Life with Arfur

An irreverent look at living with arthritis

August 27, 2017
by David Robinson
18 Comments

The Wedding Day

My daughter, Angela, and her partner, Tim, got married yesterday.  Big deal, you say.  Many of us have daughters who got married, and some of them may have tied the knot yesterday.

My daughter’s wedding was particularly poignant because she suffers from Motor Neurone Disease.

She was diagnosed four months ago, but she began suffering speech and swallowing difficulties as far back as Christmas.  Needless to say, the news was devastating for the entire family.

She’s typical of the Robinson gene in that she’s stubborn, determined and fight to the last.  That single-mindedness prompted her to defy her condition and WALK into the wedding room at Leeds Town Hall.  And as her father, it was my pleasure, my absolute joy, to lend her my arm in support of that walk.

Her daughters, Victoria and Hannah, pulled out all the stops to see that their mum had a special day, right down to arranging a Rolls Royce for the journey to the venue and the return to the reception.

Many of Angela’s friends (and Tim’s of course) turned out for them. Her brothers turned out too, David and his partner Sarah travelling in from Pudsey on the outskirts of Bradford, Colin and his wife Sally, making the journey from Coventry, and overall everyone had an enjoyable afternoon.

There was a downside. Everyone had to listen to a three-minute address from the father of the bride…  Me.

Not that there’s anything wrong with my ability to deliver a short speech, but even at my quietest I’m a noisy bugger, and my spec jokes are not always as funny as I think they are.

If I’m making a lot of this it’s not in the pursuit of ‘aww, how lovely’ reactions, and it’s certainly not in search of sympathy.  The whole family is now dedicated to raising awareness of this terrible disease.

Angela has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of MND known as Progressive Bulbar Palsy.  Statistically, the life expectancy of sufferers is six months to three years.

There is no cure.  No one knows what causes it.  But we, as a family, and only too aware of its devastating impact.

Having said that I offer no apologies for wishing a long and happy marriage for my daughter, Angela, and her new husband, Tim.

Comments are open and welcome.

My daughter blogs about her illness at: https://angie1926.wordpress.com/

And her daughter,Victoria has made efforts at raising awareness on her blog at: https://daughterofmnd.wordpress.com/

If you would like to learn more about Motor Neurone Disease, go to: https://www.mndassociation.org/

July 17, 2017
by David Robinson
2 Comments

An Unexpected but Brilliant Meet-up

Had a message from my granddaughter, Victoria yesterday morning. She, her sister Hannah and their mother, my daughter Angela, were on their way to Pugfest in Manchester. Would I like to meet up with them at eleven o’clock?

I don’t sleep well. A combination of various complaints and bone-idleness means I can never get to sleep until I’m really tired. So I didn’t go to bed until half past three in the morning. I crawled out of the pit at half past nine to find this message waiting for me.

Angela has Motor Neurone Disease (MND). It’s a terrible, progressive condition which will eventually rob her of her independence.  Diagnosed earlier this year, she has already lost most of the power of speech, she tires quickly, has at least one weak ankle, and the prescription drug do provoke mood swings. I take whatever opportunity I can to see her.

Having had only about five hours’ sleep was no excuse. Quick wash and shave, and I was at the nearest tram stop for half past ten and on my way to Manchester.

I know people who when they get a cold take to their beds for days in a passable imitation of Camille. Not so my daughter. This girl is a determined not to give in to this disease until it really beats her. It’s the Robinson gene. We never give in. Not just not very often. Never.

And her daughters are amazing. Two young women who cannot do enough for their mother, they deserve a medal. They know far more about their mother’s condition and her limitations than I do, and Victoria is blogging about it.

If you’re looking for insight into the way it feels to work with someone suffering as Angela does, go to Victoria’s blog at: https://daughterofmnd.wordpress.com/

So I passed a couple of happy hours in Manchester with daughter and granddaughters and of course, the star of the show, Oscar, Angela’s 9-year-old pug, who takes an absolute delight in the way complete strangers fuss over him.

And the sun chose to shine on us, lending a quite continental feel to the heart of the city.

