Monday, 14 October 2013

Toe Update




A couple of the boys from Rico's place came to see me yesterday.  Since the toe issue, I haven't been as mobile as I usually am so not having seen me propping up their bar at Rum & Coke time for a few weeks, they decided to ride down and see how I was getting on, and get one of my increasingly famous ice creams each for which they very decently swapped a bottle of scotch.

I promised the Fifth Columnist I would not display any more gory photos on the blog but I am sure he will indulge me this, hopefully, last time.

I suppose I have become a bit blasé about injury confident, as I have always been, that if you survive the first couple of hours, you're probably going to be OK.  Pain, to me, is something to be borne rather than complained about.

In my last fight my opponent broke my nose and a couple of ribs in the first round.  In the last, I broke a bone in my hand returning the compliment.  Afterwards, both of us were loaded into the same ambulance and taken to hospital.  I was most of the way through training at Sandhurst and knew that if I took the medical ticket, I would be back termed and have to do it all again so I made damn sure I passed my medical knowing that any drop in the standard of my performance due to injury would not be considered a valid excuse.  It was called 'Soldiering On' in those days.

I was burned in Northern Ireland and ended up in the appropriate unit of the Military Wing of Musgrave Park Hospital in Belfast.  Due to the very bad reaction I had endured to the morphine with which I had been injected immediately after the incident, I refused any pain killers whatsoever and to this day, will not take even a headache tablet. After I left the Army, I obtained my medical records and note from that time the consultant's hand written remarks stating that my recovery rate was faster than expected and I had a 'well above average tolerance of pain'.  I don't know what that means really.  I was in agony when twice a day they peeled off congealed dressings and sliced away dead and often, not so dead flesh.  Of course my recovery rate was faster than expected.  I couldn't smoke, I couldn't drink, I couldn't sleep (I so desperately wanted to shag one of the nurses looking after me and you know what the difference between 'light' and 'hard' is?  You CAN go to sleep with a light on).  I just wanted to get out of there as fast as I could, hook up with anything remotely female and unload a few gallons of dirty water; you try wanking with burnt hands encased in plastic bags filled with Eusol.  I honestly think that the idea of having strip shows with a strictly enforced no touchy feely rule on the wards would do much to free up scarce NHS bed spaces as, the chaps at least, discharged themselves and waddled off with a John Wayne swagger back to waiting wives.

I had my fingers chopped off in Belize.  I knew I was a day's march away from any sort of medical attention so there was no point whining about it, all I could do was bind the hand, pop the fingers in my shirt pocket and start marching north.

I bust my ankles on the Nurburgring when I highsided a Ducati.  By then I was self employed and no, my personal injury insurance did not cover motorcycle racing.  Every day I spent in hospital was costing me my savings.  Every day I wasn't in the shop selling 'bikes, I was losing income so four days later, I was hobbling around on crutches doing what I did best in those days (certainly better than racing 'bikes), flogging motorcycles.  I even sold my trashed Dainese leathers for twice the sticker price to a client who clearly wanted to pretend he was a motorcycling hero.  I didn't care, I had just tossed a 'bike worth 25 grand down a track comprehensively destroying it so I needed to make up the bottom line.

In Moçambique I was contracted to clear a road from Quelimane to Malawi of land mines in six months and within budget.  I got sick with Malaria but carried on.  I finished the job, on time and within budget, but was then evacuated by air to a hospital in Jo'burg suffering from pneumonia and acute malaria; pulmonary oedema being a complication of long term malarial infection.  I arrived in Africa weighing eighty kilos.  When they weighed me in hospital, I was fifty-seven kilos.

I was on a 'Juice in, Smarties out' run to Lucapa in North East Angola during the war.  A juice in, smarties out run was where I flew in a Beechcraft to one of the Diamond buying offices up country bringing the buyers cash to by more diamonds (juice) and to carry the diamonds they had bought out (the smarties).  This time it didn't go so smoothly and by the time I had managed to pull the door of the aircraft closed and the fans where spinning for a shortfield, downwind take off, some of my guts had spilled out into my boxer shorts as a result of quite a nasty stab wound that missed the one organ I really cared about by only a matter of inches.  Instead of electing to be flown back to Jo,burg, I allowed myself to be operated on in an Angolan clinic and 24 hours later walked out of it, minus my handmade brogues which had been nicked while I was under the knife.

