Life with Arfur

An irreverent look at living with arthritis

April 23, 2017
by David Robinson
2 Comments

Could You Speak Up A Bit?

Arthritis is only one of my health problems. As well as diabetes and breathing problems, I’m also quite hard of hearing. Truth be told, I’m a crumbling old git.

(This, madam, is a weak attempt at raising a smile on your miserable clock. You don’t have to agree.)

The deafness is a consequence of many years working in noisy industrial environments, and listening to hard rock music at volume levels that could be considered painful. Almost as painful as the appalling lyrics on some of the tracks. I meanersay, Doo Wah Diddy-Diddy? What kind of tripe is that? And what price any man or woman ambling down the street singing such nonsense would be carted off to the nearest secure unit?

Still, we’re wandering off the point. I am mutt and jeff, and that’s an end of it.

Deafness is total pain in the arse. Watching television is a nightmare. I need subtitles, and the problem is some of our cheapskate digital channels don’t bother putting them on. And I’m not just talking about the real, cheapo, Mickey Mouse stations but some of the more important channels too. And it’s not only television. I find major DVDs, and we’re talking successful feature films here, and TV series which don’t have subtitles for the hard of hearing.

Having said that, some go to the opposite extreme. Harry Potter has subs in so many languages it takes me ten minutes to find English, and they don’t look that good in Serbo-Croat.

When it comes to TV series, Midsomer Murders is one of the biggest culprits. It’s also a particular favourite of mine and my wife’s. But I can’t buy the DVDs because I can’t hear a bloody word. And before you write to me and tell me that you can get Midsomer Murders with subtitles, I know you can, but you’ll find it’s only with the later series. The early ones didn’t have them.

So you’re next question is, why don’t you get some hearing aids. Beat you to it. I have some, as the picture above demonstrates, and although they are discreet almost to the point of invisibility, they’re also bloody irritating.

First, they create an irritating amount of earwax. Secondly, when I put them in, I go from hearing nothing at all to hearing everything.

We have a clock in the kitchen. Silly little thing it is. Been there years. The first time I put the lugplugs in, I heard this ticking sound and thought, “Hey up, the neighbours have really had enough now. They’ve sent us a bomb.” Five years that clock had been in the kitchen, and I didn’t know it ticked.

Although the inability to hear is an annoyance, there are some advantages to it. For example, when her indoors is nagging the pants off me to mend the front gate, I can remove my hearing aids and I don’t have to pretend that I haven’t heard her, for the simple reason that I really haven’t heard her.

Another advantage is that it cuts out all the twaddle from politicians, salespeople, and football commentators.

It also gives me scope for some great gags. For instance, I’m told there’s a General Erection in June. Is it compulsory? Only, if it is, I may need to stock up on Viagra.

When I’m in a shop and the assistant asks for £44.99, I can hand over a fiver and wait for a penny change. It doesn’t work. It’s never worked yet, but it’s fun trying it on.

Because I’m deaf I tend to raise my voice. God knows why. It’s not like I have trouble hearing myself. But it does give me the opportunity for some fun, especially in shops and supermarkets. I was born with a very high threshold of embarrassment. It takes an awful lot to make me go red in the face. As a consequence I have no problem in the supermarket when calling out in a very loud voice, “Where the hell is the Preparation H?”

And that can produce some serious cringing around me, especially when the missus is with me.

* * *

Life With Arfur, the ebook, has made its first foray into the Amazon UK charts. Currently available for pre-order, it stands at #41 in the humour, families and parenting chart, this morning.

To order your copy CLICK HERE. Your card will not be charged until the ebook is delivered to your Kindle on the day of release (May 10th).

You can also pre-order the paperback, and you’ll find the link to that on the Amazon ebook page. But although all that, too, is not released until the 10th of May, I’m not absolutely certain when the purchase would be charged to your card.

April 20, 2017
by David Robinson
0 comments

Can You Repeat That Please

Here is a transcript of the video.