The only downside was Metrolink, the Manchester tram operators who, thanks to a council edict, do not allow dogs on the trams. They’re fine on trains, okay on buses and taxi drivers are mostly happy to carry them but you can’t have them on trams. Bleeding politicians living with head in sand again.

I got home about half past two with the grim thought that in order to catch up on the work I should have been doing while I was skiving in Manchester, I’ll probably be up until three tomorrow morning.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, is there?

 

July 6, 2017
by David Robinson
0 comments

Teabreak Over. Get Back To Work

Teabreak Over. Get Back To Work

Are you a fan of the Sanford 3rd Age Club Mysteries? Course you are. And as such, you might have noticed a slight hiatus… a teabreak lasting two years. That’s how long it is since Joe and his gang of third-age, born-again teenagers last bothered us in Trial by Fire.

There are a number of reasons for this, and some of them are personal. I bet that’s got your attention, hasn’t it? Oh boy, here comes the scandal.

Hard luck. I’m not gonna go into the reasons for the break.

But what I am gonna do is tell you that the teabreak is over and it’s time to get back to work, and it seems fitting to me that just as the Drama Channel gets round to the episode of Last of the Summer Wine where Foggy first appears, we can announce STAC #15, Peril in Palmanova. Quite what LOTSW has to do with STAC, I don’t know, but I just thought I’d throw that in.

In the grand scheme of things, the next title should have been Care for Murder (working title only) but that book has caused me so many problems that I almost abandoned it altogether.

The solution to those issues came in May, when the missus and I were sunning ourselves in Majorca. And where were we staying? Palmanova of course.

But the solution brought problems of its own, the chief one being the need for a complete backstory to explain the opening position in Care for Murder. When I got back, I put the proposition to Laurence and Steph at Crooked Cat, and while they considered it, I set to work.

The result is Peril in Palmanova. Who’s in peril? Wait and see. Why is (s)he in peril? You’ll find out. Why did it have to be in Palmanova? Because I was there. Note: there are other reasons, but you’ll learn about them when you read the book. Why is it necessary for Care for Murder to have this backstory. You really will have to wait to find that out.

What I will tell you is that it is a novella; a single story, with no subplots, and although it fits well into the general theme of the STACs, it does diverge ever so slightly.

I signed the contract this morning. We don’t yet have a cover and we don’t have a release date, but all will be revealed in due course.

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June 27, 2017
by David Robinson
11 Comments

End Of The Road (For Some, Anyway)

This Friday, June 30, sees the publication rights to three of my titles revert to me. The Handshaker, The Deep Secret, and Voices will cease to appear on Crooked Cat Books’ lists.

I want to make it clear from the outset that this is not a reflection on Crooked Cat. I have an excellent working relationship with them, and they continue to hold the rights to most of my catalogue, including all 14 Sanford 3rd Age Club Mysteries, the two Spookies titles, and Life With Arfur. Should you be thinking that I’m only biding my time before taking those back, sorry, but you’re wrong. There are new Sanford 3rd Age Club Mysteries in the pipeline, and they will be published by Crooked Cat (subject to meeting the company’s usual quality standards).

So why, you may ask, are these three titles coming back to me? On the other hand, you may be thinking it’s time you were clipping your toenails.

A mistake was made with them, and it was mine, not the publisher’s.

These three books represent a departure from my usual light-hearted work. They’re hard-boiled tales, crime bordering on horror, with graphic scenes of sex and violence, and language which reflects the modern world. They are not for the faint-hearted.

Notwithstanding this, I asked for them to be published under my real name, David Robinson.

Big mistake #1.

I didn’t reckon on the success of the Sanford 3rd Age Club Mysteries, which made my name synonymous with semi-humorous work. The two genres don’t make comfortable bedfellows. Those who like cosy crime tend not to enjoy grittier work and vice versa. Naturally, there is some overlap, but it was never enough to give me any traction on the marketing of the three thrillers.

In my opinion, and that of the few people who’ve reviewed it, Voices remains one of the best pieces I’ve ever written, but since its publication in 2012, notwithstanding my best efforts and those of Crooked Cat to let people know it’s there, it’s sold less than 100 copies.

The other two thrillers, while doing a little better have still performed abysmally. The combined total sales of all three volumes is less than 500 copies.

