Tuesday, 18 August 2020

The Coffee Cup Killer : Chapter One

For the sheer heck of it, to find out how it sounds and to celebrate finishing the first round of editing, I read out the first chapter of The Coffee Cup Killer, The Second Jake Jones Mystery, on video. Then I added noir jazz music and black and white old film effects. Because why not?

The Coffee Cup Killer A Jake Jones Mystery Prequel to The Old Mice Killer Coming Soon ... https://www.facebook.com/ChrisRYoungAuthor https://twitter.com/ChrisRYoung1 https://blog.chrisryoung.co.uk © Chris R Young 2020 Music : MrSnooze https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYOvAO1rAM0

Sunday, 2 August 2020

Virtual World Trip Day 4 : Cyprus

Well, today finds us in Cyprus, a large island in the east Mediterranean Sea, owned by both Greece and Turkey, which I had absolutely no idea of. It seems the whole island would have been a paradise on earth, with 340 days of sunshine per year, if it hadn't been for some political unrest back in the 70s causing Greek Cypriots in the north to be uprooted from the homes and swapped with Turkish Cypriots in the south. Then there was established a border with a no-mans land of abandoned homes in the middle.

We haven't done much today except go clubbing and laze about on the beach getting attacked by Scottish midges! Aargh! How did they follow us here!?

Damn, this is almost as exhausting as a real holiday! Home tomorrow.

Saturday, 1 August 2020

World Trip Day 3 : Greece

At Meteora
It was great to be back in Greece again after all these years! This was actually my first English teaching destination back in 1999, when I went to teach near Meteora at Kalabaka in central Greece, actually mentioned in the below video. Amazing place to wake up to every morning.

And now some things to NOT do in Greece!

I don't remember ever getting into trouble for waving my hand at anyone, but I do recall almost getting in a fight because my friend flicked a peanut at someone's back in a bar...

Once a week my boss, Spiros, used to drive me to the neighbouring village to teach there and then drive me back. One day on our return journey we almost ran over a few chickens in the road and Spiros joked, "I don't feel like chicken tonight," which was a lot funnier than I think he meant. I had to explain.

At The Oracle Of Delphi

This is a good video about some amazing traditional Greek food in Athens:

Feta cheese pies are just what the doctor ordered for a drunken walk home at night.

Kalabaka was my first experience with the amnesiac effects of tequila. I woke up one morning with cigarette burns on my hand and sand in my socks and no idea how I got home the night before. And lemon juice on crisps! Mmm!

And now can I remember some words in Greek?

Kalimera - Good morning
Kalispera - Good afternoon
Kalenoche - Good night
Ti kanis - How are you? /What are you doing?
Kala - Good / Fine
Then perazzi - It doesn't matter
Efharisto - Thank you
Parakalo - You're welcome
Skase skooliki - Shut up, worm!

Funny thing about the twin meanings of 'Ti kanis,' is if a kid is being naughty in class and the teacher shouts, "What are you doing!?", the kid can innocently reply, "I'm fine, thank you." One of the kids in my class tried this with me in English, which I thought was hilarious. 

At the Parthenon
Three of my university pals came to visit me to see in the New Year, century and millennium, and apparently they'd been discussing whether I'd learnt any Greek on the drive up. So when after getting all their orders for coffee in a cafe bar one morning I just relayed the information to the young Greek waitress in English without even bothering to translate a word of it, they all cracked up.

My plan to take them all to a nightclub for the bells backfired as when we arrived there shortly before midnight we found the whole place locked. So we actually saw in the new millennium walking along a country track in the middle of a bunch of fields. A memorable experience no doubt!

Greece was an exceptional place to begin my English teaching career and I dreamt of Meteora often after.

Tomorrow, Cyprus!

