small as and even smaller than the inhabitants of most home gardens. As I ventured timidly further amongst the vegetables I was confronted by a monster grub on a cabbage leaf.


I quickly scurried under the leaf out of sight. Shaking I ventured further into the garden when I heard a very loud croaking noise by a large expanse of water and standing higher than me I saw a monster frog dancing and croaking, enjoying the sunshine.


Dashing further into the foliage I was confronted by an armoured beetle on the war path. He headed straight for me, smashing through the forest with little effort, I thought this was my end – things flashed before my eyes.

Then I heard a thunderous crashing of some dry limbs. Glancing behind I saw a coloured dragon lunge forward and save me by eating the attacking king beetle. A giant Slater was dashing by in a great hurry pretty much camouflaged watched by a very patient Spider. But alas he will go hungry I assume as the Slater slid under cover. Some onlookers watched silently from their escape routes expecting to witness the demise of some other competition in the plant eating chain.


I couldn’t believe the horrors that exist in the garden where survival of the fittest and most aggressive still rule today
Even the field rats have learnt to fly as they offered me a free ride out of danger, but I declined as l am scared of heights and flying owls. As the rat took to the sky he frightened the grasshopper who had eaten too much and found getting out of the way and airborne much to his dislike and he said it is all your fault planting those climbing beans which have blocked our flight path, to home.


The flowering Wattles were trying to avoid the yellow Grubs from destroying their yellow blossom before fertilisation, they had grown spiky thorns but some how the grubs had developed a way of avoiding those spikes.


Some unnamed residents tried to hide fearing my intrusion into their world.
This one was trying to wrap its legs around me then devour my body for its next meal and protect its babies.


But I was rescued by this Soldier Ant just in time, he suggested I get back into my own world and to inform our species to be more considerate when working in the their world.
The Blue Tongue also issued a stern warning as it protected its strawberry patch.
He was backed up by by some other quiet inhabitants.


Suddenly I started to resume my full size again, but was left with a new awareness and respect of the homes and food of the world beneath our feet.





The Adventures of Barry Bullshark – by Daryl Morrow

At last I was on my way .A great adventure was in front of me, heading into NSW to fly along the Blue Ranges in a light aircraft across high ridges and foggy valleys, the pilot said no one flies this way as there are only sketchy maps, but you wanted a spine tingling adventure he said as we suddenly dived into a deep ravine, my blood pressure nearly made me pass out when with a blood curdling laugh the pilot banked to the left nearly touching the tree tops and then levelled out above the craggy mountain top, civilisation had disappeared, no roads or houses were visible. I started to become scared, the pilot was no doubt an odd ball, he laughed again and started to do a barrel roll as we entered into a cloud bank. Visibility was like zero. Suddenly the motor started to cough and splutter, we must have been upside down because I fell out and started to tumble towards earth. I could see the ground now rushing toward me only the sound of the wind in my ears made me realise I was still alive, what to do now before it’s to late; luckily the mad pilot insisted I wear a parachute – all you have to do if you fall out is pull this cord, I never found out what happened to him or the plane but thank the lord the parachute worked and I landed on the mountain side all in one piece except for a bruised bum, it was about two pm and further along the ridge I could see the sun reflecting off some metal, thinking this was the plane or a building I hurried towards it. It was getting cold and I hoped to find shelter there.

Upon arrival I firstly found a cave and nearby was a cigar shaped long metal object with its door or hatch wide open. I was really scared and alarmed by now, but proceeded to inspect the cave and found signs of activity, but no body was there , although there appeared to be radios or radar equipment and other unfamiliar stuff, it was very eerie so so I went back to the cigar shaped object, inside was more equipment with lights flashing and buzzing still no one to be seen.
Deeper into the vessel it was obvious that it was occupied there were seats, beds and Control panels and windows. At that moment I felt my shoulder being gripped firmly. I was immobilised and laid on a bed with wires attached  to my brain area, the figures were grotesque but inquisitive.