T’other day I was talking about my attempts to work with speech recognition, and its frequent comical interpretations of what it thinks it’s heard. When I say, ‘it’s choosing to behave itself this morning,’ why does it assume I’ve said, ‘A not quite used to Bernie be him itself this morning’?

Aside from anything else, I don’t know anyone called Bernie.

When arthritis begins to take hold you’re going to need all sorts of aids to let you lead a normal working life. Naturally the mere mention of that word ‘aids’ has the spammers jumping on board to offer you aids of a different kind: aids designed for rather less salubrious purposes. Before I know it, my inbox is full of offers on creams, gels and appliances, many of which, while claiming to be for the enhancement of dubious pleasurable activities, could have come straight from the Spanish Inquisition’s spring and summer catalogue.

However, I digress. So, dragging this article kicking and screaming back where it belongs, I’m a writer. What is it I need assistance with? Well, it’s working with the keyboard for hours and hours on end. It doesn’t half make your fingers ache, and speech recognition software, aside from easing that pain, allows me to roll a cigarette, flip through the TV channels, etc, while still composing my day’s work.

Bearing this in mind, even after the early problems, I decided to persevere with the software, at least for the time being.

A post like this would typically take about half an hour to write, and a further 30 minutes to spellcheck, edit, tidy up and upload to my blog. Speech recognition is very much slower than that and I needed some kind of procedure to speed up the process.

When I’m typing I don’t pause to make corrections. I simply carry on working until the piece is finished or until I reach a natural break where I have to consider which way the story is going, and then I make any necessary corrections. So would it make any difference if I employed the same principle when using speech recognition?

There was only one way to find out: try it.

As a consequence this post was prepared using speech recognition to the total exclusion of the keyboard, and I timed the entire process. I say exclusively but I did revert to the keyboard when the misinterpretations and attempted corrections mangled the prose so much that it became unintelligible and I couldn’t find a way to correct it with the microphone.

Control codes are the most problematic aspect of this system. It comes with a list of the verbal commands dedicated to controlling the text flow, but bloody machine doesn’t always interpret them correctly. As a result I’m constantly backtracking in an effort to correct the mistakes it makes, and more often than not, I simply compound them. Before you know it, I’m using the keyboard to put matters right.

It’s a bit like talking to the wife, the only difference being I can’t put her right using the keyboard.

Now there’s a notion to play with…

The article took about an hour to produce, but that time included faffing about, correcting the numerous misinterpretations. It still slightly slower than using the keyboard, but not so much that it’s noticeable.

My initial concentration was on speed, but is that what it’s all about? I have to keep an eye on the future, ensuring that if and when the time comes that I’ll no longer be able type with any accuracy or speed, speech recognition will be not merely preferable but essential, and for that reason I will persevere with it.

It’s a steep learning curve, but one thing I’ve already discovered is that if I modulate my parade-ground bark the software responds more accurately. The system is obviously more responsive to seduction rather than instruction, which once more reminds me of the missus.

And on a final note, the system is very sensitive. When Joe, our crazy Jack Russell terrier, is barking at the postman, the software arbitrarily assumes I’m saying it’s time for another cigarette.

***

And now the moment you’ve been gagging for.

Life With Arfur is now available for pre-order. All you have to do is go to the Amazon page and place your order. You card will not be charged until the book is automatically delivered to your Kindle on the day of release (May 10th) but you are guaranteed it at the pre-release price.

CLICK HERE to go to the book page on Amazon.

***

I hope you’re enjoying this blog. If so, why not subscribe to by clicking on the Networked Blogs icon in the Sidebar. That way, you’ll never miss a post.

As always, comments are open. Spammers, don’t waste your time, you’ll never get through.

You can also subscribe to my occasional newsletter by clicking HERE where you’ll also find a FREE EBOOK waiting for you.

April 17, 2017
by David Robinson
0 comments

Talk To Me

 

Using speech recognition makes sense when you suffer from arthritis.  If nothing else it saves wear and tear on your wrists. This morning it’s behaving itself, but over the last few days I’ve had nothing but trouble with it.