Friday, 31 July 2020

Virtual World Trip Day 2 : Sweden

Turning Torso Skyscraper, Malmo

We woke up early and after a delicious breakfast of even more Danish pastries and bacon we hired an old beat up Volkswagon bus and drove across the Oresbund Bridge into Sweden. 
   Wow! What a country. So much hotter than Denmark. Hard to imagine since they're so close together, but phew!
   As soon as we left the hotel for our morning walk we bumped into a friend of my son's and I said, "Oh, Hi, I didn't expect to see you in Sweden!" He replied, "Coming out?" And I said, "Naw mate, we're going for a walk round Sweden. Maybe later :)"
   Had a great walk around Sweden. Saw a bunch of butterflies just like the kind you see in Scotland, and a grey squirrel real up close like.

Some useful words and phrases in Swedish:

Hello : Hallå   /Halloa/
Goodbye : adjö   /Adieu/
Please : snälla du /Snella doo/
Thank you : Tak

one : ett 
two : två   /tvaw/
three : tre 
four : fyra 
five : fem

I didn't expect to see you in Sweden : Jag förväntade mig inte att träffa dig i Sverige

   Today on a friend's advice we went to visit Skansen, which is a huge ethnographic museum on one of the many islands smack bang in the middle of Stockholm.


Amazing place - you need a map to make sure you don't get lost!
   As Sweden is such a long country, you can experience the warmth of the south and the coolness of the north.
   Check out the national anthem!

In Sweden of course they still use the Swedish Krona and with a population of just 10.3 million, there's plenty of space to go around.
   Sweden at the moment is having a bit of a problem with the Corona Virus, but that doesn't bother us because we're only there virtually.
   Have a look at this great video of 13 things to see and do in Sweden:

Looks pretty great, eh? Can't wait to go there for real someday!

At Vasa Museum

In Stockholm's Old Town of Gamla Stan

But the main reason we chose Sweden is because it is of course the home of Minecraft and our son wanted to visit Mojang HQ since seeing Grian's visit there:

Sweden was awesome! But after all that walking we were exhausted and fell asleep as soon as we got back to our very homely home from home hotel, even before I wrote this blog post. 
   Tomorrow : Greece!

Thursday, 30 July 2020

Virtual World Trip Day 1 : Denmark

Well, today was very exciting as at last we began our 2020 virtual family world trip! We 'flew' from Edinburgh to Copenhagen (on our sofa) with very little luggage and the flight seemed to take almost no time at all. They even have X-box on planes now! Bit disappointed to find that the weather in Denmark is almost exactly the same as in Scotland, but whatcha gonna do, eh?

Our son chose Denmark is it's the home of Lego, his favourite creative toy. We’ve been to Legoland at Windsor before but never to Lego House, which is defo one of the planned stops on our world tour this year :) I personally am looking forward to Danish pastries and Danish Bacon. We actually have already been to Copenhagen – I believe it was eight or nine years ago but it was just a whistle stop.

In Denmark of course, they use Krone rather than Euros, and some interesting facts about the Scandinavian country is that it’s an archipelago of some 443 named islands, one of which is called Zealand (perhaps the namesake of New Zealand), and Greenland and the Faroe Islands are actually autonomous Danish territories. The Denmark national anthem can be viewed here.

Life in Denmark is a bit more expensive than in Scotland, and the public transport all runs punctually, so don’t hope to catch that bus you were running a bit late for! Denmark joined the EEC in 1973, and there’s a five mile long bridge connecting Copenhagen to Malmo in Sweden called the Oresund Bridge, which is quite an amazing feat of engineering in itself! We thought about walking across the Oresund Bridge into Sweden, but decided against it. Perhaps we’ll cross it tomorrow on our way to Sweden.

Before arriving in Denmark we studied up on a few basic words and phrases:

Hi – Hej (Hi)

Goodbye – farvel (farewell)

Please – Varvenlig

Thank you – Tak skal du have

Virtual Denmark is nice – Virtual Denmark er rart

Bacon is delicious – Bacon er lakkert

1 – en

2 – to

3 – tre

4 – fire (fear)

5 – fem

But we were pleasantly surprised to find that most people here speak English!

Today we visited the famous Mermaid Statue, which was built in 1913 to commemorate a performance of The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen by Hans Christian Anderson. She has lost her head a few times over the years, but who wouldn’t, being stuck to a rock in the harbour day in day out?

We also enjoyed the amazing Tivoli Gardens, which had fantastic rides, games, shops and restaurants.