I came out of Sarajevo suffused with Malaria (once you've had it, you never really get rid of it and in cold climates it really can flare up and, believe me, Sarajevo was bloody cold) as well as a toothache that was driving me wild.  At 7.30 in the morning I was due to give a presentation of all my findings to those interested in clearing booby trapped mass graves in the Balkans and gathering enough evidence to convict the guilty of war crimes at a smart office in Central London.  At four in the morning, unable to stand the pain any longer, I was in a dentist's chair somewhere in Docklands being told I needed a root canal job and that the anaesthetic would take half an hour to take effect and the job itself would take another two.  The presentation was at eight, would take about an hour plus one more for questions, I then had two to get to Heathrow and catch my 'plane.  I still had to go back to my digs, collect the files and my bag.  'Forget the anaesthetic', I told him, 'you've got an hour.  I’m not an NHS client, I'm paying cash.'  The dentist was a Pakistani, a Muslim, but he let me take a swig from my hip flask every now and then but I did have to go outside for the one smoke break I needed.

I had my first heart attack and when I woke up, alarmingly in the same clinic of which I had so many horrible memories, I unhooked myself from the drips and monitors and had made it barefoot half way down the Ilha before hospital security staff caught up with me and brought me back in handcuffs.

I had another contract in Uganda to dismantle an oil rig, load it onto a three hundred and fifty tonne barge which had to be assembled from bits arriving by the truckload from America by the side of Lake Albert accessible by roads that I had to build and serviced by light aircraft landing on a runway I had to build.  Bilharzias is endemic to Lake Albert, as is malaria.  The only way I would be able to build the jetties capable of handling a 350 tonne barge was to get into the water, plant my surveyor's poles and encourage the local labourers to do no more than I was obviously prepared to do myself and, since I was the only one present who appeared able to swim, this included free diving with the cables and straps of the crane to hook up and haul out great rocks that were in the way.  The job was a success, part of which is down to a chap called John Lawrence.  He taught me to sail and, thanks to him, I could tie a bowline underwater in zero visibility.

Once again, I left an African country desperately sick and a fraction of my normal weight but went straight back to Angola to build power stations.  As usual, it was a project desperately behind schedule yet politically imperative it was delivered on time.  The last 72 hours I worked my team without any sleep whatsoever and at nine in the morning, Christmas day, the lights went on in Cazenga, a suburb of Luanda, Angola's capital city.

For the three years I worked for a Private Military Company I took only three weeks leave.  I took no leave at all while on the Uganda job.  I worked for three years building power stations here and again, took only three week's leave even though a typical expatriate contract gave me an entitlement to one month off for every two worked.  For years I lived with radios strapped to my hips.  I could sleep through all the chatter but awoke immediately when I heard my callsign, Delta Three.  Even now, I can hear a mobile phone ring a mile away.  If the dog barks in the night, I am awake.  If I hear a car pull up or an engine stop before its noise has faded into the distance, I'm awake.  If the generator just coughs, I'm awake.

Pushing the envelope of physical tolerance that far I suppose it was hardly surprising that I would keel over in a site office with another heart attack.  Lying there in that same Gottverdammte clinic strapped up to drips and monitors did make me wonder, ever so briefly, whether the salary they were paying me was worth it.  So I unhooked myself and walked out.

I am not a rich man by any means.  I am not even comfortably well off.  I don't even have a debit card anymore.  If I flew to Germany, I wouldn't be able to hire a car or book a hotel room.  Amazon on the internet leaves me feeling like a penniless kid with his face glued to a toy shop window.  At the two divorce settlement hearings I have attended, based on the evidence presented by the expensive lawyers my estranged wife had engaged and I was paying for, I recognised that living with me must have been truly awful so never argued.  If a wife really felt that way, enough to have such testimony transcribed publicly in a court of law and sleep with her work colleagues while I was away, I knew our differences were irreconcilable.