For me, it all points at one thing: they should have been written under a pseudonym.

It’s not like this just occurred to me. It’s something I’ve known about for quite some time. So why didn’t I do anything about it? I couldn’t be bothered.

To be honest, that answer is inaccurate and unfair to myself. The real truth is, the complexities of running two author names on, say, Amazon, is a logistical nightmare, and one that I was reluctant to take on.

Big mistake #2.

Changing the author name on any book is problematic. They’re all identified by their individual ISBNs and to change the author’s name is an administrative nightmare. Thanks to my initial short-sightedness, I now have no option but to confront that nightmare, and I haven’t a clue how long it will take. I can’t simply re-publish them under a pseudonym. I could find myself in the ridiculous position of breaching my own copyright. The books have to be withdrawn from sale and I then need advice on how to proceed with re-publication under the chosen pen name, Robert Devine.

The upshot of all this is, The Handshaker, The Deep Secret, and Voices will be removed from sale as soon as is practicable on or after July 1st and I haven’t the foggiest idea when they will reappear.

So if you want a copy of any of them, you’d better get a move on.

All three are exclusive to Amazon and you can find them at:

The Handshaker

The Deep Secret

Voices

(global links)

 

June 21, 2017
by David Robinson
0 comments

Website Changes

With effect from today, June 21st 2017, the offer of free downloads in exchange for email addresses is temporarily suspended.

Please accept my apologies.  The site is undergoing alterations and revisions, and the offer will be reinstated as soon as is practicable.

Thank you for your patience

June 12, 2017
by David Robinson
4 Comments

Light Diet? Thank God I’m Not On Proper Food

A discussion with my middle son, Colin, prompts this particular set of memories.

Readers of Life With Arfur will realise that I can be quite cavalier when it comes to health. With good reason. Of all the things that have gone wrong with me over the years, I found the best medicine to be a two-pronged assault of “Who cares?” and laughter. It’s also, I believe, the secret of a long life.

Last week’s UK election is a case in point. We got the wrong decision… or the right decision… or no decision… it depends on your point of view. What about it? What difference will the fingernail diet make? None. So give over fretting and get on with your life.

Back to the tale.

About thirty years ago I was in dry dock for abdominal surgery. Can’t remember what the problem was, but I know it hurt when I woke up after the op, and it carried on hurting for days, particularly when I coughed. Bad news for a heavy smoker.

When they carry out that kind of surgery, they freeze your stomach to stop it working, and it can take a few days before it’s up and running again. I’ve owned cars like that.

So for a few days, they didn’t feed me. Tell you what, you can keep all your weight loss plans. I lost half a stone over those four days.

Anyway, they came one morning and said, we’re going to start feeding you again from lunchtime. Light diet only, just go get you back into the idea of eating to stay alive.

Great, I thought. A light diet is better than none at all.

I spent all morning salivating at the thought of something other than saline solution dripping in through my arm. The seconds ticked by ever slower on the clock despite my urging them on, and it seemed like lunchtime would never come.

And then it arrived. The familiar plate with the metal cover landed on my tray. I picked up the knife and fork and prepared to enjoy a fresh salad. I lifted the lid and…

Steak and kidney pudding and chips?

I told the nurse I was supposed to be on a light diet, and she said, “You didn’t order your dinner the other day.”

“Because I wasn’t allowed to eat the other day.”

“It’s all we have. Take it or leave it.”

So I took it. And I’ve been taking it ever since. Is it any wonder I’m overweight now?”

***

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June 2, 2017
by David Robinson
0 comments

And All Because Of A Hen Weekend

It’s coming up to two years since the missus shot off to Benidorm on a hen weekend.  Her skills with a mobile phone are so bad that they’re legendary, as a consequence of which communication was practically non-existent over that weekend.

So, while she was away I nipped into our local supermarket (even though I know that every little helps, I won’t identify them.  They don’t plug my books) and set up a new deal.

Prior to that I’d been paying £22 a month for my contract phone and topping up her PAYG to the tune of £20 every three or four months.  Total annual bill, over £300.  Tesco supplied two smartphones, gave us umpteen minutes, 5000 texts and so many megabytes of data, all for £17.50 a month.  That saved us about £120.00 a year.