They started to control my brain and were downloading all my knowledge and language, my biological structure and ability to reproduce.

Suddenly they were talking in English to me about knowledge gained from their download,

They explained they are here to help our survival, they told of what happened to their world, they had searched the Galaxy to find a uninhabited planet where they could stay to no avail. They would help and guide wherever they could but would be staying out of sight, deep in the sea in the mountains and on the dark side of the moon. Their civilisation is doomed as they can’t reproduce.They will capture some one from all countries so they could learn all spoken languages and cultures they would be trying to avoid our self destruction.

With that they put me into their drone and flew me back across the mountain range asking that I tell people about what all those mystery sky lights were doing for our world and they should not be afraid. We do look spooky but they will do us no harm.

When I walked up to the small farm house circled by police , fire brigades and SES personal and people on horseback and told them who I was, there  was shouting and cheering amongst the rescuers, hugging and even some tears.

 Bursting with excitement I quickly started to tell my incredible story but the Ambulance Doctor gave me a sedative and I remember him saying, look he’s has had a traumatic experience and is delirious – some people never recover and continuously tell stories of extra terrestial fantasies , I guess we will never know what happened to him out there.

Ken’s Birthday Bash

An important event occurred on 11 June last year. Ken Ramplin turned 80 and some of his friends gathered for lunch at the Diamond Creek Tavern to help him celebrate this major milestone.

Over the last decade, Ken has been a major force in creating three OM:NI groups in the Diamond Valley area, namely Diamond Creek, Eltham and Hurstbridge. People from these groups joined him, along with members of Banyule and Greensborough groups, plus staff from the Bendigo Bank and local council, plus a few more friends he has gathered in a long life.

The lunch was good, (the usual senior’s meal, but good value), there were drinks to be consumed, there was a massive birthday cake with candles, plus more sweets. Daryl  made a touching speech outlining Ken’s life and local achievements.

Ken received a long waited for birthday present – a brand spanking super duper new electric bike, something he had wanted for a long time, so after furiously saving and with his family chipping in, the bike finally arrived.

Everyone had a great time enjoying celebrating with Ken, because along the way in his caring and kindly manner touched the lives of quite a few people.

Ken was last seen on the day, mounting his bike, complete with balloons streaming out the back.

 

Very Last Christmas 2018

Dudley Street Eltham    Story By Daryl Morrow

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Back in the 70’s I saw an ageing family home behind this entrance, it was well cared for and you could hear children playing in the large back garden , a loving family home raised their children hear no doubt.

They enhanced the front entrance, building a slate faced brick fence with a letter box slot and a rolled newspaper pigeon hole also you can see they had planted their own Christmas pine tree which has matured and survived until today.

Eltham was a sought after residential suburb with a petrol station in the main street, a hay and grain store, furniture shop, wide open roads and a balanced shopping strip. Visiting town for the weekly shop meant talking to people and getting free broken biscuits for the kids and this home was close to all Eltham had to offer and an easy walk to the city rail station, the Nillumbik Shire Council offices formed part of the town’s boundary.

We were known as the green wedge shire where artists and mud brick builders helped make this area unique and Montsalvat grew amongst the gum trees.

In the 90’s and after the turn of the century and around 2010 Eltham saw much change the shire offices moved close to Greensborough, leaving their site vacant, new shops adorned the main street the service station was demolished, new large grocery stores were built which moved businesses away from the main street and angle parking changed to parallel, shire zoning change putting pressure on residents to sell and move on as development made the township less desirable. A new type of people became interested in Eltham, in came the money hungry developers that had no interest or feeling to retain the unique lifestyle that Eltham had to offer. The council and VCAT have supported the destruction of the towns centre.

The family who lived on this site sold and now it has been sold for a high rise development of 5 stories part commercial with unit residential above. This photo is the last visual evidence of a blissful life style that soon will be gone. The trees will be removed a big hole dug and a brick or concrete bland high rise structure will evolve.

I wonder what the people and families who lived here feel about progress like this; their history and stories of joy, love, hope and successes will be gone forever.