To begin with it assumes my breathlessness, which is caused by COPD, is actually saying the word ‘are’.

Typing the words using the keyboard is a comparatively slow process, even at 35wpm, which gives you time to think about what you want to say. As a consequence when speaking into the microphone there are long pauses while you decide which way you’re going next. If this were a conversation between two people these pauses could be considered long and sulky silences, as if they were a divorcing couple in stalled negotiations.

Furthermore, the capacity for misunderstanding is huge. That sentence above, ‘typing the words using a keyboard…’ actually came out as:

‘Typing using the keyboard is a comparatively slow process even the lights died at 35wpm.’

Disjointed, and it makes you wonder what the lights dying had to do with anything.

It means I’m constantly having to go back and correct errors, which is time consuming. Even worse, it doesn’t always understand the corrections, which in turn means I have to resort to the keyboard to type in the correct words.

The speech recognition system also has inbuilt control commands which are supposed to facilitate production and editing, but which can be an absolute nightmare when the bloody software doesn’t understand my Yorkshire dialect.

As I get older and the arthritis takes a more virulent grip on my abilities, the advantages of this kind of system are obvious, but for the moment I have deadlines to meet and the software is simply too slow to match my requirements. This entire post, which runs to over 400 words, was produced using speech recognition and has taken about three quarters of an hour to write. I’m sure I could have typed it faster. But even when the initial post is written I still have to go back to manual editing using the keyboard. This is because I don’t fully understand the editing process using speech recognition, and even in those areas where I do, the software doesn’t always recognise what I’m trying to say.

And as a final example of its frustrations, I’ve just had a coughing fit which the software interpreted as:

The it had a of the border.

Enough said… or should that be enough typed?

***

I hope you’re enjoying this blog. If so, why not subscribe to by clicking on the Networked Blogs icon in the Sidebar. That way, you’ll never miss a post.

As always, comments are open. Spammers, don’t waste your time, you’ll never get through.

You can also subscribe to my occasional newsletter by clicking HERE where you’ll also find a FREE E-BOOK waiting for you.

April 14, 2017
by David Robinson
6 Comments

I Must Be Mad

I wrote every single one of the books in the image above, and but for one title (Fiagara Nights) they’re all published by Crooked Cat Books.

And this weekend every book in that image is FREE. From now until midnight(ish) on Monday, they’re yours for nowt.

It’s the Giant Crooked Cat Books Easter Sale.

So why are you still sat there reading this? Go get ’em while they’re hot and buckshee.

The Sanford 3rd Age Club Mysteries

The Filey Connection

The I-Spy Murders

A Halloween Homicide

A Murder for Christmas

Murder at the Murder Mystery Weekend

My Deadly Valentine

The Chocolate Egg Murders

The Summer Wedding Murder

Costa del Murder

Christmas Crackers

Death in Distribution

A Killing in the Family

A Theatrical Murder

Trial by Fire

Spookies

The Haunting of Melmerby Manor

The Man in Black

Thrillers

The Handshaker

The Deep Secret

Voices

Midthorpe Mysteries

Fiagara Nights

Naturally, these are only my titles. You’ll find many, many more either free or at reduced prices in the Crooked Cat Easter sale.

 

April 7, 2017
by David Robinson
2 Comments

I Need A Stressbuster

It’s Friday and the end of one of the most stressful weeks I can ever recall.

It began on Monday with a visit to the doc’s concerning my damaged ankle and the problems it was causing my arthritic hip and knee. At the same time, my daughter was hospitalised for various tests. That was rapidly followed by the imminent publication of Life With Arfur and a flurry of last minute bits and pieces we need to get in place before May 10th.

But the major source of concern this week has been Joe. As you can see he has that Bart Simpson-ish look of angelic innocence which hides a crooked halo.