The only downside is the missus has never liked her smartphone.  She’d rather have an old fashioned clamshell.

The contracts are up for renewal, and we all know the script.  ‘For an extra fiver a month, we’ll give you saw many megabytes and gigabytes of extra data, a few fancy apps to jiggle your photographs, etc, etc, etc.’

Frankly, most of these people wouldn’t know the difference between a megabyte, gigabyte, and a trilobite, and I never fall for it.  But I do get tired of the argument.

Bearing all this in mind I approached the mobile phone desk in our local store this morning, in a determined frame of mind.

A pleasant young woman took my phone off me and accessed our contract details.

“You don’t use it that much.  Neither of you.”

This is perfectly true.  I’m strange.  I don’t use the phone to surf the web or play games.  I use it to send text messages and make telephone calls (Shock!  Horror!  How quaint).

The young assistant whizzed through a number of options on her computer and then told me, “I’ve saved you £2.50 a month and your wife can have a new phone the moment she’s ready, to come in and choose one.”

Given the wife’s propensity for not getting out of bed until mid-afternoon, that’s likely to be tomorrow.  For now, my deal is now down to £15.00 a month for both phones, a good £12 a month lower than where I was just over two years ago.

I think it’s time Her Indoors was going on another hen weekend.  You never know, I might get the gas and electric cheaper next time.

***

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May 31, 2017
by David Robinson
0 comments

Procrastinate? Me?

My good friend Lorraine Mace publishes a regular monthly column in Writing Magazine, and in the latest issue she details her efforts to do without the internet in order to improve productivity.

Writers are great procrastinators. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about. I’m a writer and there are times when I will do anything to get out of putting pen to paper… or fingers to keyboard.

This is especially true when I’m bogged down in a story and I don’t know where it goes next. I’ve been known to wash the car rather than carry on working, and I NEVER wash the car. Why should I? It goes just as fast with the muck on it.

Unlike Lorraine, I don’t have friends with farms in the wilderness outside Dublin: farms that don’t have internet access. My sister in law has a farm/riding school, but it’s in a residential area on the outskirts of Manchester, and she has full internet access, so it’s hardly the same thing.

Just lately, however, I found my own anti-procrastination device: speech recognition software.

If you are a regular follower of this blog (if not, why not?) you’ll be aware of my recent trials with this program. I’m using it more and more, and right now I’m working on a STAC Mystery which, when it’s finished, will have been 99% produced using speech recognition.

So how does this help with the problem of procrastination?

The simple answer is, it drives me nuts. Even my dog (RIP, Joe) could understand basic words like ‘sit’. He would never have assumed that I was giving him a command to select all the text on the screen.

The software’s capacity for misunderstanding outshines even my wife’s ability to jump to the wrong conclusion, and she is a master (or mistress) of the art.

The upshot of all this is (or ‘these years’ according to the program) I’m plodding along, churning out the words, and constantly pausing to go back and correct errors the machine has made, and this is the equivalent of going out to wash the car when I don’t know which way the plot’s going.

For a crumbling, arthritic old git like me, speech recognition is a theoretical godsend but in practical terms it’s more like the fastest route to insanity.

And it’s not as if I wasn’t heading in that direction before speech recognition…

***

Lorraine Mace writes children’s books and nonfiction under her real name. Learn more at www.lorrainemace.com

She also produces the hard-boiled, DI Paolo Storey, crime fiction. More information at: http://francesdiplinoreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

***

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May 27, 2017
by David Robinson
0 comments

Achey-Achey Bones

You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been griping about the arthritis, recently. The fact is, we’ve had a bit of a heatwave in Great Britain, and the old bones give me less gyp in warm, dry weather than they do in our usual, chilly, damp, or downright sodding climate.

It’s one of the reasons I enjoy our continental holidays so much… normally.

Majorca was an anomaly. The weather was hot and sunny. That goes without saying. (Question: if it goes without saying, why am I saying it?) Why else would you bother going to Majorca, if not for the weather… cheap beer… cheap fags… cheap women… er, scratch that last remark.