As a contractor, my income was sometimes spectacular but generally irregular and not something a spouse bereft of patience could count on for her fair share of in the future, ad infinitum.  So skilful lawyers always concentrated on something far more concrete, my assets.  In my time I have signed over three houses, furniture, cars and objets d'art.  I have to admire the lawyer’s arguments.  While recognising that my income was erratic, they averaged out what I had earned during the relationship and projected that forward to a highly optimistic retirement age of sixty five.  Then, as a concession sympathetically received by the court, admitting that all this poor woman required was a degree of security representing only a fraction of my projected future earnings best satisfied by the liquidation of my current assets.  The courts graciously allowed me to keep all my future earnings in exchange for all my current assets.

Twice I have walked away clad only in the clothes on my back and a half empty rucksack.  I have slept in ditches and beneath starlit skies scarred only by the branches of the trees beneath which I was resting.  I have taken comfort where I could find it and have even paid for it and felt no shame.

So perhaps it isn’t so surprising that something as minor as an irritating little snake bite would do no more than, well, irritate me.  Actually, I lie.  It annoyed me beyond belief.  After everything I have been through, after everything I have done, don’t I deserve a decent break?  I have built and opened the new shop.  I have built and moved the family into the new cottage.  The build of the new restaurant and cottages is cracking on.  And now I was to die horribly of a snake bite while engaged in something as innocuous as walking across my garden to switch the generator off?  Well, Fuck You, whoever you are in charge of the Greater-Scheme-of-Things, I won’t.  Not until I see the whole business up and running.  Only then can you come and get me and contract me to widen the highway to Hell and sort out an improved calorific return for burning souls.

‘Let’s have a look at the toe, then,’ my visitors implored, helping themselves to my present of scotch.

‘Eek!’ they said when I showed them.

That’s when they gave me their other present, John Visser’s and David Schapman’s book entitled ‘Snakes and Snake Bite’ subtitled ‘Venomous Snakes and Management of Snakebite in Southern Africa.’

After they left, I had a quick scan through it and decided I had been bitten by a juvenile Puff Adder.  Clearly, that's what they reckoned too as they had 'dog-eared' the appropriate page.
 
 

Looking at the blisters, I can see a resemblence here.
The thing that concerns me is that the poor bastard's índex finger in the top photo was amputated SIX months after the bite!
This begs the question: How long does it take to recover?

It's all in the mind, though.  Don't you think that looks much better?
And I was no burden on the local health service.
I will lose the nail but, so what?  They grow back better than amputated toes.
Addendum:

I think I still have a way to go.  I finished typing this post, uploaded it and then looked down at my foot.  This is what had oozed out of it while I was typing... I'm really pissed off about the substandard finish of the floor.


Trust me.  If you can possibly avoid it, don't get bitten by a snake, even a baby one.
You know the instant relief you feel when an inflamed boil finally bursts or is lanced by a sadistic nurse?
Well that's how I feel now.
 







51 comments:

  1. You're going to need to put a sticking plaster on that before it gets nasty.

    :-)

    I got a look at my hospital notes once. Across the front cover someone had scrawled in red ink "Tends to sleep for long periods". Gnosh it, Sherlock MD.

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    1. What else can a chap do when confined to a hospital bed? That's why I always did runners.

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  2. I think I'll have to revisit this post, when/if I start drinking again.

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    1. I'm sorry, I know I promised. I hoped you would hurry away after the second paragragh and not scroll down to the end.

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    2. Thank you at least for putting it at the end; I enjoyed the canned (and candid) version of your extrordinarily colourful life. I admire your guts and obvious need for excitement, although from afar, and in the comfort of my own zone. I have no desire to emulate it! But what is endearing, is your self-effacing approach to it all.