Next we went to Frederiksborg Castle which is home to the National Museum and a great maze. It was constructed in the early 1700s, when it was the home to King Christian IV. Now it houses many great treasures and works of art.

Finally we arrived at Lego House which, apart from being a popular song by Ed Sheeran released on 11/11/11, has a tonne of great stuff to do in and around the man building, without even having to buy a ticket!

At last, after a long day, our feet were killing us and we returned to our nice wee hotel for a long soak in the bath, another Danish pastry, some delicious Danish fare, a Danish beer and a movie on TV. Home from home! 

Oresund Bridge Photo Credit CC BY-SA 4.0

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Wacom Bamboo Touch Pen & Tablet Rant

Well, I said I would write about this on my blog, so I suppose I should.

Recently my MacBook updated itself to Mac OS 10.15.5 Catalina. It's been fine. I've had no problems.

Apart from my Wacom Bamboo Touch Pen & Tablet, which isn't working the way it should, IE at all. So I get on to the Wacom website and download myself the latest driver for it.

Now this tablet I bought in Japan in 2007 ish and it's one of the only things I've been able to care for and look after enough such that I haven't lost the pen or pulled the wire out the tablet or anything like that. I even kept them all in a bubble wrap envelope for years. To be perfectly honest, it's been great this whole time. It's helped reduce RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) in my wrist, I've used it for drawing and designing and editing. It's been brilliant for 13 years.

Until now.
The driver is like, "Dude, no can work with Catalina." 

And I'm like, "Dude, yes can work with Catalina."

And it's like, "No dude, no can work with Catalina."

And I'm like, "But dude, must can work with Catalina."

So I get on the chat support and meet a very nice chap called Luis with a beard and I immediately get off on the weak foot when my autocorrect makes me write, "Hi sis."

This is a bad start. But I press on.

I told him the problem and he told me the problem. 

Wacom no longer supports my product for Catalina. It'll work on older OSs and Windows but alas, Catalina and my Bamboo Touch are now incompatible.


I tried to not direct my frustration at Luis, who was only doing his job and very well, instead trying to make a case for corporate responsibility. I had hoped the whole chat conversation would have been sent to my email address so I could just copy and paste but probably when anyone threatens to 'write about it on their blog', they are not expressly given this option.

Anyway, I did manage to copy this rantette:

You know the world has a lot of problems right now, with the coronavirus pandemic, and a global depression. Everybody is feeling the effects, and I'm sure your company is too. But I can't afford to buy another product from Wacom at the moment because I have nothing in my business bank account. £5 or something. I don't think it's right for a company to stop supporting a product that a customer has taken care to look after, not break or lose, for 13 years, only to be recommended to buy another product, even when the first product is still in perfect working order. I can't afford to keep updating hardware like this. The planet cannot sustain such a 'throwaway' existence. Can you please forward this to your manager or decision maker regarding this as it's socially irresponsible and in my opinion poor business practice. I'll be posting about this on my blog, because quite honestly, it's heartbreaking.

I asked if it might be possible to be given a discount off a newer tablet in exchange for returning the now defunct 2007 product I have, but Luis didn't sound all that enamoured with my suggestion. He gave me a number to call in the UK which I'll try, but I won't be calling with much gusto. Anyway, as I only have £5 in may account I doubt that even with a discount I'd be able to buy a new tablet.

But wouldn't that be great though? A business that gives you money back on old models. It deals with waste and helps keep their loyal customers up to date with tech. I don't know, maybe I'm being too unrealistic since seeing the words 'Lifetime Guarantee' on my Zippo.

What am I supposed to do with a defunct but perfectly working Wacom Touch Tablet and Pen? I could use it to play ping-pong against myself. I could use it as the roof of a little hamster house. Ooh, I could use it as a cheese board. 

Anyway, I hung up the chat giving Luis five stars to try to make up for having to listen to me blowing off steam and then a cloud of dejection lowered upon me. The planet is screwed. I personally am in it now up to my eyes. This philosophy and practice is unsustainable.