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PHOTOS AND STORY **** By, Daryl Morrow. circa 2018

Christmas Reflections

             CHRISTMAS IS A SEASON NOT ONLY FOR REJOICING, BUT FOR REFLECTION’

                                                                                                – Winston Churchill

Christmas is again rushing up fast, heralding that time of year to review all that has gone before, and what is to come. A time to reflect about the meaning of this period, particularly what happened on that day a long time ago.

It’s a time when family and friends come together and have a festive and merry time. But Christmas is also for contemplating the Christmas spirit, one of giving and forgiving, a time when the love of our fellow men should prevail over hatred, bitterness and greed.

However, if the average person was asked to reflect about the essence of Christmas, there well may be an absence of these deeper thoughts. Answers may surface relating to gifts, parties, shopping, getting drunk at the office party, seeing family, the joy of going away on holidays, a break from a tedious tense job.

In today’s busy world, it’s easy to lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas. Amidst the food and drink, friends & family, how much time have we left to be more humane and kind, considering those not as fortunate as ourselves, that is the unloved, unwashed and unwanted.

Is today’s Christmas season a time of doing not thinking? Are we preoccupied with lists of presents, choosing a suitable one for ninety five year old aunt Maud, puzzling what to give a ten year old as a Kris Kringle, fuming at having to give a present to a foul mouthed uncouth in-law, toting up the massive entertaining costs, trying to find a reasonably priced gluten free plum pudding.

This is not the end. We then have to buy all this stuff. Impatiently searching for a scarce parking space, running from shop to shop, maxing out the credit card, despairing when we can’t find the present our beloved spouse really wants, being furious at missing the free two hour parking period by one minute. And so on and so forth, it’s madness with no time for quiet reflection, it’s simply survival.

Our kids do have a ball, they get lots of presents and junk food, see their cousins. Some even get carted off to see the Myer windows. But are they thinking anything spiritual? Of course not, it’s all about toys and a cool dude in a red suit. To quote one little tacker. “I learned in Sunday school today all about the very first Christmas. You see, there wasn’t a Santa way back then, so these three skinny guys on camels had to deliver all the toys! And Rudolph the reindeer with his nose so bright wasn’t there yet, so they had to have this big spotlight in the sky to find their way around.”

Yep folks, it’s all about the money. Christmas is way too commercialized. The true purpose of the holiday, once termed a holy day, has been lost. It’s crazy and crass. Any deep reflections of business are how to sneakily expand the shopping season. One study calculated that a quarter of all personal spending takes place during the Christmas shopping season.

What about when it’s finished, can we relax? No we can’t, there’s still a final task. We need to deal with the unwanted carelessly given gifts, which are returned, sold, or re-gifted. In one survey, 15% of respondents were unhappy about their gifts, 10% could not remember what they had received, 25% five percent said they had re-gifted their presents, 14% sold the items, 10% tried to return them to the store, and 5% returned the gift to the giver.

But there’s more. We spend weeks stuffing wrapping paper, packages, bottles and cans into our garbage bins. We clean up the house, scraping food muck from the grandkids off the tiles, cursing the wretched child who vomited their fourth helping of pudding over the carpet, also the same about drunken old uncle Bill who spilt a bottle of port over the rug, wishing we could thump the cousin who fired a nerf bullet into our kid’s eye, while the stupid parents simply looked on. Then we again climb in the car and go to the New Year’s sales to repeat this process.

I leave you to reflect on these reflections.

Merry Christmas.

The Ticking Clock

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The coffee and company has been fun. It’s Thursday and I’m  pedalling up the final hill of the ride with the guys. But there is a niggling problem in that the pain is has returned. It was fine during the ride, an easy short one because I haven’t been on the bike for three weeks, having spent a fortnight travelling around the Flinders Ranges. I’m not sure whether it’s a sore throat, chest or whatever. All I know it’s a burning sensation in my chest or lungs, which gets worse as I finally puff my way to the top. Then it subsides along the level track and I slowly pedal home.