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  3. I have to admit the toe is looking much better. Are you sure you are not a cat............ with nine lives?

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    1. If I am, I must be burning them up!

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  4. I bet that smarts a bit, but good to see it looking almost healed. I'm putting a Rugby team together for the weekend; any chance of you playing?

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    1. Don't expect too many drop goals but I am still up for biting the odd ear.

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    2. perhaps you should play me as the barefoot hooker. One sight, or whiff of my toe, the scrum would collapse.

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  5. Respect. If you flesh out (pardon the pun) your story above, you should have a best seller. Although we are the same age, yours is a most extraordinary life. The toe looks a lot better.
    I doff my cap sir.

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    1. Oh, keep your hat in place RJ. Looking back on it all, usually at about four in the morning, I rather wish I had been a librarian and just read about it...

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  6. I had my fingers chopped off in Belize

    The best blasé line EVER

    I have eaten my words dear thomas...the toe looks better

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    1. Well there's no use making a fuss over a few fingers for goodness' sake. Everyone would think I was a wussie!

      It's not over yet. Something is happening deep inside the toe and it is starting to rupture and ooze.

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  7. more antibiotics please. the foot still looks puff. elevate it.

    it looks so much better. maybe you are half mutant X?

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    1. I reckon more AB's are in order.

      Half mutant? Two previous wives would agree with you.

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  8. "Well, the good news is, it looks like youre going to live...
    well, the bad news is, it looks like youre going to live..."

    You Sir, have lived to tell tales that only others can read about. Something tells me there are many more to come....that toe looks better by the way.

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    1. I keep telling everyone, all I really want is a quiet life. I want to sit on a porch with a rug over my lap and be cared for by grandchildren. Since I do not have any grandchildren, we all know it ain't going to happen.

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  9. I agree on the puffiness .. and please ... a splurge of tomato sauce for a dramatic shot? tom ... come now.

    I can see why you liked the book "The Power of One".

    As for the annoyance of the snake bite - I bet what really annoyus you is that you were walking on your land, to turn off your generator, walking the way/how you wanted to (barefoot) and an intruder (said snake) caused you so much pain and disruption.

    Next thing you get every person and their blog telling you that you should have worn shoes. You should have done things their way, not yours.

    Shame ... suck it up. I live with a wife, three daughters,a female dog and parrot. Do I get told what to do? We do have a male cat who I envy - he is usually away and only comes in for a feed and sleep.

    Back to your toe - so for a compromise - if you found something easy to slip on to your feet that would offer snake bite, thorn and stubbing of the toe protection - but would truly be yours and define you an an individual who lives by his own rules - then you would be sorted.

    Do such a thing exist? - probably not easily obtainable in Angola but I am sure we could get up a collection for you.

    I have found some candidates (into which I have sprinkled in some farcical options)

    http://www.gearace.com/keen-alyeska-slip-ons/
    http://wildrye.com/?p=295
    http://www.hammacher.com/Product/Default.aspx?sku=83508&promo=Apparel-Shoes&catid=74
    http://blog.onlineshoes.com/outdoor/going-wild-off-road-sandals
    http://www.geekalerts.com/killer-spiked-loafer/

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    1. Thank you for your Health and Safety advice regarding footwear suitable for use in snake infested territory. The board, after careful consideration, have decided to adopt the following procedure:

      http://photosofwar.net/a-british-officer-is-carried-in-a-shaded-hammock-by-four-natives-using-their-heads-sierra-leone-c-1920/

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    2. Would that be a 2 x 4 (2 legs by 4 people)?
      Where does he keep the spare?
      The sad thing is that he has a look on his face that what he is doing is only natural

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  10. Nice & pink! It's looking very good. Nice save!

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  11. If you want sympathy for your life's story, Tom, you won't be getting it from me. A 'high pain threshold' is nothing to be proud of. You either have it or you don't. Foolishness is nothing to be proud of either. I do not respect people who willingly put themselves (and others) at risk.