Joe’s not been his usual self for a while, and repeated visits to the vet failed to identify the cause. On Wednesday, he rushed upstairs to greet the missus and when he got there, he collapsed. By the time I got up there, he was peeing all over the carpet. Involuntary, I might add. He couldn’t help it, but you could see it simply added to his distress.

We rushed him to the vet’s and they checked him over, provided a range of prescription drugs and sent us home to fast him for tests on Thursday.

What came out of those X-rays was interesting.

First off, Joe is good deal older than we were led to believe. A rescue dog, he was found wandering the streets of Manchester and taken to a dogs’ home, where we adopted him. They told us he was about two years old and he was very good with other dogs.

He hates other dogs. They didn’t know because he couldn’t bark. He had pneumonia.

We got him through that, and gave him the kind of home all dogs deserve. Comfortable, caring, but encouraging good discipline.

According to our vet, it’s extremely difficult to tell an adult dog’s age, especially when his teeth are as crooked as Joe’s. If we believe the dogs’ home’s estimate, he would now be about seven. The vet reckons he is closer to eleven or twelve. And that explains so much about his health.

The X-rays revealed that he has a chronic disorder affecting his left lung. It’s not life-threatening, but it’s what makes him breathless. When he galloped up the stairs, he literally ran out of breath, which is why he collapsed. He’s on medication for the rest of his life and we’re treating him as geriatric dog.

So we know he’s slightly arthritic, just like me. He has high blood pressure for which he’s on the same prescription as me, albeit in lower doses. And now, he’s short on breath… just like me.

Only his Ventolin comes in pill form.

Still, collecting Joe from the vet’s on Thursday evening, now aware of what we’re dealing with, was the stressbuster I needed and I’m very much calmer today.

***

I hope you’re enjoying this blog. If so, why not subscribe by clicking on the Networked Blogs icon in the Sidebar. That way you’ll never miss a post.

As always, comments are open. Spammers, don’t waste your time, you’ll never get through.

You can also subscribe to my occasional newsletter by clicking HERE where you’ll also find a FREE E-BOOK waiting for you.

 

April 5, 2017
by David Robinson
0 comments

A Date For Your Diary

This post should have appeared yesterday, but my daughter has been hospitalised with some kind of neurological problem and I spent the day batting about the web like a pinball. Latest news is she’s all right, and goes for an MRI scan today, and she has her partner and daughters to call on.

So, back to the main thrust.

May 10th. Make a note of it. That’s when Life With Arfur is launched on an unsuspecting world.

As well as being the first of Crooked Cat’s new non-fiction line, it’s a bit of a departure for me. I usually turn out fiction. The boss at the last place I worked recognised this when he said my timesheets owed more than a passing nod in the direction of Harry Potter.

This volume is autobiographical and contrary to possible expectations, it is not at all po-faced and serious, precisely because I am not po-faced or serious.

As well as detailing how and why Arfur got his hooks into me, there are sections on the kinds of advice I received from medical and non-medical people all over the world. It was all well-intentioned, I’m sure, but even I draw the line at dousing my joints with WD40. It might loosen the nuts on an engine block, but mine are all right where they are thanks.

On the day there will be a massive, virtual party on Facebook from nine in the morning until I get fed up. If I haven’t sent you an invite, don’t take it personally. Just invite yourself by…

CLICKING HERE

But be advised. I’m a thoroughbred Yorkshireman. If you’re looking for free food and drink, you’d better bring your own. And just be grateful I’m not charging an admission fee.

See you on May 10th.

***

I hope you’re enjoying this blog. If so, why not subscribe by clicking on the Networked Blogs icon in the Sidebar. That way, you’ll never miss a post.

As always, comments are open. Spammers, don’t waste your time, you’ll never get through.

You can also subscribe to my occasional newsletter by clicking HERE where you’ll also find a FREE E-BOOK waiting for you.

April 2, 2017
by David Robinson
2 Comments

Fat? Me?