I’m thinking it’s a good thing I am seeing my doctor tomorrow. The realisation is finally sinking in that something is wrong, but I don’t know exactly what.

Two months ago I had contacted a severe cold and bronchitis, which left me with massive coughing fits and croaky vocal cords. At that time, I got the chest pains on hilly rides, but I put that down to my sore throat. I also started to get the pain and started having breathing problems each fortnight walking up from Joliment Station to the top of the city to attend a meeting, again putting this down to my throat.

I thought that a fortnight in the dry air of the Flinders Ranges would clear up my throat and I would be back to normal. But walking one day up a lookout the symptoms appear and that’s when I get nervous, because my throat is getting better, I should be cleared out by now, but I’m not.

After we return home I make the appointment, trusting that Dr Cameron will prescribe some magic potion. He listens to my story, checks my chest and blood pressure which are normal. Then he starts writing pathology scripts and prescriptions.

“I’m not quite sure, it could still be your throat, chest or maybe a virus.”

He pauses, “It could be even something to do with your heart, don’t forget you have had Type I diabetes for thirty five years.”

I quickly protest. “But Cameron, I control it really well, look at my results, my blood tests, my chlorestoral tests, my blood pressure, all within normal ranges.”

The foreboding response comes back. “Often it doesn’t matter, even well controlled diabetics are prone to heart conditions, it unfortunately comes with the territory. But don’t worry overmuch, get all the tests done, we will discuss it next week.”

I am worrying a bit thought, especially as one script he gives me is for nitroglycerine spray for under my tongue if I get a sudden chest pain. This is the sort of thing I see in movies where people suddenly reach for their pill for under the tongue before falling to the floor with a heart attack. This is maybe my ‘oh,oh, moment.’

At home I start phoning, needing to make appointments for blood tests, an ECG, a chest Xray, an MRI for my lungs, and a heart stress test. The clinic is helpful over the next couple of days, ringing through the results which are all clear, which is kind of reassuring.

The big test is on Tuesday, when I do the heart stress test on the treadmill. As I step on the machine I’m confident that this will be an easy one, after all I regularly walk the dog, go cycling and do much heavy gardening, achieving my 15,000 steps daily. I’m super fit, aren’t I?

As the treadmill picks up speed I’m not so sure. The first minute is all right, a  peaceful stroll. Then the speed picks up and I start puffing and panting, and after the five minutes is up, I am totally stuffed and collapse onto the table while the doctors take final blood pressure and heartrate readings. I suspect what they will say, because I have been looking sideways at them as they point to the screen and mutter seriously between themselves. ‘Look at his rising blood pressure, check out the curve of the graph.’

The doctor ushers me into his room, I suspect that this is when my life will change.

The verdict is pronounced. “You have a heart problem. We don’t know exactly what until we do an angiogram. An artery may just need widening, it may need a stent, if it’s bad it will need bypass surgery. I’m booking you in to Epworth in the morning.”

In a daze I wander out of the centre and adopt my usual behaviour in stressful times. Finding a coffee shop to mull over my suddenly altered situation over a mug of strong hot coffee. I urgently need to mentally process this unexpected and unwanted deluge of information, I need to think it through, I feel like an ancient computer trying to sort out this bucket of data into some sort of logical format. I’m in the middle of busy Box Hill Central, people shopping and socialising, but I’m alone with my thoughts.

My first thought is how to tell my wife, I know she has been worried. The same with my son and daughter. I will have to  ring my sisters, they both have blood pressure problems, there is a family history of heart problems, they should be warned about me increasing their risk factor. I remember the last cycling group coffee break, where in the context of our friend Nick dying we agreed that we just don’t know what is around the corner, and hence the need to make the most of every day. This conversation was somewhat theoretical at that time, now it’s uncomfortably making sense. I make a mental note to get back to Buddhist meditation classes, this always helps me to think clearly. I need to talk to my GP, to make sure that the heart surgeon I am being referred to is competent.