    You say you don't take painkillers. Well, I'd say your whiskey consumption (if true) and tobacco might qualify not just as painkillers but a sedative and a selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor too. It's called "self medication". Medication? Get it?

    U

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    1. You remind me so much of my Mother. She was a Teutonic Bitch as well.

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  12. Stop whinging and chop the fucker off. Big toes are very overrated anyway.

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    1. I'm not far off doing a Ranulph Fiennes in my shed. At least I would have na excuse for falling over pissed!

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  13. Good heavens - we have seen tidbits of your life story before but this summary proves that a television production company would do well to commission a modern adventure series based upon your colourful life - possible running titles: "Nothing's Impossible", "Jungle Gowans" or "The Last King of Africa". Leonardo di Caprio could be drafted in to play your part. The right toe would be played by George Osborne.

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    1. How about Peter O'Toole reprising his character, Lord Jim? The man was flawed, made plenty of mistakes he regretted and ultimately it all ended in tears.

      Furthermore, Peter O'Toole was quoted as saying he had studied women for a very long time, had given it his best try, but knew "nothing."

      A lot of people wonder why I have stuck it out so long but you only need to see Peter O'Toole (again) in Murphy's War to understand why.

      I would much rather be supping a decent pint in UK but I am NOT leaving here until I have made a success of it and if that means I have to drag myself across the ground on bleeding stumps, so be it.

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  14. 'Pain should be bourn and not complained about...'
    Okay, maybe you don't complain, but you certainly blog about it. Fourty years later...! I'm not sure which I'd prefer.
    Els

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  15. Borne, not Bourn

    This is a diary that I decided to start writing. You do not have to read it. I am sorry I blog about occasional pain rather than scream about it and beg compensation from no win no fee lawyers like the average American.

    My boy wants to watch Tin-Tin on my laptop so I am shutting down.

    Man, you have have no idea how angry your comment has made me.

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    1. Sorry Tom, it was meant as 'tounge in cheek' but apparantly got lost in translation! You know I love you blog!
      Can I make it up to you?
      Els

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    2. "Okay, maybe you don't complain, but you certainly blog about it." sounded so close to 'Okay, maybe you don't complain, but you certainly bang on about it.'

      It just came across as if you were taking the piss and I can tell you, by the end of the day when I have done all the running around and peeled off my ooze soaked sandal and am soaking my foot in salt water, painfully washing the sand and dirt out of open, festering sores, I'm not in the best of humor so please excuse my outburst.

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  16. The toe looks better, but the oozing is a bit of a worry. Is this the body's way of exorcising the venom?

    Makes my weekend caper of having some ground wasps swarming and stinging me look quite mild in comparison. I yelled and ran around, Probably squealed like a girl. Then i returned to the lawn mower to shut it off (as i had been mowing the lawn when the attack occurred). Buggers were all over the mower and attacked again as i shut it off.

    I went to the store to get benadryl and picked up some wasp and hornet spray. I was all for letting them live but to attack me when i wasn't close to them brought out my killer instinct. I suppose i'm not that highly evolved, and i eschew physical pain. It's the first time i ever took benadryl, and all i wanted to do was take a nap. "May cause drowsiness" appears on the label.

    I didn't take any more tablets, although i have made a paste of baking soda and pepcid and have applied it a few times to the red areas. That's helped a lot with the itching and swelling.

    I hope that book provides some antidote you can make at home that will help with the healing.

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    1. It is the function of the venom, Megan. Some snakes use what is basically a nerve agente (Cobras, Mambas and the like), a nuero-toxin that attacks the central nervous system causing the body to basically shut down. Vipers, on the other hand, use a venom that destroys tissue causing severe localised haemorrhage (you see the deep blisters in the photos). This causes intense pain, destroys blood flow which can lead to necrosis and gangrene. In my case, the damage is deep in the toe so I had to slice deep with a razor blade to allow the goo to exude and relieve the pressure. It's just going to take time to heal.