I have been trying to live by the ideology of Billionism, (which I may have invented) which is to imagine what would happen if all the billions of people in the world took the same choice and made the decision as you. I use that to guide my actions. That's why I sign petitions. Plant vegetables. Plant trees. Walk instead of drive when possible. One man makes not much difference. But if Billions thought the same way and did the same thing, what a difference!

What the hell am I meant to do with a billion defunct but perfectly working order Wacom Tablets and Pens? What makes it more annoying is that it still works perfectly well. That really grates. If it was broken I wouldn't mind so much. But it's fine. I feel like the prize I get for looking after it all these years is for someone to say, "Right, get lost."

Within my cloud of dejection I didn't feel like writing a blog post. I felt like a white, male, privileged twat complaining about nothing. People are poor, hungry and dying all over the world.

Then I thought, well, what the hell.

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

A Tail Of Woe

In July last year while driving around the Scottish countryside ferrying my family hither and thither to see my sister and her daughters, one of whom was performing at a Highland show, I realised that a pain had developed in my, how can I put this delicately, left butt cheek.

It wasn't a sharp pain - there hadn't been a snap or noticeable tear - just an insistent, growing twinge that I thought was mildly interesting, took note of and dismissed as something that would probably heal itself.

But it seemed to get worse the more I drove, so much so that I had to pull over even though we were late and take a break at a family restaurant in the middle of nowhere.

I couldn't figure it out. Was it my back? My leg? Had I been sitting down too much? Was it because I was driving an automatic now and barely used my lower left limb anymore to depress the clutch and such?

I didn't know. Or care. I figured it would heal itself. 

It didn't.

I slowly realised that I hadn't had a holiday in years. The last one was to Japan in Spring 2018 and had actually been quite hard work, traveling and sightseeing as well as - yes - literally working. I mean a proper holiday. Lying in a hammock on the beach drinking Malibu out of coconuts kind of holiday. For two weeks.

Also, all the chairs in our house were hard. My office chair, the dining room chairs, even the sofa was one of those dreaded straight up and downy types with no reclining option available. Gone were the days of my youth when I could lie on my old leather recliner 'neath a Velux window twixt the rafters, lost in a good book, gazing up at the clouds. No no. It was straight up and downy sofa or go to bed or nothing.

So I spent a few hundred quid on a decent office chair and hoped that would solve the problem. Alas not. I started taking the bus places instead of the car. That didn't really help either. I mean there was less actual pain which would spark up when sitting down, but the issue never went away. It was just dormant. Hiding. Waiting for its chance to pounce like a lion stalking a gazelle preparing to sink its sharp fangs into it.

I figured I'd spent too much of my life sitting down and now my body was rebelling. 40 years of pressure and trauma on the butt area and you can't expect it to be all sunshine and roses. Such the toll of being a (failed) writer.

Sometimes the pain would be less. Like when I relaxed or took a nap. I began lying down on my front for twenty minutes per day, stretching out and taking a load off. Did going to bed early help? Seemed to. Also once I noticed when I had to face something I really didn't want to, the pain flared up. Was it exacerbated by stress? Was it psychological? Another time I tried to work standing up for the whole day, and this actually lead to the worst next-morning pain ever. Was it all in my mind?

Another thing that seemed to make matters worse was the embarrassment factor. "Why ya not sitting down, Chris?" "I have a pain in my butt." "Oh, you mean you've been sitting down too much you lazy bastard?" "Could be, but I actually think I'm quite an active person." "Why ya still not sitting down, Chris?" "My butt still hurts." "Oh, you mean you still haven't figured it out yet and you're dumb as well as lazy?" "Why ya not driving over to see your mum, Chris?" "Butt hurts." "You lazy, dumb, uncaring, lying bastard."

In November I went to the doctor and told him my tale of woe. He thought it must be my back where a nerve was being trapped by two unhelpful vertebrae. I figured that could be right. My father had back problems and I've had them in the past too. So the doc gave me a bunch of back exercises and said come back in 8 weeks. I did the exercises and after a while my backbone felt absolutely wonderful - better than ever - but my butt still hurt.
Location of the Piriformis muscle
I researched online and found a word - Piriformis. It's a muscle in the glute area in very close proximity to the sciatic nerve. Sometimes pinches it. I also found a stretching exercise - the Pigeon Pose. Tried the stretch a few times and it seemed to be hitting the spot, but I didn't know if it was doing harm or good. Introduced it into my morning back stretching regime. Nonetheless, the pain persisted.