Busy recuperating from a short break on the Yorkshire coast, I hopped on the scales this morning… literally. The ankle is still playing up and all I can do is hop.

I’ve put about five pounds on over the last week. Honestly, you have one pint and that’s what it does to you.

I’ve never been politically correct, so I avoid softly-softly descriptions like ‘rotund’ or ‘portly’ or even ‘circumferentially challenged’. ‘Obese’ is too clinical for my liking, so I stick to the plain and simple.

I am fat.

And I’m fat because by and large, I’m bone idle, and I’m bone idle because I have a great excuse for being bone idle: I suffer from arthritis. I’ve also got a manky ankle. And I suffer COPD, which means I can’t get my breath like the rest of you so running marathons is out.

And basically, it is a lack of exercise. I don’t overeat. The missus is the glutton in our house. Between her and the dog it’s a question of who can move fastest when there’s a meat pie for the taking, and the dog doesn’t always win.

She’s also a diet junkie. She’s tried every diet under the bloody sun, and they work for a time. Then she piles it back on again and she has to try another diet to take it off again, and then she piles it back on…

I do try to exercise. You try carrying a 24-pack of John Smith’s bitter from the car into the house and you’ll see what I mean.

But to be fair to myself, I do make the effort, as the following video will demonstrate.

 
I feel much better after that. Now I’m gonna jog to the settee for a nap.

***

I hope you’re enjoying this blog. If so, why not subscribe to by clicking on the Networked Blogs icon in the Sidebar. That way, you’ll never miss a post.

You can also subscribe to my occasional newsletter by clicking HERE where you’ll also find a FREE E-BOOK waiting for you.

April 1, 2017
by David Robinson
6 Comments

The Filey Nightmare

It’s two days now since we got back from Filey and I think I’m sufficiently recovered from the horrors to recount some of it.

Joe, our crazy (and arthritic) Jack Russell was hospitalised, in need of rest, so there was nothing slowing us down on Monday as we set off for the coast. The motorways and trunks roads were clear so even with a stop for breakfast outside York, we were in Filey by 12:15.

That was the good bit. It’s also where the good bit ended. Filey was overcast, threatening rain and perishing cold. We soon learned it wasn’t restricted to Filey. Scarborough and Bridlington were just as miserable and cold, and it was only when we got to Whitby on the final day that things brightened up.

But by then, I’d already made a video detailing the disaster, which you can see below. It was one of the highlights of the week.

You’ll recall I had a bad fall in the garden a month back. I really should have gone to A & E but I knew that they would probably set it in cast to let the ligaments heal and that would have scotched Filey. So I didn’t bother.

And did I know about it? (Note: this is a rhetorical question. I don’t expect you to know the answer. I already know it.)

One of the biggest problems with Arfur is the way he acts up when there’s an injury to any other part of the body. And he did act up. The missus dragged me round Scarborough, Bridlington and Whitby, and although I started out well every day, the pain of that ankle gradually wore me down. It also caused my fetlock, knee, thigh and hip to ache. Refusing to be outdone by the right, my left side also began to scream. At the close of play every day, I was walking like a geriatric plodder who didn’t know which leg to limp on.

And, of course, on that final day in Whitby, I forgot to take the walking stick with me. I bought a cheap one and that now stays permanently in the car.

On Thursday night, I’d had enough so we set off home, but matters were to get even worse. Friday morning, Her Indoors sent me to the supermarket and by the time I got back, I felt like my leg and hip were about to give way completely, so after collecting Joe from the vet’s, I spent most of yesterday afternoon resting. And he was so overjoyed to see us, he jumped on my bloody legs. Rotten little sod.

Am I downhearted? Damn right I am. I’m off to the doc’s on Monday to see how I can repair this leg and in the meantime, I’m spending most of the day horizontal, and for once, it’s nothing to do with an excess of alcohol.