Throughout the entire week in Palmanova, I was in something approaching screaming agony. I didn’t scream. The missus wouldn’t let me. She would have found it embarrassing, and even in your death throes you must avoid embarrassing the memsahib. According to her, it’s written into the marriage vows, although I have to say I don’t recall uttering those precise words. Course, our wedding day was almost forty years ago, and while my memory is pretty good, it’s not eidetic. Anyway, I was drunk at the time.

I digress. I’m good at digressing. If there were some kind of digressionary award, I’d be a dead cert for it.

Dragging the article back to where it should be, I tolerated intolerable pain throughout the seven days we were in the Balearics. Why, you may ask. No need to ask, I was gonna tell you anyway.

It started on the plane. It was a Boeing 767, a theoretically wide-bodied aircraft. The term wide-bodied should be taken with a pinch of salt. The fuselage might be wide but seats aren’t. When it comes to them, I’m the one who’s wide-bodied. So there I am, crammed into an aisle seat for three hours and my legs are beginning to ache and my right knee is jerking, so much so that it aroused the suspicions of a young woman across the aisle that I may be trying to join the Mile-High Club.

At my time of life? Dream on.

So I was already in some considerable discomfort by the time we got to Palma. Then came the hotel.

When we first booked, I knew the place was at the top of the hill. What I didn’t know was that this hill was a mini-Annapurna. It was so steep that I had trouble going down, and as for getting up… well, let’s just say I could have done with a skateboard, a long length of rope and a large mob of people to pull me up.

The problems are reflected in the first of two videos I recording while we were there.

 

The problems were exacerbated by the actual building which, it seemed to me, had been designed by an architectural zoon. There were staircases here, there and everywhere, some of them hidden. Obviously, there were lifts, some of which serviced only the upper floors, while others took you only to the lower levels, and no matter where you were going you had to share the lifts with the maintenance staff, who frequently, commandeered them for long periods while they were moving laundry from the bowels of the building to the various floors.

I’m not saying you had to wait a long time for the lift, but I did notice that according to the graffiti Kilroy had been there.

The next culprit was the bed. It was rock solid. I know a firm mattress is good for posture and supports the spine. But there is a considerable difference between a firm mattress and a slab of concrete. The bunks in our local nick are more comfortable than that bloody bed… or so I’m told. Obviously, I don’t speak from experience. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

The final item on this catalogue of modern torture tools were the sun loungers. They were bog-standard, which was only to be expected. But after spending six hours on one when Her Indoors was in one of her super-idle frames of mind, my hip, shoulders and back were screaming in upper-class English, a language which sets my teeth on edge just as badly as the language of pain.

If we add to the mix – another of those gormless aphorisms I’ve picked up from unimaginative sports commentators – the wife’s habit of walking me all over the island on her marathon shopping expeditions, turned the week’s holiday, which was planned as a much-needed rest from the recent physical, mental and emotional stress we’ve been through, into an agonising test of endurance.

And I failed the test.

***

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***

Like to know more about the comical aspects of Life With Arfur?

Available now as an ebook or paperback from Amazon http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B071QZVXYW

 

May 24, 2017
by David Robinson
6 Comments

Grim Times

We arrived home from Majorca yesterday afternoon, after a week-long holiday with its share of ups and downs (literally, in this case, since the hotel stood at the top of the steep hill).

There’s plenty of humour to come from the week, but because we don’t follow the news while we’re away, we knew nothing of the atrocity in Central Manchester on Monday evening.

Like most people I’m very angry at this brutal act. But I don’t do serious, and I certainly don’t do politics, religion, or any kind of philosophical debate online. I’m a big believer in live and let live. People like this murderer (there’s no other word to describe him) obviously don’t feel the same, but they lack the simple courage to face the consequences of their savagery, preferring instead to go to glory, lauded by a tiny minority of similarly disposed barbarians.

That’s all I have to say on the matter, other than to express my sincere condolences to the families of those who lost their lives.

Feelings are obviously still raw, and I don’t think the country or even the world is ready for my inane, self-deprecating humour.  I have a couple of videos to process, exaggerating the more comical aspects of our holiday, but in respect of events in Manchester, I’ll leave it until the weekend before putting them online.