That afternoon I see my GP , Dr Cam, who reassures me that Dr Chris the surgeon has indeed a competent pair of hands, and he would have referred me to him. We make an appointment for next week to sort out the vast array of paperwork, he also repeats the news that at age 70 I am one of the few few fortunate long suffering diabetics who only now has developed a heart issue. I don’t know if this makes me feel happier or not.

It’s the next morning and I’m walking into the Epworth admission area to undergo the angiogram to see exactly how my arteries are pumping. I’m worried because of the uncertainty, not knowing what will be found, how long I will be there. I’m somewhat rusty at this hospital stuff, my last admission being thirty five years ago at the old Diamond Valley Hospital when I was diagnosed with diabetes. Normally I’m the one visiting friends, standing by the bed not in it. I’m hungry, not being allowed food, hoping that the long acting insulin from the previous night will keep my sugar levels stable, not wanting a hypo on the operating table. I feel vulnerable being naked under the hospital gown, not looking forward to having my groin shaved.

Dr Chris comes in, a cheerful young guy. He explains the procedure, again stating we won’t know the next step until he sees the artery blood flow. Then I’m wheeled to the operating theatre, down long corridors, marvelling at how smoothly the trolley castors roll. The operating theatre is fascinating, I’m surprised at the number of staff there,  I idly trace the power cords and connections, I marvel at the multi jointed framework holding the massive X’ray machine, trusting that the bolts are high tensile steel, I don’t fancy the thing coming down on me. I guess this is just to distract myself. Being a writer, and viewing life through a pen, I even start mentally drafting this story. The it’s game on and Dr Chris starts pumping dye into my veins, and I watch my arteries pumping away on the big screen next to the table.

Four hours later and I’m being driven home, feeling a lot happier. Dr Chris has discovered that my Left Anterior Descending artery , the one supplying most of the blood to the heart and cheerfully described by surgeons as the “widow maker” is 90% blocked. But it can be repaired with a stent, requiring only one overnight hospital stay. He will do this two days later on Saturday. I’m feeling happier now, because at least I know what is wrong and that it can be fixed. I’m keen to get home and fire up my coffee machine.

I spend the next two days taking it easy as directed, doing a lot a thinking about my new lifestyle, glad that I went to the doctor when I did, not leaving it until maybe too late. There is not a massive lifestyle change to make, I already exercise, eat healthily and control my weight. The inbuilt diabetes risk factor is an unwelcome fact of life, but one I just have to accept. I tell myself to make the most of every day, but not just think this principle, actually put it into practice.

It’s Saturday morning and I’m back at the hospital, actually looking forward to the operation as it will clear the way to get on with my life.

It all goes as planned. I’m prepped, wheeled on the smooth castors to the same operating theatre, even the same staff are attending me. Dr Chris inserts the cable containing the stent into my wrist and I watch on the screen as this wire gets poked up my arm artery, over my heart and down into the blocked part, a somewhat curious experience. But Dr Chris seems to know the way, deftly pushing the wire through my body, until he finally pops the stent in to place, withdraws the wire, and I am the dubiously proud owner of a 35 mm           . I idly consider asking him could I keep the wire as a spare brake cable, it’s most likely high quality stainless steel, but I’m not sure if this request would be complied with.

Then it’s back to my room and I spend the time reading and late into the night I start to scribble my story, thinking again how all through this time, with all the procedures, I have been planning how this bit and that would fit.

But I also realise at the end, that I have no profound words of wisdom to pass on, no shattering revelations about how my life has changed, it’s just something that happened.

Maybe it’s best summed up by a piece of a poem I wrote a couple of years ago.

Is there a purpose, any rhyme or reason?

Who cares, all end at the final portal

None can escape, like it or not

The snuff man is nigh, gently beckoning

Patiently waiting, waiting, waiting

So start the race, begin the journey

It’s the only one that counts

Life’s a bitch and don’t we know it

Way too short and way too hard

The bad is bad, but the good is good

You gotta get in to get out