March 26, 2017
by David Robinson
2 Comments

It’s That Time Again

British Summer Time officially begins today, which means I have to go round the house altering the clocks. Not only the house, but the car too. My last car was one of those where you pressed and held a button on the clock to change the time. Fine when you’re moving the time forward one hour, but when it came to changing it back, you had to wind it on twenty three hours. So I never bothered and the car was on British Summer Time all year round.

It’s also Mother’s Day. This picture was taken some time about 1963, and that’s Ma in the picture between the old man and a very young me.

“Treat your Mum to something special,” the adverts said in the supermarket yesterday. I don’t think she’d appreciate it. She’s been dead almost twenty years. I’ve changed a couple of profile pics in her honour for the day.

A tiny woman, she was the only person who ever had any control over me. When she said, “jump,” I asked, “how high?” But she also taught me to read and write before I started school which gave me a head start on a lot of the other kids.

Not that it did much good. I was a complete waster when I was younger and it’s only now when I look back, I think, “If I had my time again…”

I’d probably do nothing different.

And that’s the trouble with time. It’s a one-way process. You can’t backtrack and correct your mistakes. All you can do is move forward and learn from those errors. Did I ever learn from them? Did I hell as like. I’m still smoking, drinking and doing all those other things mother warned me against.

Like going to Filey?

Well, I don’t ever remember her telling me not to go to Filey, but if she did, I’ve freely ignored her, and as a result, I met the missus there in 1979.

We’re going back tomorrow.

Well, if I’ve had 30-odd years of it, I don’t see why Filey shouldn’t suffer too.

We will be back on Friday with scary stories from Scarborough and the bawdy buzz from Bridlington as well as Filey phobia. Until then, be good, if you can’t be good, be careful, and if you can’t be careful, try changing the back shocks on your car with only a plank and pile of bricks as a lever. It’ll soon drain that excess energy.

***

I hope you’re enjoying this blog. If so, why not subscribe to by clicking on the Networked Blogs icon in the Sidebar. That way, you’ll never miss a post.

You can also subscribe to my occasional newsletter by clicking HERE where you’ll also find a FREE E-BOOK waiting for you.

March 22, 2017
by David Robinson
0 comments

What’s It All About, Arfur?

Well, it’s about me, to be honest.

If I go back ten years I was as fit and healthy as any other man my age, albeit overweight and smoking too much. Then I got a lodger. Arfur. He moved into my knee and he’s been with me ever since. Not only that, but he’s spread out and is now encamped in almost every joint in my crumbling frame.

The story of how he crept into my life and took roots is the running theme of the book, Life With Arfur, naturally, it’s told with a tongue in cheek approach because that, as I keep reminding you, is my chief weapon against arthritis.

Just to whet your appetite, check out this video of me reading a short passage from the book, concentrating on the arthritic knee. I’ll apologise in advance for the quality. I use natural lighting on my videos and the weather was poor which meant I had to enhance the movie with an overhead light.

 

The book is like that practically the whole way through.

Why do I make light of it when in reality it’s a serious and debilitating problem? Precisely because it is a serious and debilitating problem. What is the alternative to maintaining my sense of humour? Spending my life griping about it won’t make it go away.

Should I give in? Yesterday, I talked about the way poor Joe, our nutjob Jack Russell fell off the settee and hurt himself. Has he given in? Nope. He just barks at the postman from the carpet because he can’t get on the seat by the window.

I compare my life as it is to what it was and what I thought it might be and ask questions. At what stage did tubular support bandage become a higher priority than razor blades? What happened to me that should make me prefer Velcro straps to shoelaces? How did I ever get to the stage where I have to use a bizarrely-shaped piece of cardboard to put my socks on?

The ingredients of a tragedy? Or a comedy?

Life With Arfur is published by Crooked Cat Books in the summer

***

I hope you’re enjoying this blog. If so, why not subscribe to by clicking on the Networked Blogs icon in the Sidebar. That way, you’ll never miss a post.

You can also subscribe to my occasional newsletter by clicking HERE where you’ll also find a FREE E-BOOK waiting for you.