Around Christmas time I decided, right, proper holiday for me, and what the hell, a nice black faux leather recliner armchair for less dreaded up and downy sitting. It's all in the angle. Force. Trauma. When people asked me to drive somewhere I just said no. Medical condition. Sorry. 

But even that didn't solve it.

Went back to the doc and said, "Doc, my back has never felt better but my rear still hurts. Could it be the Piri something?"

"The Piriformis?"

"Yeah, that." And I showed him the Pigeon Pose and he said, 

"That looks like yoga," as if yoga had been debunked years ago as mythological, occult hogwash. He practically held up two fingers at 90 degrees, backed off and hissed.

"Begone!" he shouted. "I shall refer you to a physiotherapist! And a priest!"

So I waited for the letter instructing me to come and see a physiotherapist. I knew the waiting list would be long, so I tried to keep active to improve circulation and sprinkled it with holy water as I figured that was what a physio and priest would probably recommend.

A few weeks later I met a chap at my local community council who wanted to have a sit down chat with me about something. I said no thanks, but how about we go for a walking chat instead? While strolling through the wooded area along a river I told him I had a pain my my lower back / upper leg area, and he immediately said, "The Piriformis?" We had a jolly good discussion about life, peace, and meditation, and touched upon how stress can affect the central nervous system. I figured, damn, I need a retreat and vow of silence for two weeks to beat this thing.

Then the Coronavirus hit, and with it, lockdown. In a way this had a positive effect on my chronic pain because it meant no driving and less work. But more stress of the suspenseful Hitchcock, Rear Window kind. Pun not intended. My wife suggested I film a river for 3 hours and upload it to youtube as people want to relax but can't go out. I didn't really buy it but thought what the hell, anything to get out the house for a while.

So I packed up my camera, tripod, microphone, laptop, camping chair, some lunch and flask of coffee, and set out on the most boring yet relaxing film shoot of my life. Found a spot near a fallen tree, pointed my camera and mics more or less at the river, went and sat on my camping chair and wrote the next chapter of Jake Jones & The Coffee Cup Killer, expecting my rear to complain bitterly for an interminable while thereafter. You can watch the abridged 90 minute version here:

Everything was so green and peaceful. The trickle of meandering water. The fluttering to and fro of birds. The silent contemplation of trees. The distant hum of humanity. And Jake Jones was flowing as well as the water. The only worrisome moments were when I had to relieve myself in the bushes, but even that did not result in my getting arrested. Happy days.

About five hours later I packed up and went home in a happy, meditative stupor. To my surprise my backside was fine. My rear end was in fact feeling great. My gluteus maximus was practically singing psalms all the way home and reciting Wordsworth for the rest of the day.

It was then I realised sitting on the camping chair hadn't hurt which made sense. Rather than a hard, foam-covered unyielding surface, the camping chair kind of cupped my body, like a bra, or having my butt in a sling. And the calm, soothing effect of sitting writing near a river probably helped my central nervous system as well.

Things continued pretty much in the same vein, until, on May 25th I stumbled upon a wikipedia page about Piriformis Syndrome, and thought, Oh, this is actually a thing. 

The page recommended not just stretching once a day but every 2-3 waking hours. So this I've been doing. Today is Day 8 and it seems to be helping. Now when I Pigeon stretch I barely feel any tension. I'm still a little reticent to sit down on a hard chair or go for a drive, though, as I can feel something there lurking on the sidelines - a peckish, salivating lion stalking in the long grass. Watching me. Watching my ass. But hopefully some day the beast will get bored and wander off to leave my hindquarters alone.

So that's my Tail of Woe. May you never experience chronic pain, or if you do, you're able to solve it fast and effectively.

Piriformis Sydrome image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Piriformis_syndrome.jpg