      I discovered a huge wasp's nest in my shed in Cape Town. I got a can of killer spray and rolled it in there (just opening the door would cause them to attack, there was no way I was going in there) and then I shot the can through the window. There was nothing left alive in there!

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  17. "Oh that is looking so much better" she said sarcastically. Seriously, WHEN will you get some medical advice for that? Once the appendage has fallen off and the dogs run away with it?
    Your toe looks like a split sausage on a grill and now your foot is swelling up too - or has your foot been that size since the bite first happened? Either way YOU NEED HELP! Or not, cos hey, what's a toe when you have 9 others right?
    On another note re your lack of funds, write a book! Seriously write abook all about your life and your adventures! It'll sell like hot cakes with your style of writing and I dare say that a film wouldn't be far behind BUT the toe has to get top billing - if you still have it by then of course ;)

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    1. I would buy the book. and I would get it for all the people in my family who have been in the forces. they would love it.

      once the shop is going for it and you have a tiny tiny bit of time? Even an ebook and then you don't have to pay the publishers?

      I think that is a fine idea.

      where the toe is open to the elements are you able to order some of that spray on skin protector?

      http://www.elastoplast.com.au/Products/product-types/spray-plaster

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    2. To be honest, the thought of writing a book about my life leaves me feeling terribly vain. But I will give it a go. I don't think it will be about me, more what I have seen and what I think about it.

      I don't think there is much anyone could do for my toe that time and patience couldn't. It is particularly painful today but then I have been on my feet since early this morning. I just need to make batches of passion fruit and vanilla ice cream, fill the machine up and then I can relax.

      Spray on skin, that's a new one for me!

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  18. As I am a big fan of the Opera, and a big fan of yours Tom, I believe your musings chronicled this blog would make a great libretto someday. Under that assumption, what language would you prefer?

    I have to admit, that toe looks bloody awful.

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    1. If you are writing the Libretto, you choose!

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  19. Another fan here Tom - albeit non-average American. Quite the Tale of Toe.

    I picked up on the toothache remark - I bet you've got a few paragraphs in that department as well - this bite must have you grinding them to powder - have any left?.
    Wishing you the best and a speedy recovery, filled with the relief of draining poison. Can you get some kind of tube in it to allow it to drain easier, without the razor blade action?

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    1. I have found that a drain tube makes it awkward for me to kick a football.

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    2. That explains why it wasn't in the pictures. Good point.

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  20. I see what you mean about the floor. It looks lke it was sanded with the grain either givving ti lots of little scratches. At least with a varnish it's easier to wipe up the puss I guess.
    And what an ace post! My life seems quite dull in comparison (although I like it that way). What kind of pubishing deal would I need to get you for you to say yes to a book?
    The mental image of you putting your fingers in your top pocket is great! (although not for you). I bet they're in a jar somewhere at the back of the bar next to an old bottle of scotch (although I should imagine thats a lie as scotch isn't really allowed to get old in you place).

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    1. I don't know, maybe a publisher who would get me a good ghost writer and agree to donate all my revenue to a children's charity. If I thought I could make money for kids, I might sober up and get to work.

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  21. Shit, and there I was feeling sorry for myself for nearly cutting off my index finger in a chop saw last week. I tip my hat to you international man of mystery.

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  22. o que a vida nao nos ensina , aprender aprender aprender, isto ay olha que o rio so deu tantas curvas porque nao foi orientado no seu percurso. assim e a vida do homem orientacao constante.

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  23. de facto aqui fica o registo de uma grande esperiencia, obrigado tommy
    Arcanjo

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    1. Sorry Arcanjo, I missed your comment but you are right. Also, what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger!

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  24. Your story reminds me of the Apostle Paul...especially in the book of Acts and this passage here in 2 Corinthians 11: "I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. "

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    1. Blimey, you know your Bible! But I am no Apostle Paul even though, as you point out, there were similarities with regard to experience.

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Please feel free to comment, good or bad. I will allow anything that isn't truly offensive to any other commentator. Me? You can slag me without mercy but try and be witty while you are about it.